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Sex and a Fire Well Contained

There is a popular illustration that is often preached to help warn believers and non-believers of the dangers of sexual sin. It is often told that sex within the confines of marriage is like a fireplace, which, when in a controlled environment, provides blessing, warmth, and visual stimulation that is not harmful or dangerous. Any kind of fire outside of that contained and safe environment will spread, consume, and destroy, because that is how fire behaves. This illustration, and many others like it, is not entirely wrong when depicting the proper context for sex in a marriage relationship. And other times it is heavily used to warn the masses from the devastating, earthly consequences of sexual sin. Although I would not dogmatically disagree with this illustration, I find that it falls short in recognizing how adultery functions first in the heart, and perhaps how most people view sexual sin in reality. Allow me to give my illustration.

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Don’t Forget

I am reading through the book of Numbers and remembering how important it is to not forget the good things God has done. Unfortunately, humankind hasn’t changed and, when trials come, it’s easy to wonder how God can do these things to US–His servants! Bad things do happen to Godly people, however, and you must remember it is these things that increase our faith and have the capacity to make us more Godly if we would surrender.

This is a reminder I needed today. I have seen God’s hand at work so many times and, even when I can’t see, I need to trust and know that everything He allows in my life is for my good and His glory. It is often in the valley that I take more time to seek His face and listen for His voice. I admit this to my shame but it is something I think about when trials come. If this is the only way that God can get my attention, then I need not complain but, instead, I should be praising Him for His faithfulness in continually drawing me closer to Him.

I pray I never forget His goodness and His love for me. I hope you don’t either. Over and over in Scripture, God told the Israelites to Remember. God is still saying that today. Thank Him for His blessings for they are many.

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A Call to Repentance and Surrender

After Bible Study the other night, we were sitting around talking, and someone mentioned that, before he knew the Lord, he wouldn’t attend church because he knew he wasn’t living right. Thankfully, he finally hit a place where he surrendered to the Lord, changed the things he knew needed to change, and surrendered his life to Christ.

I understand why churches stress the importance of coming to Jesus as you are instead of waiting to be cleaned up but it also seems like way too many stay as they are, even after making a profession of faith. Isaiah 1:18 says, “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ said the LORD: ‘though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.'” This doesn’t mean your sins become white but that your life of sin disappears as you begin to serve God.

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In Romans 6:1, Paul asks, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” In verse 2, he answers his own question, “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”

In Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” We know Christ knew no sin so, if He lives in me, I won’t live a life of sin either.

Many times in Scripture, people were told to repent. That call still goes out today. If you are one who looks nice on the outside but inside, you are full of uncleanness, repent. If you are nice to the people at church but mean to your family, repent. If you are living a life that you know is not honoring to God, it is never too late to turn from your sinful ways and surrender those areas to the One who loves you more than you will ever be able to comprehend. The answer isn’t to stop going to church; the answer is to understand your need and turn to Him today.

Pretend that you are about to take communion. Think about the horrendous death that Jesus suffered because of your sins and mine. As you begin to bring the bread and cup to your lips, does your heart well up with gratitude for what Christ has done for you or do you find yourself squirming because you know that you are not able to take communion worthily but you know that others have no idea what your life is really like? Worse yet, do you not feel that sense of guilt about the life you are living?

Hebrews 12:6 says, “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and whips every son whom He receives.” If you are able to sin and not be disciplined by the Lord, you should really search your heart to know if you are truly His.

Let me also say here that there is a difference between conviction and condemnation. Condemnation feels like there is no hope. Conviction is the mercy of the Holy Spirit tapping you on the shoulder and showing you what you are doing wrong so that you can change. That is what I want you to feel today: the conviction that only God can bring. I don’t know your life. I don’t know what you’re going through. But I do know that God loves you, and He can change you today, whether you have gone to church for a day, a month, a year, 5 years, 65 years, or not at all. His arm is not too short, and He desires you to spend eternity with Him. Won’t you surrender today?

Taste and See!

Taste and See!

