Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Reach of the Gospel

Over the past year I have felt led more and more to help provide a space for Christians to share their voices with the world. It is through this desire that I have begun to work on creating a publishing company for Christians to be able to publish books, articles, or whatever they would like. I know that my desire to share the gospel, in my own words with others, cannot be the only one out there, there has to be other believers who want to do the same thing right? So, I began building a website and thinking about the different pieces that I wanted to include in 5 Solas Publishing (the name that I have chosen to use). 5 Solas comes from the solas used during and after the protestant reformation to describe the Christian's faith. The five solas are: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (For the Glory of God Alone).

My desire for 5 Solas Publishing was to provide a space for authors desiring to publish books. There are a couple new books that are in the works from two different authors. I wanted to give space to those who wanted to share their story with others. Stories that include pain and suffering and the many ways that God heals and mends while at the same time growing and stretching His children. I wanted to provide a place that people could turn to in order to find resources that would help them in their walk with Christ. But most of all, I wanted to create something that would bring glory to God alone.

I am not sure how God will use 5 Solas Publishing, and I may never know the extent of the reach that it has. If it reaches even one person for Jesus and gives them the tools that they need to grow as a Christian, then it will have accomplished its purpose. I am so excited to see what God has planned, both for 5 Solas and for myself, moving forward.

I am eagerly anticipating the release of several articles written by a variety of people from all sorts of different backgrounds about God's mercy, abundant grace, sustaining love, and powerful salvation. I hope that these stories will touch many lives and resonate with many issues and situations that other Christians find themselves in. I look forward to the feedback they will receive and can't wait to see what other stories of hope and joy arise from these stories being shared with others.

Please stay tuned for more information to come. And check out the new website for 5 Solas Publishing, updates will be ongoing!!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Are We to Live in Fear?

There are many issues at stake in any discussion about God's grace, His mercy, His justice, or His judgement. Many people choose to ignore attributes of God so that they can focus solely on other attributes. They take pieces of who God is and then claim that those pieces should be the focal point for any discussion or situation. This cannot be how we view God or His attributes. We need to carry a deeper understanding of who God is to those we come in contact with us. God is love, but He is also wrath and justice. He is righteous, but He also hates the unrighteous. God does not merely become part of Himself because we desire Him to, but always remains the same. Yesterday, today, and forever.

Last weekend there was an extremely large shooting in Orlando that was horrible and has caused much grief for many families. I have been debating with myself in how I wanted to respond to the situation and to those who have already spoken out about it, in one form or another. The longer that I considered the situation and the responses that I have seen to it, the more that I have come to believe that most Christians do not respond properly to situations like this one.

We, Christians, claim that we believe in the Bible and that our God is in control. Yet, many of the responses that I have seen completely deny these very things. I have seen people stating that those in Orlando "had their lives cut short" or "they were taken before their time". When I hear these statements I am filled with sorrow for the one who makes it. If we cannot believe what the Bible tells us that God knows and has planned every day of our lives so that we live exactly the right amount of time, then how can we tell those who are hurting and grieving about the God who died for sinners, sinners just like them. We cannot tell people that God is a refuge for those who repent of their sins and run to Him if we cannot even stand upon His Word that He does all things for those who love Him and are called to His purpose.

God is sovereign over all things, even death. Our response to those who are unrepentant sinners shouldn't be a love that makes them feel better and agrees with their sin. Rather, we are called to love others while explaining to them why their sin is horrible and disgusting in the eyes of God. This is the gospel; that Christ came to earth, lived a perfect righteous life, died upon the cross for the sins of those whom He has chosen for Himself, and then rose from the grave to show His sovereignty even over death and the grave.

If we are to be told that we cannot show people love by preaching the gospel to them, then why do we even claim to be Christians? I John proclaims that God is love. The absence of God, would be no love. So to tell people that we know grief hurts, but there is hope for those who repent isn't hateful, but rather the most loving thing that we can do. We are not to hate others, we are to love them. However, many people want to tell us that in order to love someone you must approve of their sin. This is not the definition of love.

My mind continually wanders to the life of Job whenever I think about situations such as the one in Orlando, FL. Job was a righteous man and God still allowed Satan to torture his earthly body to pains beyond what many people could even imagine. This wasn't something that was done apart from God's sovereignty or without His permission. It was done by God giving permission to Satan to test Job. This test included the death of all of Job's children and even caused his wife to desire to curse God so that she may die as well. The book of Job is of greatest importance when we are examining suffering. If God removes His hand of protection/restraint even the slightest, human depravity explodes all around us.

