Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jesus on Forgiveness (Matt. 6.12, 14-15)

A devotional thought: How Important is Forgiveness to the Christian? I mean, sure we know it is important, but who needs to be forgiven, what makes that possible, and how should we forgive? Is it really as important as some people make it out to be? Can't we just stay angry? Is a grudge really that big a deal? And more importantly what difference does it make if I won't forgive? What is God going to do if don't? What will do I do? Does God, Does Jesus really think its that important? Well, lets ask Jesus what He has to say on it. He says in Matthew 6. You see, when Jesus is teaching about how to pray, He gives a model prayer. It is a prayer you and I could pray every day. It is the kind of prayer that should be reflected in many of the prayers that we pray. It is simple, humble, and profound. However, there is very interesting little line that Jesus slips into this model prayer. It goes like this, "And forgive us the things we owe like we also have forgiven the people who owe us." Jesus suggests that part of our model prayer needs to be the humble plea for forgiveness. Our sins are a huge debt that we can never repay, so we need in our prayers to beg God to remove it--this is not asking for the removal of sins once for all that comes with trusting in Christ but the restoration of the relationship that is affected by sins in our lives (even though they've been dealt with by Christ once and for all)--the point is that we are in such desperate need of forgiveness that Jesus puts it as a part of our model prayer. However, Jesus wants to explain how we being forgiven and even something of a motivation for God to forgive us, so He says that we should ask for God to forgive us in way similar to how we have forgiven the people who have offended us. This thought is so crucial and might throw us off so much that Jesus comes back to explain why He said what He said after He finishes giving us the model prayer. So we see that it is so important for us to have forgiveness that Jesus puts it in the model prayer, but also we are about to see not only that but also that our forgiveness of others is absolutely necessary--it's important too, and is even important for our own forgiveness. Thus, Jesus says in vv.14-15, "because if you forgive people their transgressions, your Father, the Heavenly One, will also forgive you. But if you don't forgive people, then your Father won't forgive you your transgressions." So why does He mention us being forgiven like we forgive? because apparently forgiveness is so important to God that He will not forgive us if we won't forgive other people. God is just so if we want a restored relationship with Him then we had better have our own relationships in order. I mean, God hates hypocrisy, so when we are begging for forgiveness that we need, but won't give people the forgiveness they need, why should God indulge such a double standard? Why should He encourage more unforgiveness, more grudges? He clearly hates those things, because they are serious enough to keep Him from restoring our own relationship with Him (this is not to say that we can lose our salvation, but it is to say that saved people forgive people and that our closeness to God will not be the same or flourishing if we are languishing in the sin of unforgiveness). If we want forgiveness we have to forgive others. We would be asking God for what we ourselves are giving out. We would be getting from God what would seem appropriate, but how awful would it be for a person to get forgiveness but not give any? God doesn't want that, and neither do we. We want to experience the joy of forgiveness so then we too should be seeking to give that joy! God does not give any exceptions either, it is either we forgive and get forgiven or we don't give it and don't get it. This is a challenge for all us, especially those of us who have suffered greatly at the hands of someone else. But this is important to God and thus should be important to us, but is also important to us because of how much we love and want to enjoy our relationship with God. Unforgiveness really just ends up destroying us. So it is super important. So then let us be humble enough not just to forgive other when they ask but also to ask for forgiveness. I love you all very much. Grace and Peace and Hope.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Doctrine of the Personhood of the Holy Spirit

The Doctrine of the Personhood of the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit is not like the Force in Star Wars movies. We can't control Him or manipulate Him for our own purposes. He is not some weird energy field or pantheistic presence (that is, the idea that everything is god or at least a part thereof). He is Person, Whom we can trust Him, rely on, and enjoy as He works in and through us with His Forceful-Power that overpowers the Force.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Doctrine of Double Predestination

