To stand or not to stand, that is the question

So, must I explain the goings on via the American national anthem, the NFL, and the barrage of social media expert opinion?

Didn’t think so-or I just did.

I have some thoughts.

I understand our nation’s right to free speech. As an evangelical conservative Reformed Baptist Christian(and there’s a lot more where that came from), I greatly appreciate the time and place God has appointed for me to live.

Also, I am an Active Duty Soldier in the U.S. Army. I have deployed twice to Afghanistan.

I love my country-defects and all-like you love that one crazy uncle.

This love does not excuse, agree with, or permiss the sins of my country, rather it propels me to want change.

So, to stand or not to stand during the national anthem. Is it an NFL rule that the players stand? Yes. Does the NFL have to punish everyone who breaks a rule? No. I believe the rules are there so that they have grounds to punish. Players often get different fine amounts for illegal hits etc. Quite honestly,much of it seems quite subjective and arbitrary.

Nevertheless, these players are choosing to break a rule in order to “say something” or not to say something. It still kind of confuses me how free speech covers a physical action or the lack of a physical action. Shouldn’t we call that free action? I digress.

My thought is, they are definitely free to do what they did. They might receive a fine, but it’s clearly worth it to them and not against federal law.

But the avenue of protest still reveals something in the heart of the protestor.

In the Bible, in Galatians and 1st Corinthians, Paul uses similar logic. In Galatians 5:13 he tells them they are free in Christ, but to not use that freedom for an opportunity to sin. In 1st Corinthians, Paul says all things are lawful for him, but not all things are helpful. Kneeling is lawful, but is it helpful? A protest down main street isn’t inherently disrespectful to your country, and your point still comes across with speeches, banners and the like. Burn the country flag during your march and you’re biting the hand that feeds you. Is that helpful?

In my patriotic opinion, kneeling is a whole lot less disrespectful than burning or stomping on our flag. To put it positively, it is more respectful to kneel than burn or stomp on the flag.

But my fear is that it was a poorly chosen route of protest and look what it bred. It bred a whole lot of discussion on whether it was legal or not, patriotic or not, a protected right or not. And now people are kneeling merely for solidarity with Mr. Kaep- not even for the same cause.

All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful.

Someone please share with me an article or interview of Colin Kaepernick being asked what his reasons were and what he’s doing to eliminate the problems in our nation that he is against.

But my greater concern, will Colin kneel before Jesus? There are those who kneel before Jesus, and those who are going to be made to kneel. Christians, there a greater cause for kneeling we need to fill our feeds with. Be about it.

Philippians 2:9-11″Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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Peace, what is it good for?

ISIS. North Korea. Russia. ALT-RIGHT. ANTIFA. White Supremacy. Hurricane Harvey. These and a list only Santa could compete with causes us to stop and wonder. We wonder what peace is anyway. Or maybe a better question is how we can get peace? The cycle doesn’t ever seem to end.

Take ISIS for instance. American troops were leaving Iraq at the end of 2011 hailing the war was over. And now we’re back. Why? Because there’s no peace.

Every year we enter hurricane season and wonder what will comes.

The world has provided its input. They produce self-help books, preach inner-peace, countries enact peace treaties. But it doesn’t ultimately bring peace and we still see the world in want. We see a lack.

You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. Haggai 1:6.

This verse is a look into what we look like when we try to solve our problems, like lack of peace, apart from God. The world attacks the symptoms and not the disease. They puttimy their money into bags with holes.

The Apostle Paul spoke often about peace. He taught that for there to be peace the solution was going to have to be much deeper than behavior modification through books, treatises, or lets-all-get-along-ism.

Notice what Paul says in Colossians 1:20 “And through Him [Jesus] to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Paul knew that true peace only comes through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross.

Paul also taught in his letter to the Romans that, “…since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We only avail ourselves of the peace everyone so desperately wants through faith in Jesus. We only experience peace if the blood of his cross has washed us clean of our sin and the Holy Spirit has regenerated us to new life.

So, as Christians, as church leaders, as ambassadors for Christ, what do we offer the world?

I’ll tell you what we don’t offer them. We don’t offer a lie. Do not go out in the world and imagine you can be a peacemaker without sharing the Gospel of peace.

There is no peace without Jesus.

