A Visa

One of the steps for my travel to Kenya is obtaining a visa. A visa isn’t a plastic credit card. It’s the approval from a government to visit and then leave a country.

To get into the nation of Kenya, an American must have the permission of the Kenyan government. The visa will allows us to stay a certain length of time in Kenya, and later it will become our ticket to leave.

Without a visa you can’t get in. If you lose your visa, you can’t get out!

The Kenya visa application isn’t too bad. It’s all done online, is only about 5 pages of questions, and a fee of $51.

There are countries which have treaties allowing citizens to travel without a visa. American citizens, for example, don’t need a visa to travel to Canada or Mexico. Americans can visit 99 different countries without prior visa approval, but that leaves 97 others where a visa is required in advance.

It’s easy to understand why people are confused about world travel. It’s even easier to understand why people are confused about getting to Heaven. Ask and you’ll get all kinds of answers: everyone goes to Heaven; good people get in free; those who engage in certain religious rituals like water baptism can go; after you die you can work your way there by good deeds and the good deeds of others.

Getting into Heaven, though, isn’t about what you or I or the guy next door thinks, it’s about what the King of Heaven says. Who does He let into His Kingdom? His answer is the only one that matters.

Jesus said it best to the Jewish leader Nicodemus. Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).

Each of us is born into this world of humanity. We were born of blood, of the flesh, and of the will of our parents. These things, however, don’t matter to God. His government works differently. It’s about those who were born – not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man – but of the will of God (John 1:13). To those born again of God’s will, He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:12).

How to Know God

knowing-godYou search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me (John 5:39).

Most people think of the Bible as either a rule book or a story book, when in fact it is a divine Book revealing God in the Person of Jesus Christ.

It didn’t take long before people, including the Jewish leaders, took notice of Jesus. By night, one of them, a Pharisee named Nicodemus approached Jesus to find out who He really was.

There’s no record of the conversation until Nicodemus said, Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him (John 3:2).

In the two simple words we know, Nicodemus revealed how the Jewish leaders were gaining spiritual knowledge and discerning truth. Everything they knew about God and how He worked was by personal experience and observation.

What did the Jewish leaders know? First, they’d observed that Jesus was a miracle-worker; second, they believed that the miracles proved that Jesus had been sent by God; and third, the concluded that because of the miracles, the Jewish rulers should listen to Jesus.

Was personal experience and observance the way to discern truth and gain spiritual knowledge? Jesus didn’t think so. He said that their method for knowledge and truth was wrong. Instead, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Seeing God’s ways requires a new birth, a spiritual transformation, not seeing miracles.

Nicodemus was honest enough to admit that he didn’t know everything he should have known and that he was thinking in material, physical terms and not spiritual terms. How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? (John 3:4).

Spiritual knowledge and truth begins by knowing God, and knowing God requires what Jesus called a re-birth. There is no other way. The only foundation for knowing God is to know the Bible, for the Bible is the testimony of Jesus.

A New Heart

Where Living Begins Richard L Rice pastor

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).

My grandmother carefully pulled open the top of her bathrobe to reveal the line of tape running down the center of her chest-bone and covering the surgical incision from her repaired heart. As a little boy, I could already understand the seriousness of a damaged heart.

The human heart is essential to life. Without its powerful pumping action 115,200 times per day, you would die.

In the Scriptures, the image of the heart is used as a symbol of the whole nature of the inner person. It is the seat of man’s being where desires, fear, faith, love, pride, joy, sorrow, emotions, sin, and evil resides.

The Bible never describes God as a divine surgeon repairing man’s sinful heart. Instead His promise is to give a new heart. The symbolic heart of stone, ever-resistant and rebellious toward God, must be wholly replaced with one of flesh. Only after getting a new heart are you able to love and serve Him.

Salvation isn’t a matter of “giving your heart to Jesus”; it’s a matter of Him giving you a new heart.

And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live (Deuteronomy 30:6).

The Two Philosophies of Life

There are two simple, but opposite, philosophies of life.

The first explains that every person is conceived as morally perverted and sinful. No amount of nurturing, training, or money improves the thoughts, motives, or intentions of the person. That moral corruption alienates everyone from God and makes all pursuits selfish. A person’s only hope is to be reborn by the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

The second philosophy teaches that everyone is born as a blank slate. Environment, nurture, and social and economic structures influence and improve the thoughts, motives, and intentions of the person. Morality is dictated by the social structure and support of family, friends, and government. Basically, humanity is good, and personal destiny is ultimately up to the individual.

The first is Christianity; the second is humanistic atheism.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. There is none righteous, no, not one … there is none who does good, no, not one. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:10, 12; Jeremiah 17:9).

Where does your philosophy of life come from? The Bible or humanism?

Hyphenated Christians

Hyphenated Christians

Until recently, America has largely avoided violent internal strife because as a nation, we’ve lived simply as “Americans.” Wherever we came from, old labels were left behind and American became our identity. We even fought a great war to put an end to rising tribalism and bind ourselves together as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. 

Since the radical 1960s however, we are less and less “American” and a nation of tribes. “Mexican-Americans”, “Gay-Americans”, “African-Americans”, “Evangelical Americans” and the list goes on. Sometimes our tribalism is about where our ancestors came from, but more often it’s a celebration of our divisions.

This trend exists in churches today as it plagued the ancient church in Corinth two-thousand years ago.