The Doctrine of Double Predestination: There are only two words as options for the answer to the question "Who's there": Orange and Banana. Knock, Knock! Who's there? Banana. Banana who? Knock, Knock! Who's there? Banana. Banana who? Knock, Knock! Who's there? Banana. Banana who? Knock, Knock! Who's there? Banana. Banana who? Knock, Knock! Who's there? Banana. Banana who? Knock, Knock! Who's there? Banana. Banana who? Knock, Knock! Who's there? Banana. Banana who? Knock, Knock! Who's there? Banana. Banana who? Knock, Knock! Who's there? Banana. Banana who? Knock, Knock! Who's there? Banana. Banana who? Knock, Knock! Who's there? Banana. Banana who? Knock, Knock! Who's there? Banana. Banana who? Knock, Knock! Who's there? Banana. Banana who? Knock, Knock! Who's there? Banana. BANANA WHO? Knock, Knock! WHO'S THERE! Orange. Orange who? Orange you glad I didn't say banana!

In the same way as I picked banana to receive wrath and orange to receive glory, God picks some to receive eternal wrath in hell and some to receive eternal glory with Jesus by faith. It doesn't matter if I just not choose banana for glory, because there are only two options, therefore by default I have selected it for wrath.

My Translation of "The Letter from Judas" otherwise known as "The Book of Jude"

The Letter from Jude/Judas

1Judas/Jude Christ Jesus’ slave, and brother of Jacob—to those who have been loved in/by God the Father and who have been kept in/by Jesus Christ, the called—2May mercy be caused to be multiplied for you and peace and love!
3Loved ones, when I was making for myself every effort to be writing to you about our common salvation I had necessity to write to you to you for the purpose of urging [you] to struggle for the faith that was once for all handed over to the holy people/saints, 4because some men SNUCK IN, those who long ago have been prescripted for this judgment, who are impious, who changed our God’s grace into unrestrainedness and who are denying our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ.

5But I want to remind you, because you know all things that the Lord after having saved His people once from the Land of Egypt the second time destroyed those who didn't believe, 6and angels, the ones who didn’t keep their own rule but who deserted their own dwelling He kept in eternal chains under nether-gloom for judgment on the great day, 7like Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them having engaged in excessive sexual indulgence in like manner as these and having gone after other flesh, are exposed as an example of eternal fire by undergoing the punishment of the just penalty.
8In the same way to be sure also these who are dreaming defile flesh on the one hand, but on the other hand they reject Lordship and slander glories. 9But Michael the Archangel when disputing with the devil he was arguing about the body of Moses didn’t dare to pronounce a slanderous judgment, but said “The Lord rebuke you!”                   
10But these people don't know what kinds of things they are slandering, and what kinds of things they are acquainted with instinctually like thoughtless animals, by these things they are destroyed. 11WOE to them! Because they walked on the path of Cain and they pour themselves out to the deception of the wages of Balaam and they are destroyed by rebellion of Korah!                    12These people are the ones who are fearlessly feasting together with you at your love feasts as hidden reefs/stains[1], who are shepherding themselves, waterless clouds being carried away by the wind, fruitless, late-autumnal trees that are twice dead because of having been uprooted, 13wild waves of the sea that are causing their own shameful-deeds to foam, stars that are wanderers for which the gloom of the darkness has been kept into an age.
14But also the seventh from Adam, Enoch, prophesied about them by saying, “LOOK! The Lord came with His holy myriads 15to accomplish judgment against all and to convict every soul concerning all their impious actions which they acted impiously and concerning all the harsh things which the impious sinners spoke against Him.
16These are grumblers who are complaining about their lot in life who are going because of their own desires, and their mouth speaks pompous things, who are complimenting people for the sake of personal benefit.

17But you, loved ones, remember the spoken-words, the ones that have been proclaimed ahead of time by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ 18that they were saying to you upon the last section of time there will be mockers who are going according to their own desires for impieties.

19These are the people who are inciting division, who are fleshly, who can’t possibly have the Spirit!

20But you, loved ones, by building yourselves up on your most holy faith, by praying in the Holy Spirit[2], 21keep yourselves in the love of God with the result of welcoming with anticipation the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ resulting in eternal life.
22And for some who are at odds with themselves, on the one hand, you should show mercy, 23and for some you are saving from fire by yanking them away, but on the other hand for some you should show mercy in fear hating even the tunic stained by the flesh.

