Undergroundchurch Blog

Preparing the Church for the future

Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Day 9: The Power of Confession

Posted by undergroundchurch on January 9, 2011


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Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. – Psalm 32:5

King David’s writings pre-date the Apostle John’s by about 1,000 years, yet one could argue that they were contemporaries.

John writes on this same matter:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9

The theme of confession runs through the Bible.  It is the foundation of our salvation (Romans 10:9,10) and our forgiveness (1 John 1:9), and even though God required sacrifices, the sacrifice alone did not express a heart of forgiveness. God required the sacrifice to pay the “penalty” of sin, but true forgiveness can only be found when the heart of man goes before the offended God and confesses (acknowledges) the sin.

John the Baptizer’s ministry focused completely on this aspect of confession (Mark 1:5). He didn’t instruct people to offer sacrifices but confess their sin, repent and turn to God.  This set up softened hearts that could receive the Messiah who followed his ministry.

Confession does not stop with our sins and God.  We should


Confession shows accountability and demonstrates a willingness to accept responsibility.  This first step leads us to a place of humility where God meets the offender and then lifts them up. (Proverbs 28:13, Isaiah 59 (esp. vs 20), James 4:10)

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Day 8: What does God Want Out of You?

Posted by undergroundchurch on January 8, 2011


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“He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

Every word in these verses completely reflects the thoughts of God except one
 “Require”.

The word require in our language really fails to convey the intent of this thought.  The Hebrew word used here translates to “seek out”.  It literally means “to thresh out” or “trample with the feet”. This word shows just how to examine or study something out.  Why the big deal?

If God simply required something of you, it would mean that “you better do it first and then He will accept you.”  Instead, God uses the word that brings the thought “to chase after”. The word occurs twice in 1 Chronicles 16:11 where he says of us, “Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek the Lord continually”.

So how does this apply? God seeks in you continually to find these qualities.  He won’t leave you alone to find them on your own, but participates in building them in you if you open yourself to His Spirit.

God want to bring out of you


What is Good?

Remember Jesus said that no one is good except God (Mark 10:18). Only a Good God can make you good.

To act justly

God’s shows little tolerance for injustice.  He is just, and brings the best means for you to become a just person and in the process, act justly toward others.

Love Mercy

A person who loves mercy seeks to apply mercy wherever possible.  If you don’t love mercy, you tend to only show it when it benefits you, or you show it only after the person needing mercy is beaten down. Mercy needs to come early, even before the suffering begins, and only a heart of mercy, the kind that God has, works.

Walk Humbly before God

If you could obtain all these things God seeks in you without God, you would no longer be humble.  Humility recognizes your inability to do it and yields to the work of God in your life.

 

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Day 7: Relationship with God

Posted by undergroundchurch on January 7, 2011


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The Christian faith is primarily about relationship to and companionship with God. – Fire Bible (commentary on Hebrews 3:12)ï»ż

Every aspect of God’s revelation to man was about relationship, but it seems at times that we emphasize “rules” e.g. “don’t do this, don’t do that, etc.” Rules do play a role in any good relationship, but the rules don’t define the quality of the relationship.

Think of the rules that govern your relationships. You set boundaries around the times you “drop in” to see a friend. You don’t cheat (I hope) on your spouse because it demonstrates a lack of love.  These rules are important, but they tell you nothing about the quality of the relationship.

Beyond the rules and the trappings of what we call “religion”, God desires more than anything for each of us to enter a real relationship with Him.

Look at what He tells us about Himself in that relationship


And don’t forget that the core rule given by God to Love him with all your heart, soul and might (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) only works in real relationship because God first demonstrated His love for us by giving his one and only to die in our behalf (Romans 5:28).

If true love exists, the guideline, “don’t cheat on the one you love” doesn’t need to become a rule because you would not even consider it an option.

This is God’s love.  He loves unconditionally, and nothing you can do will sway that love (Romans 8:39)

Religion produces rules designed to sway God to love man.  Relationship starts with God and ends with God. We just happen to be the benefactors if we enter into this relationship.