A review by Stuart Brogden

Barry Cooper has written a short but most excellent book, entitled Can I really trust the Bible? And other questions about Scripture, truth and how God speaks. While many very good and expansive apologetics books have been written, this small volume provides the reader an accessible wealth of information and insight as to the nature of the collection we call the Bible. Cooper gives us 5 short chapters, answering three questions, “Does the Bible claim to be God’s word?”, “Does the Bible seem to be God’s word?”, and “Does the Bible prove to be God’s word?” from 5 different perspectives:

  1. The world, the word, and what Jesus thought of the Bible.
  2. The word, the Word, and the rightness of writing.
  3. Consistency, conspiracies and corruptions.
  4. Canon, contradictions and criticisms.
  5. Tasting, seeing, and the sweetness of Scripture.

Our author introduces his book with a short look back at Winnie the Pooh and his penchant for honey – and how Pooh proved honey. The jar had a label claiming it was honey, but could the label be trusted? The contents looked like honey, but you can’t tell for sure by looking. The only way to be sure the jar contained honey was to taste it and see!

In explaining how the Bible is trustworthy, Cooper reminds us that the Bible does not claim to contain all knowledge about God – but that it contains all we need to know about God. And, still in chapter one, he points out Jesus’ attitude towards Scripture – He does not differentiate between the words of God and the word He caused men to write. The inspired word is trustworthy – not all any human author of Scripture wrote is inspired, only that which God intended and caused to be included in the canon of Scripture. In explaining the need we have of God’s written word, our author explains that giving it to us in writing allows God’s people to be sure and definite of knowing God’s word. If someone comes along claiming to speak for God, God’s word tells us how to respond – as the Bereans did, by searching the Scriptures to see if things are true; to test all things and cling to that which is good. Having God’s word in writing provides us this defense.

And since the Bible is the word of God, it is reasonable that He provided for its protection, preservation, and its identity as His word. The Roman Catholic Church claims that it decided what was in the canon of Scripture. Some evangelicals have been put off or discouraged by these claims. But Cooper rightly points out that the early church (hundreds of years before anything recognizable as the Roman Catholic Church) “didn’t willfully “declare” certain books to be from God; they could only recognize what was already apparent.” If God is God, sovereign over all He created, why should we be surprised when He uses His creation to produce, preserve, publish, and declare His word?

In chapter 4, Cooper gives us 7 quick arguments to refute claims that the Bible has errors:

  1. It’s not an error if it’s not in the original documents. There are scribal errors in every translation, but the enormous number of copies across the ages allows us to know what the autograph said.
  2. It’s not an error if we misunderstand the author’s intention. The Bible contains several genres of literature and literary customs of the authors’ eras. We cannot understand the Bible if we do not try to comprehend the historical and literary context of each passage.
  3. It’s not an error if it’s a paraphrase. Biblical authors often sum up accounts to provide something easy to listen to or read – same as when you summarize a movie you’ve seen.
  4. It’s not an error if it’s “phenomenological language”. When people describe things from their perspective, rather than objectively reporting facts, that phenomenological language. Cooper observes that a weatherman who talks about the sun rising is not called a liar – his audience knows what he means. He is using a literary custom of our day and telling it from his and our perspective.
  5. It’s not an error if someone else says it. This is when the Bible records someone telling a lie – the Bible is not in error. It is accurate in that it reports the lie. The liar is in error.
  6. It’s not an error if the Bible doesn’t speak definitively or exhaustively on every subject. Scripture doesn’t cover every topic, but it is authoritative on everything it does cover.
  7. It’s not an error if it ain’t written proper. Unlearned men speaking in sentence fragments are not errors. The issue is truthfulness – not passing a journalism exam.

Lastly, our author exhorts us to taste the Scriptures, to see if they are sweet to our souls as honey is to our tongues. Since the Spirit of God is the Author of Scripture, and since He lives in everyone who has been born of God, He will work in each child of God to develop our taste buds and give us understanding as we read and ponder the Word of God. Cooper warns us, the Bible “hasn’t been given to us so that we can know about God. It has been given to us so that we can know God.” He then quotes A.W. Tozer:

The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.

