Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Peace and Worship of Christmas

I made it a point not to publish any new items on my blog from the day after Black Friday until the day after Christmas. I feel that we have gone too far in the commercialism and busyness of Christmas. With this in mind, I am reminded of a story in the New Testament that deals with the concern of busyness.

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” [The New King James Version. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Lk 10:38-42.]

The picture here illustrates that there is a lot of work to do and Martha is concerned that her sister Mary is not helping out. Martha complains to Jesus, but to her surprise, He replied that Mary has chosen the necessity of life.

Christmas is about the birth of Christ. Too often we get caught up in the rush and commercialism of Christmas that we completely miss the true meaning. How many of us this Christmas were so concerned and tied up with the busy work of Christmas? How many were so concerned with the wrapping paper, so concerned with the gifts, so concerned with the cooking, so concerned with the get-togethers, so concerned with everything but the true meaning of Christmas that we are now thinking "I am wore out".

Would it not be the greatest Christmas if we are freed from the pressure from having to get "stuff"? Free to focus on the birth of Jesus Christ. Free to worship the Lord and Savior of the world. Maybe next year we can free ourselves from the pressure and focus on worshipping the Lord of Lords and Kings of Kings. Free, like Mary, to choose the necessity of life

I hope you had a great Christmas!

In Christ,

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Scripture Interpretation is Key

Anytime that we talk about prophetic events we must realize that Scripture interpretation is key. For example, if I take the Bible as being literal, meaning that I believe what it says word for word, then I will probably arrive at a premillennial position. If, on the other hand, I take Bible prophesy as being mostly allegorical, then I will probably arrive at an amillennial position. Understanding the vast difference between the premillennial position and the amillennial position would cause me to see that an incorrect interpretation method could change the entire meaning of Scripture. Is that something that we want to be careless about?  Do we want to incorrectly interpret Scripture and possible lead a person to a false doctrine? I would have to say that no-one would want to make that mistake. Therefore, we need to make sure that we interpret Scripture as it is to be interpreted.

The main reason that I hold to a literal, grammatical, and historical approach to Scripture is that when the Scripture was given, it meant something to the people who received it. Why would it mean anything different today? Some people would say that times are different or that situations change requiring a different approach to the text. The Bible says otherwise. It says that there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9 says:

9 That which has been is what will be,
      That which is done is what will be done,
      And there is nothing new under the sun.
       (Ecclesiastes 1:9, New King James Version)

The Bible also says that God is the same today and forever.

6 “ For I am the LORD, I do not change;
      Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
       (Malachi 3:6, New King James Version)

If things don't change, then why would there need to be a change in what the Scripture says? The answer to that question is that there would not need to be a change. With that in mind, I find it very important to begin our study with what it meant to the people who first heard it or read it.

Something else to think about concerning the allegorical approach to interpretation is that it does not allow for the testing of Scripture against itself. If we interpret Scripture allegorical, then we take the authority out of the Scripture. The allegorical method allows for a "spiritual" and often irreconcilable interpretation. In other words, the interpretation cannot be tested against other Scripture. You may ask, why would anyone interpret Scripture in this method? It could be that they desire a particular interpretation or that they are trying to interpret Scripture by what they see in life today. For example, if a person says that Israel doesn't exist as a nation (like earlier in the 20th century), then a literal approach to Scripture is undesirable because it doesn't match with what we know and Israel has no existence in the future. But now, knowing that Israel is once again a nation then that argument will not hold water. 

I say this in the beginning of the blog to define what approach I take to prophesy. It sets the foundation to the result of the interpretation. If you desire to study God's Word, you MUST nail down your approach to Scripture. A literal, grammatical, and historical approach will provide you with an accurate and complete picture of God Word and plan for mankind. 

I hope that you find this information helpful.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Sacrifices of Black Friday

Where did we get the name Black Friday? We know that most people refer to the day as one that retailers hope to bring their year into a profit situation (known as into the black). If you do a search on the web you find other pieces of information concerning this day. For instance, says "the term Black Friday was first used to describe Sept. 24, 1869, when several financiers had tried to corner the gold market and the market crashed, and a depression ensued. Another panic in the financial markets in 1873 also began on a Friday". Wikipedia says that it "is the Friday close to the day of Thanksgiving in the United States, which is the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season". Later in the Wikipedia site it says "the term "Black Friday" originated in Philadelphia in reference to the heavy traffic on that day". So, who really knows what it means!

If you know me very well, you will know that I am skeptical of many Internet sources and I hold zero credibility in Wikipedia claims of itself as "an online free-content encyclopedia that anyone can edit". I would take that to mean that anyone can call themselves an expert in anything and edit the content to suit their needs. Therefore, I do not count their sources as authoratative. I hope that you see why I don't believe they are a reliable source of information.

Now, let's get back to my "Black Friday" observations. Many stores offer "door buster" deals that would entice anyone to go without food and sleep to challenge total strangers in an attempt to obtain a product the store only has a small quantity of. For example, laptops seem to be a major fighting point this year. Wal-Mart and Best Buy both advertised a model that was unbelievably priced (less than $200). Internet sources said that both retailers would not have enough stock to satisfy the demand (go figure). So what happens? People "camp out" from Thanksgiving (or earlier) so they may have a chance of getting the deal of a lifetime. When the hour comes, it becomes a free for all to obtain the item they sacrificed sleep and food over. When in reality the retailer offering greatest door buster guarantees the consumer will shop at their store first. How does it feel to be manipulated? 

