Author: Bryan Garrison

My name is Bryan Garrison. My wife Jackie and I are foster parents as well as adopted two of the children placed with us. We’re constantly on the go, so my posting may be a bit fewer and further between than I’d like, but we’ll get there.
The Transformed Christian

The Transformed Christian

True Christianity, true belief in Jesus as Lord, true following of Christ’s teaching, and true acceptance of the grace of God stems not just a transaction occurring, but a transformation taking place throughout the life of a believer. It’s this transformation that Paul talks about in Romans chapters 12-15.

Side note: Yes that’s 5 whole chapters, I’ve found that when reading Paul’s letters you don’t just read one chapter at a time, but rather one thought at a time. When they were originally penned there was no chapter markers, no verse markers, these things have been added to make it easier to reference for us. However we often times find ourselves relying on these markers to break apart ideas and sections and as such fail to keep following a thought. You can see this in several places in Romans especially where Paul’s train of thought keeps going long past the original chapter and verse. When you’re reading Paul, or any scripture, you have to make sure that you’re not stopping in the middle of a thought just because that’s where the verse or chapter ends.

Let’s pick up in Romans 12:1. I’m not going to read all of these chapters to you, but I will pick out certain key verses and texts to elaborate on, I do suggest going back and reading all of these at the same time in your own time. I believe that you will get a lot out of it as I have.

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2

Many of you already know these verses by heart I’m sure, but let’s break them down real quick as we press on toward the goal. If you’re a keen reader you will have already noticed that Paul starts this chapter with a connecting word “therefore” ουν a word translated often as therefore or because of, in many use cases it was a marker of the continuation of a previous line of thought: “As I was saying…” So given this continuation you probably want to add chapter 11 to your assigned reading. In chapter 11 Paul explains how the rejection of the Jews has allowed for the Gentiles to be grafted into the tree of Christ. He goes through several times explaining how grateful we should be for the grace of God, and so because of that grace, that grafting in onto the tree, we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. We’re able to do this to God not because we’re perfect but because of His mercy towards us.

This first verse seems to be have a few key points the first being physical, that not just our hearts and minds should be given to God but our very bodies. The second being living, our sacrifice wasn’t just one time and it’s done, it should be a constant sacrifice. Our sacrifice should be an expression of our living and continued faith. This sacrifice should be holy, it should be set apart from the world towards God. It is a picture of the heavenly worship that is constantly going on (see Isaiah and Hebrews). We offer this sacrifice not just in the offering of it, but by following the very next verse that we are not to be conformed to this world, but transformed and different. When many think of being conformed to the world, they immediately jump to the obvious sins and troubles in the world, but Paul here is talking much deeper than that. To be conformed to the world yes is sin and strife, but it’s also to pursue the world’s values and pleasures. We all know someone or have have known someone so worried about making the most money in the neighborhood because they want to drive the best cars, have the biggest house, send their kids to the nicest schools, but this is all just worldly desire. There’s many more that we could discuss, but I want to get to the heart of this verse, be transformed by the renewing of your mind. What in the world does that mean? In this verse the mind νους is more than just the thought process or the conscience but rather everything that makes you, you. So the way you think, your worldview, your habits, you character, your personality, literally everything that makes you unique. Your walk with Christ should have your mind νους being renewed daily, transformed daily to be more and more like Him. If it’s not daily changing and growing then there’s something wrong with your walk with Christ.

So how does one go about this transformation by renewing one’s mind? First you have to know where you currently stand. Are you perfect? If yes, you can leave because there’s nothing more I can show you, if not let’s look at some of the attributes and characteristics of a Christian according to Paul. As I said earlier Paul’s thought process often carries on well beyond our section headings, chapter markers and verses, this is very much one of those sections. Look at verses 3-5

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.

You can see here first off Paul reminds the believer no to think more highly of themselves than they should. Pride can be a major stumbling block for a believer, in Rome or in the US. It’s easy to begin to think and act a certain way as life goes your way, but Paul here (who had every reason to think of himself higher due to his social status) reminds the reader to think sensibly. He also begins to point out here that as a believer we’re no longer individuals, but a singular part of the greater Body of Christ. This isn’t the only place he talks about being a part of the body or community, but it’s definitely a clear statement here. He says that we are one body in Christ and individually members of one another meaning that if one falls we all fall and when one rises we all rise. As members of one another we should strive to lift each other up that all may rise with them. He then goes on to talk about gifts given by grace that if we have a gift it should be used in accordance to our faith.

One of the more difficult sections, especially in today’s world starts at verse 9

Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord. But

If your enemy is hungry, feed him.

If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

For in so doing

you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.

Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

Notice here that so far there have been very few “do nots”, Paul isn’t writing a rule book for life full of all the things we can’t do, but rather he seems to be writing an instruction book for all the things we should do as believers. Love without hypocrisy, detest evil, cling to that which is good. These are simple “hey a believer looks like this” kind of instructions that we should all be reading and learning from on a very regular basis. What’s more is Paul continues this train for several, several, paragraphs. Let’s jump to 13:8

Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments:

Do not commit adultery;

do not murder;

do not steal;

do not covet;

and whatever other commandment — all are summed up by this: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.

Do you see a bit of a common thread here? Love. Love should flow from a believer like the rivers of the Amazon flow into the ocean. There should be so much love flowing from us that we change currents around us and people begin to wonder what is so different about that person. All of the law is summed up in one word, Love, Jesus summed up the law into two statements, Love God, Love your neighbor. Brother David mentioned it briefly this morning that God loves everyone, where they are at, who they are, and desires that all come to Him. We all know that not everyone is going to turn to Christ, but we are called to love them anyway. Jump with me to chapter 14, Paul returns to the “you’re one family, one body” idea when he begins to talk about how we are to behave around other believers.

Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don’t argue about doubtful issues. One person believes he may eat anything, but one who is weak eats only vegetables. One who eats must not look down on one who does not eat, and one who does not eat must not criticize one who does, because God has accepted him…Romans 14:1-3

Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way. (I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. Still, to someone who considers a thing to be unclean, to that one it is unclean.) For if your brother is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy that one Christ died for by what you eat. Romans 14:13-15

This chapter has caused many discussions around our house on what exactly does it mean to put a stumbling block in someone’s way? I think the key element here is that Paul is reminding us as one body that we are to look out for each other as much as ourselves. We’re supposed to be individuals of each other. A great example of this is Augustine (I think) who wrote in one of his many many books that when he would go to Milan they would fast on Tuesdays and so he would fast on Tuesday, but when he went to Rome they fasted on Thursdays (or whatever days) so he would fast on Thursdays. His point, and I believe Paul’s point here is that instead of tearing down a believer over something so small he would join them and celebrate the Lord. What good does does it do to tear someone down over something as small as what day they fast or whether they eat meat or not. Is it not much more important to celebrate the Lord? At the same time, Paul tells us not to put a stumbling block out there, if someone says they’re fasting on Tuesdays don’t invite them over to watch you eat a steak. Be considerate of each other and remember that building each other up lifts us all. Paul once again returns to love as the key. We are to walk in love every day. We are to consider others before ourselves, lift others up, pray for others, strengthen others, pursue peace with others, praise God with others. Our lives are no longer our own, individual, lives, but rather a life as a part of the Body of Christ. Renew your mind today, go and remember that Paul gave us a full instruction list of things to do as a believer. Go and read all of these chapters 11-15 together in one sitting and see how Paul told the Roman church how to be transformed and be a different creature than the rest of the world.

Forgiven

Forgiven

Think back to the moment you realized that Jesus was God, that He died in your place for your sins, was buried, and rose again on the 3rd day. Do you remember where you were, what you were doing, why you changed your mind and believed? Do you remember that feeling of burden and weight being lifted off of you? That is the feeling of forgiveness. You had been carrying a burden your whole life up to that point, a burden that only after it’s been lifted do many realize that they don’t have to carry it. The moment you decided to leave it at the cross with Christ He traded his burden, the one that’s easy and light, and took that burden of yours and carries it for you. Notice that I said you didn’t have to carry that burden. Let’s look first at 1 Peter 3:18For Christ also suffered for sins once for all,

the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.”

Jesus died once for all sins, it doesn’t say that He died for just your sins or my sins, it doesn’t say He died for the Jews sins, He died for ALL. The burden that you carried, and some still carry, was paid for nearly 2,000 years ago, we just had to let it go and accept God’s grace and forgiveness. Let’s look at another passage, of several, that say this same thing Hebrews 9:24-26 “For the Messiah did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that He might now appear in the presence of God for us. He did not do this to offer Himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another. Otherwise, He would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now He has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Christ entered into the Heavenly temple and made the payment for the sins of everyone who was, is, and will be. From the moment Christ said “It is finished”, your bill was paid. You just had to accept it.

So what does that mean for our daily lives today?

For many of us we struggle day to day with some sin or another. The issue is that this struggle often times hinders us from serving as we should, but what we have to do is remember each day that we’re already forgiven of these issues! Does that mean we should just keep on sinning? Of course not, Paul was pretty clear in Romans 6 (a few times) that even though grace may abound when we sin it doesn’t mean that we can just keep on sinning. He even went so far as to tell the Roman church “not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace.”

Let go of the chains that so easily entangle us, when Christ set us free I don’t believe that He intended for us to go back and bind ourselves up again. We often times decide that these chains are where we belong and as such go back and pick them up. Let them go! Leave the chains where the belong, at the foot of the cross and serve God today!

