As a Christian, I for one, cannot refer to this holiday as the “Easter” holiday. Here is an excerpt from the sermon last year during this holiday:
Let’s discuss the term: Easter. It has now been associated with Christ’s resurrection for as long as we can remember. Unfortunately, the Scriptures nor any Biblical scholars ever agree that the term Easter should be associated with Christ’s resurrection. The term “easter” stems from ancient polytheistic religions. It is a pagan term dating back to the flood, the original beginning of the Babylonian empire. “Easter” is the name of the Teutonic goddess of Spring or fertility, which was then associated Semiramis, the wife of the first ruler of Babylon.
As far as the bunny goes, rabbits have always been known as the sexual symbol of fertility. Additionally, the easter bunny is associated with the mother goddess of Spring. The easter egg, draws from it’s ancient traditions that the egg is a sacred symbol from where the Spring goddess of fertility, Semiramis hatched.
Isn’t it interesting that the act of Jesus Christ that destroyed death has now been obscured by the term easter, Ishtar, bunnies, and eggs, all of which come from pagan traditions that mock the story of Christ? Isn’t it even more interesting that we’ve accepted it and never questioned it, not even church leaders today? This is the reason why we try to change the thinking and call this day, Resurrection Sunday.
This day should be about Christ. And too often, the word association of easter contains words of bunnies, pastels, and eggs, hunting and painting. Today, we try to remind ourselves and teach ourselves new things regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The devil is the great deceiver and the father of lies. (John 8:44) He’s taken this crucial moment of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice and has created a misconception that has not only infiltrated the general society but the Christian church itself! Does anyone really think that it’s a coincidence that the automatic response to this day is that of pastels, bunnies, and egg hunts? Do we really assume that during Christmas the character of Santa Claus just miraculously and coincidentally appeared for the convenience of little children everywhere? Remember the line from C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters that the greatest victory that Satan has achieved is making the world believe he doesn’t exist. (paraphrase). For us to assume that on the day of Christ’s birth and the day of His resurrection, these other fables have manifested itself by sheer coincidence would be buying into that very statement.
Even a subtle title change of acknowledging that this is the day we celebrate Christ’s resurrection to the pagan goddess of Spring is a victory, not for the Christian, but for the deceiver. It’s even more sad that proclaimed Christian leaders all around the world still will not hesitate to call this holiday Easter, not because of their understanding of the term, but because of the name association that falls behind it.
“I’ve always known it to be Easter.”
Yeah. And I’ve always known Christ to have risen from the grave, not because of deceit, but because of truth.
Since there’s been an added interest in the topic of sex and carnal desires, I figured it was high time to write another blog post about that which people can relate to and that which some cannot seem to get enough. Here is the first of the three descriptions of the “things of this world.”
LUST OF THE FLESH
It is important that each and everyone of us takes a look at our own personal daily lives and determine what takes precedence in our lives. What do we keep in front of our eyes? What do we focus our minds on? What are our hearts filled with? Is it with the things of God or the things of this world?
Once we determine what takes priority in our lives we must make a decision. Do we stay the course or do we change direction? If we’ve remained obedient to the things of God then we are on the right track. But if we’ve come to the revelation that our lives are filled more with the things of this world, what must we do then? It is then that we must turn away from the things that are destructive and turn back to God. The question we then ask ourselves is, “what are we turning away from?”
I. The Lust of the Flesh
1 John 2:16- “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.”
I was once enlightened to an important and critical fact. We in this world must learn to transform our love for sin into our love for God. We must learn to love sin less and love God more. We must exchange our love for sin for the love of God. This is of course very difficult for many of us. We find gratification with sin. We find fulfillment. We feel as if we are whole by committing the sins that we commit. When we try and exchange our sin for God, that fulfillment may not be as tangible. We try to stay satisfied with God, but it’s difficult because God isn’t as visible or tangible as the sin we’ve been holding to.
Then eventually we feel empty. We need to be filled. God is absent. We don’t feel him. But we sure do know the feeling we get when we commit a sin. We remember how good it felt. We remember how it satisfied our longings. We could not wait for God to fill the void in our hearts. It’s much more easily satisfied by sin.
But we remember what Christ told the Samaritan woman at the well. He who drinks of the water of this well will thirst again but he who drinks of the water that I give him will never thirst. We may satisfy our cravings temporarily by committing the sins that we know make us feel good, but it is a short term gratification. We must turn away from these things and turn to God.
We are fortunate enough that the apostle John introduced us to the things that we should be wary of. In the introduction, we asked ourselves, what are the things that we are supposed to turn from? Sin, sure. But more specifically John gives us three weapons the enemy uses that we must look out for.