The sad element to this picture is that people will make great sacrifices to get an item that only offers a temporal fulfillment. We as an American people are never satisfied. We have to have the latest and greatest. We will do whatever it takes to get whatever we want. But in the end, the satisfaction will never last. The great apostle Paul was content in whatever situation he was in.

11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

(Philippians 4:11-13, New King James Version)

The contentment that Paul experienced only comes from knowing Jesus Christ personally. Knowing that He will provide and knowing that through Him we have assurance of eternal life. It provides the greatest happiness and satisfaction that mankind can know. Knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior will allow you to walk out of the store empty handed with a smile on your face.

Remembering His sacrifice for me,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Days are Short

I would like to say that I believe that the days are numbered and we are getting close to the return of Jesus to call His bride (the church) home. One of the most concerning observations in North America is the fact that eschatology (the study of end times) is almost non-existent in our churches today. Yes there are churches that teach about the second coming but they seem to be few and far between.

My observation of Scriptures using a literal, grammatical, and historical approach leads me to a pretribulation and a premillennical approach to the subject. I understand that this can be a controversial area of interpretation, however, I stand firm on my approach to the subject.

I hope that you find this information helpful and feel free to post. I don't claim to have all of the answers but I find that the study of the end of times is very rewarding and very interesting. I hope that you also find this information helpful.

Happy Thanksgiving

There is always something to be thankful for. Today, let us set aside all of our cares and concerns and focus on the things we do have such as family, friends, and hope in Christ Jesus our Lord. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (New King James Version)]

I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

In Christ,

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why is there never enough?

Have you ever landed a new job making more money than you previously were making? With the additional income over time, did you conclude that you were really no better off financially than you were originally? Have you ever heard the expression, "make more, spend more"? Sometimes when people are in an economic crisis the problem is not how much money they are making but rather how they spend what they have.

It is interesting to view how we as Christians utilize the resources God has given us. For example, do you wish you had more time in the day to get everything done? Do you find yourself anxious, stressed, and unable to control the hours in your day? God has given us a 24 hour day and He does not force us to use it a certain way. What I find interesting is that we will take the 24 hours and use it to satisfy our desires, not His. Sometimes we become so stressed that we cry out to God to help us; not realizing that we are being disobedient with the time and resources He has given us.

If you read the prophet Haggai you will find it parallels economic distress to mankind’s disobedience to God. In these verses we see Haggai instructed the people to evaluate their economic situation and to understand that their selfish priorities resulted in their condition. In chapter 1 we see that Haggai challenged the people to evaluate their situation: They had worked hard with little result (1:5–6, 9–10) because God was not a priority in their lives (1:9). God used the drought as a way of getting their attention (1:11).

The Jewish people should have understood that they needed to place their faith and obedience in God as the first priority in life. It was in their teachings that disclosed the results of selfishness and disobedience. In Leviticus 26:18-20 it says:

And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. I will break the pride of your power; I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit. [The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Le 26:18-20]

The result of not obeying God will result in punishment which can include economic distress. We also see additional Scripture supporting this fact in Deuteronomy 28:38-40 which says:

“You shall carry much seed out to the field but gather little in, for the locust shall consume it. You shall plant vineyards and tend them, but you shall neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. You shall have olive trees throughout all your territory, but you shall not anoint yourself with the oil; for your olives shall drop off." [Ibid. Dt 28:38-40]

Their efforts were not producing the results they had anticipated. Therefore, we can see that there is a connection between obedience to God and fruitfulness. When we are obedient to God our needs will be taken care of. When we are disobedient, God will let us see our need for him and to understand that we are not in control. We cannot, by our own power, completely and sufficiently supply all of our needs.

Does this mean that if we are in God’s will we will be wealthy? If we are in God’s Will our desires will match His desires. Our needs will be met, however, it does not mean that we will have an excessive abundance. Consider James 2:5 which says “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” [Ibid. Jas 2:5]

If being obedient and faithful would place us in a position of material wealth then James 2:5 has some explaining to do. However, when we are in obedience to God then our joy and wealth is found in His provision. It is a state that the Apostle Paul described as being completely satisfied. Remember, Jesus said the following:

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." [Ibid. Mt 6:31-34]

Think about this; when we say we do not have enough time in a day to do everything we want, then do we need to re-evaluate our priorities? The answer to that question is absolutely! We need to assure that God is first in our lives. We need to make sure that we are in His will. When this happens, we will find rest in Him.

In Christ,

Saturday, November 14, 2009

In a Matter of Seconds

It is truly amazing how quickly things can happen in life. Just this afternoon I was driving down the road and a car in front of the car in front of me came to an immediate stop for no apparent reason. The car in front of me crossed it up in the middle of the road and I locked my brakes up trying to stop. There was a 3500 series truck behind me who was traveling too close and was forced to swerve into the next lane. The cars in his lane were forced to find new road (or grass in this case) to avoid hitting him. The true miracle in this incident was that not one car hit another. It was absolutely amazing.

Needless to say, my heart was racing and I felt feelings of both anger and concern. I was angry at the fact that someone stopped in the middle of the road for no apparent reason. I became concerned as to why this may have happened. Did someone suffer a heart attack? What happened to cause this?