When we finally recognize and begin to live like we’re truly forgiven then we can let them go, we can run the race with joy and gladness, we can be that new creation that we’re meant to be. Do you recognize the forgiveness of God in yourself? Do you still bind yourself with the chains of the past? Give them up, place them at the cross and leave them there where they were paid for long ago. When you do recognize a sin in your life, it’s not to be ignored, but don’t let it bind you up and keep you from serving as you should. Go and be the new creation that you are! 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.”

If you haven’t reached a point in your life where you recognize that Jesus is Lord, you’re carrying a burden that hasn’t been yours to carry since Calvary. Stand up today and declare that Jesus is Lord, believe on Him and let him have your burden and free you from the chains that bind you!

New Beginning

New Beginning

New growth

I’m sure you’ve all figured it out, but I struggle to keep this thing going… Well starting today I’m going to do my absolute best to post a little something at least a couple of times each week.

I like the photo I picked for this post because it’s such a representation of what life is, what growth is, and what this page is supposed to be. Every idea begins as a seed. Whether it was planted by someone else directly or indirectly, it was planted at some point in the past. Life is full of seeds in the daily routine, our weekly trips to the store (or daily if you’re like me…I always forget something), they’re present in our conversations with friends, and they’re vital to our growth. What’s more as they begin to grow and take root they bring about change. Change in our thought process, change in our actions, and change in our beliefs. If we recognize that our day to day lives are full of seeds planted in ourselves, how much more should we recognize that every action or word to another is also planting, or in some cases watering, a seed.

Paul explains that the gospel is kind of like a seed in that “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” – 1 Cor 3:6-8

In our day to day walk are we planting gospel seeds, are we watering gospel seeds planted by others, are we watching God cause growth among our friends, family, neighbors? It is our responsibility as believers to lead others to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news of an end to sin and a new beginning in relationship with the Father. Plant and water the good seeds in others! Notice here however that Paul didn’t say that he planted, Apollos watered, Matthew came along and pulled roots, John did the pruning. No he simple says that they planted and watered and God handled the rest. It’s God’s job to bring about growth by removing the weeds and dead limbs, not ours. It’s our job to plant and water the seeds in others. But it’s also our job to look at ourselves and our own “garden”.

Before you really dig into what seeds you’re planting in others, it would be worth asking which seeds are you watering within yourself? There’s all the seeds that we have planted of goodness, kindness, love, and patience that we see and witness in those around us that get planted, but at the same time there’s all the seeds of sin and darkness that come from those around us all the same. Are you allowed seeds of goodness to get planted, watered, and letting them grow by spending time in environments, with people, taking in media (books, movies, TV, etc) that bring about those seeds? Or are you letting seeds of darkness and sin get planted and sprout up by spending time in environments, with people, taking in the wrong media?

Relationships

Relationships

The Bible study group I’ve been a part of on Sunday nights likes to dig deep into topics. We’ve been discussing Heaven over the last couple of weeks. We’ve talked about “where are believers who die today?”, “what did Jesus mean when He talked about Paradise with the thief on the cross?”, and “what about Lazarus and the Rich man, what was that parable or actual events?”. Well this next week we’ll be discussing relationships in Heaven. I emailed some thoughts to our fearless leader, and he pointed out that I should write about it here. He knows that I’ve struggled this last couple of months to get something written here, so I think it was a ploy to get me back and running. Either way, I’m glad he did. I don’t think I’ll go into much detail into my thoughts yet, as they’re still floating in my head, but I think this may be something I write on a couple of times this week.

Relationships in Heaven

I know one topic that will be discussed is Jesus telling the Sadducees that after the resurrection there will be no marriage. I sat down and did some reading from various authors on this topic this evening. I have to agree with them, Jesus is pretty plain in His statement. So the question becomes, “why?” Why is there no marriage in Heaven?

My question first is “Why is there marriage on earth?” Two things come to mind, one Adam and Eve were each given a purpose, but at the same time given a purpose together. Adam was to tend the garden (or orchard depending on your choice of texts), Eve was to be his helper. Together they were supposed to populate and subdue the earth having dominion over it. Individuals are given a purpose. Couples are given a purpose. What one man cannot accomplish alone, the couple together often can. We’re to help each other complete our tasks, and together fulfill our purpose. Another reason that comes to mind is that marriage is a representation of the relationship between us and Christ. Our first love, our first priority in this world should be toward Christ. He sacrificed Himself so that we could be redeemed to Him. He paid the price for our sins, so that we could walk in relationship with Him. Our marriages on this earth are supposed to represent that same love that Christ has for us. We’re supposed to love our spouse the way that Christ loves us, treat them how Christ treats us, and lead as men in the way that Christ leads us.