The first is the lust of the flesh. The Greek word for “lust” is epithumia. It speaks of “a desire, a craving, a longing, a desire for what is forbidden.” This desire is for the flesh. The Greek word for “”flesh” is sarx. It “denotes mere human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God.” In simpler terms, when talking of the lust of the flesh, it talks of the humanly desires. “The lust of the flesh is, subjectively, the humour and appetite of indulging fleshly pleasures; and objectively, all those things that excite and inflame the pleasures of the flesh.”
This is the nature of man. Fleshly, carnal obsession and desires constitute the makeup of mankind. As sin permeates throughout our entire being, we are characterized by the desire to fulfill the desires of our flesh. It is our wanting, our longing, to indulge in pleasures of the earthly kind. Do we not find ourselves desiring to indulge in the appetites of that which ultimately corrupts our character, our integrity, our morality and thwarts any progress of our relationship with God?
Sensual and impure desires overtake that which we know is correct and moral. This world allows these desires to be accessible, attainable, and acceptable. They are lusts that are freely given. They are desires sought after by the majority of this world that if one desires not to pursue, they are of the minority, are looked down upon, spat upon, and called intolerant.
And yet, they are still desires that we justify. We crave it. We desire it. We need it. I’m suffering and it brings me temporary gratification. The flesh is good at the moment my lust is being satisfied. I only consider what is immediately in front of me. And what is in front of me is lust. Lust for violence, for gore, for sex, for men, for women, for alcohol, for drugs, for hate, for wrath, for envy, for jealousy, and uncleanness. For everything discussed in Galatians 5:19. There are nearly twice as many works of the flesh than there are works of the Spirit. We must be wary of what takes precedence in our lives.
We discussed earlier that we must decide to not fill our hearts with the things of this world, but rather to turn away from those things and fill our hearts with the things of God. This is necessary because we remind ourselves that to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually mind is life and peace.
We must consider our own lives and decide if the lust of the flesh supersedes our love for God. Are we overridden with sensual impure thoughts? Worse yet, are we overridden with sensual impure actions? Do we seek immediate gratification even at the expense of our soul?
With each temptation we succumb to we make a bold statement that we would rather live for the lust of our flesh than for the glory of God. We’ve heard so many times to repent and to turn away but never the specific answer of what to turn away from. With conviction we know that which we must steer clear of. The lust of the flesh keeps us far away from God.
 Matthew Henry’s Commentary
After having two separate sessions of video chat via Skype with two of the closest people/persons to us, it seems highly appropriate that the conviction on my heart and mind to discuss is that regarding the uncertainty of the unknown and the inescapable unbearable.
There are 3 different families, (mine included) that are living completely different lives, on three separate continents, all with different surrounding circumstances, with one very specific calling: to continue the work of the Lord’s ministry. One family has inherited a small local church which they have transformed into a flourishing weekly Bible study, reconnecting on a discipleship level that was never attained before during their previous pastor’s tenure. The other family departed for their home country after waiting more than 20 years to be called back home, eager to answer the call of the ministry, only to find out that there is still more waiting to be done and more patience to try. And then the last is dealing with the difficulty of determining what takes precedence, the ministry or the immediate family.
We all put our heart and soul into what God has called us to do. And on very different levels, He’s called us to fully trust in Him.
After walking away from both conversations, it’s clear to me that the challenge of trusting in God during this very tumultuous journey is a sentiment that I can claim to have with two of the families that we love so much. We expressed our concerns, anxieties, and fears. We talked of how difficult it is to trust in God and the recent personal experiences of when our trust was successful and when it failed. Our countenance was sharpened as we leaned on one another for words of encouragement and strength, realizing that tens of thousands of miles apart, we were all going through the same exact testing of faith.
And personally, this realization helped bring directly to the forefront of my mind that I, and my family, am not alone. Yes, God is our very present help during times of trouble. But oddly enough, the feeling that He never left and continues to be by our side, comes in the form of the reality that some of our closest friends are enduring the same test of faith that we are, just in different circumstances. It’s almost as if He’s telling me, “I know this is difficult. To show you I am considerate of your situation, I am allowing you to endure this with some of your closest friends, to commiserate and empathize with what you are going through, so that they can be used by Me to bring you strength, peace, comfort, and joy… and so that you can be used to bring them the same.”
Every day, we wake up never understanding how God will work in our lives, and we go to sleep, amazed at the way He did. Some days are more difficult than others to trust in Him. Those are the days I go online and check my Skype to see if my closest loved ones are there to carry me through.
