Atheists Aren’t Real

January 30, 2009 at 12:21 pm | Posted in ProfessingAtheists | 9 Comments
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There is no such thing as a real “atheist.” According to Romans 1:18, people who pretend that they do not believe in God, actually not only believe in “a” God, but, deep down, they know that the Hebrew and Christian God of the Bible is the One True God. They don’t like this, so they “hold this truth in unrighteousness.” In other words, they make a great effort to push it down, or hold it down, so they don’t have to think about it and feel conviction. This is also the truth within Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1. Fools who deny the existence of God are only trying to convince themselves of what they cannot really believe. Even in specifics related to the effect of God’s wrath on the world’s geological history, the Bible tells us that people try to be “willingly ignorant” (II Peter 3:5). As one preacher put it, “willingly ignorant” means “dumb on purpose.” People’s unrighteous lives may give the appearance of integrity to the profession of their “atheism,” but the fact is, they are fighting hard against, or running away from, what they know to be true.

Response to “Court Date” Email

January 28, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 1 Comment
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I receive a great many mass emails. Some of these are evangelistic or at least Christian-themed. Many of them are just plain foolish and irritating, such as the whiny, misguided “Just a Biker” email, to which I have responded before.

The email reprinted below is one of the better ones I’ve received. However, it had one point which, it could be argued, contains a theological error. I have pasted the complete email below. The one point I have an issue with is in bold and italicized, as is my reasoning below.

COURT DATE

After living what I felt was a ‘decent’ life, my time on earth came to the end.

The first thing I remember is sitting on a bench in the waiting room of what I thought to be a court house.

The doors opened and I was instructed to come in and have a seat by the defense table.

As I looked around I saw the ‘prosecutor.’

He was a villainous looking gent who snarled as he stared at me. He definitely was the most evil person I have ever seen.

I sat down and looked to my left and there sat My Attorney, kind and gentle looking man whose appearance seemed so familiar to me, I felt I knew Him.

The corner door flew open and there appeared the Judge in full flowing robes.

He commanded an awesome presence as He moved across the room I couldn’t take my eyes off of Him.

As He took His seat behind the bench, He said, ‘Let us begin.’

The prosecutor rose and said,

‘My name is Satan and I am here to show you why this man belongs in hell.’

He proceeded to tell of lies that I told, things that I stole, and In the past when I cheated others. Satan told of other horrible Perversions that were once in my life and the more he spoke, the further down in my seat I sank.

I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t look at anyone, even my own Attorney, as the Devil told of sins that even I had completely forgotten about.

As upset as I was at Satan for telling all these things about me, I was equally upset at My Attorney who sat there silently not offering any form of defense at all.

I know I had been guilty of those things, but I had done some good in my life – couldn’t that at least equal out part of the harm I’d done?

Satan finished with a fury and said, ‘This man belongs in hell, he is guilty of all that I have charged and there is not a person who can prove otherwise.’

When it was His turn, My Attorney first asked if He might approach the bench. The Judge allowed this over the strong objection of Satan, and beckoned Him to come forward.

As He got up and started walking, I was able to see Him in His full splendor and majesty.
I realized why He seemed so familiar; this was Jesus representing me, my Lord and my Savior.
He stopped at the bench and softly said to the Judge, ‘Hi, Dad,’ and then He turned to address the court.

‘Satan was correct in saying that this man had sinned, I won’t deny any of these allegations. And, yes, the wages of sin is death, and this man deserves to be punished.’

Jesus took a deep breath and turned to His Father with outstretched arms and proclaimed, ‘However, I died on the cross so that this person might have eternal life and he has accepted Me as his
Savior, so he is Mine.’

My Lord continued with, ‘His name is written in the Book of Life, and no one can snatch him from Me.

Satan still does not understand yet. This man is not to be given justice, but rather mercy.’

As Jesus sat down, He quietly paused, looked at His Father and said, ‘There is nothing else that needs to be done.’

‘I’ve done it all.’

The Judge lifted His mighty hand and slammed the gavel down. The following words bellowed from His lips..

‘This man is free. The penalty for him has already been paid in full. ‘Case dismissed.’

As my Lord led me away, I could hear Satan ranting and raving, ‘I won’t give up, I will win the next one.’

I asked Jesus as He gave me my instructions where to go next, ‘Have you ever lost a case?’