24Now, to the One who is able to keep you stumbling-free and cause you to stand right in front of His Glory blemish-free with extreme-joy, to the Only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord—glory, greatness, sovereignty, and authority, prior to every age and now and into all the ages, Amen!

[1] The Greek word σπιλαδες here can either mean hidden reefs or stains, but the given that both are fitting to the context, it is likely that Judas/Jude meant for both meanings to be understood.
[2] FYI, while praying in the Spirit certainly includes the speaking in tongues Paul defines in I Cor. 14, it by all means is not exclusively talking about speaking in tongues, although it by all means includes it. Rather the point is that the Holy Spirit should be driving your prayers in whatever manifestations that it can take, whether silent, verbal, in tongues, songs, rap, poetry, prose, accompanied with dance, not so accompanied, with fasting, etc. the point is Spirit-Driven Prayer keeps you in love with God.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement

The Doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement: Blood for blood the Laws say. There's a murderous Rebel and a Prince in at room. But according to the Plan arranged between the King and His Son, the King executes His Son with an ax, not the Rebel. His blood gushes all over the Rebel as He dies. Life for life. The King is satisfied; the Rebel's crimes have been paid by the Son's Blood. 

In the same way, Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rebellions against God, thereby paying the just penalty for our crimes in our place, according to the Plan of Yahweh, the Holy Trinity, so that now we are able to go free having been covered in the Son's blood. Jesus took out punishment by dying in our place. All of us who believe in Him do not get the ax, because Jesus got it for us. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Doctrine of Unconditional Election: The Awesome Artisan

The Doctrine of Unconditional Election: An Awesome Artisan chisels out 10 statues from the same slab of marble that resemble the Artisan. The people of the town are all impressed by the 10 statues. The are very valuable and do resemble the Artisan very well. The people are all looking at the statues and studying them. They can't tell any difference between them. Even on the molecular level, they are totally the same! Then the Artisan picks 4 of the statues to take into His house to make them even more like Him, so that everyone sees how Awesome the Artisan really is. The people are confused. "Why only 4? Why those 4?" they ask Him. The Awesome Artisan responds, "Because I wanted those to be like Me more and to show Myself more within." "But they are exactly the same in every possible way!?" "True. But I loved those 4 for My house, not the other 6." "But why those 4?" "I didn't want the others." "But WHY? What is so special about those 4?" "Nothing. They're exactly the same. But I wanted those 4, so I picked those 4." "But there has to be something different about those 4 that would make you pick them!" "No. They're identical in every way, inside and out. The only difference is that I wanted those 4 and not the other 6. The difference is with which ones I want not with what they are like."

In the same way, God picks who He picks to be saved because of WHO HE IS, not who we are. We are all exactly the same. Nothing makes us worthy of being chosen. But God chose us and He chose us by grace and not by what we are like or what we would be like or what we do or would do. His pick was unconditional. There way not some condition that we met that made God choose us or want to chose us, He just chose us on His Own, because of WHO HE IS. He is the Gracious God Who chooses, so He graciously chose us. (see Rom. 9-11)

Jesus Cares and Intervenes for the Widow (Luke 7.11-17)