As I tried to gather my emotions I was reminded that life is but a vapor. James 4:13-17 says the following:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. [The New King James Version. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Jas 4:13-17.]

It is very easy to get caught up in the "look at me" attitude and present the confident plans of what will happen next year. But the Bible tells us to blast the boasting and spend your time living for the eternal. Life could have been taken in an instant this afternoon and all of it would have been out of my control. This leads me to ask a couple of questions.

  1. Have you prepared for eternity? Eternity will be spent in one of two places. It will be spent in either Heaven or in Hell. Spending eternity in Heaven is not granted because you have been a good person or you have done more good than bad. Eternity in heaven is the result of a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is the result of being born again by the Holy Spirit through your faith in Jesus Christ. Without this, eternity will result in a place called hell.
  2. How are you living life? Are you living life like today could be your last. It has been said that Paul only had two dates in mind; today and "that day" (the day he would stand before Christ). Therefore, he would live every day in light of "that day".
I challenge you to live every day like it is your last. Make sure your relationships are in good condition. Make sure your family knows that you love them. Make sure that you have prepared for eternity. Make sure that you are living in the Will of God for the Glory of God. For you may never know what may change your circumstances in a matter of seconds.

In Christ,
Doug Johnson

Monday, November 9, 2009

Turn Signals

I believe East Tennessee is one of the worst places in the world for people not to use their turn signals. Every morning I arrive at an intersection that 99% of the traffic turns right onto the road in which I am leaving. The amount of cars turning is almost constant and only about 20% are signaling their intentions. This makes it difficult to exit in fear of pulling out into oncoming traffic. When you are driving signal your intention. Don't be selfish!

Why do people not use their turn signals? I believe it is an interesting picture of the lives of many Christians. When you are driving down the road, and you want to make a right turn and you don’t turn on your signal. You are selfish. You are self centered. You are self seeking. Basically, it is saying I don’t care what your needs are, all I care about is where I am going and how long it takes me to get there. I don’t care if you have to wait all day long to get out of that neighborhood; I am still doing my thing.

Does that sound selfish to you? Let's look at it a different way. Let's say that you are sitting in your car and attempting to turn out of your neighborhood and there are 100 cars coming and all of them are turning right into your neighborhood; but none of them had their turn signals on. How would that make you feel? Would you get angry? Would you become discouraged? Sitting there 20 minutes attempting to leave your neighborhood would that be depressing? How about if you had to be somewhere soon?

Turn signals, it has the potential to tell others who you care about. James deals with the subject of favoritism in chapter 2 verses 1-13:

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by othe law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. [The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Jas 2:1-13]

James is talking to Christians and the first thing he is telling them is not to show favoritism. We need to be courteous to everyone. If your turn signal is flashing you are being courteous to the person behind you. You are telling them that you are getting ready to slow down and turn. You don’t want them running into the back of your car do you? Nor do they want to run into the back of you. Signaling your turn also tells the person on the intersecting street that you are turning and may offer a time for them to be able to exit their street. It is just courteous to everyone.

When we are in our schools or we are at our jobs we also need to be courteous to others. We need to not just be courteous to those who we want to be around. Just because a person wears a lot of jewelry or has the best of clothes does not mean that they are the best of people. However, for some reason we treat others in that manner.

James gives an example of those coming into a synagogue. To the one who is rich and wearing nice clothes they are given the nice place to sit. Maybe it is the comfy place to sit. Maybe it is up front where they can hear. Maybe it is next to royal authority. Then James introduces the individual to a person who is wearing filthy clothes and obviously has no money. Do we give him the nice place to sit too? No we ask him to stand "over there" or we give them a seat of a servant.

Unfortunately our daily actions accomplish the same thing. Sometimes we ignore those who don’t have much and buddy up to those who seem to have it all. If we pay close attention we will see that James provides some interesting insight to that problem.

James says "listen up" to what I am about to say. He refutes any gospel that says that those with God's blessing will be financially rewarded. James questions "has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him". If the wealth gospel (being preached by so many today) was true then the faithful would not be poor.

James goes on to say that we have dishonored the poor man. We have served him injustice. We have led him to sorrow. We have made him discouraged. We have opened the door for him to be depressed. To claim to have dishonored someone is a serious claim. People like to feel as if they have worth. When we go the route of dishonoring someone then we take away that sense of value.

James says that we need to care about everyone. Let's go back to the turn signal issue again. 100 cars turning into the road that you are on and very few signal. It is no wonder that so many people respond with anger. When there is no feeling of worth, people deal with the issue in surprising ways. Using your turn signals tells others that you care about them. How you treat them tells them how much value you believe that they have.

James mentions the Royal Law. The “royal law” was given in Leviticus 19:18 and affirmed by Christ (Matt. 22:39): Love your neighbor as yourself. The law is royal or regal (basilikon, from basileus, “king”) because it is decreed by the King of kings, is fit for a king, and is considered the king of laws." [John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985), 2:824-825.]

James says that breaking this law is sin. If I treat one better than another because of favoritism, I have sinned. That is a big statement. He further says they will be judged in the law of liberty. Obeying God's Will brings freedom or liberty. Disobeying God's Will brings bondage or slavery. Disobeying will ultimately bring judgment.