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Encountering Jesus

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 11, 2010


What does Jesus mean to you?

The way you answer that question directly correlates with your encounter with Jesus.  It’s the Christmas season, so I’d like to use a few examples from those that encountered Jesus as an infant and young child as an example of how we encounter him and what we get from that encounter – the shepherds, the magi, and Anna and Simeon.

The Shepherds

Let’s call this the Accidental encounter.  There was nothing in the shepherds actions that would lead you to believer that they were looking for Jesus or any real encounter with God.  In fact, their own words indicate quite the opposite.

“”Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” –  Luke 2:15

They didn’t know anything was about to happen until they were told.  They had an accidental (though orchestrated by God) encounter.  In other words, they weren’t looking for Jesus; Jesus found them.

Millions of Christians take this approach to their Christian walk every day.  They go about their duties and wait for the “Sunday” encounter or for God to do something first.  If he doesn’t, then they just keep on keeping on. They don’t really chase after God, they let God do all the chasing.

Not a very rewarding relationship, but like any relationship, you will get out of it what you put into it.

The Magi

The Magi encounter was unique in this one respect; they weren’t looking for the Messiah, just a king.  It was Herod that actually figured out that this king was the promised Messiah.  The Magi were just doing what they had done for years, seek out kings. Let’s call this the unintentional encounter.

A king had not been born in Judea for almost 500 years, now all of a sudden a king was to be born.

The Magi were looking for something real, they just didn’t understand completely what the were seeking.  They were at least chasing after truth, they discovered the truth of God because God honored their endeavor.

They were non-Jews, but because they were coming to Israel looking for a king, which they hadn’t had for 500 years, God let them find the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Many people in this world seek after truth.  Some find half-truths and deceptions, but those that seek God in the right context more often than not, find him.  God is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him – Hebrews 11:6

Anna and Simeon

These are the only two in the story that really get it.  Simeon had been promised well in advance that he would not die before seeing the Messiah.  Anna spent her days and nights worshiping God for almost 60 years at the Temple.  Both of these dedicated people knew what they were looking for and chased God in pursuit of it, and God honored them in a special way.  Let’s call this the Intentional encounter.

These two didn’t just bump into Jesus, they actually blessed him.  Look at the words of Simeon:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” – Luke 2:29-32

And Anna:

Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. – Luke 2:38

Both of these were people that could testify to the truth of the savior with understanding from the truth of Scripture.

This is the most fulfilling encounter.  When you chase God and catch him, the reward is not only that you find Jesus, but you are also fulfilled because the investment you made in seeking him returns to you 100 fold.

Note: This is a revisited post from 2009, but the content is timeless.

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Lamps and Lights

Posted by undergroundchurch on November 17, 2010


“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”- Psalm 119:105

There are two principles at work here – lamps and lights.

The lamp in those days was not much more than a strong candle.  One candle-power isn’t much light and can only light a very small area – most notably, around your feet.

The light to the path is a whole different aspect of light.  This light is stronger and can illuminate much further ahead. It could have the power of several hundred lamps like a torch or bonfire.

So what does this mean?

The Lamp

The lamp aspect of the Word deals with your circumstances right now.  What are you going through? What challenges are you facing? What temptation besets you? What attack is the enemy using? How do you deal with the immediate situation?

The Word of God is a quick and powerful tool that the Spirit of God can use in your life for strength to face any and all situations that hit you. To access this tool you need to have it handy – e.g. hide it in your heart, memorize it in your head and/or keep it in your pocket.

Light

The Light to the Path aspect of the Word mean that the Word of God is laid out in a way to help you avoid pitfalls in the first place. God built into the Scriptures hundreds of life examples of how to and how not to walk.  If your path is well lit, then you can more confidently walk by the light. The more light, the more confident.

To light your path, you need to daily invest in the Word through reading and meditating on it.

Summary

So the Lamp of the Word is for right now, and the Light of the Word is to prepare you for what’s ahead giving you a chance to deal with it or avoid it all together.

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How Many Points can One Verse Contain?

Posted by undergroundchurch on November 13, 2010


“For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.”- 1 Peter 2:15-16

Wow! How many points can you find in one verse?