Christ lovingly smiled and said, ‘Everyone that has come to Me and asked Me to represent them has received the same verdict as you, ~Paid In Full~’

If you do not pass this along to 10 people immediately, absolutely nothing will happen .

Passing this on to anyone you consider a friend,
(As I have done here), will bless you both.

‘Stop telling God how big your storm is.
Instead, tell the storm how big your God is!’

 

There is an idea that those who stand before the judgment seat of God, and are found to be in Christ Jesus, having been saved by grace through faith, will receive mercy instead of justice.

To be fair, this statement (“This man is not to be given justice, but rather mercy.”) is attributed to Satan in the email, and Satan is the father of lies, so technically I may be reading too much into it.

However, we must remember that, while the redeemed of God definitely receive mercy, there is nothing “unjust” in God, and therefore, His pardon of those who have been saved by Christ is not an instance of an unrighteous or unholy withholding of justice on the part of God. His character is just, and He is unchanging, so He must always be just, and must always administer justice.

I don’t like to “proof text,” but here are some texts that do prove that point:

“He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.” Proverbs 17:15

“That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25

“Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Psalm 85:10

When God welcomes born-again Christians into Heaven, He does not do so because He has ceased from justice. He does so because His justice was satisfied in the Cross of Christ. In the “court room” scenario of the email, Satan’s frustration should not be that, “This man is not to be given justice, but rather mercy.” His frustration should be, “This man is not to be given wrath, but rather the just mercy of the righteous Judge, which was wrought in the Perfect Sacrifice of the Judge’s perfect Son.”

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:” I Peter 3:18

Getting Ready to Swim

January 26, 2009 at 10:55 am | Posted in BiblicalSwimming | 19 Comments
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We live in a day and age when the fountain of God’s Word seems to be flowing in pitifully small, and rapidly drying, streams. By and large, the practice of the world is to stomp right past the cleansing fountain of the wisdom contained in the Bible, and to wallow instead in the muddy imaginations of man (II Corinthians 10:5). However, there is coming a day when “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). In that day, experienced “swimmers” will have an advantage. Having spent much time learning to maneuver in the cleansing water of the Word, some will not be shocked or afraid as the tidal knowledge of the Lord’s glory rises, and covers the whole earth.

Over the past few weeks, our S.W.I.M. lessons have looked at the competitive strokes of literal swimming, and applied them to spiritual truths found in Scripture. This week’s lesson will serve as a brief review:

  1. The Backstroke: True disciples of Christ will encounter opposition that will at times push them backward into troubled waters. The Bible’s solution to this situation is to look up to the Lord, and keep moving ahead. (Acts 27:41-44)
  2. The Breaststroke: God’s hands go forth from God’s heart, and the love of God will cause His hands to reach out and push away the encompassing enemies of His people as they humbly call upon Him. (Isaiah 25:11)
  3. The Butterfly: Some swimmers follow strict rules of form to appear graceful, when in fact they are thrashing violently beneath the surface. God is not impressed by a false show of outward beauty or self-righteousness. (Matthew 23:27-28)
  4. The Crawl: Creeping and crawling is sometimes seen as a reason for scorn among the skeptical, but God has appointed to all things a time and an order. Just as there are nocturnal animals which creep forth at night because of the design of God, so also new believers in Christ Jesus must go through a period of spiritual crawling, before growing into walking and running. (Psalm 104:19-20)
  5. Freestyle: Competitive swimmers with the freedom to choose the stroke they want, will choose a style which allows them to swim most efficiently. Christians, striving for the prize of the high calling, see their freedom in Christ as an opportunity to do those things which are most profitable for the cause of Christ and the glory of God. (Galatians 5:1-7)
  6. The Dog Paddle: When new Christians begin to navigate the waters of spiritual maturity, they must be careful not to imitate, or pick up the bad habits of, those who would promote a “watered-down,” or ritual-based gospel. (Philippians 3:2)

Those who have believed on Christ Jesus in their hearts, and who have called upon the name of the Lord, must dive into God’s Word and learn to “see what it means” (S.W.I.M.). In His Word you will find reasons to be grateful, and promises and comfort for the coming storms.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

“Count Your Blessings,” Johnson Oatman Jr.