So, how do we treat others? We are to be courteous, we are to care, and we are to consistently love them, just as Christ loves us.

By they way, the Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-8-143(a) states:

Every driver who intends to start, stop or turn, or partly turn from a direct line, shall first see that such movement can be made in safety, and whenever the operation of any other vehicle may be affected by such movement, shall give a signal required in this section, plainly visible to the driver of such other vehicle of the intention to make such movement.

I hope that every time you use your turn signal you remember our discussion of favoritism.

In Christ,
Doug Johnson

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What ever happened to context?

I received an email recently that made strong statements about how Christians are misinformed concerning their relation to government. It is always amazing to me how people twist Scripture to validate their own motives or desires. Instead of posting the entire email I have included a link to an archive copy.

As I read through the email I find it somewhat disturbing because Mr. Baldwin is attempting to present a case for political rebellion by taking Scripture out of context. Please don't get me wrong, I feel that we need radical reform in our government; but I will not twist Scripture to present a political agenda. I fear God too much to distort His precious Word.

Please allow me to comment on his remarks. First it appears that Mr. Baldwin only holds to a position that many who teach submission to government by Romans 13 are in error. He quotes Romans 13:1-7 from the King James text and then comments on governmental unlimited authority. We must keep in mind that government was established by God for the purpose of order and to uphold God's laws. Here is a Biblical list of God's governmental standard:

1. Are appointed by God. Ro 13:1.
2. Are ministers of God. Ro 13:4,6.
3. Purpose of their appointment. Ro 13:4; 1Pe 2:14.
4. Their office to be respected. Ac 23:5.
5. Are not a terror to the good, but to the evil. Ro 13:3.
6. To be wisely selected and appointed. Ex 18:21; Ezr 7:25.
7. To be prayed for. 1Ti 2:1,2.
8. Should
     a. Seek wisdom from God. 1Ki 3:9.
     b. Rule in the fear of God. 2Sa 23:3; 2Ch 19:7.
     c. Know the law of God. Ezr 7:25.
     d. Be faithful to the Sovereign. Da 6:4.
     e. Enforce the laws. Ezr 7:26.
     f. Judge wisely. 1Ki 3:16-28.
     g. Hate covetousness. Ex 18:21.
     h. Not take bribes. Ex 23:8; De 16:19.
     i. Defend the poor. Job 29:12,16.
     j. Judge for God, not for man. 2Ch 19:6.
     k. Judge righteously. De 1:16; 16:18; 25:1.
     l. Be impartial. Ex 23:6; De 1:17.
     m. Be diligent in ruling. Ro 12:8.
     n. Subjection to their authority enjoined. Mt 23:2,3; Ro 13:1; 1Pe 2:13,14.
     [R.A. Torrey, The New Topical Text Book : A Scriptural Text Book for the Use of Ministers, Teachers, and All Christian Workers (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos research Systems, Inc., 1995, c1897).]

This list gives the Christian the standard of God's establishment of government. From this list we can determine if any government is within the boundaries of its God-ordained position. I would have to say that not too many (if any) establishments of government would fit the above bill. Does that mean that we should overthrow them? Should we attempt to create a condition of anarchy? By no means! Christianity and anarchy cannot coexist. There is no Biblical mandate for those types of actions.

Next, Mr. Baldwin presents examples of the old monarchal custom of Jus Primae Noctis, a father's authority in his home, an employer's authority on the job, and a pastor's authority in the church. Never forget God has established three institutions: the home (Gen. 2:18–25), government (Gen. 9:1–17), and the church (Acts 2). Guidelines for each of these institutions are presented in Scripture and are not identical. A pastor, a business manager, a father/husband cannot be considered within the same guidelines God has set out for government. I agree that people cannot be abusive, and business owners cannot take advantage of their employees but what does that have to do with government. If we remove the government body or promote anti-government means then there will be a tragically greater opportunity for abuse and neglect and corporate fraud. People will have the notion "if it doesn't affect me, then I don't care".

Next, Mr. Baldwin takes verse 3 slightly out of context. Mr. Baldwin says that a government body "must" not be a terror to good works. The text says "rulers are not a terror to good works". This is not a command motivating response when government actions are contrary. If that were the case, 1st and 2nd Peter would have been written differently because he was under the persecution of Nero for his works. Peter said if you are punished for doing good, then it brings glory to God.

Further, most of the Old Testament questions Mr. Baldwin poses are different in respect to what he is trying to accomplish. Most of the rebellion posed in his questions are in reaction to a government command to disobey or turn against God's command. That is the only case Scripture gives for rebellion to government authority. If man's law tells one to disobey God's law then God's law must be followed. In most of the examples that he listed that is what happened. They stood for what they believed and either God delivered them or they became martyrs.

Mr. Baldwin further states (completely out of Scriptural context):

Plus, Paul makes it clear that our submission to civil authority must be predicated on more than fear of governmental retaliation. Notice, he said, "Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake." Meaning, our obedience to civil authority is more than just "because they said so." It is also a matter of conscience. This means we must think and reason for ourselves regarding the justness and rightness of our government's laws. Obedience is not automatic or robotic. It is a result of both rational deliberation and moral approbation.

