Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The World is Ending, the World is Ending (?)

For many years, I had several books in my library telling us when the world would end and why. I picked up most of them at yard sales or flea market because I thought they would be a nice collection. A bunch of books written by morons who didn’t believe God and think that they knew more about when the world would end than He does.

Recently, another one of these “geniuses” figured out a mathematical code in the Bible that proved the Earth would end on May 21, 2012. Naturally he garnered a lot of attention and secured his 15 minutes of fame. When the date/time passed, he came up with an excuse that his calculations were off and that October 21 is the real date. It’s now his third guesstimate of when the Earth will end. Sadly, some people believe these predictions, while others grow apathetic toward those who try to reveal prophecy to the world.

Sometimes, pastors or “prophets” like these give the world even more of an excuse to look down on Christians and our beliefs. Those who toil for many years reaching out to the world and trying to do the work that the Lord has given us, have a difficult enough time reaching others without crackpots making fools of themselves and putting all Christians in a bad light. Sadly, they are not alone. Many pastors/preachers/churches have done a fine job of repelling the world from Jesus instead of attracting people to Him. Many times our pride gets in the way and destroys any message that we may be trying to tell the world.

Now back to where I once was going with this……
Someday, when don’t know when, time on Earth will end for each of us. Either by our death, or by the long prophesied return of Christ. Plainly in the Bible in Matthew 24:36-39, it says;

(English Standard Version)
But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

So anyone who tells you they know when it will happen is lying to you and evidently thinks the Bible is in error. If I was you, I’d ignore them. That does not change the fact however that one day, it will happen.

What are we to do in the mean time then? We don’t know when the end will be so we need to be sure to live our lives in a way that honors Christ and follows His teachings. The most important commandment He gave us is also in Matthew. In 22:37-40 Jesus says;

(New International Version)
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

God owns heaven and that is where He lives. Those who decide to follow Him and turn their lives over to Him will spend eternity.

God also owns and created Hell. That is where satan and those who choose not to follow God’s teachings will reside for eternity.

The only way to get to Heaven is by turning the control and ownership of our lives over to Jesus.

John 14:6 (ESV)
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

You may be one of those who says that “God is love and won’t send anyone to hell”. You are partially correct. God is love, but He also is just and if you disregard His word and teachings and chose to live as you want without regard to Him, He says that He will send you away from Him. No matter how good you may have lived your life, if you don’t turn your life over to Him you will be sent away from Him.

Matthew 7:13-23 (ESV)
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'

God never desired for one single person to end up in Hell. It’s not God’s will that anyone should perish and go to Hell...

2 Peter 3:9 (The Message)
God isn't late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn't want anyone lost. He's giving everyone space and time to change.

It is not God’s fault if men and women are unwilling to turn from ways. Hell was created for Satan and his followers, not humans. If we make a decision to follow our own ways, we are destined to end up there. No exceptions, even for really nice people.

So as mentioned before, someday this world will end. When it does, our spirits will spend eternity at one of two locations; paradise (Heaven), or eternal pain where the fire never goes out and you will be tortured for eternity (Hell). From what I’ve read and contrary to popular belief, there’s no party going to be happening there.

The choice of where you end up is entirely up to you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Living Your Dash Minutes

Recently, I was doing some upkeep at our family’s cemetery plot in Jackson. It’s not a large plot, my Grandma Witt is there along with my Son Cody, and a future place for my Mom & Dad (hopefully way in the future). Someday I’ll be placed there also beside my Son, again, not too soon I hope. I also saw that there were several new “arrivals” that had recently been interred at the cemetery. Being the nosey person that I am, I walked over to see them and noticed that one was around my age and the other person was 92 years old.

For most of us, when our life has reached an end, we will be laid to rest six feet under. Above us will be a sign, marking out the spot where our body lies. The tombstone will have very basic information about us — our name, our date of birth, our date of death. There may also be an inspirational quote, a favorite Bible verse or a something that was meaningful to us. What is most important on that tombstone, though, is what is most easily overlooked — the dash. In between the day of our birth and the day of our death there is a simple dash.

The dash is small, measuring little more than an inch in granite. It’s length is a fitting emblem for the duration of our lives. Life is vaporous, a thin, wisp of breath on a chilly December morning (James 4:14). Life is like a shadow that momentarily covers the backyard and disappears with the passing clouds (Psalm 102:11). Life is like a flower that droops its head under the weight of the summer sun and the frost of the winter cool (Psalm 103:15). Our time on Earth is very limited no matter how long we live.

To one day have to face death is an inescapable human condition, so what do we do? We do what Moses did. We ask for help and pray that we might gain the mind of God: “Teach me to number my days so I may present to you a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). The real measure of that small dash on the tombstone is all that measures the character of our lives: the decisions we face, the sacrifices we make, the relationships we pursue, the sins we confess, the joys we share, the gifts we give, the kindnesses we extend, the troubles we suffer, the talents we employ, the legacy we leave behind. Life is much more than simply a line chiseled in stone. How are you filling up the dash between the two points?