The Dog Paddle

January 23, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Posted in BiblicalSwimming | 4 Comments
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The “dog paddle,” while not an officially recognized competitive swimming stroke, “is often the first swim stroke done by young children when they are learning to swim” (A Boy’s Own Book of Outdoor Sports). Although its movements work well for canines, it is often a habit-forming method of swimming for youngsters, and one which must be broken in order to teach them better, more efficient, strokes.

As Christians, we must beware of those who would continually hound us, while barking out false doctrines.

Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.

Philippians 3:2

Doctrines that teach salvation through good works or religious rites may appeal to a spiritually childish part of us, and cause us to want to imitate them, but we are instructed to worship God in His Spirit, and to rejoice in Christ Jesus, and not to have confidence in the flesh or good works.

The Freestyle

January 21, 2009 at 10:21 am | Posted in BiblicalSwimming, Galatians | 7 Comments
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The previous S.W.I.M. lesson focused on a swimming stroke called the crawl, which, despite its name, is actually the most efficient stroke for speed. USA Swimming lists the five competitive swimming strokes as: individual medley, butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke, and freestyle. “In freestyle events, the competitor may swim any stroke. The stroke most commonly used is sometimes called the crawl…” It is hardly surprising that racing swimmers, when given the “freedom” to choose any style they wish, choose the style which allows them to swim the fastest.

Likewise, Christians (those who are truly saved by grace through faith in Christ) are given freedom to run the Christian race in a variety of “styles.”

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Galatians 5:1

The freedom we have in Christ is freedom both from the yoke of legalistic bondage, and from the slavery of sin (Lamentations 1:14). But the Christian race is not a short “swim-sprint,” where the swimmer throws himself wildly into the water and violently writhes and thrashes his way to the other end of the pool, flopping out of the water and lying, chest heaving, exhausted and spent for the rest of the day. No, the Christian’s race is more like a long-distance swim, sometimes experiencing pounding waves, sometimes calm sea. One day carried along easily on the current, other times battling his way upstream. At times making progress through a violent storm, at other times treading in place, trying to keep his head above the surface.

The Holy Spirit commended, but also admonished, the Galatian believers in Chap. 5, Verse 7: “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” If you are a Christian, you are free to swim in any style permitted by Scripture. This is the freedom granted by Christ’s shed blood on the Cross. If, when you were first saved, you made a public profession, joined a church, were Scripturally baptized – if you read your Bible, prayed regularly, told others about the Lord Jesus – then you “did” swim well. But if you have stopped swimming well, you should ask the question, “What has hindered me?” Are you sinking because you are burdened with unnecessary worldly possessions or interests that weigh you down in the water? Are you being slowed down because you haven’t spent enough time training with your Instructor or studying your “Training Manual?” Are you in danger of drowning before reaching the finish line because you lacked physical discipline and enjoyed the pleasure of a heavy meal right before jumping into the pool?

Swimmers, set free from rules which require them to swim in a certain style, use the style which allows them to swim most excellently. Christians should recognize their freedom in Christ as an opportunity to strive for excellence, not mediocrity.

The Crawl

January 19, 2009 at 9:56 am | Posted in BiblicalSwimming, Selected Psalms | 6 Comments
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The swimming stroke which is probably the most easily recognized is called the “crawl.” USA Swimming states that the crawl “is characterized by the alternate stroking of the arms over the water surface and an alternating (up and down) flutter kick.” Although this is probably the most efficient way for a person to move through the water without artificial propulsion, its movements make it appear as though the swimmer is crawling along on his belly on the surface of the water.

In Psalm 104:19-20 the Bible tells us that God, in His glory, has appointed the day and the night for different types of creatures. Although nocturnal beasts often move in a creeping or crawling fashion, they are just as much in the will of God as men who are appointed to be upright in the daylight.

He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down. Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.

Psalm 104:19-20

Immature Christians are compared in Scripture to babies (Hebrews 5:12-14). It is natural for babies to crawl. More mature Christians need to understand that, although moving from milk to strong meat, and moving from crawling to walking and running, can be a tedious process, it is part of a process appointed and prescribed by God.

The Butterfly

January 16, 2009 at 9:47 am | Posted in BiblicalSwimming, Matthew | 4 Comments
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The “butterfly” stroke is considered by some “to be the most beautiful of the strokes” (USA Swimming). “It features a simultaneous recovery of the arms over the water combined with an undulating dolphin kick. In the kick, the swimmer must keep both legs together and may not flutter, scissor, or use the breaststroke kick. Both hands must touch the wall simultaneously on the turns and the finish.”