So, that doesn’t really answer the whole “why is there no marriage in Heaven” issue does it? No, but it does give us some insight. One of the early church fathers, St. John Chrysostom, wrote a Letter to a Young Widow (that’s actually the title of it) where he explains several things to her relating to relationships and Heaven, but I want to pull out of his thoughts one thing in particular. In Heaven we have no need for friends, family, lovers because we’re with God. The most intimate relationship possible, and we’ll experience for eternity. That doesn’t mean that we won’t know each other. Quite the opposite, we’ll have a deep intimate love for each other that finds it’s source in the Father’s love. We’ll have the same love for each other that God has for each of us.

Insight

So where do I get that my thoughts on earthly marriage are insightful? Let’s look at CS Lewis first, then I’ll explain. CS Lewis wrote in one of his many writings about a young boy learning of sexual activities and asks “do they get chocolate too?” (paraphrased). You see in this boy’s mind could only comprehend that chocolates were the key. He had no idea. And so it is with us, we fixate on the things we know and so struggle with understanding how something could be better. It’s hard for us (if not impossible) to imagine a life, one without sin, where our love for each other runs as deep as the Father’s love for us. Because of this we struggle to figure out why, “why can’t I be married to my wife”, “why can’t we help populate the new world”, “what do you mean we won’t live together”. You can have chocolate in your relationship, but that’s not the key. You can have friendships, spouses, family, but in Heaven the love will be and intimate love straight from the Father and our relationship will be with Him and to others through Him. You see, as long as we continue to place this life’s greatness on Heaven, we can’t begin to understand how great Heaven really can be.

Application

I’m going to try and offer some application in my blog posts going forward, not sure how well it will work out, but I’ll try!

We Christian couples like to say that “Christ is our first love!”, but then we go on and live our lives as we do. How many of us honestly truly place Christ as our head relationship? I’m not going to say that it’s OK to place another relationship ahead of your’s and Christ’s, but I can say it’s easy to. It’s hard for us to, on a daily basis, say and truly live out “Christ is my spouse, His needs come first”. So I’m asking you today, do you live like Christ is your spouse? Maybe as an application exercise spend some time examining your relationships with others, and then look at your relationship with Christ. Which one do you give more time and effort?

The Messenger

The Messenger

So it looks like my poll wound up with a few votes, but put three of our choices in a tie. So that means I get to pick from the tie right? Our choices that were tied are Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Sadly Uriel didn’t make the cut; he was my original choice, but my second choice was Raphael. So unless you guys post a lot of comments complaining that I chose Raphael that’s who we’ll go with. I feel like using him will give me a little more leeway in his existence because of the fact he’s not Gabriel or Michael who most protestants know. I have been thinking quite a lot about this book lately and plan to (if time allows this weekend) finish chapter 1.

The purpose of writing this book in the way that I am, is going to be help modern Christians see and experience early Christianity and potentially see things differently when they finish. There are several areas of modern Christianity that don’t seem to mesh with what the early church writings show, and in some cases what the Bible says it should be. Hopefully this book will allow me, and you, to illuminate some of these differences and bring the Church back to it’s roots and begin a great revival. The book is likely to turn into a series of books not because of the number of differences, but because I want to illuminate the differences while also revealing where we’re headed into history. It’s going to be a lot of fun, a friend and I have had lots of discussions around the theologies that will be present, regarding the historical areas I want to focus on, and even discussed what the future may hold for us. This is going to be fun!

Which is more important?

Which is more important?

So I just walked into the front office and asked Treena what I should write about today. Her response? “Which was more important, the birth of Christ or the resurrection?” I am going to take it a step further and pose the question as, “Which was more important, the birth, the life, the death, or the resurrection of the Christ?”

His Birth Was Most Important

“You shall know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the word to be answered and to build Jerusalem, until Christ the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. – Daniel 9:25a”

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Immanuel [God with us]. – Isaiah 7:14”

Few events have as many specific prophecies related to them as the coming of the Messiah. Daniel was told a very precise timeline for the coming of Messiah. Isaiah was told that He would be called Immanuel. Micah was told that He would specifically be born in Bethlehem. To the ancient Jews this was the most important thing that could happen for them. They knew that the coming Messiah was coming to free them from bondage, to make Israel the power that it once was, and to rule over them justly. They didn’t realize that the coming Messiah would literally be God in the flesh like we can see now.

You see to the Jews the coming Messiah was so important because He was going to fix their issues, and to us the birth is important because it shows the willingness of God to sacrifice His glory to become like us. Remember what Paul wrote?
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. – Philippians 2:5-7″ 

So we have to take a moment to think about exactly why it is so important that God left His glory and became like us. Without His willingness to leave that glory, there would be no birth, no life, no death, and no resurrection. Looking back through the lens of history we can say that the birth has to be the most important because it showed God’s willingness to do whatever it takes to save the world. Not only that, but the coming of Christ signifies to us the beginning of the end of the reign of sin and death. Because we know the end of the story we can look forward to what is going to happen.

