Sunday, January 31, 2010

Do I really have to read this stuff?

I hear the comments all of the time that say "I don't want to read this stuff about evolution or Darwinism". I am asked why people are forced to read this material and accept it as fact when it is nothing more than theory. It is an interesting question on where we are to draw our lines. My last blog entry was about the topic of compromise and I feel this fits in line with that subject.

As I have been studying the book of Daniel I have found interesting information concerning Daniel's challenges. Let's take a quick look at it. Daniel chapter 1 verse 5 says "the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king." [The New King James Version. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982)] The king begins a three year program of feeding and training for Daniel and his three friends. Of course we know that Daniel stands up against taking anything from the table of the king; but the Scriptures in this chapter say nothing of them rejecting the three years of training.

This training was for the purpose of motivating them to "understand, agree, and lead" others to follow the ways of the king. A modern day term for this would be brainwashing. Instead of forcing the Israelites to follow, the king would develop the minds of the captive's leaders who would hopefully lead their people to follow the king.

Today we are faced with similar challenges. Our schools are teaching Naturalism, Darwinism, and other theories pressing students to embrace them as facts. Immediate reactions include statements such as:
  • Do I really have to read this stuff?   
  • I don't believe in these theories therefore I don't want to take these classes.
  • Why are these theories taught as if they were facts?
We can take a few lessons from Daniel on this issue. Daniel stood firm when faced with the compromise of breaking one of God's laws but he did not challenge the system on the training. He understood the heart and desire of God; therefore, he was blessed in his actions. Daniel knew God's law and made it a priority in his life. God granted Daniel and his friend's wisdom and understanding because of their obedience to God.

As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm. [Daniel 1:17-21 The New King James Version. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982).]

If a person is founded in God's Word and is seeking Him daily in his life, then the challenges presented can be easily overcome. Instead of running from the opposition, use these times to learn and grow in understanding of God's wisdom. When faced with a question that is difficult to answer or understand, then dive deeper into God's Word. Just like Daniel, God can supply you in knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom to debate the opposition, but we must seek Him first.
 
In Christ,
Doug
http://www.dougjohnson.net/

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Will You Compromise?

Where is the line of compromise? Actually, what does compromise look like? Have you ever heard the comments "Everyone else is doing it"?

I find that temptation is at its greatest when the item of interest is the smallest. For example, if you are on a strict diet and have resolved not to eat any desserts you will suddenly find yourself interested in a small bite size snickers bar. Sound familiar? It should, because that's how temptation works. Once we have made that commitment, we usually don't have the problem with the entire bag of chips. It is that single chip or small candy bar that gets us.

We seem to be faced with these small temptations on a daily basis. These include the temptation to compromise standards and beliefs just to be accepted. We may not rob a bank or commit a major crime but we will be tempted to take that drink or cross a line of purity. When that happens we fail. Daniel was faced with the same things as we read in the opening chapter of the book that bears his name. 

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were faced with a dilemma on whether or not to eat from the King of Babylon's table. Jerusalem had just been besieged by the Babylonians under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar. After the takeover the king's desire was to select some of the children of Israel who had a high reputation and bring them under his direction and command. He wanted to train them in the ways of the Babylonians and feed them from the king's menu. He essentially wanted to brainwash them to become icons within his rein to entice the children of Israel to obediently follow his rule.

Daniel 1 verse 8 says:

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. [The New King James Version. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982).]

These four were given different names, a new home, a new education, and the best of foods. Daniel, however, decided to buck the system. He wanted no part of the food and wine. Why? Because it was against the standards of the Jewish law. What immediately comes to mind is the question "What would be wrong with 'giving in' on the food and drink issues?" Does this sound familiar? "Everyone else is doing it", or "a little wont hurt me".

God had set the standard and within it there is no room for compromise. They did whatever they could to avoid compromise and God honored their actions. The text tells us that God provided a way to glorify Him. Scripture also tells us that "God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams." [The New King James Version. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982).

You will be enticed to compromise every day you live on this planet. Just remember, it takes faith and obedience to overcome the pressures of this world. When you take that stand God will bless your actions.