  1. What is God’s will? To do good
  2. The power of Good over Evil
  3. How to silence critics- do good
  4. Don’t let ignorant talk and foolish people get you down
  5. Live as free people
  6. Don’t let your freedom trump other people’s freedom
  7. Don’t play church (using your freedom as a cover for evil)
  8. Be a slave for God
  9. If you want to be free, be a slave for God
  10. We don’t need to follow the rules of the world’s ways

Do you see anything else?

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Sanity in the Midst of the Insane

Posted by undergroundchurch on November 7, 2010


Ever look around and think you are the only sane one in the room?

OK, maybe not.

What about those times that everything around you is going crazy, and the only way to keep from going insane is to act crazy too?

OK, that struck a chord.

However, if you take it to the extreme, which I often do, you can actually out shine the insanity around you and people will avoid you. (That’s the story of my life.)

It’s also the story of David one time when He was hiding from Saul among his own enemies, the Philistines.

David had to come up with a plan fast to save himself, so he fained insanity.

So [David] pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.

Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?” 1 Samuel 21:13-15

That might seem like a strange ploy, but it worked, and David lived another day.

When we live out our faith, we must seem to the world around us like David looked to the Philistines in Gath.  They tell us, “Your insane to believe that the whole universe was created in 6 days,” or “How can you believe that Jesus is the ‘only’ way to eternal life?”

However, the best laid logic of the human mind just can’t put its arms around an infinite God that stands outside of the time/space continuum.

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:21-24

It’s not that we know all the answers to the questions, “Why”, “How”, “When” and “What”, but we do have the answer to the question “Who?”

 

 

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The Source of Our Dilemma

Posted by undergroundchurch on October 22, 2010


“Original Sin”, some call it “Ancestral Sin“, is a more pervasive dilemma to our current state than we might even fathom.

Original Sin, as understood for this article, is the sin seed that is passed on to every human because of the original sin committed by Adam in the Garden.

Original Sin effects us today because there are multiple components to it…

Original Sin is about Love

The point of God planting a tree in the middle of the Garden then telling Adam not to eat from it was not to tempt Adam, but to see if Adam would choose to love God or love himself.  When Adam sinned, it separated him and us from the direct connection with God.  Remember that God walked with Adam in the garden, something God has not been able to do since Adam sinned.

The most powerful words God ever utters in the Bible are the ones He says right after he says the word, “Now” as in Revelation 21:3

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

This event takes place after everything is made new.  God is looking forward to the day when He can once again “walk with man in the garden” as it were.

It is all about Love because God reached out to us when we couldn’t reach out to him. (c.f. John 3:16, Romans 5:8)

Original Sin is about Penalty

We are still paying the price for the sin Adam committed that fateful day.

Penalty of Death

  • God told Adam, “In the day you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16,17)
  • All have sinned, and the wages of that sin is still death (Romans 3:23, 6:23)

Every time someone dies, we are reminded of Adam’s original sin. If Adam’s sin only applied to him, we wouldn’t have death, sickness and sin in the world today.

Penalty of Pain in Childbirth

Every time a woman gives birth naturally, she is paying a price for Eve because she listened to the serpent and not her husband. (See Accountability and Original Sin below)

Other creatures in God’s kingdom don’t go through the pain of birth that humans do; ever heard a dog or cat scream like a human?

Penalty of Snakes

Part of the curse is the form of the snake, which crawls on its belly.  Each time I see one, I am reminded of the curse. (Genesis 3)

Penalty of Thorns and Thistles

Ever been scratched by a thorn? Or have to pull a weed out of the garden? Thank Adam.

Penalty of Gardening

Yep, gardening is a result of the curse.  Makes you wonder how it was before Adam sinned. (Genesis 3) God was going to provide all our food.

Original Sin is about Accountability

Genesis 3 tells us what went down.

Eve ate of the tree first; Adam, who was with her, but didn’t speak up during the entire event, ate it once she gave it to him.