I was talking with a friend about this post and he pointed out that the birth is one thing that God could have done differently. He could have just appeared in the desert, walked into Jerusalem, and said “Hey, I’m God, how are you?”. But my first thoughts were that without the birth of Christ, without the childhood and growth, would His teachings have been the same? I mean, if He just appeared one day would the religious elites have been so against Him? One of their biggest arguments was “isn’t this the carpenters son from Nazareth?”. They had witnessed Him (or at least knew of Him) as a child, and so when He started to teach against them it caused them much distress. This distress then led to their desire to kill Him, which in turn leads to His sacrificial death giving us life. So while it could have happened another way, I think His birth and childhood were vital to the entire story. Because without the birth of Christ there is nothing more, and so it has to be the most important act in the gospel, doesn’t it?

His Life Was Most Important

“Butter and honey He shall eat before He knows to prefer evil or choose the good, for before the Child knows good or evil, He refuses the evil to choose the good; – Isaiah 7:15a”

It’s something that isn’t written about in the Gospels, the life of Christ before His baptism. We don’t know much more than the family lived in Bethlehem for a time and was visited by some wise men from the east, we know He was taken to Egypt after Joseph was warned in a dream, that they returned and lived in Nazareth, and He grew up. Until His baptism marking the beginning of His ministry time, there’s not a lot recorded. The one thing that we can know, thanks to Isaiah, is that even before He knew to choose good over evil He chose good. So we can safely assume He was a pretty good kid.

What is written about, and consumes a majority of the Gospels, is the life of Christ after the baptism. He walked the streets of Jerusalem, rode in boats across the sea to visit other places, and He even ventured into places no self respecting Jew would ever dare. He told stories to the people to help them prepare for when their eyes were opened to the Kingdom of Heaven, He sat with little children and, I can only imagine, played with them in the grass. He stood up to the elites who used their power over the people to benefit themselves, and He showed the people that even the sinners were important to God. His life was all about relationships, man to man, and man to God. He was the perfect example for us to follow.

“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps – 1 Peter 2:21”

His life is our example of how to best live our lives. He gave specific instruction in some areas like hate and revenge (Matt 5), He led by example in others like His discussion with the samaritan woman (John 4), and He told stories that today we see the deep meaning like the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10). Through His life and example we can see what our lives should be. His life has to be the most important aspect to the story because without it, what kind of example would we be able to follow?

His Death Was Most Important

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. – Romans 5:8-9”

Without the death of Christ there is no payment for sin; without payment for sin, there is no salvation for man; without salvation for man there is no relationship with God; without relationship with God there is no future beyond death. The death of Christ is what gives us the ability to have a relationship with God. His payment for our sin makes us holy in the eyes of God, and therefore we can stand before Him and love Him, and be loved by Him. His sacrifice given for us makes us perfect spiritually before God (Hebrews 10). His willingness to die while were sinners and enemies shows how great His love is for us, maybe an even greater love than the one who would die for a friend (John 15:13). Because of His death we no longer have to fear (like someone’s going to kill you fear, not reverential fear) God. We don’t have be scared that one day God is just going to hit us with a bus because we made him mad, side note if He does hit us with a bus it’s for the good of those who love Him.

The blood of Christ brings us nearer to the Father than any other thing in history. His death abolished the the sin that separates us, it removed the wall that kept us apart (Ephesians 2:14-16). Even beyond the fact that we’re no longer separated from God, we’ve been given a great gift; because of the death of Christ we can now approach God as Abba. We were adopted into His family (Romans 8:15), made heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17). His death has to be the most important because without it we can’t be reconciled to the Father, right?

His Resurrection Was Most Important

“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. – 1 Corinthians 15:12-18”

Christ’s resurrection not only proves that He was the Messiah, but it gives us hope that we too will be raised from the dead. Paul was writing to the Corinthian church which seems to have been struggling with false teachings that there was not going to be a resurrection. He reminds them that if there is no resurrection then our faith is in vain. We’re not just following some man that lived 2000 years ago, we’re following God in the flesh and we can easily see that because of the resurrection. We see throughout 1 Corinthians 15 that Paul reminds the believers that because of the resurrection of Christ there is life for those who follow Him (v 22). If you’ve never read 1 Corinthians 15, go read it, it’s pretty awesome! Remember in Ephesians 2 that we’ve been seated with Christ? The same verse says that we too have been raised with Christ. Our spirit has been made alive from the dead much like Christ was made alive from the belly of the earth. Sin kept us in darkness, bonded and broken, Paul even describes our sin bondage as death (Romans 8). Life comes to the believer because of the resurrection of Christ:

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. – Romans 8:11”

Paul talks here about how we need life to our mortal [fleshly] bodies, as if even our mortal bodies are dead. That to me points to the resurrection of the dead on the last day. We will be made alive again to live with the Father for all eternity, but even until then our spirits are already seated with Him. If not for the resurrection, our hope is vain, our faith is vain, and we have no future beyond this life, doesn’t it have to be the most important?

