Thanksgiving and Praise – Psalm 95

It is good to give thanks and praise to God for the many blessings we enjoy. When we are going through tough or stressful times, it is easy to focus on our problems.  It is better to look to the giver of all good gifts. As the USA celebrates Thanksgiving this next week, I pray this reflection on Psalm 95 blesses you.

Psalm 95 (NIV)

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
    and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God,
    the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
    and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.

Today, if only you would hear his voice,
“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,[a]
    as you did that day at Massah[b] in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested me;
    they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
    I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
    and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
    ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”

Reflection on Thanksgiving and Praise

I love to sing and listen to Christian music.  I live with a grateful heart. In contrast, the liberal media and politicians tends to portray Christians as critics, complainers, and dour people.  Christians need to show our love for God and our neighbor.  We can do that by focusing on being thankful and thanking those that help us.

Christians should be the most gracious customers and employees.  We recognize we have forgiven much so that we can forgive others.  Also we acknowledge that we are all created equal by God. Much is expected from those who are given much.  Americans have more wealth than 90% of the world. Most Americans give away less than 3% to the church and other charities.  How is God challenging you to be more thankful and generous?

I recently saw a report about how comedian Michael Jr. modified his tours to include homeless shelters and prisons, so he could give the gift of laughter to those in need.  You can find out more about helping others through his site Punchliners.

Or maybe you could encourage more civil discourse on politics and/or religion like Dan Crenshaw.

I found a couple good reminders of the heritage of thanksgiving in America:
George Washington Thanksgiving Proclamation from One News Now.
History of the Pilgrims and their faith in God from CBN News

Finally, check this out for more encouragement on gratitude.

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Vote November 6th 2018

There is a Christian responsibility to vote November 6th 2018 for the more godly and honorable candidates for election.  The very term election originated in voting for the person that is more devout to the Christian faith and more likely to be part of the elect of God, those who have been reborn in Christ.  Surveys by George Barna indicate that those who rarely attend church or consider themselves Christians not committed to evangelism, Barna would categorize as born again. They tend not to vote or to vote based on non-biblical and secular standards.  These are marks of immaturity in Christian discipleship. They are swayed by the liberal media and false advertising. In the USA, surveys estimate between 30% and 50% of the population consists of born again Christians.

Additionally, those mature in the Christian faith, Barna categorizes as evangelical.  They have a commitment to living their lives on biblical principles and standards.  Also they demonstrate a devotion to God that includes showing God’s love by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They tend to educate themselves on the candidate’s positions in light of biblical truth and standards. In the USA, there are estimated between 8% and 15% are considered evangelicals.

Vote November 6th 2018 from a biblical and Christian perspective

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

Some churches make efforts to avoid talking about politics. Others encourage voter registration drives.  Even further, some distribute voter guides or even talk about biblical values in the pulpit.  If our government is to become more civil and fiscally conservative, more Christians need to encourage others to vote with biblical convictions. We need to encourage one another to vote smart. We need to be better stewards of government and vote November 6th 2018!

Finally, The Republican Party may not perfect, but the Party Platform includes a push to restore the right to life.  There are voter issues we should discuss and encourage others to consider from a Christian perspective.  Take time to talk about the election, pray for wisdom, vote, and pray for our government leaders.

 

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Illegal immigration justice with compassion

With the retirement of the Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy people are expressing hopes and fears. Complaints and concerns are expressed in the media, by politicians, and on the Internet. Recently, there was the stir about the handling of justice with illegal immigrants crossing the border with children.

Democratic Party Failures

The Senate Democratic Party leadership has hindered the cause of justice in our society by delaying the filling of judicial positions by qualified people nominated by President Donald Trump.  This is a big factor in causing backlogs of court cases. This is also a factor in why it takes a while to process illegal immigrants with children. Another part of the problem is the laws passed under President Clinton with support of Democratic legislators requiring certain procedures in processing illegal immigrants that caused the separation of children from adults with the intent of protecting the children.  Since the Obama administration applied a catch and release philosophy and declined to uphold the law and prosecute illegal alien adults with children, they incentivized illegal aliens to bring children with them and put them in harms way.

Restoring Law and Order with Compassion

When the Trump administration began upholding the laws and dis-incentivized illegal immigration with children, the Democrats got all in an uproar over upholding the laws they passed.  The intent of the Trump administration of was to protect the children, not harm them. In accordance with the law, they separated children from the law breaking adults that brought them into the country illegally.  While they could have handled the public relations better, they were within their legal rights and had honorable intentions in protecting the children with compassion.