The simple truth that they are enduring times where they lack trust and are filled with discouragement and pain yet they press on toward the goal in Christ, pushes me to do the same. Because they trust in God, it encourages me to trust in Him. Because they love Him, they can trust Him.
And because they love Him…. I love them.
For all those who are dealing with the difficulty of trusting in God, some words of encouragement from the only source of our epistemology. May you continue to trust in Him, with all your heart, for not once, has He ever left nor forsaken you.
James 1:2,3 – “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”
(Taken from work on my current doctoral dissertation)
Our first part of Concerns for Un-Biblical Worship centered around the improper perception or perspective of who God is. The second part focuses on the object of our worship no longer being directed toward the God of the Bible but rather on man.
1 Peter 4:11 cautions us that “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things, God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Concerning the exegesis of 1 Peter 4:11, the context is in regards to preaching. This is an aspect of the ministry that cannot take away from the attention given toward God. Preaching, spoken by man, must give glory to God through Christ Jesus. The word “oracle” here is logion. “This word refers to God’s written revelation. The ministry of preaching must be confined within the bounds of God’s inspired Scriptures. And this should be done according to the power, ischuos, which God supplies. The supreme aim in preaching is to glorify God through Jesus Christ. When Christ is proclaimed in His power and glory, then God is glorified.”
Many preachers approach the pulpit lacking a sense of reverence and humility, but instead, as if the gift and calling bestowed upon them was of their own volition, preach with the subtext of God, but implicitly (or at times explicitly) claim the power as their own. It becomes a stage to introduce and showcase the wonderful talents, skills, knowledge, and intelligence, masked by the intent of preaching the Word of God for the purpose of the congregation’s edification, when in fact, the preaching is done to excite, motivate, inspire, and direct the emotional appeal of the lay person toward the one preaching, yet done, “all in the name of God.” When the preaching is given so that the attention is directed toward a fallen person, in need of a Savior, as opposed to the God who saves him, it is no longer Biblical.
How often do we come across preachers who bask in the glory they receive from their congregation members after preaching? Unfortunately, there are those who step off of the pulpit looking forward to the admiration given to them by their respective laity. It is what fuels them, inspires, motivates, and encourages them to continue “preaching” to others, as opposed to the sincere desire to bring glory to God by preaching His Word and edifying God’s children.
(Picture taken from http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/thumblarge_314/1222459336H79UV3.jpg)
 Isidro Annotated New Testament, p.454
One of the most difficult things I’ve had to deal with is comparing myself to others who have walked the same road that I have. There are many people whom I admire and respect, those who have accomplished so many things, accomplishments that I hope to achieve some day, achievements that I can’t seem to wait to lay a hold of.
Then there are individuals who are walking the same path that I am currently. It’s a hard-fought battle for me, not to see them as competition or adversaries, but rather teammates and comrades. It’s a feeling of one-upmanship, being pushed to be greater, to do better, to do more than the next person. In a capitalistic American society, this is the right mind-set, but in the area of ministry, one can be considered delusional.
It was the apostle John that stated “He must increase but I must decrease.” How absolutely necessary when speaking about our Savior and apropo when talking about our peers.
In my mind, I use Proverbs 27:17 as a quasi-justification for my emotions: “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” My friends, my peers, those I look up to, are used to sharpen my countenance, therefore I must do the same. I must be an iron to them to help sharpen their countenance.
But this in turn transforms into a challenge, a competition, a desire to “beat” and “win.” It no longer becomes a humble ministry, but rather a prideful contest.
I can do more. I can influence more people. I can be more popular. I can win. I will win.
What sad state of affairs when this mentality has infiltrated my character. I loathe myself because of it. And it is not something that I can simply set aside. I’ve been working so hard at it. Everytime I see someone I love accomplish something great for the Lord, I hate that my first gut reaction is to ask myself “How can I top that? How can I do better than him?”
This is all for the Lord. And one of my greatest weaknesses is to assume otherwise due to the pride of life that has permeated throughout my thinking and my heart’s direction. It is James that reminds me not to boast in my tomorrow, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ (James 4:15)
Unfortunately, I have “boast[ed] in [my] arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:16) My pride is but one of the thorns of my flesh. It is this relocation to the Philippines that I hope my pride will be set aside in place of humility. “For God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (Prov. 3:34)
To my friends who walk this journey with me, in sincerity, humility, and love, your progress and achievements inspire me to do more but to be LESS. Though I may not have voiced it to you, I ask that you forgive me for challenging you, and placing myself in a position to try and supercede you in my superficial, fictional contest of ministry. Please pray for and teach me how to be more humble, to approach ministry and friendship the way you have with me; with genuineness and a fervor to simply serve the Lord out of obedience, not acclaim, prestige or rewards.