This, dear reader, is the bottom line: Those who have been made alive in Christ will experience what Cooper and Tozer wrote about. Those who have not been born again will not be able to. Our goal is not to convince unbelievers the Bible is true. Our goal is to know the Bible is true by our our knowledge of the Word Himself – and make noise about Him and His gospel to those who are not of His sheepfold, trusting that He will bring all the sheep home that the Father has given Him. This is what His word tells us – and His word is trustworthy.

Why I’m Thankful for ISIS

The title is tongue-in-cheek. I do not condone the actions of ISIS, but I do want to reveal the effect they have had on American culture in recent weeks. While many have shuttered all over the world of the terrorism of ISIS, below are some observations of why I am glad ISIS has gained media attention.

1. No more religion of peace. Think about this: How many times have you slightly regurgitated in your mouth whenever someone brings up how they believe Islam is peaceful, whether in a witnessing encounter or on the news? Now we have the ammunition needed that reveals otherwise! And even if someone does have the audacity to insist that Islam is a religion of peace, or tries to differentiate between ISIS and what Islam “actually” teaches, it now takes almost nothing to prove them wrong. After all, what motivates these men other than the Quran?

2. The real enemy is now obvious. I have open air preached in many places, and one of the worst rebuttals I receive concerning Christianity is that it is a dangerous religion. This, of course, is due to our evolutionary/humanistic professors that hate anything to do with Christ. But now, since the appearance of ISIS, a genuine enemy is now in the forefront of the media, making Christianity seem as menacing as a 3rd grade class at recess. And guess what? Humanists are terrified! Even atheists on social media are now confessing the tragic mistake they have made at making Christianity “dangerous” (although not all).

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Why I’m a Calvinist, and Not a Jerk!

We welcome a guest blogger to Defending Contending. George Alvarado may be known to some of you as the author of the book Apocity. I hope that we can learn from the attitude he portrays on what is often a sensitive issue and one that is not always found with a great degree of humility.

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Imagine someone drowning and gasping for air as they are gargling water trying to cry for help. Just before they black out, their lungs fill with water, preventing them to give a final cry, and their body sinks to the depths. As they black out, they feel nothing but the cold water surrounding them, and hear nothing but a deafening silence that welcomes them to their watery grave. Then, they wake up and find themselves underneath the pressure of someone administering CPR. As their chest is compressed and their lungs fill with air from their rescuer, they begin to regain consciousness and the breath of life is once again restored to their own control. When they take their first, deep breath, the adjoining exhale is filled with overwhelming gratitude towards the person that resuscitated them from certain death. Now, imagine a local journalist reporting on this incident asking this person their thoughts on this event, and they say, “I am really glad I chose to come back to life. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I didn’t take my first breath.”

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Lead Me to the Cross

“Lead me to the cross where Your love poured out. Bring me to my knees, Lord, I lay me down. Rid me of myself. I belong to You. Lead me.”

It’s been a hectic six months for me which has been followed by some trials that I would prefer not to walk through but God is giving tremendous grace, for which I am grateful.

The other night, I was experiencing immense physical pain due to an ear infection. As I was crying out to God for relief, He reminded me that He is no stranger to pain. As badly as I wanted the pain to go away, I knew then that, if God didn’t remove it, He would give me the strength to endure, and that is exactly what He did, enabling me to sleep in the midst of it. I am still dealing with pain but I know that this too will pass. He is such a good Father.

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Although my pain this past week was physical, this can apply to any trial or pain you’re going through. It does not compare to what He suffered. If you keep that in mind, you will not be able to rail against God but your heart will be filled with love for Him in spite of your suffering.

If you are going through a trial and don’t know how you’re going to make it, ask God to lead you to the cross, to rid you of yourself, to help you to lean on Him as never before. He will not leave you in the midst of your trial and suffering but He will carry you through it if you will surrender all to Him.