Concerned about children brought illegally into the USA? Check out this reasonable analysis on solutions from National Review and contrast it with Jesse Watter’s review of the disingenuous comments of Democrat Party leaders that caused the problem and refuse to fix it.

It would also be good for you to review Charles Krauthammer’s solution for the country’s immigration woes.

The government is in place to uphold the laws. The church is in place to offer compassion to those who are suffering.  Christians should respect constitutional laws. Also they should work with charities to care for the unfortunate. Finally, the should work peaceable to change laws that are not helpful to our society.

We need more conservative senators to move forward at a national level with policies with proven success in conservative states. I pray you vote Republican and encourage others to do so.

Read more on Government Stewardship

government stewardship - Illegal immigration justice with compassion

See also my resources on Christianity

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Religious Freedom – Judicial Abuse

With the retirement of the Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy people are expressing hopes and fears. Complaints and concerns are expressed in the media, by politicians, and on the Internet.  This includes some controversy as to whether or not or how soon the replacement justice would help overturn Roe v. Wade.   Some politicians said they would vote against a nominee if they believed they would overturn that decision.  One of the potential nominees was unfairly attacked for her faith by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein decrying “dogma lives loudly in her” during her hearings on an appointment. This was an example of religious freedom judicial abuse. I recently read a book on the foundations of our country in regards to God and the Constitution. Also I read one describing the differences between modern conservatism and liberalism.

In God and the Constitution: Christianity and American Politics, author Paul Marshall analyzed several factors involved in how our society has changed in its views of religion, government, and justice and how they relate to one another.  Our country vastly recognized the importance of encouraging religious practice and discouraging government interference for most of its history.  Marshall pointed out:
One key change came in 1947 when Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black used Jefferson’s extra-constitutional metaphorical language of “the separation of church and state” as the key to the First Amendment.

Religious Freedom and Judicial Abuse and Assault

This decision began the significant assault on religious freedom by the judiciary that disregarded the original intent of the phrase. It disregarded the concept of equal treatment before the law and the rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness declared in the Declaration of Independence.  When Jefferson wrote that letter to a church he intended that phrase to indicate protection of the church from government intrusion or mistreatment.

Since then, judges have made a number of unconstitutional decisions including banning the Holy Bible as a primary source for education, banning voluntary school prayer by school staff.  Also more recently denying small business owners the right to maintain their religious convictions and decline to participate in immoral and unhealthy sexual practices.  No law passed by congress mandated those practices, so the courts did not have grounds to deny those practices. As the first amendment to the constitution states:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I pray the next Supreme Court Justice will restore the right to religious freedom that previous courts have denied.  The Senate Democratic Party leadership has hindered the cause of justice in our society. They have delayed unfairly the filling of judicial positions by qualified people nominated by President Donald Trump.  This is a big factor in why there are backlogs of court cases to be settled.

We need more conservative senators to speed up putting more judges in place that honor the Constitution and religious freedom.  I pray you vote Republican and encourage others to do so.

Read more on Government Stewardship

government stewardship - Religious Freedom Judicial Abuse

See also my resources on Christianity

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Weddings and Marriage – Hopes and Expectations

Reflections on Marriage from Ephesians 5:21-28 – Submit to one another

Scripture Reading:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

Reflection on weddings and marriage, Hopes and Expectations:

With the Royal Wedding in England this weekend of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle it got me thinking about expectations at weddings and in marriage.  We all have hopes, dreams, and desires when it comes to life and relationships.  In a healthy relationship, expectations should be clearly expressed to avoid unintentionally offending or disappointing one another. In a marriage, we are called to seek the good of our spouse above our own comfort or desires.

As part of our wedding preparations, my wife and I attended premarital counseling and discussed our expectations after marriage.  Have you shared your hopes, dreams, and desires with your spouse or significant other?  I pray this encourages you to talk about them some more.

Prayerful Reflection on marriage and relationships:

How is God calling you to be more humble in your relationships?

What can you do to honor God and your spouse more?

How can you help others in difficult relationships find healing and hope?

For futher reflection consider watching this sermon from Grace Bible Church on “A Happy Couple’s Secret

More on Christianity

Marriage - a gift from God

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Resurrection Response

Sermon outline from April 2018, The Resurrection Response

American society has seen an increase in persecution of Christians by the media, politicians, and others. Believing in the resurrection of Jesus and knowing He is with us can help us be courageous in sharing our faith in truth and love.

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV

John 20:19-31 NIV:

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Jesus Appears to Thomas

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed;blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. 