So which is it?

Well, if you haven’t figured it out by now, they’re all just as important. Each piece makes up the entire Gospel. Without the birth of Christ there is no life, no example to follow. Without His life, then would He have even been crucified? And we know that without His death his resurrection couldn’t have happened. The important thing to take away here is that He loved the world to such an extent that He was willing to become a child, live this life, set the example for us, then die to make us right with Him and rise to give us a hope in the future!  As SM Lockridge would say “I wonder, do you know Him?”

Chapter 1

Chapter 1

I started writing this book a little over a year ago. The rough draft of the beginning of the first chapter is copied below, hope you enjoy.

After my post last week about the book I started thinking of ways that I could “transport” Kasey back in time to experience the early church history. I don’t know why I was trying to be all “sciencey” with it, we do serve a God who showed several prophets the future, and showed John specifically eternity future. If our God can show someone the future, could He not also show them, even allow them to experience, the past? So I’m planning on allowing Kasey to see and experience things straight from God.

But I need your help! Remember I told you guys this would give you an opportunity to be a part of the writing of this book. I want to use an angel to lead Kasey through history at the command of the Father, of course. There are two angels mentioned in the protestant scripture, Gabriel and Michael. These names are pretty well known and in several instances throughout scripture were used as messengers of God to show the prophet the future. There are several other angels mentioned in the first book of Enoch, non-canon to the protestants, but used by orthodox and ethopian Christians. 

Uriel, one of the holy angels, who is over the world and over Tartarus; [Used by God to show Enoch what was coming]
Raphael, one of the holy angels, who is over the spirits of men; [Used by God to bind Azazel, one of the fallen watchers]
Raguel, one of the holy angels who takes vengeance on the world of the luminaries;
Michael, one of the holy angels…he that is set over the best part of mankind and over chaos;[Used by God to bind Semjaza, a fallen watcher]
Saraqael, one of the holy angels, who is set over the spirits, who sin in the spirit;
Gabriel, one of the holy angels, who is over Paradise and the serpents and the Cherubim. [Used by God against the nephilim, and sinners]
Remiel, one of the holy angels, whom God set over those who rise.
Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/anxiousbench/2014/10/enochs-angels/#VrwpVTmgPsqbpdu6.99″ 1 Enoch 20

I added info from 1 Enoch to the four angels that I am trying to choose between, Uriel, Raphael, Michael, and Gabriel. I also created a quick poll for you guys!

Coming Soon

 

Chapter 1 Beginning

Sunday Feb 10, 2019 1137

“You see church, there is coming a time of persecution. The world around us is turning against Christians in every way possible”, Pastor Mitchum bellowed from the pulpit, “Jesus taught us that we are blessed in times of persecution, but we in the great US of A don’t even know what persecution looks like. People in the middle east every day are being tortured and killed because they claim the name of Jesus. What would Christians do if the same thing happened here?”

Kasey breathed deep, knowing that the Pastor Mitchum was right. America’s Christians think they won’t ever have to go through it. Those in the Middle East experience it every single day, and many fear for their lives. Kasey began to pray for those believers, that God would hold them close and guide them as they needed to go.

“…let me tell you something, God is about to let the US experience that same kind of persecution. But praise be to God that blessing comes through that persecution! If you, my friends, aren’t sure what you would say if someone came beating your door in tonight demanding to know your allegiance then let today be the day that you declare Jesus as your only answer.”

“Father, help me to understand who’s I am. Protect me when I enter times of persecution, and please don’t leave me there alone. When the time comes for me to be with you, I know that you are sovereign and I will be by your side. Bless and keep me close to you Father, in Christ’s name, Amen” Kasey prayed.

As the music began to play the congregation rose and sang in unison

Just as I am,

Without one plea,

But that thy blood was shed for me

And that thou bidst me come to thee

O lamb of God, I come

I come

—————————

 

Many members stopped and shook Pastor Mitchum’s hand on the way out. The lady in front of Kasey took the pastor’s hand and said “Pastor, I just don’t know where you get the idea that we’re going to be persecuted like those Arabs are, but I thank you for the message today”.

Pastor Mitchum replied “Ms. Dale, I believe it’s coming because God says it’s coming. And their not just ‘Arabs’ they’re Christians. Thank you for coming this morning, I pray that God will open your eyes to what’s coming.”

As Kasey stepped up and shook the pastor’s hand, “Pastor, thank you. I’m sure that you’re right. Watching the news everyday I see that the anti Christian sentiment is growing. I pray every time you mention it that God would watch over those who are persecuted and prepare me for what’s coming.”

“Kasey, thank you for being so attentive to God’s Word. I pray that God would use you in amazing ways.”