I’ve been doing some reflection on my life; where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. I ask myself, “How can I walk a lifestyle that brings honor to God?” All these things are driving this thought: I want my dash between the dates to be a legacy that honors God.

My life is bigger than what I do today, tomorrow or even 20 years down the line. My life will be an inheritance to my children and the generation that comes after me. Everything I do in this life will be passed on to them. So what am I leaving behind? What am I doing with the dash between the dates?

Thankfully, I’m nowhere near what I once was, but I’m nowhere near where I want to be. This thought process isn’t discouraging. On the contrary, it is hopeful. I’m not thinking about this on my deathbed. I don’t have one foot in the grave with a heart full of regret. I’m on top of the dirt, not under it. Hopefully the Lord will give me time to correct the issues keeping me from being where I want to be.

God has given me several dreams for my remaining time here on Earth and I’m ready to step out in faith to follow them. I have the resolve to make it happen. I’m ready to establish a legacy that brings honor to my family, but mostly brings honor to Jesus and prepares me for my transfer from Earth into eternity.

This brings up the most important decision we will ever face during our time on Earth. There is nothing more important than where you will spend eternity.

If you have never thought about where you will go when you die...take a moment and do so. Have you ever thought about death? Where will you go after you die? Where will you spend all eternity when your life here on earth is over?

No matter what, you won't escape death. No one will. And eternity is a long time. In fact, just think, it's forever and never ends. There is no time in eternity.

There's nothing more important than where you go after you die. You don’t float in vast nothingness, you don’t come back as a horse, you won’t go to Hell to have an eternal party with your friends. You’ll either go to a paradise (Heaven), or to eternal damnation (Hell). That’s the only two choices. There are no entry requirements for Hell, but there is one for Heaven. You have to be perfect or forgiven.

Have you ever looked at yourself according to how God see's you? If not, here's what to do, evaluate yourself against the 10 Commandments to see how you measure up to God's standard of righteousness.

Have you ever lied (even once-fibs, white lies, etc.)?
Have you ever stolen (the value is irrelevant)?
Jesus said, "Whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery already with her in his heart." Have you ever looked with lust?

If you have said "Yes" to any of these three questions (by your own admission), you are a lying, thieving, adulterer at heart; and we've only looked at three of the Ten Commandments.

Even though the 10 Commandments were given a long time ago, they are still relevant for today...in the New Testament it says, "you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Ephesians 5: 5). One way or another that covers us all. No one is perfect and no one is without sin. Sorry, I know it can be a shock to some.

Have you put God first in your life? Or have you created a false god to suit yourself; a god you feel comfortable with? If God judges you by that standard will you be innocent or guilty? If you're honest and listen to your conscience you know that you will be guilty, and end up in Hell.

The reality of that should make you worry. However, there is some good news, God Himself made a way for us to be forgiven to wipe the slate of our failures and sins clean. In the book of John, it says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16). Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man and was without sin. He suffered and died on the cross and then He rose from the dead, defeating death. You broke the law and Jesus paid the fine with His blood. Today, here's what to do, admit your sins to God, repent (turn) from your sins, put your trust in Jesus to save you from eternal damnation, and you will pass from death to life. Only through Christ can God forgive you and grant you the gift of everlasting life. If you ask God to forgive you of your failures/sins/wrongdoings He has promised He will forgive you and erase them from our list.

The amount of time we spend on Earth will vary for each of us. Some will get more time than others and most will never know when our time is winding to an end. Living our lives for momentary pleasure or for ourselves can be fun for a season. I can’t tell you it’s not. There are plenty of things that are bad for you that are appealing. But doing what we want and living like we want does have an eternal cost. Living our lives in a way that honors our Creator can be just as exciting, fun, memorable and the benefits far outweigh the momentary happiness and pleasure.

Let’s do what we can to make our dash meaningful while we are here and a positive legacy after we’re gone.

Only one life,’ twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
C.T. Studd

The Dash
I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
from the beginning to the end.
He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time that she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own;
the cars .... the house... the cash.
What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard ...
are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left.
(You could be at "dash mid-range")

If we could just slow down enough to consider
what's true and real,
And always try to understand the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger, and show appreciation more,
And love the people in our lives
like we've never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile...
Remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy's being read
with your life's actions to rehash...
Would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spend your dash?

Linda Ellis © 1998.
James 4:14 (English Standard Version)
yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

Psalm 102:11 (ESV)
My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass.

Psalm 103:15 (ESV)
As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;

Psalm 90:12 (ESV)
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Ephesians 5:5 (ESV)
For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

To Be a Friend of God, or Not

I had planned on a short note this month, but that fell apart so here goes. Oh well, maybe next month.

I ran into a former church member recently and they told me of someone who is teaching a class at their church. I thought it a bit strange as I’m pretty sure from outward appearances and decisions/choices this person has made through the years that they are not a Christian. I can only go by the words/lives/actions of people and base my decision on the outward appearances. However, I cannot judge the heart of a person. God knows whether a person is one of His or not. The rest of us have to make an educated guess.