However, you have to go back a chapter to see the setup.  You see…

  1. Adam was created first
  2. God then planted the tree in the Garden.
  3. God tells Adam that if he eats from it, he will die.
  4. Later, God creates the woman from the man’s side.

In chapter 3, we see the man and woman at the tree, she is telling the talking serpent (which should have been a clue) that if they ate from it OR TOUCHED IT they would die.

How did she know about eating it, and where did she get the extra restriction?

We have here the first case of legalism in the Bible, which always adds to God’s word.  God said Adam would die if he ate it; Eve added (probably because Adam told her) that if they touched it, they would die. She ate it first (eyes were not open), and then Adam ate it (eyes were opened to their nakedness after this).

SPECIAL NOTE: The extra rule didn’t help them abide by the command God gave them. (Legalism doesn’t help you be a better Christian.)

The problem in the story is that God told Adam the rule, and Adam told his wife the rules, but Adam did not defend God’s word, nor his wife as she was talking to the serpent.

It was not her fault, it was Adam’s!

Had Eve eaten, and Adam not, there would be no sin today because she was not responsible to God. Adam should have been the one talking to the serpent and saying something like, “Get thee behind me Satan!” He was her covering, and he failed her.

Accountability and the Original Sin Seed

The Original Sin seed does not pass through the woman, it passes through the man because of accountability.  Adam was accountable to God, Eve was accountable to Adam (God never told Eve the rules, that was Adam’s job).

Jesus could only be born as a human, not because Mary was “immaculately conceived”, but because she was a woman and there was no man involved in conceiving Jesus.

The promise was to Eve that the savior would come…

And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your seed and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.” – Genesis 3:15

Men and woman are equal in every way relationally with God except one, accountability. Eve was cursed because she was deceived, and did not listening to her husband, but we have sin in the world because the man of the house refused to be the man of the house. (c.f. 1 Timothy 2:14)

Original Sin is about Redemption

Paul states that through one man, Adam, sin and death entered the world (Romans 5:12-21). It is through one man with no Original Sin seed connection through man to Adam that sin is broken  and we can live. Our only hope is in the “Son of God” who became the “Son of Man” without losing his claim as “Son of God”.

His Father is God, born of a woman, which allows him to be fully man and fully God and gives us hope that the power of sin and death is broken for those that receive the gift of life. This only comes through the power of the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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How to Defend the Gospel

Posted by undergroundchurch on October 4, 2010


NOTE: This article contains strategies for believers and is not intended for those of you that do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ because it contains strategic information (trade secrets).  If  you wish to establish a relationship with Jesus prior to reading this article, shoot me an email and I’ll be glad to talk with you. Then you can read the article and get more out of it.

Call me a pacifist, if you will, but I do believe that there is a right and a wrong way in which believers defend the good news (a.k.a. the Gospel) of Jesus Christ and that for the most part, we get it wrong.

Do our methods hinder the message?

Personally, I am appalled at the way the world treats the God who came and died in their place, took on their guilt and shame, and made a way back to himself.  I mean, what did Jesus ever do to deserve the bad rap He gets from unbelievers?

The answer to that question may lie more with His followers more than in His own life.  While it is true that Jesus saidthe world would hate us because of him, we aren’t making that attitude any better with our public pulpit indiscretions, our internal disputes played out on the world’s stage where we are mocked, our church splits, and even how poorly we drive when we cut off another driver while we flash our “I love Jesus” bumper sticker.

We can learn from Paul in Philippians 1:7 that there are three basic ways to reflect the good news: in chains, defending and confirming.   We spend a lot of time on the second, and not much on the other two.

In Chains or In Battle

What does it mean to be in chains for the Gospel?  And more importantly, what does that look  like in America?

Paul represented this aspect of his testimony by being shipwrecked, beaten, imprisoned and stoned all of which only reflected Jesus attitude on the Cross when he forgave his killers while they were killing him.  This is a lost art with the Christian world in America.  There is a proverb that reads, “in doing so (being nice), you will heap burning coals upon their head”.  Our tactic tends to display defensive aggression and not much offensive conversion.