Paul is saying that Christians should do our good works because of our conscious. We don't do the things that we must out of fear of government wrath. We do it because we love the Lord and our conscious demands it. This passage is NOT saying that we must reason whether or not government is doing the right thing. It is directly talking about our actions in society. We should do the right things because of who we are not because of government punishment.

I agree that we must demand that all who we elect into office must maintain the standards that we so dearly love. Yes, there may be a day that we are commanded by government to go against God's laws and then we MUST stand and say no. In the meantime, we must work to put honest Christian people in places of government who hold God's laws at the highest of standards.

For further reasearch on the topic of Romans 13, I believe Warren Wiersbe's "The Bible Exposition Commentary" sums Paul's verses quite well. ["An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire 'BE' Series"--Jkt. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989), Ro 13:1.]

It is time for political change in all levels of government. However, we must be careful not to rally behind a twisted context of Scripture in the process.

In Christ,

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Man the Fort!

One of my favorite Bible stories is the story of Jonah. Too often in my life I see many similarities between Jonah and myself. God tells me to do one thing and I want to do another.  Do you find yourself like Jonah going in a different direction than what God wanted? As fun as the book of Jonah is to read it is still a powerful story of a sinful city (Nineveh) and a stubborn prophet (Jonah). If you are not familiar with the story it only takes about 30 minutes to read. It is short but it will show some powerful truths about God, the Gentile people, the nation Israel, and opportunities for repentance.

The city of Nineveh was doing all the wrong things. They were prideful, worshipping idols, and self-centered.  It was known as one of the most luxurious cities of its time and has been compared to modern day America. The prophet Jonah had a message for Nineveh; repent or be destroyed. In reading the book, you will see an immediate response from the people of Nineveh. They cried out to God and turned from their evil ways. Because of their response, God spared their city and then spent time teaching Jonah valuable lessons about His grace.

When we finish the book we think "all is well that ends well". However, 100 to 125 years later, Nineveh is back at it again. They have fallen into the trap of rejecting God and living evil lives. The prophet Nahum has a serious message for the city. Nahum 2:1 says:

He who scatters has come up before your face.

Man the fort!
Watch the road!
Strengthen your flanks!
Fortify your power mightily.
[The New King James Version. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Na 2:1.]

The city is commanded to be ready because God is getting ready to destroy them! The book of the prophet Nahum is only three chapters but outlines Nineveh's destruction. They have returned to their former habits of arrogance, violence, and idolatry.

We have heard many times that God is love. That statement is true; God is a God of love. He is also a God of mercy and grace. But here is where we make a mistake. We stop at this point and go no further. Not only is God a God of love, mercy, and grace, but He is also the creator and the judge. He is Holy and just and the result of His character demands Holiness from His creation (1 Peter 1:15-16). If we are disobedient to our creator, then a penalty is required for payment. Romans 6:23 says that penalty is death.

So, what about God's love"? He has shown it to us! We all have messed up (Romans 3:23), so He provided the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Out of His love for us, He sent His son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sins. John 3:16 says whosoever believes upon Him (Jesus) will be saved. He provides that opportunity everyone because we can not correct our problems on our own. We can either accept it or reject it. If we believe and repent, we will be saved and have life. If we reject Him then we choose death. God has provided a way, but the decision is ours. So, when someone asks "why would a loving God send someone to a place called hell?" the answer is that He doesn't, but rather we choose it.

God had enough of Nineveh's rejection and Nahum painted an accurate picture of their destruction. I am heartbroken over our nation and the direction in which we are headed. Our great sinfulness is leading us on a path to destruction. As we move further and further away from God, we are beginning to see the results. Is it time to "man the fort"?

In Christ,
Doug Johnson

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Drama - It's Inside the Box

Drama! Life is full of drama. Drama is what I see when I turn on the TV and watch one of theses so called "sitcoms". The result of drama is what I see on the nightly news. Drama seems to begin in the seventh grade and never ends. We live in drama central. It's in our schools. It's in our families. Our lives are in reaction mode because of all of the drama!

Is this how God wants us to live? Does He want us limited by our own perceptions and ideas? Does He want us limited by all of the drama? Solomon talked about living life to the fullest in Ecclesiastes chapters 11 and 12.

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; Walk in the ways of your heart, And in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, And put away evil from your flesh, For childhood and youth are vanity. Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”. [The New King James Version. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Ec 11:9-12:1.]

These verses offer an awesome and inspiring challenge to all of us. Solomon says "rejoice in your youth". We find those verses difficult because we are not following our true heart's desire. We are limiting our God given abilities by trying to fight for a status in life.

"Let your heart cheer in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart". Unfortunately, for many of us our heart's desire is to cannon ball into the drama swimming pool. For some reason we seem to live in the drama arenas of life. The reality shows carry some of the highest ratings on TV. Why? They rank high because it entertains us to see someone else in the midst of situations where they fight for control and position.

In John 10:10 we see Jesus painting the picture of life. He says in these verses "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. [The New King James Version. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Jn 10:10.]".

The thief, satan himself, wants to steal your happiness and your hope. When we are concerned with what others think about us, we are allowing the thief to take away our fullness for that day. The thief also wants to kill. He wants to kill relationships and create emotional chaos which is achieved my allowing drama in our lives. The Bible also tells us that he wants to destroy. He wants to destroy our witness and our Christian walk. This can be easily accomplished by participating in the slander and hateful comments of emotional relationship battles.