My delusional idea of a competitive ministry has brought me to the edge of my cliff. It’ll be my pride, or lack thereof, that decides whether or not I take another step.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded! – James 4:8
It is simply unbelievable, (yet believable) that there are those in this world who sincerely claim to be followers of Jesus Christ and believers in His Word and yet apply and teach it in only a way that bears subjective reasoning. Too often have I read, heard, and seen of pastors, preachers, and other church leaders who claim that their revelation comes directly from God Himself.
News flash: There is no longer any DIRECT REVELATION.
God reveals Himself to us in His Word, not through dreams, visible manifestations, or audible voice that “speaks to us,” and that “our spirit hears.” The idea that God has selected some to exclusively hear His Word while the rest of us are kept in the dark has us inching closer and closer to that other world religion that has its leader speaking Ex Cathedra. Why can you hear Him and not I? Are you more selectively chosen, more of a light, more of a salt than I am? What makes your salvation greater than mine? Have I not accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior? Have I not been born again? Have I not been imputed righteousness? Do I not also believe that salvation is by grace through faith in Him, not of ourselves, lest any man should boast?
Why did God choose you, not me? Sounds more like a reformed faith to me rather than some selective relevant, revelation of grace.
If anyone claims to be a believer in Christ, follower of God, and obedient to the Word of God, yet claims direct revelation, the most basic, fundamental argument that they are making is this: “I need to hear directly from God because HIS WORD, THE BIBLE, IS NOT ENOUGH.”
For anyone to make this implicit claim does not believe in the veracity, inerrancy, and complete inspiration of the Scriptures. God has given us everything we need to know in His Word. This “New Covenant” does not revert back to the “Old Covenant” when God dealt audibly and directly with His followers through voice and anthropomorphism. Again, defining this as a “New Covenant” in any manner subjects it to a post-modernistic opinion that it is your own subjective truth, that this is what you believe the New Covenant is.
I understand it appeals to the masses. I understand that it brings more attention and glorification to the one claiming it. People appeal to the emotional aspect of faith, hoping to create an experience of tears, goosebumps, and “Spirit-moving/slaining.” I also can claim that God spoke to me and garner hundreds if not thousands of followers by following it with miracles that are spoken “in the name of Christ!”
But I’ve read, heard, and researched others who have claimed the same thing, as if they came in the name of God only to divert from the truth of apostolic theology. And I know of one more who will come, sit on the throne of God, and commit the abomination of desolation, claiming to be God Himself.
Are these modern day individuals so far from them? Haven’t the apostle’s spoken out to the churches in Asia Minor, Ephesus, Corinth about the false teachers that have come, not only from outside the church walls, but those who will come from within? Who is keeping these people accountable, especially when others reach out to them, feeding and stroking their ego, believing that they are truly preaching and teaching the apostolic theology of the Word of God?
It’s hard enough to fight against the principalities and powers, against the various other denominations and ideologies that teach that Christ is not God, He is not Savior, and that there are other various means to salvation and to God. Now we have to fight against those who claim to be His children as well, but distort and interpret the Word of God only as they see fit?
As the apostle John told the church, we truly are in the Last Hour.
(Photo taken from http://www.cowichanfamilylife.org/counselling/images/anger2.jpg)
I suppose it’s time for some reflection. It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything on In Deed In Truth and it’s not for lack of content. I’d even hate to pawn it off on lack of time. But reality is reality. Can’t fake the funk.
It has been a ridiculously insane 2 months. The beginning of autumn was a progressive, forward thinking, looking toward new and exciting developments, time of the year. On August 7, 2009, we welcomed our second daughter into the world. The last 3 months has been filled with diapers, wipes, breast milk, screaming newborns, screaming older sisters, and not nearly enough time to cultivate and nurture the marriage between a husband and wife. Up’s and downs. In’s and Outs. Kriss and Kross… don’t it make you wanna jump, jump.
Not only did the Lord give me another beautiful baby daughte, but my secular full time job maintains its consistent demands as well as the church in Pasadena, CA. Unfortunately, many things had to take a back seat and the last 6 months has forced me to prioritize big time.