If you are telling others that they can bring peace without sharing the Gospel, you are lying to them. If you are preaching that people can have peace without coming to Jesus first, you are preaching a false gospel. The ultimate source of our turmoil is sin. Sin in us cause racism, selfishness, pride, hate, etc. Natural disasters are a result of sin ruining the harmony God originally intended in creation.

Alas, God did not leave us in this mess we made. Look back to what Paul said in Colossians and remember that Jesus is reconciling all things to God. All that was broken, lost, marred, and ruined.

The chaotic unpredictable earth, our broken bodies and sinful hearts will be made new through the blood of Jesus cross.

Not pyramids of how to be a peaceful person. Not stretches and breathing to achieve inner-piece. Not a new treaty. Only Jesus. If your promising peace without him, you’re a putting money into a bag with holes. You are preaching a false gospel.

It’s All About Jesus.

I love hearing from readers, so please comment below.

Follow me on Twitter @grantvb1510

Prosperity theology rears its ugly head again

I just saw an ad for an upcoming tour Pastor and author James MacDonald is doing. The quote of the tour is extremely disturbing to me. It reads, “I don’t care what this costs, I’m going to have a breakthrough”. It screams of man focus and not God focus. Since when do we shout self actualizing proclamations at God that we WILL have a breakthrough!

Before you call me hyper critical or reading into it, bear with me. I hope to show you that what this tour is promoting contradicts what the Bible teaches.

To begin, what if we consider the stories of Jeremiah (never had a convert), Job (lost all wealth, health and his children), John the Baptist (was thrown in prison and then beheaded)? Even Paul(Read 2nd Corinthians 11)? Would they agree? I would venture to say no.

My question is what happened to not my will but Yours be done? What happened to just walking in the Spirit? I think about Paul’s thorn in the flesh that he prayed God would take away. (2nd Corinthians 12)

God never took it away.

God taught Paul through it that His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect through Paul’s weakness. So, instead of demanding a breakthrough (whatever that means), we ought to strive for holiness and Christ to be exalted through us in every circumstance.

Having resolve is different than self determining that our circumstances must change. This sentiment denies the possibility that God has put you in the situation you’re in on and for a purpose. You didn’t slip out of God’s will and He is just waiting for you to muster some will to get yourself back on track. 1st Corinthians 10 tells us that in everything we are to glorify Him. This tour is advertising self glorification. This is a symptom of an American Christian disease of prosperity theology. It proclaims that if you’re not successful and everything isn’t going how you want it to, then you aren’t laying hold of all that God has for you. Job, Jeremiah, John the Baptist (just to name a few) would disagree with your theology. They would disagree with this prosperity theology. This theology is self centered and prideful. It looks at the pyramids of Egypt and desires their material glory. But longing for Egypt means back to slavery. We cannot look at the world and desire it’s things and not be enslaved. You cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24)

I call everyone, including myself, to renounce all forms of prosperity theology and materialism.

God is enough.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison -2nd Corinthians 4:17

The good news of the Gospel is not that everything goes as we will have breakthroughs and everything goes well. The good news is that we get God. And nothing can compare to having Him.

John Piper put it well: https://youtu.be/G-V_91c5ojU

Don’t face your giants like David

You all know the story. Little ol’ Shepherd boy David is delivering some cheese and bread (awesome brother!) to his brothers on the battle field while Israel is at a stand still against the Philippine Army. 

Why the stand still? 

Glad you asked.

Because the Philistines have a proud, taunting, and huge(9′ 6″!) soldier double dog daring the Israelites to come out and fight him!!

David sees the situation, gathers a few stones for his sling shot, and grouds his assurance of victory to King Saul in that the LORD fights for him.

We know what happens next. David slings away and sinks a rock right into the giants head. He then take Goliath’s sword and cuts his head off. You can almost hear the mass amount of ‘gulps’ in Philistine throats.

Israel advances and secures a great victory that day. So what does this story mean today? Is it more than a story? In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he says that everything written in the Old Testament was for our benefit so that we didn’t make the same mistakes they did.

So, what’s the lesson here? The story is commonly interpreted as an encouragement to not be scared of the “giants” in our lives. Rather we should face them, trusting God to grant us the victory.

Is that how you’ve heard it? I have.