That got me to thinking of a conversation I had with a couple of “pastors” several years ago about someone teaching a class that was to help people get closer to God. My part of the conversation went something along this line:

I love movies, especially old movies from the 30’s to the 50’s. The 60’s brought about a major change in the American culture and it took its toll on the quality of movies coming out of Hollywood so I don’t watch many from that decade.

Nevertheless, one of my favorite actors of all time is Sean Connery. Almost every movie and every role he has played through the years appeals to me or draws my interest. I know little about him except the fact that he’s Scottish, 6 ft 2 inches tall, and was born in 1930. He was paid around $17,000 for starring in the first James Bond movie (Dr. No), made $17.5 million dollars for the movie “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” which he called a “nightmare”. I tend to agree with him.

I could decide that I wanted to hold a class for people to teach them how to become a friend of Sean Connery. We could go over all of the facts of his life, cover all of his movies, find out his favorite foods, his shoes size, favorite color, favorite vacation spots, his political views, his pets names, etc. We could get to know many facts about him and learn almost everything there is to know about him. But how could I teach someone to become his friend if I have never met the man or don’t actually know him. I could teach a class about him, but not a class on how to know him.

So how could someone who goes against a large portion of Jesus’ teachings and ignore biblical advice from Pastors and Counselors, be put in a position to teach a class about how to get closer to God? As a Pastor, one of the main responsibilities you have is to look after your flock (members) and be sure that anyone who is put in a position of teaching anything has a sound Christian foundation. As a Pastor, you will be held accountable for any of the teachings your members receive from your church. If someone is not qualified or becomes disqualified due to their decisions/choices, you must remove them from any position of leadership until the situation gets corrected.

One of the absolute certainties of the Bible is that God wants you to be a friend of His. Without getting too deep in theology and losing you, here’s the condensed version of this;

* God is absolutely perfect. He cannot have imperfect things around Him.
* God created the world and the universe. He also created Adam & Eve and place them in a perfect place, the Garden of Eden.
* Satan is an angel that was in Heaven and thought that he was as mighty as God is and wanted the other angels to follow him instead of God. Thus, God kicked him out of Heaven, along with the angels that decided to follow Satan.
* Satan and his followers came to Earth and found Adam and Eve. After a discussion with them, they deceived Adam & Eve into following his advice and sinning, becoming imperfect. Since they were imperfect, they could no longer hang around God and they were banished from the Garden of Eden and no longer had direct communication with God. This filtered down to all of the descendants of Adam & Eve which includes everyone.
* God longed for Adam & Eve (as well as all of their descendants) to be able to have communication with Him so He sent His Son, Jesus, to the Earth to pay the price for their (and our) imperfections. His death provided payment for their and our sins.
* If we turn (repent) from our wrongdoings/imperfections/sins and ask Jesus to pay for our sins, we can have a walk with God, be part of His kingdom, and reside in Heaven with Him for eternity.

Abraham was the first one mentioned in the Bible that God called friend. If we look at Abrahams life, we can see what we need to do to be called a friend of God.

Abraham placed his trust in God. This is not easy since we as humans, especially men, want to be in charge and control our situations and destiny. We have to learn to trust God with our lives and futures. Psalms 91:1-2

Abraham communicated with God. You cannot have someone and call them your friend without communicating with them. Though we cannot pick up the phone and call God, we can communicate with Him through prayer and by reading His word, the Bible. John 15:12-17

James 2:23 tells us of the greatest characteristic of Abraham. Abraham is the patriarch of the Jewish people. God called him to be the father of the nation of Israel. In this verse, we see one of the highest titles, if not the highest, that can be given to anyone. "He was a friend of God." Abraham is the only one referred to as a "friend of God" in the entire Bible. Let’s look and see why Abraham's was called the friend of God.

In John 15:13-15, Jesus used the term "friend or friends". He told His disciples that they were no longer slaves, or servants, but were His friends. I believe it is a great privilege to be called the "Friend of God, or Friend of Christ."

Proverbs 18:24 tells us that friendship in this connotation is speaking of intimacy or more than just a close acquaintance. "One who is attached to another by affection". So, we must understand that there was a reason why Abraham was called "The Friend of God." It is possible to be a child of God and not be a friend of God.

It is possible to be saved and not have that intimate relationship with God that would qualify us as His friend. Let's examine why Abraham carried this title. In Genesis we will see four characteristics that he possessed and why he was called the Friend of God.

I. He Submitted To The Direction of God. Genesis 12:1-4.
God told Abraham to pull up stakes and leave his home. In doing he will enter a complete new lifestyle, a new occupation, and head to a new land. Abraham didn't even know where he was going or what was ahead. He just got a message from God and took off.

How many of us would accept that same call from our employer? Monday morning the boss calls us in and says, "We are going to transfer you." We say, "Where will I be going?" The boss replies, "I cannot tell you yet, but just have your bag packed by tomorrow and I will take you there."

How many of us would go?

It didn't make sense to the natural mind. He was to forsake every security he has enjoyed. He did not know his destination. He didn't know how far he was going.