I’ve tried to maintain the level of activity with Events For Christ, but my family, church, and work has demanded more of my time and attention. As much as I wanted to keep EFC going and growing, it was just far too difficult. But things are starting to slow down and get into a nice rhythm. EFC seems to be back on my radar and I can’t be more excited. Thank you to all those who continue to encourage us with your support for Events For Christ
Not only is EFC back on my radar, but a brand new ministry movement has pushed itself to the front of the line. The Road to Peace is a new ministry that the Lord has placed on my heart and I’ve obliged to undertake. Starting with a rally this month, a conference in January, videos, pictures, books, t-shirts, sponsorships, collaborations, and the sort spewed about, needless to say, not much else has found its way into my schedule. I have a team of 4 individuals with another 4 consultants. It’s God’s providence that He doesn’t allow me to feel how big this may get. We are the US division. We already have a South African contingent. Sometime in 2010, we’re hoping to be able to travel internationally and bring this movement overseas. (We’re looking into penetrating the Philippine market starting in 2010 as well.) Big ideas. An even bigger God.
Speaking of the Philippines, a little birdie told me that there’s a need for my presence in Forest Hills, Cebu City, where the main organizational ministry is located. As vice-chairman of EL International Church Inc, it’s important for me to be in the midst of all the goings on of EL International. Lord willing, we’ll be opening our elementary school next year, continuing the construction of the building, attending to the details of the library, and adding more components to the computer lab. Not to mention the 7 additional congregations that are currently planted. There’s a congregation in Valenzuela city, PI that is still without a pastor but diligently worships and serves weekly.
As busy as I think I am here in the US, I know that things are 100 times more arduous and hectic in Pinas. It helps me keep things in perspective.
My older sister warned me earlier this week of the work load that I’m carrying. From her viewpoint, being the sole provider of my family and carrying everything else is unhealthy and hazardous to my heart. A myocardial infarction might be in my future. I pray that it’s not.
All in all, as busy as my days, nights, weeks, and weekends may be… as overwhelmed as I may potentially feel, I’m having fun. I’m doing what I love to do, which is serve the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I don’t feel like I’m wasting any of my talents and gifts because I’m just focusing on giving it back to Him. It brings joy to my heart.
And as long as my daughters rush to the door every time they hear me and usher me into my home with open arms and wide smiles, welcomed to a family based on love and support, God’s goodness is revealed to me every single day.
And I challenge God…Can it really get any better?
(Picture taken October 2009, Keilah Naomi at Finkbiner Park in Glendora, CA)
A while back, I remember having a conversation with someone at an event. Our conversation was going quite well and we were discussing many issues of the ministry. Mid sentence, he stopped me from talking and asked me if I could take a picture of him and the speaker for the evening, that had just so happened to be within proximity of where we were. At that moment, our conversation ceased as his conversation with the other person began.
What am I to think? Obviously what I was saying wasn’t nearly as interesting as what he could be talking about with the other person. In retrospect, the look on his face as I was speaking made it look like he had mentally checked out and was just looking for an opportunity to ask me to take this famous photograph.
I can’t fault him for his actions. If you want to talk to somebody, then you want to talk to somebody. I just hope that I’m never the cause of a cancelled conversation.
Coming in a day and age where there is so much exposure, self made, man made with an ease of publicity, anybody at any time can become popular on many levels. Want to show your face? Youtube it is. Got something to say. Podcast. Afraid of exposing your face or voice? Get a blog. Anybody, anywhere can come out of nowhere and rise to prominence and fame. (Daniel’s little horn anyone?)
But just as everybody is going in one direction, hoping for that recognition, I’ve been spending the last few years, trying to stay away from the pull of popularity. (Even at this moment, this blog is read only by my family and a few friends. Though this entry may make me seem hypocritical, I assure you, my intent for this blog is not for popularity. In due time, it will be a vehicle meant for more theological, educational purposes).
As carnal human beings, there are insecurities that lie in wait. When others begin to feed our insecurities, the more we crave it. When others shower us with praise and push us toward celebrity status, it’s hard to remain humble. The enemy takes hold of any opening, and we begin down a slippery slope.
As a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ, we should all be defined by service. I work, do the things I do, sacrifice, and toil because I want to serve. I want to serve because I was bought at a price. I want to serve because greater love has no man than this, than a man serve (lay down his life for) his friends. I need to serve… because Christ served me by dying for me. This act of service shouldn’t be done with attaining worldy rewards in mind.
Other pastors, preachers, teachers, speakers, evangelists, theologians, and clergy leaders may love the attention, crave it, and possibly handle it better than I could. Kudos to them. However, let’s not be mistaken. I’m not saying that ALL attention is bad. I just don’t want any additional attention that might tempt me to think of myself as anything more than a servant of God.
I’m not walking that path. Give me the path less travelled by. Let me walk the road marred by sacrifice and tears. Let me trod the trail that evidences no sign of celebrity compromise, blinded by the flash of photography.
And let me walk it with Christ leading me.
Picture taken from http://baseballsnatcher.mlblogs.com/paparazzi.jpg