A devotional thought: In Luke 7.11-17, Jesus had just healed a servant of a gentile when He wasn't even near the servant. He is just now arriving with His disciples and a crowd of people at the town called Nain. Jesus sees a crowd coming out of the city. But unlike other times, this is not a crowd coming out for Him or even to Him. No, this crowd has different, more gloomy destination: a grave. It is the grave for the son of a mother who had only one son, a mother whose husband is already dead. This woman has gone through the pain of death--the hardcore pain and upheaval of the death of her husband, her lover, her provider, her protector. That was hard, but at least she had still had a son to care for her, provide for her, and protect her. But now, he too had died! Death had her again in bitter tears. She no longer had a son, she no longer had anyone who loved and cared for her, who would provide and protect her. She was as alone and as vulnerable as you could get, even though she is surrounded by the crowd of mourners leaving the city. We often feel that alone and helpless and vulnerable from all sides, even though there are others around us, we feel bitterly alone. But Jesus sees this woman. Jesus cares for and loves this woman. Jesus wants to provide and protect this woman. His insides are churning with intense emotions of compassion and love and shared-pain for her. So then Jesus takes action! Jesus does the unthinkable! He speaks. His voice is full of emotion, and He says two words to this alone and helpless widow: "Don't weep!" The words are paradoxical--crazy! Who could not help but cry in that situation? But Jesus still uttered that command: "Don't cry!" Why? Because Jesus' compassion has moved Him to take action! The crowd is confused and chatter is rippling back and forth about how Jesus just told the mother of the dead son to stop crying. Some are saying, "does He care?" "How could He say/do that?" Then Jesus takes a step towards the casket and reaches out a hand and touches the coffin! He touches it! The people caring the casket just stand there, halted from continuing their journey--the Rabbi is touching the box with the dead guy in it! Then something amazing happens that no one saw coming, Jesus speaks again, but this time He's talking to the dead guy! "Young man, I say to you, be awake!" Then every chattering voice is cut down by the young man sitting up in the casket and starting to speak himself! So Jesus gives the young man to his mom. Then fear grabs hold of everyone and they erupt in to praise and glory for God! They see in this that God still cares about His people! So the people can't shut up about it; and the message spreads to the whole area and all the places around it! They praise God because they see that the widow again has a son who will love her, care for her, provide for her, and protect her, but she also has The Son loving her, caring for her, providing for her, and protecting her! In the same way, the Lord Jesus sees our situation and all that we are going through! He feels for us! He cares for us and loves us and is seeking our best! I can't  foresee what Jesus will do, but I do see in the text that Jesus can reverse even the most bitter and hopeless of situations with just a couple words! I see that He is compassionate and loving! I see that He is more powerful than even death! So yes it looks like our youth group and church at deaths door, maybe even already on the way to the grave, but we also worship the God of Victory over Death! We Worship the Jesus who bled even death itself out when he bled out for us! We may look as good as dead, but we worship Jesus and we trust in Jesus who not only raises the dead, but who also raise from the dead Himself! There is hope for us! Jesus has the power and the concern and the empathy! The question is when and how and will we even be able to see it. We know Who Jesus is, so let's trust in Him as we trust Him to be Himself! Jesus can raise the dead with a few words, so He certainly can save our youth group and church! Take courage my youth group. I love you and am praying for you, and Jesus has our back!

Grace and Peace and Hope and Love in Jesus Christ our Lord
Pastor Anthony

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


T -- Total Depravity (Gen. 3; Ps. 51; John 6.44; Rom. 3, 5-6; Eph. 2.1, 5)

U -- Unconditional Election (John 6.44; Rom. 9-11; John 15.16; II Tim. 1.9)

L -- Limited Atonement (Mark 10.45; John 10)

I  -- Irresistible Grace (Titus 3.3-8; John 6; I Cor. 1-2) [this is more of a corollary from the fact that He is God]

P -- Perseverance of the Saints (James 1.12; Rom. 8.28-30; I John 2.19)

The Doctrine of Total Depravity

The Doctrine of Total Depravity: A woman bakes a rich devil's food cake and covers it in frosting. At the end of the day, this is a rather rich cake, perhaps not as rich as it could be because the plan was not to make it that way, but it is still completely a cake and a rather rich one at that (i.e. humans are 100% sinful, messed up by the Fall, but God does not plan for everyone to be as sinful as possible).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Window into Christ's Prayer Life