But Abraham submitted to God’s direction. Hebrews 11:8

What if God told you to go somewhere or to do something? How would you react? If you’re like me, we have questioned and argued with God. We’d want some answers to our questions before we sent out.

That's not submission to God's direction. We cannot be called the "Friend of God" as long as we question or resist God's direction in our life.

There are three reasons why Abraham obeyed.
Because of his confidence in God's will. (that's faith)
Because of his conscienceless of God's will. (that's submission)
Because of his commitment to God's will. (that's obedience)

Abraham did not demand an explanation. Faith does not need an explanation. He obeyed. He submitted to God's direction.

If we study the various victories that are recorded in the Bible we will find that each victory was a result of the obedience of the Children of Israel rather than their mightiness or their ability.

God wants those who will follow Him without reservation.

II. Abraham also separated from the Godless crowd. Genesis 14:21-23
Take a look at the impact of these verses. Abraham had defeated these five kings of the north, and the king of Sodom, out of appreciation, wanted to give him a reward but Abraham didn’t want it and took nothing from him even though he was beginning a long journey. He doesn't know how far he will be going because he is obeying God.

Now he is faced with a circumstance that if he will allow the king of Sodom to reward him for his victory Abraham can profit financially if he will just be a little flexible. But Abraham was the friend of God, and he did not want it to appear that he was endorsing the ungodliness of Sodom. 1 Thessalonians 5:22

Abraham was called the "Friend of God" because he was willing to be separated from the ungodly city of Sodom. His nephew Lot had chose to follow his own desires. We see Lot’s progression in sin as he first pitched his tent toward Sodom the wicked city and he lost his possessions, and his family! If we expect to be the "Friend of God", we must follow the example of Abraham.

We cannot be the friend of God and the friend of the world at the same time.
We are in this world, but we do not have to of the world.
We can choose to serve God even though the godless world is all around us.

Also we notice that Abraham was willing to stand on the dependability of God. Genesis 15:1-6.

God's promise to Abraham was to bless all the nations of the earth. However, he did not have an heir and was getting on up in years go the circumstances were against him. Even with the bad odds, Abraham stood on the dependability of God and placed his full trust in what God said. The true friend of God is the Christian that is willing to stand on the Word of God. Romans 4:20-21

III. Abraham stood on the promise of the God being dependable.
With all I’ve been through in my years here on Earth, I can tell you for sure that you can also stand on promise of God. What He has promised, He will do.

Consider God's promises.
He has promised to save all who will call on His name. Romans 10:13
He has promised to care for us in the deepest hour of sorrow. 1 Peter 5:7
He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Hebrews 13:5
He has promised to meet our needs. Philippians 4:19

IV. He Was Willing To Sacrifice His Dearest To God. Genesis 22:1-6
Abraham had a strong faith. However a faith that has not been tested is faith that cannot be trusted. Twenty-five years had passed between the promise of God and the actual delivering of that promise and now God says, "Sacrifice him."

Abraham was the friend of God because he allowed nothing to shake his confidence in the love of God. Abraham was willing to sacrifice that which was dearest to him and He was going to literally kill Isaac, his promised son. His intention was to plunge the knife into the heart of his dearest son, prepare him for the burnt offering, and then burn him on the altar of God. God had to stop him. Hebrews 11:17

Would we pass the test? God expects you and I to surrender all that you have or own to Him.
Our home
Our business
Our children
Our plans and future

God expects you to sacrifice all that we count dear and precious to Him, or else we can forget about being the friend of God. Remember, He has already done all of that for us. He sacrificed that which was the dearest to His heart on Calvary's cruel cross so that you and I may have eternal life and has already shown Himself a friend to us.

Now when are we going to show ourselves to be friends of God?
Begin first of all by accepting Him as your Savior.
Trust Christ for your salvation.
Trust Him with our lives.
Be willing to follow His direction.
Totally surrender to Him.

A friend places no boundaries on his heart, but places everything upon the altar of sacrifice for God. Abraham was the friend of God. How about you and I today? I wonder how close we can come to being classified as the "Friend of God."

God and you only know the true relationship you and He have. Is it just a “casual” relationship, or is there some depth to it. A real, true longing desire in your heart to live for God and serve Him is the best way to be a friend of God. That means 24/7-365.

* No partying and living for the world on weeknights and heading to church to
praise Him on Sundays.
* No immoral relationships, then telling others how much you love Him.
* No shady business deals and praising Him for the outcome.
* No drugs, no drunkenness, no hatred, no unforgiving spirit, no pride, no lust, no
murder, no lying, no habitual laziness, no stealing, no anger, no envy, no greed,
and even no racism.

God doesn’t want you to be a mindless robot or to have no fun, anyone who knows me knows I’m all about fun, but He goes give us guidelines to use to follow Him if we are to call ourselves His. He expects us to do all within our power to follow His guidelines if we are to be considered a friend of His. From my personal experience, it’s all worth it.

Forgive me for sounding “preachy”, old habits die hard.
Psalm 91:1-2 (English Standard Version)
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."