The Purpose of John’s Gospel

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

(John 20:19-31 NIV)

How do you respond to the resurrection of Jesus?
– Respond with fear or joy?
• John 20:19-20
(Perfect love casts out all fear.  We can rejoice because Jesus is with us)
– With or without forgiveness?
• John 20:21-23
(We are called to ask forgiveness from God and those we offend and forgive those who repent of their sins.)
– Doubt or faith?
• John 20:24-29
(It is ok to question the faith honestly, because the Christian faith is well documented and reasonable)
– Believe and embrace life
• John 20:30-31
(We must all choose whether or not to believe in the resurrection, but choosing to believe is better because it leads to eternal life.)

Resurrection Response Reflection Questions:

How do I need to respond to Jesus?
– How can I embrace forgiveness?
– What can I do to strengthen my faith in the resurrection?
– How can I share the resurrection of Jesus with others?

resurrection response to Jesus

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The Gift of Eternal Life

Scripture:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[a] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”[b]

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned,but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.  – John 3:14-21 (NIV)

How can you know and share eternal life? 

  • The Gift of Eternal Life has a cost of Atonement (forgiveness of sins)

John 3:14-15 (Son of Man, not sum of man)  What Jesus did, not what you do.

  • The Gift of Eternal Life is a loving choice

John 3:16  (God loves us and chose to redeem those who would seek after God)

  • The Gift of Eternal Life is a limited choice

John 3:17-18  (Everyone must choose life or death, there is no third option)

  • Choose in your Life to Embrace and Share the light of Jesus Christ

John 3:19-21  (Choose to follow the light of Christ knowing some will reject Jesus and you)

Reflection questions on the gift of eternal life:

  • How do I need to choose life?

– How can I seek forgiveness for my sins?

– How can I show respect for other peoples choices while disagreeing?

– How can I share Jesus with others?

Resources to help embrace life:

I pray this draws you closer to God and encourages you to choose to embrace the Gift of Life in Jesus Christ. Choose Life, Choose Christ.

gift of Eternal life in Christ

 

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Creation, Genesis, and Evolution

My Philosophy on Creation, Genesis, and Evolution

I believe that there are a lot of people who have destructive/combative views on how the universe was created. Many people think that there are only two sides to how it occurred. Evolution or Young Earth Creation with a literal interpretation of Genesis from the bible. In Young Earth Biblical creation the universe was CREATED by GOD in a very complex design. (More information is available at Answers in Genesis) The theory of evolution claims that all life came about through a RANDOM process of genetic mutation and natural selection without a creator managing the process. There may be a way to reconcile aspects of both theories/paradigms.

Science and Religion

People usually fall into four categories concerning the relationship between science and religion.
1) Science always trumps religion
2) Religion always trumps science
3) They are two different discourses/domains. Spiritual/moral domains & empirical world.
4) They are two ways of knowing (continuity & convergence).

I fall into the last category when it concerns the Christian faith.
In contrast to Darwin’s theory of evolution (to which biology and genetics have proven invalid), a more sound theory of origins is the theory of intelligent design. It simply claims: “that intelligent causes are necessary to explain the complex, information-rich structures of biology and that these causes are empirically detectable.” [William A. Dembski, Intelligent Design (Downer’s Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, 1999), p. 106. ]
for more information, please visit Access Research Network

Interpretations of the Genesis account in the Holy Bible

There are six ways that are popularly used to interpret the creation account in Genesis.
1. Literary approach (held in the Patristic period)
2. Progressive creationism or day-age theory (theistic evolution) (held from Augustine to present)
3. Pictorial or revelatory-day theory (days of revelation to Moses) (medieval period)
4. Gap theory (popularized by Scofield Reference Bible in the 1800s)
5. Flood theory (creation science or scientific creationism developed in the 1900s)
6. Appearance of age theory (don’t know the origin, but I don’t think it is worth investigating)

A variation on combining creation and evolution

Here is how the flood theory might work, Biblical Creation through genetic mutation and natural selection, aka theistic evolution. Based on a verse found later in the Bible. For the Lord, a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day. This theory has some support by both science and the Bible.

1. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) — Big Bang
2. God created Light (Genesis 1:3) — The beginning of stars
3. God said let there be a dome in the middle of the waters, to separate one body of water from the other. (Genesis 1:6) — As the earth cooled the oceans formed as well as the clouds.
4. Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth vegetation…” (Genesis 1:11) — Plants were the first form of life on earth
5. God made the two great lights, the greater one to govern the day, and the lesser one to govern the night; (Genesis 1:16) — The sun and moon were created around the same time as the earth
6. Then God said, “Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures…” (Genesis 1:20) — Animal life most likely began in the ocean after plants had made enough oxygen.
7. Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures…” (Genesis 1:24) — Life migrated to dry land.
8. Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26) — Homo sapiens is the youngest species of the very complex animals.