A devotional thought: In John 17.20-26, we get to see Jesus' heart for us when Jesus starts praying for all the people who will believe the Word from the Disciples. Jesus has a lot of things that He prays for on our behalf. But we can also be super encouraged because we know that Jesus prays everything that God wants Him to pray, so we know that this prayer for us will be answered with a yes. This can give our youth group and even our whole church some serious hope, because the first thing that Jesus prays for is unity, a deep relationship with each other that reflects His relationship and unity with God the Father, because Jesus says in vv.20-21, "I'm not just asking for them [i.e. the disciples], but also for those who believe into me through their message, that they would be one just You, Father, are in Me and I in You, and that they would be in us, so that they world would believe that You personally sent me!"  Jesus is praying that we will have unity, that all believers would have relationships so close and unified with one another that it reflects the tightness that Jesus has with the Father. He wants us to be just as one with each other as a church as He is One with the Father--and we can say that the Two with the Holy Spirit are ONE GOD! In the same way, because of Jesus' prayer we know that not only is our unity possible, but it is already in process! God is answering Jesus' prayer! But Jesus does not stop there, no. Jesus wants us to be tight with the Father and Himself! He wants us to be just as close with Him and His Dad as possible! Jesus is praying for us to be close to Him and His Father! Thus, not only does He us to be close to each other, but also He wants us to be close to Him and His Dad! How awesome is that! Jesus wants us close to Him and to His Dad, and He is praying exactly what His father wants Him to pray and He is filled with the Spirit so it is likely that He is even praying as the Spirit is leading/wanting! The whole Godhead wants us to be close to Him and to one another! Indeed this prayer seems like it is going to answered, just a little. However, Jesus also has a purpose in this close relationship for us and that is His Own glory and testimony--Jesus wants the whole world to believe that Jesus really did come from God the Father because of looking at us and seeing our unity and our relationship with Him and His Father! Talk about awesome! The Lord will use our closeness to one another and to Him to show the world that Jesus is legit! Thus, since we know what Jesus really wants to happen in the Church, in our youth group, then let's pursue unity and a closeness to God and Jesus and even the Holy Spirit who lives in us now, and indeed as we become more unified and close to God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, our Lord and Savior's prayer will be answered. God works in history to answer prayers, so our effort will really be His whole plan to answer His Son's prayer! So as we become more unified and closer to God we are in a way part of God's answering Jesus' prayer! That is pretty cool! The point is that unity is something that we will have to work hard for and closeness with God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit will also take hard work, but that both these things are what God the Father wants, Jesus wants, and the Holy Spirit wants--these two things JESUS prayed for! We have the prayers of Jesus backing us up, so our youth group and our church has a great hope for the future! That Hope is Christ Jesus Himself, who is our High Priest now that He died for our sins and shed His blood and rose from the dead to atone for us and give us eternal life! Our Hope is in the fact that what we long for we have had Jesus praying for since before He even died on the cross for us! As hopeless as it seems, in Jesus and His prayer for us, there is our solid and steadfast hope! and on top of that hope we have the added hope that as Jesus' prayer is answer Jesus' purpose will be accomplished: people will believe that He is really from God. We are part of giving Jesus the Glory, so let's humble ourselves and unite and draw close to God for Jesus' glory!

Much Love,
May God grant us Grace, Peace, Hope, Faith, Love, Encouragement, Unity, and Closeness to Him
Pastor Anthony

The Doctrine of Limited Atonement/Particular Redemption

The Doctrine of Limited Atonement/Particular Redemption: A rich man walks into a doughnut shop and sees a bunch of doughnuts that are all equally nasty looking, stale, cold, and rotten. He has enough money to buy all the doughnuts, but he just wants a dozen doughnuts of the 50 that are left. So he picks 13 that he wants: $13.50 after tax. He throws down a $100 bill for the 13 doughnuts he picked. He could have bought all the doughnuts, but he just buys the 13 he wants and went in to get. No more, no less, even though he could have paid for them all. His $100 doesn't buy him all of them because he only wanted 13. He just pays for the doughnuts he picks.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Doctrine of the Irresistibility of the Holy Spirit

The Doctrine of the Irresistibility of the Holy Spirit: To think that one could resist the Holy Spirit working in one's heart to save them is like a guy sinking to the bottom of the ocean who thinks he can hold back the seas all around, under, above, and below him with his bare hands. Needless to say, the man is getting wet, for no man's power can overcome the power of the Omnipotent Spirit. If the Spirit wants to save you, He will come at you from all sides. No man's struggle can hold the Spirit at bay.