There are no hyphenated believers in the family of God. We are not Paul-Christians or Apollos-Christians or Peter-Christians. We are either followers of Jesus, born again by the grace of God alone through faith in Christ alone, or we are not Christians. Our only foundation for truth, faith, and practice is the Bible or we follow a religion other than Christianity. Other divisions are phony and prideful externals, both immature and sinful (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).

There is great gain in knowing the past; celebrating the best of the past and repenting of the worst, but when that past creates ungodly division among brothers, it must be put away.

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ … there is one body (1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 4:4).

Holy Spirit, Fill the Atmosphere

 

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16).

When you are born again, the Bible says that the Holy Spirit fills you with His presence (Romans 8:9, 11). Your body becomes the temple of God in which the Spirit dwells permanently (John 14:16-17).

When you are born again, the Holy Spirit baptizes you into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13) and you are adopted into the family of God the Father (Romans 8:14-15).

If you are born again, you are a member of the Father’s family, a member of the Church of Jesus, and the temple of the Holy Spirit; where you go the Godhead is.

Since you are born again, when you walk into a building to worship God this Sunday, there need be no call to welcome God or prayers and songs inviting the Holy Spirit to come. That’s un-Biblical nonsense.

Since you are born again, where you are, God is because He is in you. He can’t “fill the atmosphere” more than He already has. The Spirit “came into the room” when a born again believer walked in.

The Gate

the-wall

Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and I will praise the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord, through which the righteous shall enter (Psalm 118:19-20).

When I was very young, cowboys were a boy’s heroes. I had cowboy sheets, a pillowcase, and pjs.

My sister and I shared the attic as a bedroom. Not that either of us cared, but our mom did her best to give us each our own space. She hung a piece of fabric down the center of the room from a line of string, effectively separating my “room” from Serina’s. My side of the “wall” was cowboys. It may have only been a hanging sheet for a wall, but it served its purpose.

Walls come in different shapes and sizes and materials, all of which do two things: they keep something out and they keep something else in. Walls are necessary to keep out cold weather, dangerous predators, but also work to keep the things we value contained in a secure place. Walls can also create isolation and separation.

When Jesus came, He broke down the wall of sin that separated a holy God from an unholy people. Through His death on the cross, He broke down the wall of separation and became gates of righteousness so that “ain’ts” are born again as “saints”.

He set free a Samaritan woman trapped behind the wall of her past. He liberated a thieving tax collector. He took a few dunder-headed fishermen and made them fishers of men. Even a thief on a cross was released to join Him in Paradise.

Jesus breaks those walls of sin still today for all those who come to Him through faith.

If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed  (John 8:36).

Auf Wiedersehen

auf-weidersehenMy great-grandfather Rudolph Losli died when I was 14 years old. One of the things I remember about him was that he never said “good-bye” at the end of a conversation. When he was finished talking on the phone, for example, he’d abruptly hang up.

His son (my grandfather) asked once why he didn’t end a conversation like everyone else by saying “good-bye.” He replied, “Why should I say good-bye when I know I’m going to see you later?

As Christians, the Bible says that we don’t sorrow at death as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Ephesians 2:12 describes those who are not born again as having no hope and without God in the world. For the unsaved, there is a terrible hopelessness when a loved one dies. It’s why they cling unmercifully to the memory of those who have died. They sorrow without thought or assurance of eternity.

For the unsaved, death is a permanent separation of relationship, but as Christians we do not despair at death. We will grieve, but we never truly say “farewell” to our family in Christ, but merely like the German phrase auf wiedersehen, “until we meet again.”

The resurrected Jesus has made our partings as believers temporary (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18). For those with faith in Christ Jesus as Saviour, death is but the blink of an eye in this world and immediate entrance into a hope-filled eternal bliss in the next as we see Jesus face-to-face in His glory and are made like Him (1 John 3:2-3).

Look What I Did!

Look at MeWe talk about salvation being a gift from God, but then we describe some act we performed making us worthy of salvation. Grace becomes a reward for something we’ve done.

You say a prayer … but if you have to ask for salvation it’s not a gift.

You decide to change your life … however, if you have the ability to change your life apart from God, you don’t need Him.

If you must exercise your free-will to believe … what’s the point of God’s grace?

You are the one beginning the work of salvation and all He does is reply. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that even believing-faith is a gift from Him.

Prayer, repentance, and faith are but human responses to what God does in saving someone, they don’t originate God’s work or add to it. Anything I might add or do to be saved makes me my own co-redeemer.

No flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption – that as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:29-31).

Fat Babies

adult baby

Jim and Dina were in their late 40s and committed to never having children. Jim admitted, “We don’t want children. We’re too needy to ever take care of anyone but each other.”

Some church people act like fat babies, infants who never mature. They are needy and want someone to hold their hand, feed them, shake a rattle when they cry, and clean up their messy diapers. They search for others to meet their needs so they don’t have to grow up, take care of themselves, and begin caring for others. Rather than growing in maturity, they are as Amy Grant sang, Fat Babies.

There comes a time when God’s people – if they are God’s people – grow up. Christ gifted His Church with leaders to feed His people unto spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:11, 14-15). These leaders aren’t babysitters hired for an evening to coddle or entertain. Their God-given responsibility is to teach God’s Word so that God’s children grow up spiritually, evidenced by their ministry to each other (Ephesians 4:12).

Are you a fat little baby or are you born again and growing up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ (Ephesians 4:15)?