John 15:12-17 (ESV)
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

James 2:23 (ESV)
and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"—and he was called a friend of God.

Proverbs 18:24 (ESV)
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Genesis 12:1-4 (ESV)
Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Hebrews 11:8 (ESV)
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Genesis 14:21-23 (ESV)
And the king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself." But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, 'I have made Abram rich.'

1 Thessalonians 5:22 (ESV)
Abstain from every form of evil.

Genesis 15:1-6 (ESV)
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: "Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great." But Abram said, "O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir." And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: "This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir." And he brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

Romans 4:20-21 (ESV)
No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

Romans 10:13 (ESV)
For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

1 Peter 5:7 (ESV)
casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.

Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Philippians 4:19 (ESV)
And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Genesis 22:1-6 (ESV)
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you." And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together.

Hebrews 11:17 (ESV)
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son

Friday, February 25, 2011

Perception is Reality?

Through the years there have been numerous catch phrases that our workplace or society has pressed upon us. I am on the Board of Directors for a local theatre and at our last monthly meeting, I was reminded of a new catch phrase that seems popular, “Perception is Reality”. I’d heard it before but this time I paid attention to the saying and noticed that it is about one of the most idiotic sayings I’ve heard in quite some time. Let me explain;

• Let’s say you come across a salesman who is trying to sell you a chair with rotten legs all the while telling you how sturdy of a chair it is and giving you a long history of all the people who have sat in the chair. It’s painted and looks really nice so the perception is that it will hold you if you decide to sit in it. You plop down on the chair but the legs break and you fall to the floor.

• Maybe you are asked to help replace a light socket and your helper tells you he’s pretty sure he has turned off the power to the two wires hanging from the ceiling. They don’t look energized and even look completely harmless. You reach up to connect the wires to the new light socket and instantly find out the power is still on and you get an electrical shock.

• You’re driving home in a rainstorm, you come up to a section where there is water running across the street and it looks flooded. You stop and look at the situation and decide that it’s not too deep so you proceed to drive through the water. Your car begins to float off the road and you end up stuck in a ditch and you car is totaled.

In all three of these situations you have the perception that all is going to turn out well. However, the reality of the situation is that you fall on the floor, you get shocked and you wreck your car. In each case, the perception did not match the reality. This happens also when we pre-judge people on their first impression. At times it may be correct but there are times when our perception of people is wrong.

Sadly, this philosophy even spills over to the most important aspect of our lives. Some people have the wrong perception of how to get to heaven. Even the almighty Oprah has given out false information on getting into heaven. Some of the perceptions on how to gain entrance into heaven include;

• Live a good life
• Give to charity
• Help other people all the time
• Serve at the soup kitchen/homeless shelter
• Support the United Way/Salvation Army/Goodwill
• Attend church regularly
• Don’t drink, smoke or use drugs
• Get baptized
• Pray regularly

There are plenty of other answers: "I'm basically a good person, so I'll go to heaven." "OK, so I do some bad things, but I do more good things, so I'll go to heaven." "God won't send me to hell just because I don't live by the Bible. Times have changed!" "Only really bad people like child molesters and murderers go to hell."

These are all common rationalizations, but the truth is that they are all false. Satan, the ruler of the world, plants these thoughts in our heads. He, and anyone who follows his ways, is an enemy of God (1Peter 5:8). Satan is a deceiver and often disguises himself as someone good (2 Corinthians 11:14), but he has control over all the minds that do not belong to God. "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Getting into heaven is not based on whether our good outweighs our bad; we will all lose out if that is the case. "And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace" (Romans 11:6). We can do nothing good to earn our way to heaven (Titus 3:5).

When God created the world, it was perfect and good. Then he made Adam and Eve and gave them their own free will, so they would have a choice whether to follow and obey God. But they were tempted by Satan to disobey God, and they sinned. This separated them (and everyone that came after them, including us) from being able to have a close relationship with God. He is perfect and holy and must judge sin. As sinners, we couldn't reconcile ourselves to God on our own. So God made a way that we could be united with Him in heaven. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). Jesus was born to die for our sins so that we would not have to. Three days after His death, He rose from the grave (Romans 4:25), proving Himself victorious over death. He bridged the gap between God and man so that we may have a personal relationship with Him if we only believe.

"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3). Most people believe in God, even Satan does. But to receive salvation, we must turn to God, form a personal relationship, turn away from our sins, and follow Him. We must trust in Jesus with everything we have and everything we do. "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference" (Romans 3:22). The Bible teaches that there is no other way to salvation than through Christ. Jesus says in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Jesus is the only way because He is the only One who can pay our sin penalty (Romans 6:23). No other religion teaches the depth or seriousness of sin and its consequences. No other religion offers the infinite payment of sin that only Jesus Christ could provide. No other “religious founder” was God become man (John 1:1,14) – the only way an infinite debt could be paid. Jesus had to be God so that He could pay our debt. Jesus had to be man so He could die. Salvation is available only through faith in Jesus Christ! “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Is it naïve to think Jesus is the only way to heaven? Not if it is true. Jesus said He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). Either He was telling the truth or He wasn't. If He was telling the truth, it's not naive to agree with Him.