Present in our Pain He Planned for our Best and His Glory (John 11.1-46ish)

A devotional thought: Jesus often has a bigger purpose that we understand when He brings about utterly painful hardships in our lives, but that does not mean He does not love us, nor does it mean that He does not care or feel our pain right along with us, just ask John when he recalls what Jesus did and said when Lazarus got sick and died. He says that Jesus new what was going to happen and refused to heal Lazarus because it was ultimately for God's glory and for His disciples faith (John 11.4, 14-15). But He did love Mary and Martha even though He planned for them to experience some intense pain, and even Lazarus who would die (verse 5). It is easy for us to be like Mary and Martha when we go through some intense hardship. They knew Jesus could have solved the problem, but they also knew that He did not. They seemed to think that Jesus didn't care and blamed Him for their brothers death. You can still hear their confused sobs bleed through the pages of John 11, "Lord, if you would have been here my brother wouldn't be DEAD! (v.21 and v.32)" in other words, "You could have stopped this!!!" There words hide the same question our words do; "How could You do this? Why would You want this? Don't You care about me, about us?" He also see them crying, just as He sees us in our troubled tears and pain-filled hearts. But Jesus' response is what shocks us, because this is the same Guy who planned this whole situation--what does He do? He cares. He cares hardcore. "He became deeply moved and He felt His emotions swirl inside Himself" (v.33). Then as He sees all their tears, "Jesus burst into tears" (v.34-35). He cries, and He cries hardcore. He will then go and raise Larazus from the dead, ultimately bring to pass His perfect plan from the beginning, which was that the sickness would not result in death but be for God's glory, so that the Son of God would be glorified through it" (v.4). But not before we suffer and He suffers with us. Our suffering and His suffering with us confirms that He does love us! For indeed how much He must love us if He who planned all the bad stuff to happen also cares about how we experience it, so the point that He Himself shares in our pain and feels all the churning emotions that we feel. Jesus is with us in our pain and He is using that pain not just to bolster our faith but also to bring the Glory to Whom it belongs. Therefore, we should be encouraged that no matter how much pain Jesus Christ plans to come our way, it is for His purposes and He will not leave us in the mess alone, without sympathy. He Himself will feel what we feel. This is still true. Jesus gets what we are going through and cares deeply for us, no matter what happens. But He cares too much about us to leave our faith where it was at and He care too much about His Father's glory and even His own glory to not send our way what much be for His Glory and our best. Take courage, youth group, we suffer, but we don't suffer alone and we don't suffer without purpose. We are part of a plan that brings God the glory and us deeper and better faith! I love you all very much.

Grace and Peace and Comfort be yours in Jesus Christ
Pastor Anthony

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Friends with Benefits"? Hardly...

Being with Jesus is not like "friends with benefits" where you can go in and out of having anything to do with Jesus, getting the perks when you want them and not when you don't, because being with Jesus it's either all or nothing. You are either with Him or you're not. You're either totally committed forever or you're not. But when you're with Him its more awesome than you ever imagined.

The Doctrine of Perseverance in a Nutshell

The Doctrine of Perseverance: A person trusting in Christ is like a woman at a wedding 5 min before it starts, if she has the wedding dress on, she's probably the bride, if not, probably not, but if she's the bride she can't call it off , & Jesus won't. If you really trust in Jesus, you can't unsave yourself and He won't not save you, but if your faith's not got the associated actions, you're probably not with Jesus.

Hope in the Face of Hopelessness is Found in the Face of Jesus (Luke 23.42-43)

A devotional thought: Jesus is really good at delivering people from hopeless situations, just ask the criminal on the cross. Jesus is DYING and the man says, "Remember me", so the DYING Jesus tells the dying man, "Today you will be WITH ME in Paradise." So when hope is lost we can still hope in Christ. So when it looks like it is ove...r for us, we should be like the one criminal who who begged Christ for Help, from whom he received hope in the hopelessness that was in his face. Jesus is our Hope in hopeless situations (Luke 23.42-43).