The above narrative could be applied to a young earth or ancient earth model. Genetic science has shown the resiliency of genes to change and impossibility of genes randomly gaining information without a creative outside force indicates that evolution of one species to another has not happened and will not happen without divine intervention.

Flood Theory

In February 2018, I watched a documentary on a scientific investigation on the origin of the universe and the relation of geology with the Genesis account of creation and the flood at the time of Noah.  If you have Netflix, you can check out “Is Genesis History?” with Del Tackett.

Finally, as evidence is still being examined, I will remain open to other theories as to the process of Creation, Genesis, and Evolution until I see sufficient evidence supporting another theory. Please let me know your thoughts on this highly debated issue.

Creation, Genesis, and Evolution - Jesus created all


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Who was Jesus?

If you don’t accept Him as the true Savior you must conclude that He was a phony, a madman, or that His disciples started the greatest hoax on earth. So, who was Jesus?

PHONY? Could He have been merely trying to gain a following? If He was, He certainly wasn’t very successful–if you gauge success by power or financial gain. He turned many away by His high standards and His unwillingness to overlook hypocrisy and halfheartedness. And He certainly wasn’t tricking people to get their money. The evidence does not support the possibility that He was a charlatan.

MADMAN? Self-deceived? Sincere but deluded about His own identity? His words and actions do not reflect the behavior of a person who is mentally unstable. Such a charge against Him does not explain the miracles, the brilliance of His teaching, nor His resurrection.

HOAX? Could the disciples have been guilty of painting a picture of Jesus that was far bigger than life? It doesn’t make sense that all the disciples would conspire to create a monstrous lie that would contradict what they knew to be true. Would you die for what you knew was a lie? The disciples wouldn’t have either, yet most of them died as martyrs.

TRUTH? We have good reason to believe that the Bible presents an accurate picture of Jesus Christ. His fulfillment of prophecy, His impact on history, His life and teachings, and the response of His disciples all point to a conclusion that He was and is all that He claimed to be — the Son of God.
Have you personally put your trust in Him as the One who died for you and who offers to you forgiveness of sin? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”(John 14:6)


PASCAL’S WAGER applied to who was Jesus

The following chart is based on Pascal’s evidence for following Christ. If you have a better way of saying it I would appreciate it if you would let me know.

God Exists and Jesus Christ is His Son God does not exist
You follow God You get a joyous, abundant life, You get Heaven, You lose sinful pleasures, you avoid the pains of sinful choices You get a joyous, abundant life, You die permanently, You lose sinful pleasures
You Don’t follow God You get Hell and sinful pleasures as well as their consequences, You lose Heaven You get sinful pleasures as well as their consequences, You die permanently

In other words, there is more to lose if you don’t follow Christ than there is to gain. And there is more to gain by following Christ than there is to lose.  The cost of following Jesus may be great, but the cost of not following is even greater.
Learn more about the Philosophy behind Pascal’s Wager

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12 NIV


CHRISTIANITY VS. Other Religions on who was Jesus

In response to the belief that: “I think all religions are pretty much alike. You just do the best you can, and if there is a God, well, He’ll respect your sincerity.”
The following argument may be made:
“I think there is one thing that clearly separates Christianity from other religions. Every other religion is an attempt to please God. It’s all about trying to make ourselves look good or doing things to impress God. But we can never do that. True Christianity is all about Christ. It’s why Christ came to die. We can’t come to God without Christ and the sacrifice He made for our sins.”
“Jesus said that no one comes to the Father except through Him. Christ is what makes Christianity different from other religions.”
The above is an excerpt from Campus Journal, an out of print devotional from RBC.
Additional resources for religious comparisons:
CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS & RESEARCH MINISTRY
World Religions Index
Christianity, Cults & Religions Comparison Chart by Rose Publishing

Who was Jesus Christ - the significance of the cross


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Core Beliefs of the Christian Faith

There are certain beliefs that are necessary for salvation and eternal life. It is important to know that these a necessary and that everything else is personal preference in worship style.

The Great Gift

The first is you need to know and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that all who believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)

The Great Sacrifice

In addition You need to know about Christ’s Atoning Death and Resurrection   (Romans 10:9  2 Timothy 2:8  1 Corinthians 15:14-17  Hebrews 11:6)
For further evidence on his Resurrection look at these verses (1 Corinthians 15:1-3  John 6:47)

Additional Fundamental beliefs

Similar core beliefs were summarized in the past in the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the one from the The Anglican Church in North America

Please review my Christianity Information page for more of my theological views.


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