The butterfly is perhaps the most deceptive swimming stroke. While the insect known as the butterfly floats effortlessly on currents of air, the swimmer who will make the butterfly stroke appear beautiful must exert great effort, adhere to strict rules, and thrash violently during his repetitive plunges beneath the surface.

Although the Bible does not record a love for swimming among the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’s time, we can imagine that, if they had known of such a thing, the butterfly might very well have been their favorite stroke.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Matthew 23:27-28

Like butterfly swimmers, the scribes and Pharisees adhered to strict formal rules, hoping that their outward lives appeared beautiful to men. Underneath the surface, however, these hypocrites struggled furiously to achieve a righteousness which can, in reality, only be imputed by faith in Christ.

The Breaststroke

January 14, 2009 at 10:01 am | Posted in BiblicalSwimming | 3 Comments
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USA Swimming defines the “breaststroke” as “the oldest stroke, dating back hundreds of years.” It is a type of swimming in which the swimmer uses “simultaneous movements of the arms on the same horizontal plane. The hands are pressed out from in front of the breast in a heart-shaped pattern.” It is often said to be a type of swimming which requires great endurance because the swimmer is constantly exerting effort.

This type of swimming stroke exemplifies one of the images the Bible gives of God moving on behalf of His people, as He saves them from the midst of their enemies.

And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim: and he shall bring down their pride together with the spoils of their hands.

Isaiah 25:11

As God spreads forth His hands among the enemies of His people, we get a mental picture of His hands making the shape of a heart, representing His love for His children. The enemies are then pressed away and aside, along with their pride and their ill-gotten gains. God’s endurance, unlike that of a human swimmer, knows no limits, as He is all-powerful. If you feel you are drowning in a sea of suffering, misery, or even apathy, admit your sin, smite your heart of pride, and call upon the Lord for mercy (Luke 18:13). He will rescue you, and pull you close to His heart, so that you may fellowship with Him and share His secrets (John 13:25).

The Backstroke

January 12, 2009 at 9:51 am | Posted in Acts, BiblicalSwimming | 7 Comments
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According to USA Swimming, the different types of recognized repetitive swim motions are called “strokes.” One of these, the backstroke, “consists of an alternating motion of the arms with a flut­ter kick while on the back.” Anyone who has seen this type of swimming in action knows that the swimmer is in the unusual position of being flat on his back, looking up, yet moving swiftly.

Scripture is silent on the subject of exactly what type of swimming stroke the Apostle Paul used, or whether he used a 1st Century “floatation device,” to make it safely ashore when he experienced a shipwreck.

And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves. And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.

Acts 27:41-44

What is certain from Scripture, however, is that the Apostle Paul was someone who, despite being knocked flat on his back many times, always looked up to God, and kept moving forward. The soldiers were afraid of escaping prisoners, but Paul was a man of faith, not a man of scheming. Some saw the storm and shipwreck as reasons for despair, but Paul saw an opportunity to glorify God, and to serve others. Can we say the same when we’re in the midst of a “storm,” or when we find ourselves in “deep water?”

Discipleship Lessons Promo

January 9, 2009 at 2:17 pm | Posted in Bible Studies, Discipleship Lessons, Uncategorized | 11 Comments
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A shortened version of this will appear on the CD case cover for the audio CDs of the Wednesday night discipleship lessons I taught last summer:

“These discipleship lessons are intended for Christian believers: those who have been saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ His Son. They contain the bare basics for understanding some of the major doctrines of the Christian faith. They are not intended as a substitute for going through God’s Word, precept by precept, in diligent and prayerful study. These lessons will help you grasp enough of Christianity to be able to converse intelligently on the topics outlined, but it should be every Christian’s goal to spend his or her lifetime learning more and more about the Lord of the Bible.

“While these lessons are really designed for believers, my prayer is that you will still share them with your lost friends, family members, co-workers, and acquaintances. When the Lord Jesus recruited disciples, He did so with this command: “Follow me…” (Matthew 4:19; Luke 5:27) In this command we have both a path (follow), and a person (Me). If you are to walk the path of eternal life, you must go the way of Jesus Christ. He is infinitely worthy to be studied, worshiped, adored, emulated, obeyed, and followed.”

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