Stan* came over to my house. Earlier he sent me an email stating that he and his wife would not be attending our small group. But I wanted at least a chance to get to know him so I invited him over to chat. During the course of our conversation Stan said he and his wife were having a difficult time finding a church to attend in Colorado Springs because of theological differences. When I asked him what that meant Stan said that they did not believe Jesus was God. Therefore, church leaders were not comfortable putting them in a leadership position. He further elaborated that 95% of Christians mistakenly are taught and believe in Jesus’ deity. No wonder they were having trouble finding a church home!
AC Stein fought as an infantryman in the Korean War. During one ground battle AC was pinned down in a trench under severe artillery bombardment. His comrades were dying all around him when suddenly the man next to him was shot and mortally wounded. In great fear, AC recited the only Jewish prayer he could remember from his childhood. As he looked up at a bare tree above him he saw an angel sitting there. The angel said, “AC, you will live. Just stay down in the trench.” As it turned out he was the only man to survive that heavily-attacked ditch.
Scripture—Used in favor of Universalism
2 Thessalonians 2:3,4—This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
When we arrive in heaven will there be a Hall of Fame? Will we find an interactive display manned by select angels who share the stories of those living legends who served God exceedingly well? Conversely, will there be a Hall of Shame in hell for those who acted in the power of Satan? If Hitler was one of the worst men to walk the planet we might also find that his countryman Dietrich Bonhoefferwas an exceptional saint. This German Lutheran pastor and theologian could have successfully pastored in the United States or in Great Britain. Instead, he chose to go back to his country and preach and teach knowing that his life was in jeopardy.
Kathleen and I drove from Houston to College Station. We were on our way to College Station to visit Texas A&M. We met COL Howe the Professor of Military Science and director of one of the largest ROTC programs in the country. Texas Aggies are known throughout the U.S. for their enthusiasm, patriotism and high performance. So I was more than a little surprised to learn that it is normal each year for 50% of the graduating ROTC cadets not to contract with the military. They spend four years engaged in military training and study, dress in their distinctive military uniforms, live in barracks steeped in military tradition and yet forego receiving a commission in the military. Incredible!
He takes from the right hand of God the scroll, uniquely worthy to open its seals. Twenty-four elders fall down in reverence before Him while heaven’s halls reverberate with a new song sung in His honor. He was slaughtered yet He lives. Not only does He accomplish something no other person or god could, He extends the reality of God’s love to a world desperately intent on going its own way. This Hero is Christ Jesus and He is our Propitiator.
Have you ever wondered much about your soul, what it is, it’s purpose, etc.?
There are four common theories as to the soul’s origin. They are:
1. Traducianism—our soul and body come from our parents (Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox Churches).
2. Preexistence of all souls (Origen and Mormons)
3. Reincarnation (Hinduism)
4. Creationism—God creates a fresh soul for each body (Roman Catholics and most reformed theologians)
In the fourth century AD, a bishop by the name of Athanasius gained fame for defending the Christian faith against a heresy quickly spreading under the teaching of Arius, a bishop in Alexandria. Arius contended that Jesus was created by God and was not eternal or omnipotent like His Father. The Athanasian Creed was probably not composed until several decades after Athanasius’ death in AD 373. It was never recognized by an ecumenical council as an official creed of the Church yet it remains an excellent summation of the doctrine of the Trinity. Even today Lutherans quote this creed in their liturgy.
Predestination according to The American Heritage Dictionary means“The doctrine that God has foreordained all things, especially that God has elected certain souls to eternal salvation.” It is only mentioned six times in the New Testament and comes from the Greek word, (proorizo). The Apostle Paul in Ephesians reveals that love is the motivation behind predestination and that it is an accolade to God’s grace freely distributed through Christ. To the church in Rome, he wrote that God’s foreknowledge (proginosko—from which we get the word prognosis), is included in predestination. Furthermore, those He predestined were also called, justified and glorified (Romans 4:29,30)!
God’s qualities are indescribable, incomprehensible and thereby awe-inspiring. If you are beset with problems stop for a period and begin to reflect on God. We are a curious people so wrapped in ourselves and easily prone to discouragement. What we desperately need is to get our eyes off our humanity and gaze where it is impossible to see—God’s “Godness.” Robert Russell shares in his book Releasing Resentment that Martin Luther once was depressed over a prolonged period. One day his wife came downstairs wearing all black. Martin Luther asked her, “Who died?”
She said, “God has.”
He answered, “God hasn't died.”
She replied, “Well, live like it and act like it.”
When we use the word providence in reference to God we mean that He faithfully foresees and effectively preserves, provides and governs over His creation most often through secondary causes. Proverbs 20:24 says, “The very steps we take come from God; otherwise how would we know where we’re going?” (The Message)
When I typed in the word religion on Google's search engine, it gave 1,570,000,000listings. Assuming that 15% of those were repeat entries, if I were to spend just five seconds visiting each site with no break, it would take 13,083,000 days (over 35,000 years) just to visit them all! Sometimes I wonder if people have the same sense when they approach this subject. Everyone has an opinion about religion—but who is right?
I want to be good and I suspect the same is true for you. Yet, despite my best intentions, I cannot live a perfect life. The deeper I get to know my Lord the more aware I am of my shortcomings. For this reason I find the concept of justification to be somewhat overwhelming. God in His profound holiness did not have to go to any length to rescue me from sin. He does not need me and most certainly I have offended Him time and again. Yet, inexplicably through His vast love, He chose a horrific path to blaze a terrific salvation.
John 6:37,44--Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out . . . No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.
Her Asian face stares at me with a confident look that belies the caption blazoned across her neck. It reads, “I’m everywhere.” Microsoft advertises its Windows 2000 Professional preinstalled on the “highly reliable, wireless-enabled Dell Latitude® C6000 notebook and you can get total mobility.” That’s what we want isn’t it—the ability to go anywhere and take what we need with us?
Philippians 2:6-8--Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross.
I spoke with a woman recently who was interested in moving to our city and getting involved in our church. She asked me many questions regarding our doctrine. Then the conversation narrowed to a discussion of Jesus Christ.
Bettis hates God. He thinks the whole concept of yielding one’s heart to a Divine Creator is bunk. It’s heavenly tyranny foisted on earth. He didn’t choose to be born so where’s the fairness in damnation if he opts not to play by God’s rules? He resists the notion of truth being defined for him. He’d rather rebel.
We may think Bettis is nuts to scorn a loving God, to literally play with fire. But he holds the God-given right of refusal. The beauty of free will is that we canrebel. What value would there be in creating creatures devoid of the ability to choose to love?
A young woman walks into church for the first time. She sits down in a pew filled by strangers. In the course of a service unlike anything she has experienced, a hymn is sung. She sees the title, “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood” and inwardly recoils. Later she listens as around her people sing, “My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Why she wonders would anyone venerate the blood of someone else! To her enlightened mind, the notion of singing about any kind of blood is grotesque and backward—the primitive custom of a weird people. If such blood is left unexplained can we blame her if she never sits foot in a church again?
Hank Acephalous graduated near the top of his West Point class. As a newly commissioned second lieutenant, he continued to excel by earning the coveted ranger tab. He was set to join the elite Ranger battalion at his new post. Life was good.