But the more you look at the biblical narrative as a whole you see a disconnect. You see very faithful people of God not getting the victory all the time (Job, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Paul etc.). You see very sinful people of God still being used for God’s purposes and experiencing His blessings (Abraham, Rehab, David, Solomon, the 12 disciples).

So what is a more accurate way to interpret this story? Well, Christologically or Gospel centered.

You see, we shouldn’t look to David for what to do. We mistakenly put ourselves as the hero. That’s where we go wrong. You see, Jesus is the hero. We are the frightened Israelites. We are the ones who share in the benefits of another’s actions. Just as the Israelites shared in the victory because of David’s actions.

Jesus is the hero who beat our enemies of sin, satan, and death. Our confidence to kill sin, repent, turn away from evil and worship God comes only on the grounds of Jesus actions on our behalf. We are passive beneficiaries of Jesus’ victory on the cross. When Jesus said that the whole Bible spoke of Him, this is part of what He meant.

How amazing is the story of David and Goliath now?

Once I learned to look at the Old Testament this way, it shed a whole new light on all those popular stories. 

I hope and pray it does for you too. 

Let me know what you think! Or if there are other stories you now see with a more Christ centered view.

For a deeper understanding check out this book by Dr. Ed Clowney

The Unfolding Mystery
Soli Deo Gloria 

How could God have Israel wipe out entire nations?!

This is quite possibly the hardest things to understand in the Bible. Some people may turn to the book of Joshua and read the stories of the Israelite conquest in Canaan to find some pretty ruthless campaigns. At first glance it seems unnecessary and over the top. Without CONTEXT, you can get a real different sense of the God of peace and mercy that is heralded.

The first and most important piece of context is from God Himself. In Genesis 15:16 He says, “And they (the Israelites) will come back (from Egypt) here (the land) in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” Paranthesis mine.

We see here that God sends His own people into slavery and oppression so that He doesn’t judge the Amorites prematurely. Doesn’t seem irrational or tyrannical, does it?

Next, in Deuteronomy we see Moses reiterating the Sinai laws and covenant to the Israelites before they cross over the Jordan river to take the land. Strikingly, in Deuteronomy 9:4 Moses tells them, “Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land’, rather it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you”

Here we see that God is not arbitrarily ordering the murder of nations. These nations have sinned against God generation after generation, more than 400 years, and at last God is judging them. His instrument of judgement is the nation of Israel who He promised to give the land after their conquest. 

The final point I’d like to make to show that God is not racist or an evil tyrant is from another passage in Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy 20 Moses says, “When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you.”

Even here we see an extra length of mercy. If they didn’t want to fight with Israel, they lived; they were then made to work for them. 

Clearly, God did not arbitrarily order genocide. The biggest help in understanding is context. Read the first 6 books of the Bible straight through and it is much easier to understand. You wouldn’t pick up a novel, start reading halfway through, and put it down because in one chapter a character wasn’t “nice”. You’d read before and after to get the whole picture or read from beginning to end-like normal.

Hope that helps! I hope this helps you answer other people asking you these hard questions.

Soli Deo Gloria 

God spoke through a donkey!

But was the donkeys owner, Balaam, even a true prophet of God?

Check out Numbers chapters 22-24 for the whole story. I’m going to share my opinion on the question above. 
After reviewing the account of Balaam and the other biblical texts mentioning him(Numbers. 31:8, 16; Deut. 23:4-5; Josh. 24:9-10; 2 Pet. 2:15-16; Jude 11; Rev. 2:14), I believe that the best way to describe Balaam is a spiritual mercenary. It seems clear that he buckled to political pressure and saw great honor and fortune to be gained if he went along with Balaks plan to curse the Israelites. Balaam received clear opposition from God, but went to meet Balak anyway. I believe God’s permission in Numbers 22:20 was to prove what was truly in Balaam’s heart. He truly didn’t care that God already forbade him to go. Balaam likely was excited for what he could gain even if he wasn’t giving Balak what he wanted. We are shown his heart’s when he is rebuked by his donkey and told by the Angel of the LORD that his way is perverse. I think it is clear that Balaam did not have a desire to follow God’s will. What is curious though, is why anyone thought he was a prophet of God to begin with. What was his track record previously that gave him the title prophet? Is it possible that he was appointed by God to call the people to worship Yahweh? Was he an example of what God does in a nation so that their iniquity is complete as God spoke of the Amorites to Abraham in Genesis 15:16? Had Balaam been used by God for that purpose earlier but had since gone astray to seek fortunes for his services? I believe some of the New Testament passages referencing Balaam lendspeak credence since they speak of prophets or leaders in the church going astray in the same manner. I believe Balaam likely was a prophet used by God but at the time of our story had since gone astray and sought after monetary gain and political honor.