As he got into his red pickup to head home Kasey’s thoughts turned to his own walk with God. God, I want to stay close to you, help me to be able to withstand the persecutions of the world. As he turned out of the parking lot onto Main Street his spirit began to stir. Something’s not right.

Kasey turned into his driveway 8 minutes later and parked his truck. The neighbor’s dog already barking at him before he even stepped out. Stupid dog, I have lived here longer than you.Can’t you figure it out that I come home every day? The gravel crunched under his feet as he stepped out of the truck and closed the door. Staring up at the sky he enjoyed the warm southern sunshine, Maybe spring is coming early this year.

In the kitchen of his small 2 bedroom house, Kasey grabbed some bread and started to make himself a sandwich for lunch.

As he finished making his sandwich Kasey reached over and hit the power button on the remote for the television in the living room. Let’s see what’s going on this week.

“…in Los Angeles. Kelley?” the news anchor finished his sentence.

“Thanks Jeff. Protesters are lining the streets today because of the new bill to allow business owners to reject service on religious grounds. The people here see it as an opportunity for discrimination to occur.”

“Can you explain what kind of discrimination they’re worried about, Kelly?”

“Sure Jeff, the people here are concerned that the rights of minorities will be attacked. They fear that if businesses are allowed to say no to a customer, then the businesses will choose to stop serving blacks, hispanics, or Muslims. They say that this bill gives the business the right to discriminate. One protester even claimed the bill was a slippery slope, a catchphrase of the right when it comes to bills they don’t like. We’re trying now to get in touch with some of the leaders of the protest. Whenever we are able to get with them we’ll have more information, back to you Jeff”

“Thanks Kelly, we’ll keep track of the events as they unfold in Los Angeles and bring you updates as necessary. We’ll be right back.”

Wow, people protest anything these days…that bill isn’t even written yet, and they’re already chomping at the bit to protest.  

Kasey laid back on the couch and listened to the commercials as they played.

 

 

The Spirit Teacher

The Spirit Teacher

“These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. 1 John 2:26-27”

I believe this is probably my most referenced set of scriptures. It’s a nice reminder to me that the Spirit can and does teach us all that we need to know. The Apostle John was writing this letter to defend the church against the Gnostic cult. I don’t want to get too much into Gnosticism, but to put it plainly they were misleading the Church. They were causing the Church to question itself. So John writes his first letter to them. Remember last week that I wrote about context and how important it is to know why the author was writing and to whom? This is just as important. If we take this specific verse on it’s own, then we have no need for anyone else to be leading us in our walk with Christ. But that’s not what John is saying here in totality. The preceding verses 1 John 2:18-28 speak of the spirit of antichrist, and how Jesus is God. John even tells the believers in v20 that they have an anointing from the Holy One and “you know all things”. So the readers of this letter knew that the force of gravity was 9.8 meters per second squared, right? Um…probably not. In fact it seems when reading this in it’s entirety that John was telling them that they know the truth in the whole.

These believers knew that Jesus was the Christ. That the Christ was God. That the Father had sent the Son to be the payment for our sins. They knew that, and yet they were still being mislead. John is trying to remind them here that they know the truth, that the Spirit has revealed the truth to them. Remember when Jesus was at Caesarea Philippi, what did he tell Peter? “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Matt 16:13-17.

Notice who taught Peter that Jesus was the Christ the Son of God? It wasn’t Jesus, it wasn’t another disciple but the Father in heaven. So John is reminding the believers of the church that God can and does teach them all that they need to know. Do they still need each other in their lives to help them see some of these things and grow? Of course they do. The Church is supposed to be a community, a family. It’s up to us to bear each other’s burdens (Gal 6) and to pray for and over each other (James 5). We’re supposed to be learning from the Spirit, AND helping one another grow at the same time. If you’re walking in the Spirit you should be learning, if you’re a part of a local group of believers you should ALL be learning and growing together. I have a feeling next week’s post will be along the lines of community of the believers….

I haven’t forgotten!

I haven’t forgotten!

I have something that I am working on in my head to write. However, it’s taking longer than I thought it would to actually get it written. I have set aside some time each week to write two posts a week, Mondays and Thursdays. As I’m sure you noticed Monday there was nothing. I sat down and started writing out what was going on in my head only to find that halfway into the post it no longer made sense. I’m hoping that just posting something simple today will help me clear my head for next week.

I have decided, again, that I am going to try to write a book. It’s still up in the air as to exactly how it’s going to come together, but the first book will definitely be a fiction novel from a Christian worldview. I’m going to try and use my Thursday posts to fill you in on how exactly it’s coming together and use these posts to help me get some feedback on the theological constructs within the book. Basically, I want to use your thoughts to help shape some of the key elements of the book.