Followers of Christ are generally assumed to be from the Western hemisphere. However, Jesus began in the Middle East and spread outward from there, throughout the whole earth. There are many believers in Africa and Asia. Currently the largest Christian church in the world is in South Korea.

Faith in Christ is not just a Western thing, though skeptics and antagonists like to paint that picture. The Bible tells us that the multitude of believers who will be in heaven will be from every tribe and people and nation and language (Revelation 7:9), and that Jesus died for the sins of people from every tribe, nation, people and tongue (Revelation 5:9).

If Jesus is in fact, God, as He said, and rose from the dead as proof, then He has given us ample reasons to believe in Him. He is not asking for a naive faith, but a knowledgeable faith in Him. And those who will believe in Jesus receive a more abundant life, direction in life, peace with God, and eternal life.

Basing our entrance into heaven on something that is perceived is dangerous. We should do all we can to explore the truth of the situation and not hang our eternity on some modern new-age fad or belief system that is full of holes. Eternity is too long to be wrong.


1 Peter 5:8
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

2 Corinthians 11:14
And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light

2 Corinthians 4:4
in their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Romans 11:6
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

Titus 3:5
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

>Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 4:25
The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God. The Message

John 17:3
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

John 1:1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Crutch For When Life Doesn't Make Sense

I was going to cover a different topic this month but within the last couple of weeks, a friend of mine lost her 9 year old Daughter in an accident and it reminded me of a “discussion” I’ve had with several people through the years.

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed. —2 Corinthians 4:8

You may remember a few years back when Jesse Ventura the former governor of Minnesota said that “Christianity is a crutch for weak minded people”. His comment brought outrage from several religious organizations. It didn’t bother me much though, the man has a long history of being an idiot and has always had a string desire to be in front of a camera or in the spotlight. After all he was a professional wrestler for many years, maybe he got hit in the head too much. :-) Also, I don’t have to answer for his statements or decisions and what he believes has no affect on what I believe. There are other skeptics and atheists that say that the Christian faith is nothing more than a crutch—that the only reason people claim to trust Jesus is that they are weaklings who have to make up “religion” to get by?

A story about a doctor in one Far Eastern country spent 2 ½ years in jail being “reeducated” because he professed faith in Christ. Then, after his release, he was arrested again—this time for his efforts at his church. Maybe those skeptics haven’t heard about Paul. After trusting Christ, he was arrested, flogged, mocked, and shipwrecked (2 Corinthians 11:16-29).

These are just a couple of examples, one modern and one from biblical times. These believers were not looking for a crutch. No, they had something deep and essential in their hearts. They had a personal relationship with God—a relationship born of faith in the work of Jesus on the cross. As a result, they became children of the King—eager to sacrifice everything for the privilege of proclaiming Him. They were not limping along looking for something to hold them up.

I had the misfortune of performing CPR on my infant Son many years ago. I couldn’t revive him and he passed away. A couple of days later we buried him and for quite some time we had to deal with the loss and pain that accompanied the loss of a child. It was a very difficult and traumatic time in my life and caused me to be upset with God and even angry at times. I thought, I’m just starting in the ministry and have devoted my life to following you and trying to bring others to you. Is this how you’re going to provide for me? Why can’t you do this to regular people out in the world and let bad things happen to them? Why me? In many ways it shook my foundation as a Christian and caused me to question God’s direction and motives.

Though I still do not understand all of the reasoning behind why God allowed me to go trough that and many other troubles/trials since then, I know without a shadow of a doubt that; He loves me, He see’s the whole picture, and He’s in charge and control of everything. Even if I never get to understand it while I’m here on Earth, He had a reason for it and if I give my life to Him, I’ve got to take the bad He allows my direction if I’m going to take the wonderful things He sends my way. I also know that whenever I’m at a low point, I can turn to Him and He will comfort me and take care of my issues. No matter how large or small. He’s the rock and foundation of my life, nothing that comes my way can destroy the foundation.

A crutch? Hardly, faith in Christ is not about safety and caution. It’s about believing Jesus and trusting Him no matter what. It’s about taking up a daily cross (Luke 9:23) and living for the Savior.

I also can take comfort in knowing that no matter where I am, God will always be there with me. In Psalms 120:1 it says, “In my distress I cried to the Lord, and He heard me”.

Detective Allan Pinkerton became famous in the mid-1800s by solving a series of train robberies and foiling a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln as he traveled to his first inauguration. As one of the first agencies of its kind in the US, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency gained even more prominence because of its logo of a wide-open eye with the caption, “We Never Sleep.”

There is no better feeling than knowing you are protected and secure. You feel peaceful when the doors are locked and all is quiet as you drift off to sleep at night. You feel safe. But many lie awake in their beds with fearful thoughts of the present or dread of the future. Some are afraid of commotion outside or of a spouse who has been violent. Some cannot rest because of worry over a rebellious child. Others are anxiously listening to make sure a seriously ill child is still breathing.