Is this where God wants us to spend our lives? No. Jesus wants us to have true abundant life. However, because of our selfish focus, we cannot experience the true "abundant life" that God has given us. We have limited ourselves. It is like locking ourselves into a room in which there is no obvious way out.

My son and I decided we wanted to build a storage building early this spring. We finally decided on a set of plans and began to build. This month we are in the final stages of completing this building and this week's project was to hang the garage door on the front. Keep in mind the garage door is the only entry point into the building. If you have ever hung a sectional garage door then you know that you build the garage door over the opening from the inside. Ryan could not help me this week so my father graciously came over to lend a hand.

We started early Tuesday evening assembling and hanging the door. As the panels were going up over the door opening, we realized there was no way out of this building until the door was completely assembled and functional. At 9:30 the realization hits us that we are not finished and we have no way out. There were a lot of questions that began to cross my mind. What if I need to go to the bathroom? What if I get sick? What if I get hurt? It is very easy to become consumed on all of the work and problems inside the building. It would be easy to become discouraged when the task at hand is greater than life itself. Our goal became to get out of the box. At 10:15 the garage door opened and we could move on to better things such as sleep and fresh air.

The reason I say this is to mention that many of us never find the excitement, joy, and peace that God intends for us to have because we cannot get out of the box. We cannot get beyond the drama in life to be able to experience the abundant life God has for us. The Lord has created you for a purpose. Don’t listen to people who put you down or make fun of you.

You see, satan has convinced many of us to believe that we can never overcome the sin or the situations that we are in. Believing that message, we feel that we can never be more than we are, therefore, we settle for the status quo. We believe that we can't live for Christ. We believe that our past limits our ability to have an exciting and fulfilled life.

When your life is over, I believe that there will be a couple of questions God will ask. "Did you do all that you were created to do?" and "Did you live to the fullest you could live because of my Son".

If the answer is no, then what is wrong? Solomon said "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come".  It is the only way out of the box.

In Christ,
Doug Johnson

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oops! I Didn't Mean It!

Ecclesiastes 5:2-3 says "Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes through much activity, And a fool’s voice is known by his many words. [The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Ec 5:2-3]

Have you ever been quick to speak? Have you ever said something and wished that you could erase the minds of everyone who heard it? Sometimes we speak before we think and the results are devastating. Our commitment behind our words can also be hurtful. If we promise that we will meet a friend at a certain time or place and either don't show or are late, what message does that give? It says this meeting is not a priority to us and the other person becomes a victim to that issue.

These verses go on to say, likewise, in your heart don't utter anything quickly before God. They further state that God is in heaven and you are on earth. Do we think that because we do not physically see God that our words and promises do not mean as much as they would to a close friend? When we talk to God we need to communicate what we earnestly desire. God knows your true desire behind your words. He knows this because He knows our hearts. The Message translation says:

Don’t shoot off your mouth, or speak before you think. Don’t be too quick to tell God what you think he wants to hear. God’s in charge, not you—the less you speak, the better. Overwork makes for restless sleep. Overtalk shows you up as a fool. [Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Ec 5:2-3]

Have you ever known someone who couldn't stop talking? They talked about everything. You realized that the more they talked the less they knew. Solomon also warns us to beware of word play. He said that a fool's voice is known by their many words. In other words, don't open your mouth just to be heard.

The following quote is attributed to George Eliot. "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." Actually if you do a Google search, you will find that quote attributed to multiple people. This idea actually came from the Bible long before any of those people quoted it. 

Proverbs 17:28 says:
Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive. [The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Pr 17:28]

Not only should our words to others be kept in check but our proclamation to God should not be foolishness as well. Too often we belittle God in our words. We make promises to God, and never back them up. We act as if we are in charge and it doesn't matter what we say. Remember God is in charge, not you. When you make promises to God, they should be true, wholehearted, and forever. Solomon says; when you make a vow to God, follow through with it.

Over the years I have realized we are a visual generation. We see it, we like it, and then we buy it. We leave the store and walk past another store window and we forget what we just bought. We see something new and desire to have it too. Sadly we do the same with our promises to God. We say yes to God and then before long something else grabs our attention and we find ourselves failing in our original promises.

If you know that you need a savior and you choose to believe and repent, then you should not desire anything that will take the place of God. If the Spirit calls you into ministry or missions, don't say yes in haste and then never follow through. This illustrates to God that you are not serious. Our promise to God should be met with payment. If not, "sorry I did not mean it" will not get it. God will judge accordingly.

Solomon goes on to say "fear God". We need to change our perspective of who God is. React accordingly. It is not about you, it is about Him who made you. God is the rock, the firm foundation of our salvation. Why would we want to be anywhere else?

Committed to Him,
Doug Johnson

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Changing Encounter

Are our Churches social clubs? Before you get upset with me, I know the Church is the Body of Christ (Colossians 1:24) of which Christ Himself is the head. The church of the New Testament comes from Greek word ecclesia meaning those "called out" or "the assembly". But that is not where I want to begin. I want to think about how we approach this place we call the "Church" or the "House of God".

Ecclesiastes 5:1 says:
Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.   [The New King James Version. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Ec 5:1.]