The gunman in Orlando was a prime example of this. God restrained his sin and desire to sin against both God and his fellow man until the time decreed by God for his sin to become manifest. This man was no sicker or more sinful than any other, God just allowed him to express his sin at that specific moment in time and space in such a way that it showed the horror and ugliness of sin. Yet, many people refuse to see it as sin, just like they refuse to see how an individual lives their life can also be sin. They think that this gunman was way different and had something wrong with him that no other person, except for the terrorists, has wrong with them. This simple was an expression of the sin that lies within every single human being alive. If God wasn't holding us back all the time, we would all of have committed acts just like this at some point in our lives.

All those who were killed in Orlando were judged by God, both in this life and now in the next. God chose this past weekend as the time wherein He would no longer permit those individuals to sin against Him. And unless they cried out to Him in repentance and true humility, they have been sent to their eternal punishment in hell.

Many people would think that I have gone too far with my last statement. I however hope that you will give me the respect to continue to read this statement in its entirety. Every person dies because of sin. Some people die because sin is in the world and their bodies decay. Some people die because of other people's sin and are martyred for their faith in Christ. Others die because their sin has reached the limit for what God will allow of them and He removes them from this world. But the fact remains that everyone dies because of sin. For the wages of sin is death, and therefore Christians and unrepentant sinners will all die in the end because of their sin.

As I previously mentioned, those who were in that club in Orlando most likely died because God saw fit to remove them from this world because of their sins committed. This does not mean that those who remain, namely family and friends, are not grieved at the loss of their loved ones and do not hurt deeply because of the pain caused by their loss. This does not mean that the gunman acted rightly in gunning down all of those people, he was acting in sin and hatred that was bred from sin and was also struck down by God's decree for his actions.

This means that instead of embracing those in Orlando with false pretenses of feigned love for something that we cannot love because it goes directly against the decrees of an Almighty and Holy God, we need to bring them the Gospel in love and humility. We are no better individuals then anyone else. We merely have been blessed by God to see His mercy and grace. We must share that mercy and grace with those in need of it. Both in Orlando and throughout the world. Sin exists throughout every corner of the world, and yet Christians continue to allow it to hold a place at the table in the name of love.

Jesus lived amongst sinners and dined with them. However, never once did He approve of their sinful actions or allow them to feel at ease with those actions. Two of the best examples of this are found with the woman at the well in Samaria and Mary Magdalene. In the case of the woman at the well, Jesus drank water with her, which was never done between Jews and Samaritans, but then He followed it up with a confrontation about the many men that she had married and slept with out of wedlock. It wasn't just that He did one or the other, but rather the combination of the two that makes it so powerful. In the case of the Mary Magdalene, He permits her to come into the place where He was dining, not because of who she was for she was a harlot, but rather because He knew that salvation is available to all who repent and come to Him.

This is the manner by which we, Christians, should approach situations like this. We must love, God commands it, but He also commands us to make disciples throughout all the earth and we must also do so. We must share the Gospel, even when it is not wanted. We must love, even when we receive no love in return. But most importantly, we must follow God no matter the cost or sacrifice.

Let us pray for those who are grieving, weep with those who are weeping, mourn with those mourning, but then let us offer to them the sweetest of sweets and explain to them the love of a Savior who is greater than anything they could even imagine. There will be those who proclaim hatred or callousness are found within our actions because we hold to Christ and Christ alone, but that is to be expected since Jesus Himself told us that the world will hate and despise us for His sake. Let this not deter us from ministering to those who so desperately need it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Why Bother With Doctrine?

There are many who would proclaim that doctrine doesn't matter or isn't as important as being loving or living rightly. However, the very problem with that thought is that you cannot live rightly and love others unless your mind has been transformed to the things of Christ. For instance, if the apostle Paul had cared more about living rightly and loving others, do you think that he would have written all of the letters that he did to all of the churches that he did exhorting them to hold fast to the truth and to remember what he had taught them? If they needed to only live right, then they wouldn't need to remember what he had taught them, but rather they would have merely attempted to live by their own merit.

I think that A.W. Tozer lays out an amazing argument as to why doctrine matters. He says:

"It would be impossible to overemphasize the importance of sound doctrine in the life of a Christian. Right thinking about all spiritual matters is imperative if we would have right living. As men do not gather grapes of thorns nor figs of thistles, sound character does not grow out of unsound teaching.