So let’s start with my first, of many, conundrum. A key point of this book is going to be the main character’s journey into historical Christianity, to make it easy. However, to have a character spending his time reading other books is well….boring. I had a thought of somehow allowing the character to actually experience the various pieces of history, but that opens up three key problems. The first, time travel isn’t a thing. I know that there are theories that get tossed around about time travel, but I seriously doubt that it will ever be possible. I find it difficult to explain time travel in such a way that would benefit the core value or reason for the time travel. Considering that it’s not possible we’d basically be creating our own science to make such a thing “possible”. The second thought, I have seen movies or read other books where the main character had a past life during that point in history. Do I need to say more as to why this would be an issue? Well, I will, reincarnation can’t possibly find a logical place in a Christian worldview fiction novel. It kinda flies in the face of “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 1 Cor 5:8”. My third thought was to use the fact that spirits are eternal, and thus exist outside of space and time. This raises the issue of pre-existence. Did we exist as spirit before we were born and then inhabit this body at birth, or did God create our spirit when we were conceived? Many many questions can be posed that I fear could cause some conflict both personally and at publication. No sense in making it so controversial that no one wants to read it, right?

What are your thoughts? Do one of these ideas work for a character to experience historical Christianity? Do you have an idea that may work instead? I genuinely want your input, so leave me a comment below or on the Facebook post. I’ll be back Monday with my other thoughts! Enjoy your weekend

Let’s run to the store and get a coke

Let’s run to the store and get a coke

It’s been far too long between posts. I apologize life just got busy. But that’s not why you’re here, you want to read some new perspective, or find some nugget in the Bible that you hadn’t noticed. Well I don’t know about some new nugget, but I do have some new perspective for you. Over the last few months as I have been studying and learning new perspectives continue to jump out at me, sometimes they’re valuable, other times they seem to cause me more confusion than peace. So take everything that I say regarding perspective for just that, another perspective. (Wow that word is getting annoying to type)

“Context is vital” is something that I’ve said for years. I often find myself getting annoyed when someone tries to quote a scripture starting halfway in a sentence. We do that because that’s where someone at some point in history decided to put a verse marker. But is that the right way? When we were having our Tuesday Bible studies we would read an entire chapter of whatever book we were studying to ensure we knew what the author was saying. Sometimes we even had to keep reading into the next chapter, or start at the end of the previous one just so we could be sure we didn’t miss the contextual importance of the few verses we wanted to really discuss. We felt this contextual importance of the section was key to our understanding the verses as they were written. But then my cousin started posting things about context on his Facebook page, and it began to make sense that context isn’t just the verses around the verse you’re looking at, it’s much deeper than that.

If I were to say to you “Let’s run to the store and get a coke” would you know what that means? Like really means? You can be honest with yourself and say, vaguely. Without knowing me personally, where I live, what I drink, you really have only a vague understanding of what I am saying. Let’s make it a little clearer how little that we really know about the statement. I have a friend who if he said “Let’s run to the store and get a coke”, probably literally means run, he runs a lot. Or another friend who simply means “Let’s drive to the store and get a coke”. That’s just one single word from the phrase that without the proper context of who is speaking, where they are, or who their talking to, we can’t really know what they mean. Let’s pick another word, coke, in the rest of the world they likely would mean Coca Cola, but we’re in the south, it could mean anything with carbonation. Location matters, almost as much as speaker. I think we can all agree that “store” in this phrase could be any number of things based on person and/or region.

While this is a little bit of a simple explanation of the gravity of context, it is eye opening when you begin to really apply it to the Scripture. Remember those verses that we like to pick and choose to say what we want? Let’s look at an easy one 1 Tim 5:23. “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. (NASB)”. Well look there! Paul says it’s not good for us to drink only water and that we should drink some wine every now and then! While, yes Paul was saying that we have to remember that Paul was writing to Timothy, not you or me. We discussed in our Bible study that likely Paul knew that Timothy struggled with stomach issues from their long times together, and was giving him fatherly advice to help with the issues. Does this mean that it’s not OK for us to drink wine? No, but it does mean that we can’t use this verse specifically to make our case. There are so many cases of scriptures being taken out of the context of who, what, when, where, and why that I can’t begin to write about them.

As you are studying the Word, remember that context matters. Not just the verses surrounding the verse you’re looking at, but the entire context. It makes for good study when you begin to see exactly what God meant when He had the words penned, it can change your life. Don’t be afraid of new perspectives on things, sometimes looking at the persepective of the original author and the original reader can help you to understand exactly why the verse matters today because as I think we all know, it all matters.

I’ll be back more often, I really enjoy writing here lately, and business has picked up enough that I can step aside and spend my time doing more things that I enjoy. I hope you’ve enjoyed this and I hope you’ll take it with you next time you begin to study a passage. Leave a comment below with your thoughts and your studies, I’m always looking for more things to read!