Why do we go to church? This is where many have messed up. I think many "go to church" for the wrong reasons. Here are just a few reasons I think people go to church:
  1. Many come to church to see and be seen. You know the ones:
    "I have an new outfit and I just have to show it off!"
    "I wonder if John Doe will be in church today. You know he lives a life contrary to Christianity. I can't wait to see if he is there!"
  2. Many come to church to promote a business.  Some people utilize public gatherings to promote themselves or their products. They feel that if they "do Christian things" people of the Christian faith will be more apt to buy their products or services. 
  3. Many come to church to make themselves feel better. The altar is certainly a place that a person's guilt and shame can be removed. However, some people believe that just walking through the doors of the sanctuary can accomplish everything they need in their lives. In other words, they are saying "I have done my good deed for the week".
But is that what the Bible says? No. It says when we come into the presence of God we need to "walk prudently". Walking prudently means to walk wisely. When you walk prudently it literally means to "watch your step".

Why do I say that sometimes we are just "hanging out" and doing the social thing? It is because we don't watch our step. If I go to the Grand Canyon and I decide to take one of those narrow pathways down to the base of the Grand Canyon. How will I travel that path? Am I going to run as fast as I can down that narrow path? No. Am I going to take my mountain bike, put it in high gear, and see how fast I can make it to the bottom? Absolutely not! Why? Because in doing so, I show no respect for the large drop-off on the side of the canyon. If I have no respect for something that can alter my life, I will probably do something I will regret. Therefore, Solomon says that our approach to God is important. Come to God's house, enter into the presence of God to learn something, to worship, to commit, to be changed. Too many times we focus on the sacrifice rather than the purpose. "It is such a beautiful day. It is a perfect day to be out on the lake, but I am going to make the sacrifice and get ready to go to church because that is what I am 'supposed' to do".

Focusing on the sacrifice rather than the purpose is not the picture of the New Testament Church found in In Acts 2:42-47:

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.  Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.  [The New King James Version. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Ac 2:42-47.]

These verses paint an awesome picture of the actions and attitude of the Church. Yes they made a sacrifice, but that was not their focus. Their focus was upon their obedience and their love for God and others. They met daily, learned the apostle's doctrine, ate together, and became the example of Christ to others.

The Bible says that our approach to God should be prudent. It should be in humility, with wisdom, and not arrogance. When we come into the house of the Lord we should come seeking Him, and in doing so, it will change our actions and appearance.

Do we look like the Church? If so, I hope it is in the image of Christ.

In Him,
Doug Johnson

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Grasping for the Wind

What an incredible image the phrase "grasping for the wind" paints in my mind. Have you ever tried to capture the wind? Scientists have spent decades attempting to harness the energy from the wind but have they ever captured the wind? If we could capture the wind, what would it look like? How would we feel? Would it change us forever? Would we be better off with our new possession?

I have been studying the book of Ecclesiastes over the past four weeks and this image that King Solomon uses frequently in this book is quite amazing. We remember that Solomon was given a great gift of wisdom and in chapter 2 of Ecclesiastes we see a discussion of man's desire for the riches of this world. Solomon said that he acquired greatness more than any man before him in Jerusalem. His greatness included multiple houses, great vineyards, servants, and flocks of great numbers. He acquired gold, silver, and special treasures of kings. He had it all. He had everything man could want. He denied himself nothing. But yet he said "And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 2:11)
Our economy has shed some light on a great truth. Too many people have spent their lives "grasping for the wind". People have not been satisfied with their current status in life and have spent everything to achieve the next level. They are grasping for the wind and never obtaining their true desire for happiness. Solomon also came to this conclusion in his life for he said "there was no profit under the sun". The things of this world cannot offer complete satisfaction and if we try to "have it all" then we are grasping for the wind.

I am reminded of the story where Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well and He asked her for a drink of water. The Samaritan woman was shocked that He would even speak to her much less ask her for a drink since Jews did not associate with Samaritans. But Jesus offered her living water. He said “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14). 

At what point in life does a person realize that the accumulation of wealth doesn't bring true happiness? Can we ever see the endless cycle of more and better? Marketing experts know the next model of the "item" should appear within a year. They figure the consumer is probably tired of the previous model by then and looking for something new. The cell phone industry is a prime example of marketing to a starving consumer base.

Have you found true peace, contentment, and happiness? Or, are you grasping for the wind? Only in Christ can we find true satisfaction in life. He will change us forever.

In Christ,
Doug Johnson

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Are We Too Busy?

I was recently notified that an article that I submitted to YLO Magazine was just published. I am humbled that anyone would even consider publishing anything I wrote. The article is about how we act around others in our busy everyday life. It was directed to Youth Ministers but can be adapted to anyone who deals with other people. The following is a link to the article:

Youth Leaders Only Magazine

The article is on page 11 and is entitled "Multitasking is Killing My Ministry". Sometimes we are so busy getting life done, that we ignore others in their time of need. We don't realize the message we send to others when we are focused on ourselves or our "to do" lists in their presence.

It is very unfortunate that our jobs, our hobbies, our cell phones, and our text messages get in the way of God and our families. We forget that God is a jealous God and He wants first place in our lives. Sometimes we forget that our families need our attention and support through these tough days. In any case, is it time to sit down and re-focus our priorities? I hope you take time to read the article, and, as always, feel free to pass it on.

In Christ,
Doug Johnson

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Out of Dog Food!