These are the times when our loving God encourages us to cry out to Him, to the One who will neither “slumber nor sleep” (Psalms 121:4). Psalms 34:15 reminds us that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.”

Pinkerton may have been the original “private eye,” but the One who really has the eye that never sleeps is listening to the cries of “the righteous” (Psalms 34:17).

Some who have gone through traumatic times in their lives go on a journey and search for something to ease pain, fill a void, somewhere to turn for help, comfort, or relief from the situation. Often it ends up being alcohol, drugs, sex, etc. all are a temporary fix to the problem and more often then not they cause more issues for one to have to deal with. The only sure fire fix for this is having a relationship with Jesus Christ. I can vouch that He’ll always be there for you and nothing you’ve done or can do is too bad for Him to want to have a relationship with you. When you think your life is shattered and there’s no way to get fixed again, love heals your heart and the provider and sustainer of love and hope is Jesus.

Before you sleep, just gently lay
Every troubled thought away;
Drop your burden and your care
In the quiet arms of prayer. —Anon.

We can sleep in peace when we remember that God is awake.

How Can I Keep From Singing?
Chris Tomlin

There is an endless song
Echoes in my soul
I hear the music ring

And though the storms may come
I am holding on to the rock I cling

How can I keep from singing Your praise
How can I ever say enough
How amazing is Your love
How can I keep from shouting Your name
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing

I will lift my eyes
In the darkest night
For I know my Savior lives

And I will walk with You
Knowing You'll see me through
And sing the songs You give

How can I keep from singing your praise?
How can I ever say enough, how amazing is your love?
How can I keep from shouting your name?
I know I am loved by the king, and it makes my heart want to sing.

I can sing in the troubled times
Sing when I win
I can sing when I lose my step
And fall down again
I can sing 'cause You pick me up
Sing 'cause You're there
I can sing 'cause You hear me, Lord
When I call to You in prayer
I can sing with my last breath
Sing for I know
That I'll sing with the angels
And the saints around the throne

How can I keep from singing your praise?
How can I ever say enough, how amazing is your love?
How can I keep from shouting your name?
I know I am loved by the King, and it makes my heart
I am loved by the King, and it makes my heart
I am loved by the King, and it makes my heart
Want to sing

I can sing

2 Corinthians 4:8 (New International Version)
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;

2 Corinthians 11:16–29 (English Standard Version)
I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not with the Lord’s authority but as a fool. Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

Luke 9:23 (ESV)
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Psalm 121 (NIV)
I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip - He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you - the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm - He will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Psalm 120:1 (NIV)
I call on the LORD in my distress, and He answers me.

Psalm 34:17 (ESV)
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.

Psalm 121:4 (ESV)
Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

Psalm 34:15 (ESV)
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears toward their cry.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Another New Year Already? They Sure Seem to Get Here Fast

It barely seems possible but another year has passed and we are at the threshold of a new year. I remember old people telling me when I was a kid that years go by faster when you start getting older.  Though I'm far from being old, it seems to be true.

I didn’t set out to learn as much as I did this past year, but I was able to learn many things and hopefully will be able to apply that knowledge and make the upcoming year even better. There is an old saying that says you are never get too old to learn something new. I found out many things about me and several things about others this year. Some include;

* There are more people in the world that keep you as a “friend” that only want you around to use you if there is a need for you in their life. If everything is going smoothly in their lives, you won’t hear from them. When the going gets tough or something’s broke, they’ll buddy up to you again. Actually, I knew this before but it was even more present in this past year. Especially at work.

* No matter how much you pray, beg, plead, etc. The decisions of others are totally out of your control and you cannot force people to walk the “straight and narrow”. The world has lots of things to entice others and living for Christ has a small upside for people who love the things of the world and are enthralled by the things of the world.

* I am even more apathetic than I thought I was.

* I don’t get upset or downcast by the actions of others as much as I used to. If you have low expectations of others, it doesn’t upset you near as much when they fail to meet your expectations.

* Being loved is overrated.

* Being a “butthead” has limited positive benefits.

* Being alone is underrated.

OK, not everything I learned was a downer. There were several things I learned that are useful. Many of which were relationship oriented. If the Lord allows, I hopefully will have the opportunity to use them in the future.

If I look over the goals I had for the past year, I was able to make progress on some items also.

* I paid off my former spouse’s vehicle and freed up many dollars per month.

* I “pursued” getting to know a young lady even more this past year in an attempt to be more of a part of her life. During this time I found out that I was much more interested in her than she was interested in me. But at least I was able to hone my skills ;-)

* I made much progress in getting my finances in order.

When setting my goals for the upcoming year, I removed the items that are out of my control. For example, though I would love to have a relationship with my two Children, much of it is totally out of my control. No matter how much time and energy I devote to being part of their lives again, it’s pretty much up to them to make it happen. I can make myself available to them but that’s the extent of my control of the situation.