The word doctrine means simply religious beliefs held and taught. It is the sacred task of all Christians, first as believers and then as teachers of religious beliefs, to be certain that these beliefs correspond exactly to truth. A precise agreement between belief and fact constitutes soundness in doctrine. We cannot afford to have less.

The apostles not only taught truth but contended for its purity against any who would corrupt it. The Pauline epistles resist every effort of false teachers to introduce doctrinal vagaries. John’s epistles are sharp with condemnation of those teachers who harassed the young church by denying the incarnation and throwing doubts upon the doctrine of the Trinity; and Jude in his brief but powerful epistle rises to heights of burning eloquence as he pours scorn upon evil teachers who would mislead the saints.

Each generation of Christians must look to its beliefs. While truth itself is unchanging, the minds of men are porous vessels out of which truth can leak and into which error may seep to dilute the truth they contain. The human heart is heretical by nature and runs to error as naturally as a garden to weeds. All a man, a church or a denomination needs to guarantee deterioration of doctrine is to take everything for granted and do nothing. The unattended garden will soon be overrun with weeds; the heart that fails to cultivate truth and root out error will shortly be a theological wilderness; the church or denomination that grows careless on the highway of truth will before long find itself astray, bogged down in some mud flat from which there is no escape.

In every field of human thought and activity accuracy is considered a virtue. To err ever so slightly is to invite serious loss, if not death itself. Only in religious thought is faithfulness to truth looked upon as a fault. When men deal with things earthly and temporal they demand truth; when they come to the consideration of things heavenly and eternal they hedge and hesitate as if truth either could not be discovered or didn’t matter anyway.

Montaigne said that a liar is one who is brave toward God and a coward toward men; for a liar faces God and shrinks from men. Is this not simply a proof of unbelief? Is it not to say that the liar believes in men but is not convinced of the existence of God, and is willing to risk the displeasure of a God who may not exist rather than that of man who obviously does?

I think also that deep, basic unbelief is back of human carelessness in religion. The scientist, the physician, the navigator deals with matters he knows are real; and because these things are real the world demands that both teacher and practitioner be skilled in the knowledge of them. The teacher of spiritual things only is required to be unsure in his beliefs, ambiguous in his remarks and tolerant of every religious opinion expressed by anyone, even by the man least qualified to hold an opinion.

Haziness of doctrine has always been the mark of the liberal. When the Holy Scriptures are rejected as the final authority on religious belief something must be found to take their place. Historically that something has been either reason or sentiment: if sentiment, it has been humanism. Sometimes there has been an admixture of the two, as may be seen in liberal churches today. These will not quite give up the Bible, neither will they quite believe it; the result is an unclear body of beliefs more like a fog than a mountain, where anything may be true but nothing may be trusted as being certainly true.

We have gotten accustomed to the blurred puffs of gray fog that pass for doctrine in modernistic churches and expect nothing better, but it is a cause for real alarm that the fog has begun of late to creep into many evangelical churches. From some previously unimpeachable sources are now coming vague statements consisting of a milky admixture of Scripture, science and human sentiment that is true to none of its ingredients because each one works to cancel the others out.

Certain of our evangelical brethren appear to be laboring under the impression that they are advanced thinkers because they are rethinking evolution and reevaluating various Bible doctrines or even divine inspiration itself; but so far are they from being advanced thinkers that they are merely timid followers of modernism-fifty years behind the parade.

Little by little evangelical Christians these days are being brainwashed. One evidence is that increasing numbers of them are becoming ashamed to be found unequivocally on the side of truth. They say they believe but their beliefs have been so diluted as to be impossible of clear definition.

Moral power has always accompanied definitive beliefs. Great saints have always been dogmatic. We need right now a return to a gentle dogmatism that smiles while it stands stubborn and firm on the Word of God that liveth and abideth forever."

from: Man: The Dwelling Place of God, A.W. Tozer.

Oh how true these words are today. It would seem as if he had written them about today's Christian church, and these words were written over fifty years ago. May our hearts ache for those who disregard the very foundation that they claim to stand on and forsake the sacrifices that those saints who have gone before us paid with their blood to preserve many works that contain deep and beautiful doctrines that cause the Christian to taste sweet honey from our Father's hand.