In Christ,
Doug
http://www.dougjohnson.net/

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Signs

It is not too often that I want to just rant about something. This is one of those times and the subject matter is church signs. Have you ever seen those church signs that say things like:
  • Read the Bible - It will Scare the Hell out of You
  • Wal-Mart is not the only saving place
  • Sign Broken - Message Inside
What are we trying to say to a community who has little or no interest in a living God and for the most part does not attend a Bible believing church? Maybe we have not thought about the audience who reads our signs. Let me give you an example. Lets say that John Doe, a non-Christian, is driving down the road and reads the first sign I mentioned (Read the Bible - It will Scare the Hell out of You). What do you think will go through his mind? If he knows nothing of Christianity, maybe he thinks that a person has to be provoked to fear before a person can be helped. He may think that all aspects of God's Word is filled with elements of a haunted house; things that will scare a person into obedience. Is that the foundation of God's Word? Is that the motivator that we want to use to "make" people read God's Word? I don't know about you, but I want people to read the Bible because they "want to" and because they love the Lord. I don't want them to be scared of the Bible or scared to enter into a church.

How about our second example (Wal-Mart is not the only saving place)? What would John Doe think about that sign? Would he link money to membership? Would he even know what it means to be saved? If we remember Bible events correctly then we will remember the Philippian Jailer who asked Paul and Silas "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" [Acts 16:30]. He did not ask them that question because they told him that Wal-Mart was not the only saving place. He asked them that question because he saw Christ in their lives and desired that for his life. I am sure that he knew of the temple and had heard of the the followers of the way but did that change his life? No, it was because of an interaction with those who loved Jesus and were not scared to show it.

How about our third example (Sign Broken - Message Inside)? What would that say to Mr. John Doe? I believe that it would say we are a bunch of liars and are willing to deceive to get people to enter into our doors. If the sign has a message on it, then it is not broken. What are we thinking? Lying and deception is not God's way.

You may be thinking I am a little harsh here but we are wasting a very valuable resource that we have in front of our churches. Do you think that church signs would be better served by inviting our community to connect with a special event at our churches? Lets use our church signs for the glory of our Father in heaven rather than using them for "inside jokes" that only Christians can understand.

In Christ,
Doug Johnson
http://www.dougjohnson.net/

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti

This week has been a news week for me. I do not usually focus on news events in my blog but for some reason this week has been an exception. This earthquake measured 7.1 on the Richter scale and has done incredible damage. Haiti is home to more than 10 million people of which 80% live in poverty. This country faced terrible conditions before the quake and this has not made things better.

I am a little surprised the focal points of our news agencies and in speaking with some friends last night I was reminded of the fact that the greatest news story (at least in East Tennessee) seems to be the departure of Lane Kiffin. It has been given a greater priority over that of the terrible tragedy in Haiti. This leads me to ask the question "what are we most concerned about"? Are we more concerned over a football coach or the lives of others? Answering that question tells us a lot about the condition of our hearts. What is our greatest concern? 1 John 4:7-11 says the following:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
[New Kings James Version]

Jesus would always reach out to others in need. He reached out to those who could not walk or talk. He reached out to those who had no control over their lives. He had compassion on those who had little to give. His actions illustrated His love. What are our actions saying? Are we concerned about the fact that there are thousands upon thousands that will have nothing to eat or drink over the next few days? Are we concerned about the fact that many have died without knowing Christ? Or, are we more concerned that we may have lost a coach that we probably didn't need anyway?

When does life become a priority?

In Christ,
Doug Johnson
http://www.dougjohnson.net/

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

McGuire Comes Clean, or did de?

I have been thinking about an article that I read on Fox News monday evening. The story is entitled "Mark McGwire Admits Using Steroids". There is a part in this news article that says the following:

McGwire's decision to admit using steroids was prompted by his decision to become hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals, his final big league team. Tony La Russa, McGwire's manager in Oakland and St. Louis, has been among McGwire's biggest supporters and thinks returning to the field can restore the former slugger's reputation.

I don't know if anyone else has an issue with this subject but I do. First, is the only thing that can restore the former slugger's reputation is returing him to the field? The answer to that question is no. I believe that returing him to the field is a way of saying that it is ok and there are no relating consequences to the crime. I think it would be like saying a bank robber would be best redeemed by making him the bank president. Why would we make a person who could not seem to control steroid use a batting manager to those who want to break his record. It does not make much sense to me.