Is the God of the Bible a personal God?

​Who likes a cold friendship, rude people, a short answer to a loaded question? If I described someone that loved you very much but didn’t know basic details of your appearance, birth day, where you work, what school you went, or never even liked, loved, or followed anything you did on social media you would think I was messing with you. 

One of the greatest and distinguishing aspects of the God of the Bible is His personal character. I only want to draw your attention to His presence or dwelling with His people. From the very beginning of the Bible God has made it a priority to dwell with His people. We see Him walking in the midst of the garden when Adam and Eve were trying to hide from Him. After the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt we see God command a tabernacle be built where the people would make sacrifices to Him and where His presence could dwell with the people. About 600 years after the Exodus we read that God’s glory and presence fills the temple which King Solomon builds for the LORD. The proceeding and remarkable extent God demonstrated His desire to dwell with His people was in the incarnation of God the Son Jesus Christ. John 1:14 tells us that the Word, Jesus, became flesh and dwelt among us. After the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the nature of people’s relationship with God is dramatically changed. God no longer dwelt within a building, but within His people. Galatians 2:20 tells us that the life we live by faith in Jesus is no longer us living, but Christ living in us. 

The full  restoration of God dwelling with His people is realized after the New Heavens, New Earth, and the New Jerusalem come to be. The words of Revelation 21:3 are excellent; “And I heard with a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God himself will be their God…””. God started dwelling with His people in the Garden of Eden. This fellowship was broken and God will ultimately restore mankind back to the same level of fellowship when the New Heavens and New Earth arrive at the end of the age.

God is personal. His isn’t distant. He isn’t cold. He has always made a way to dwell with His people.

 No other world religion can say that.

Does God condone polygamy?

​My initial response to someone looking to justify polygamy from the lives of a few Patriarchs in the Old Testament is to point them to the culture from which Abram came out of. In Mesopotamia, polygamy was normal if a man’s first wife was barren. The first wife was even involved in selecting the second wife. Those cultural norms reveal a good reason for what they did. Also, since there was little to no special revelation (written books) from God at this time in history it’s no surprise that the patriarchs continued in their old ways. They likely would’ve had the Genesis account of God instituting marriage with one man and one woman. From the Bible’s perspective, Adam never married another woman. This is a worthy record enough for all to follow after instead of cultural norms. Their polygamous ways were merely residue from their previous life. They had not yet fully left their former life as God commanded.

On the practical side, we see nothing but turmoil, strife, and contempt when it comes to polygamy. Hagar ended up being despised by Sarai. Ishmael and his descendants throughout history have been a scourge to themselves and the rest of mankind, just as God said. Sister rivalry took on new heights between Leah and Rachel. Even leading them to hand over their maids to Jacob as the competition for bearing children raged on. 

Most importantly of all, God never condones it. God’s Word never suggests it. And as Jesus interprets the command against adultery, He points out that any lustful intent in your heart towards a woman that is not your wife is adultery. This commandment is impossible to keep in polygamy. It is nonsensical to think God would condone a lifestyle that necessitates breaking His commands over and over again. Even one of the qualifications of being an elder in the church laid out in 1st Timothy by the Apostle Paul is that he must be a one woman man.

Soli Deo Gloria

Resource: http://www.ancient.eu/article/688

Hey you…yeah, you…you’re looking good. And so does my NEW blog.

thumbs up to new blog

thumbs up to new blog

Well, a new blog. I had one before. That was fun. I constantly journal my devotions. I often think that I should blog some of the stuff God teaches me through there and every so often I just have the urge to write.

My purpose is ALWAYS going to be to point you to Jesus. I desire all to see the Gospel in new and deeper ways. I believe that is what a Christian will do the rest of their life.

If you are ever encouraged or helped or have any comments, please let me know!

Hope you come back often and read and are encouraged! I hope your love for God deepens