So far some of the goals I have are;

* Pay off my truck again this year
* Spend more time with in-depth Bible study. (less superficial study)
* Continue to overcome shortcomings/”addictions” of the past
* Increase charitable giving
* Work to build stronger relationships
* Learn to trust others more (not everyone is out to take from you, leave you, or stab you in the back)

Goals are important in your life. Each person needs a vision of what they want in the future. In Proverbs 29:18, God says that without a vision His people perish. I recommend that each person set aside time to map out your goals for the year. Not resolutions, they often disappear by the end of January and you’ve forgotten them in a very short time. But real, long term goals for your life. If you have a vision of where you want to be, you stand a better chance of getting there. Having them written down somewhere so you come across them on a regular basis improves the chances that you can accomplish the goals and improve your life.

Lastly, remember that some goals take longer to attain than others. Don't give up on any worthwhile goal that you set unless God tells you to move on.


Proverbs 29:18 (The Message)
If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.

Philippians 4:6 (English Standard Version)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Does God Care How I Live or Act?

I recently read a Facebook post where the user posted, “I don’t care what others do or say about me. I try to live for the Lord, but I’m not perfect. He understands and loves me just like I am, whether I’m good or not”. I also was told once by a local pastor that, “we cannot be perfect in our lives. Living like Jesus says is not attainable. He understands that and loves us anyway”. I thought on these statements for quite some time and came up with several questions:

• Can we turn our lives over to God and then continue to live how we want and treat Him and His word like dirt?
• Are we supposed to live like we want because His standards are too high?
• Does God expect us to live as a Christian all the time or only when we feel like it?
• Are we so shallow and self absorbed with our own wants and desires that we put God on the shelf until we need Him?
• Does God really love us if we continually sin against Him or ignore His rules/teachings?
• If we live life doing what we want, when we want, are we really Christians at all?

God loves everyone. He sent His Son, Jesus, to repair the gap created between God and Man when Adam sinned. Since there is no doubt that God loves us, I did some research on it and found the following:

What God wants is this: He wants you to be completely good, and separate from everything that is bad.
In I Thessalonians 4, Paul tells us that we should live a life that pleases God. We do this by separating ourselves from the things that draw us away from Him. Some of these are sexual immorality, lying, cheating, stealing, coveting others possessions, cursing, etc. Anything that God frowns upon, makes Him sad when we do them. How do you find out what God frowns upon? Read His word.

In I John 3, the writer tells us that we cannot act like the devil and still be a disciple of Christ. We cannot serve the one that Jesus came to destroy and Him also. If we still are trapped by and desire the things we profess to turn from, we may need to re-check our “decision” to follow Christ and make sure of its validity.

Matthew Henry said of this, “Religion is not an art, a matter of dexterity and skill, but a new nature. And the regenerate person cannot sin as he did before he was born of God, and as others do who are not born again. There is that light in his mind, which shows him the evil and malignity of sin. There is that bias upon his heart, which disposes him to loathe and hate sin. There is the spiritual principle that opposes sinful acts. And there is repentance for sin, if committed. It goes against him to sin with forethought. The children of God and the children of the devil have their distinct characters. The seed of the serpent are known by neglect of religion, and by their hating real Christians. He only is righteous before God, as a justified believer, who is taught and disposed to righteousness by the Holy Spirit. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil. May all professors of the gospel lay these truths to heart, and try themselves by them”.

In Romans 6, we see that we are not to sin more to make acquire more grace. The apostle is very full in pressing the necessity of holiness. He does not explain away the free grace of the gospel, but he shows that connection between justification and holiness are inseparable. True believers are dead to sin, therefore they ought not to follow it. No man can at the same time be both dead and alive. He is a fool who, desiring to be dead unto sin, thinks he may live in it.

Years ago, we were “sighting in” the scope on a rifle I was using. I went to a friends firing range to shoot and took aim at the target. While shooting, I discovered that the sight was set too low. I aimed using that sight, but I hit the bottom of the target. I had to aim high in order to hit anywhere near the bull’s-eye. I adjusted the scope several times and finally got it lined up to where I was aiming.

Aren’t our lives a lot like that? If we set our sights too low, we really don’t accomplish all that we can. Sometimes we have to aim high in order to reach a desired goal.

What should be our aim in life? How high should we point our ambitions? Well, since Scripture is our true guide, we will shoot for nothing but spiritual maturity. In fact, in Paul’s farewell to the people of Corinth, he said, “Aim for perfection” (2 Cor. 13:11 NIV). And we also have the high aim of these words from the lips of Jesus, “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

Perfection is a lofty target, and we won’t attain it in this life. But if we want to honor God and get close to that high goal, we need to aim high. That means turning from our sinful and failed ways of the past and turning to the honorable things of God. It takes a change in heart and mind to follow God. If we are to follow Him, we have to get off of the paths we have walked all our lives and walk in a way that will bring honor to Him.

Yes, God will still love us if we are imperfect.  However, if we call ourselves followers of Him we should do all within our power to follow His teachings and bring joy to Him in our lives.

1 Thessalonians 4 (English Standard Version)
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

1 John 3:9 (ESV)
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.

Romans 6:1-2 (ESV)
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

2 Corinthians 13:11 (ESV)
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Matthew 5:48 (ESV)
Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.