I was pushing my buggy through Wal-Mart late one night on my way to the aisle where the dog food is located. I had once again forgot to buy my dog food before I ran out and am now making an emergency trip before my dog becomes angry with me.

Usually my trips to Wal-Mart result in me running into someone that I know within minutes of walking in the front door. This time is a little different. As I made it to the aisle where you find the dog food I realized that I had not seen anyone that I know. Maybe it is because it is after 10:00pm. However, I had been to Wal-Mart many times after 10:00pm and had seen people that I know, but this time was a little different. In thinking about this, a question that entered in my head was, "I wonder if any of these people here are Christians?" If so, how would I know?

Is it by the clothes that they wear? Is it by how they walk? Is it by how they conduct themselves? Is it by what they say? Do I have to ask someone before I know they are a Christian or not?

A verse comes to mind here. Acts 4:13:
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

The last part of that verse is what is important. "that they had been with Jesus." Charles Spurgeon once said "A Christian should be a striking likeness of Jesus Christ." So I have to ask myself the question. Does anybody here look like Jesus? I am not talking about the hair or the robe. I am talking about the characteristics of people. As I think about Jesus, I think about the following characteristics and ask the following questions:

Do they have the patience of Jesus?
Are they expressing the love of Christ?
Are they speaking kindly to others?
Do they go out of their way to help those who are having difficulty?
Are they self-denying?
Are they bold about their faith?
And last, are they zealous about their Lord?

Sometimes we do not realize the opportunities that we are given to share our Lord. A busy day at the mall or Wal-Mart allows us to learn a lot about people. And as people watch you, wherever you may be, do they realize that you are a Christian?

Peter and John, I am sure not too much to look at, and being seen as ignorant, were seen as having been with Jesus. They were bold in their faith. Obviously they were a striking likeness of Jesus. It is the outward appearance of man that reveals the fullness of the heart.

Is your heart full of Christ? Do you know Him personally? Do you love him? Can others tell by looking at you in a crowded mall?

Something to think about,

In Him,
Doug Johnson

Crazy Devotional

I was reading my Bible this week and I came across a chapter I had to read multiple times before I had one of those "AH HA!" moments. The reference was 1 Kings chapter 20. This chapter deals with King Ahab who was king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. King Ahab was under threat of Ben-Hadad who was king of Aram. You may be thinking, what is the big deal about that? Well, read the chapter and find out what I mean.This chapter is almost chaos.

Ben-Hadad demands that Ahab turn over all of his silver and gold as well as the best women and children. Immediately Ahab sends message "no problem". I am thinking,, WHAT?!? Yep, he wanted no confrontation. Can you imagine giving in to a demand like that one?

Ben-Hadad who must have been thinking that was too easy, decided to demand to be able to search everything they had and take what he wanted. The second demand now resulted in a war. Looking at the odds, you would think Israel was going to be defeated. However, Ben-Hadad was defeated instead, so much so, that he fled for his life.

Ben-Hadad's advisors then tell him that he needs to take on King Ahab in the valley. They told him that King Ahab's God was king of the mountain but not king of the valley. So, he agreed and rebuilt his army back up and then planned an attack in the valley.

Now there was this nameless prophet of God who came to Ahab and told him God would deliver the vast army into king Ahab's hands because they think that Ahab's God is only king of the mountain and not of the valley. Note this is the second time a nameless prophet comes to king Ahab in this chapter. The first time he tells him practically the same thing. He told him to know that God is Lord. In this battle in the valley we see that Ben-Hadad lost 127,000 people in the attack. The defeat was so great that Ben-Hadad himself fleed and hid in the city of Aphek.

Now we can learn a couple of things from this lesson so far. First, God is not only the God of our mountain top experiences but He is also God our our valleys. He is capable of handling whatever comes your way. Have you given your life over to Him? Is He truly God of your mountains and valleys?

The story does not end there. If you notice in verse 42 the Lord expected Ahab to destroy his enemy. Instead Ahab let Ben-Hadad live. Ahab took it upon himself to make a decision against God's will. Here is where it gets interesting. God sends a prophet to Ahab desguised as a wounded soldier. Using this prophet God gets Ahab to prounounce judgement upon himself. Ahab pronounces the death sentence upon himself.

From this entire chapter we can learn a lot about how serious it is when we do not acknowlege God is Lord of both the Mountains and the Valleys in our lives. God is King of all creation and He reigns over everything. Are we being obedient to God in all that He wants us to do? Do we love Him? Have we truly accepted the life that He has given us through his Son Jesus Christ? If so, we will make Him Lord of our lives.

Doug Johnson

First Post

I have to open by the following verse:

You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.-Revelation 4:11

The first thing that I want to do before I say anything else is Praise be to God. The first thing that I want to do is worship. You know, worship comes from an old english term which means to give worth to or to pay homage to. Essentially, the word can be broken down to say "worth ship". The first word of that is worth. I sometimes wonder what we value in life or what we consider is worthy of our attention and worthy of our praise. So, the first thing that I want to do is give praise to what is valuable in my life and that is God himself, our creator and our sustainer of life.

What do you consider value in your life? What is most imporatant to you? Do you realize that everyone worships something? Whatever you spend the most time doing and whatever is most valuable to you is what you are worshipping. Have you ever thought about that? So, as I open up with this blog I want to say praise be to God!

In Christ,
Doug Johnson