We followers of Jesus need to follow Jesus.  We need to understand that the world is lost and they don’t need to Adopt godly standards, they Need God.

I was reading an article about an artist showing his “art” where he depicted Jesus in, shall we say, non-biblical ways.  Now here is the question for all the believers reading this article; how should followers of Jesus respond?

A) We can respond the way the Christians are reported on in the article and protest.  What does this do though to the witness for Jesus? If we get them to take it down, then what? Do people come to Christ because the art is not longer there?

B) We use the opportunity to show people what Jesus was really like. Oh, you might need to turn the other cheek, but in so doing, you may make them look away long enough to show them a better way.

What is the intent of our defense?

I guess it comes down to this.  We can make noise and protest the world’s…. uh, worldliness. In so doing, we might even change the look of things… less strip clubs, less bars, less cheesy art exhibits, but are people coming to Christ, or have we just won moral victory that makes us feel better, but really does nothing for the advancement of the Gospel?

I’m not saying that we should just let the world do their thing and build strip clubs on every corner.  We have an American right to live in a place that reflects morals (Constitutionally backed), but the dilemma we face is that moral legislation, moral victories, moral indignation, does not bring people to Christ.  Sometimes, we need to put on the chains for Christ in order to set people free. Through our chains, we confirm Jesus’ good news.

What does our testimony reflect?

Is our testimony to the world reflecting Christ or leaving a bitter taste that becomes a stumbling block to the message?When they think about the church of Jesus, what image comes to their mind?  Is it the image of a group of zealots that want to change their laws and restrict their freedoms?  Is it a group of holier-than-thou people that live paradoxical lives?  Is it a church that burns books from other religions, protests funerals of soldiers or removes evolution from text books in public schools?

Or… should it be the image of a church that first and foremost ministers to widows and orphans and feeds the hungry, helps the needy?  Is it an image of a church that has hope for eternity and knows where they are going and knows how to show them the way?  Is it an image of a church that spends less money on their buildings, parking lots, sound systems and salaries than they do on their outreach to communities through helping others and ministering Christ to a lost and dying people?

The Calling

As a church, we are called to take on the image of Christ and to reflect Christ to each other and to the world.  When we defend the good news He brought us through the cross, does our defense become an offense to those that need to know the news?

A lost world is lost and trying to find their way in darkness.  By default, they are going to do things that repulse believers. It is the nature of the world.

We carry the light of Jesus Christ and have to use that light to bring people to Christ FIRST. If we change the heart, we change the world.

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Wisdom from Mistakes

Posted by undergroundchurch on September 16, 2010


Tests aren’t my strong suit, mainly cause I over think them.  However, one thing is constant with me and tests… I learn more from what I get wrong than what I get right.

Yep… it’s that nagging feeling that comes from the frustration of getting a question wrong that brings out a standard response that goes something like this…

  1. The test must be wrong
  2. I know I studied that
  3. I misread the question
  4. Oh, that’s what they meant
  5. OK… I will concede

Because I put so much effort in fighting the fact that I got it wrong, the right answer has somehow embedded itself in my gray matter, so in the end, I learn more from what I got wrong than the questions I got right.

My life is like that in general…. but that is for another blog… or an autobiography

Biblical Application

When I read Corinthians, I get that same feeling.  Yes, the church at Corinth had problems, but we have what I believe is the most practical letter from Paul about how church should operate because that one church had such problems.

We can learn a plethora of good “church tips” from Paul’s corrective instruction.  

  • All those gifts are given for the church’s benefit
  • The most gifted church is nothing without love
  • Just how do we facilitate a healthy atmosphere for correction in the church
  • What should be done about those living in sin in the church
  • The church is all about unity in Christ
  • Can we be Christians and live like the world
  • How do we deal with freedom
  • What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the church
  • How can we obtain balance between order and spirit leading
  • What is our ministry
  • What is our treasure
  • And so much more

So much good comes from so many mistakes.  When you make mistakes, you have two choices

  1. Let the mistake lead you into more mistakes and eventually down the road of despair
  2. Learn from the mistake, and use that knowledge to gain wisdom

I choose the latter.

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