The only way that anyone's reputation can be restored is through a changed life. The Bible tells us to be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). This is so that we can prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. There has to be a change of heart which results in a change of actions. Saul of Tarsus after ancountering Jesus on the road to Damascus began to lead a changed life, however, people did not immediately believe it until they saw his actions.

Has there been a changed life in McGuire, or, is this the wrong action for the Cardinals? I guess it really depends if there has been a changed life.

In Christ,
Doug Johnson
http://www.dougjohnson.net/

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Who Cares?

Have you ever got the feeling when you were talking to someone that they were thinking "who cares"? Have you ever felt that no one really cared about what you were going through? The Bible tells us that God cares and He wants you to cast your cares upon Him. 1 Peter 5:5-7 says:

Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. [The New King James Version. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982).]

Knowing that God cares can help us through those trying times. But we cannot only take verse 7 into view without looking at what precedes it. The text says that we should be concerned with others and be submissive to others such as parents, leaders, or even each other. A lot of people have an issue with this. For some reason society today does not want to be submissive to anyone and they only care about themselves. We are a selfish people; a “me” generation. We are seeing an attitude of “I deserve” this.

I was in a conversation just the other day with an individual who asked the question: Is Christianity hard to see in America? In thinking about this question I would have to say "yes". There are a lot of people who claim to be "Christians", however, they don't look any different than the world around them. No matter what side of the fence they stand on, they look the same. We are proud and we gawk at humility. I honestly believe that when trials and persecution comes then it becomes easier to see the faith of the individual.

When we are in the midst of the trials, what are our reactions? Do we shake our fist at God and turn our back on Him, or, do we cast our cares upon Him? Casting our cares upon Him requires us to be humble. Humility is defined as having or showing a low estimate of one’s own importance or being of low rank or of modest pretensions or dimensions. It is essentially thinking of others interests more than thinking of our own interests. It contains no elements of pride.

When we are humble, we are most like Christ. He came to this world in humility. He came with the desire for the hearts of others and was willing to give His life so that others could live. He cares for you and the things you are going through. When we are humble, we recognize our position in the presence of a living God. We understand He has the ability to restore and to heal and He has the power to judge and destroy. But the awesome thing is that this same God cares for you and wants you to cast your cares upon him. Doing so in a spirit of humility results in the grace of God to help in whatever situation you are in.

Are we prideful and expect to have everything our way? Do we demand of God because of our selfish desires? Or, are we humble knowing that God is in control and knows what we need better than we? Remember, God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud. How you approach God and others makes all of the difference in the world.

In Christ,
Doug Johnson
http://www.dougjohnson.net/ 

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year, A Strong Direction

This past week I went to the doctor's office to get the yearly flu shot. I only took the standard one that was available and did not opt in for the H1N1. I am still not comfortable with the new vaccine and I am not sure if I will ever be. In any case, the ritual of getting stuck in the arm to prevent a week of misery was part of my plans. Having the flu is not pleasant and I wanted to do whatever I could to prevent getting that nasty virus.

Have you ever disliked something so much that you would do whatever it would take to avoid having to deal with the consequences? It is almost like obeying all of the rules to avoid paying a speeding ticket, or giving your best on the court to avoid the reaction of the coach. Sometimes we do not picture that God is a "just" God and He demands Holiness from His people. It is obvious that many self proclaiming Christians today live in such a way that they do not believe there are present and future consequences for their actions.

In the Old Testament we see an interesting command given to New Kings as they start their rein over the children of Israel:

“Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel. [The New King James Version. 1982. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.]

In light of living for before a Holy God, we should follow the commands given to the kings. They copied, read, and followed the decrees and words that we know as the book of Deuteronomy. This was done for the sole purpose of insuring correct actions of the kings. They were to have a spirit of obedience and humility. The result of this would be a long dynasty.

As we start a new year, let us desire the Word of God by placing it in our hearts to ponder and meditate on. Let us be obedient to its commands and decrees. Let us love others and show them the way of the Lord. Let us be the light that this world so desperately needs. The results will be amazing.

Hope you and your family have a happy and blessed new year.

In Christ,
Doug

http://www.dougjohnson.net/