Month: February 2017

ET Phone Home

So what do we do, as Christ followers and believers in the Bible, with the discovery of seven new planets announced by NASA on February 22? These planets, it is believed, are only a scant 40 light years away from Earth and in an orbit around a weak sun. However, it is also believed that some of them have an atmosphere that may sustain life.

First, let’s affirm what we know. Whatever exists is there because God created it. This planetary discovery did not “surprise” the God who spoke the heavens and earth and all that exists in the universe… discovered by us and not… into existence. Whatever is, is there because God wanted it there.

Life may exist in some microscopic forms on some of these planets. We may have visions of lurking aliens and space creatures waiting to devour our puny, human race, but we are not talking about such aliens with this discovery. Simply that there may be an atmosphere that could in some limited circumstances sustain life. In other words, ET will not be phoning home from these planets.

Does that mean this life could “evolve” into something more complex? Those who affirm evolution as the theory of how we arrived here certainly hope it does. I believe they will be sorely disappointed. The adherents of this view want it to be proven that we are a random species that arrived on Earth by accident through a random combination of chemical reactions and that the same “accident” could happen on other planets as it did on Earth.

Still others see the possibility that life lies outside of earth as a hopeful future for humanity as we reach for the stars. Could we live on such a planet if our resources are exhausted here? Some think so. There is a belief that life lies beyond this planet, and this the Bible affirms. It is a place called Heaven, and it is more real than any star, solar system, or planet we can see with a telescope.

So again, what do we do with this news?

  1. We affirm the truth that all truth belongs to God. Whatever we see, wherever we go, God has already been there. No discovery surprises God. We do not need to “fear” scientific discoveries as something that may somehow threaten our belief system.
  2. If there is life, it will never attain to the complex level of human beings who are made “in the image of God.” Only man in all of creation was made with “the breath of God” breathed into him from the beginning. Man was made as the crown of God’s creation, given dominion over it all, and was redeemed from the Fall to rule with God one day.
  3. God has especially chosen planet earth as the location for the incarnation and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He will not go through the drama of redemption on other planets. He died for sinners “once for all.”
  4. We glory in God for His creation. The fact that we have discovered another facet of the diamond of God’s creation does not negate anything we know, but enriches our ability to glorify God for all He has made. “The heavens declare the glory of God…” the Psalmist wrote. I could imagine David being inspired to write those words in Psalms lying on his back on a still, Galilean night with stars twinkling overhead as far as he could see. The fact that we can see those countless stars and planets more closely and with greater detail does not lessen the glory of God… it enhances it!

So does our solar system house other forms of life? Is there life on other planets? Will we one day go and live there if earth is somehow exhausted of resources? I believe the answer is an unequivocal no. I am not waiting on the appearance of a spaceship from Planet 9. (Sorry: old sci-fi reference). I am waiting for a much more exciting appearance… when our Lord Jesus Christ returns in all His glory.

And that day, I assure you, will be coming soon!

Firsthand Faith 12

A wife and her husband seemed to be in constant conflict, complete with shouting matches the neighbors would hear. But in spite of this, she continued to fix his lunch before he went to work in the morning and kiss him goodbye on the front steps.

Finally a neighbor asked her, “why do you do it?” The man treats you awful, and yet you make his lunch every day. The wife’s reply was classic. She said, “My husband wants to be a body builder. He’s a security guard, but sees himself competing in world class championships. So I fix his lunch, and I put full on mayonnaise on his diet turkey sandwich, I put sugar in his low fat yogurt, and use half-and-half milk to make his smoothies. He can’t figure out why, no matter how hard he works out, he keeps gaining weight!”

We must be aware of our intake. Doctors tell us to watch our calories and fat; the Bible tells us to watch what we feed our mind and our soul. Intake will determine output. And a diet of deception will weaken us and ultimately weaken and sideline us spiritually. Be careful what you hear, what you read, who you listen to.

John tells us that we have a responsibility to “know” what’s going into our minds and spirit. But God will guide you by His Spirit, His “anointing” on you if you will listen. There are those, even from religious perspectives, who would poison you slowly with their added “ingredients.”

Ultimately, you “know” what is true or false. God has made sure of that by giving us His Spirit. Tune in. Lock in. Listen. Get regular intake of God’s Word. Filter falsehood.

And when you do, He will make sure you ultimately look like Him!

FOR MEDITATION: But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.    1 John 2:20

FOR REFLECTION: Get alone sometime soon and perform a ruthless inventory of what you are “taking in.” Make sure that what you are “taking in” is not “taking you in!”

Firsthand Faith 11

“They went out from us because they were not part of us.” 1 John 2:19

How do we keep ourselves from deception? It seems today there are so many appealing options and variations on religious themes. How do we know which one is true?

In a modern, pluralist culture in which there are many claims and proposed paths to religious belief there surely are those that intend to deceive

It happens all the time; a charismatic leader, a fanatic following, a mesmerizing service which guarantees an experience you won’t forget and suddenly our discernment goes out the window.

Doctrine takes a backseat. Belief gives priority to feeling. And before we know it, we’re victims of spiritual fraud; of religious identity theft.

“Test the spirits,” Grandpa John tells us in 1 John. If there is not a clear proclamation that Jesus Christ is God’s Son come in flesh, RUN. Don’t fall prey to a slickly-presented, religious agenda. Don’t give in to desiring a “spirituality” devoid of truth.

The complexity of our day demands it. The enemy of our souls, the devil, wants to lead you away and astray. Don’t give in. Be discerning.

And if you’re “shopping” in the religious marketplace the old adage still holds:

Buyer beware

“Father of truth, help our hearts to be attuned to Your voice and our minds saturated in Your Word. And help us in a world with too many choices to follow Your path. In Jesus our Shepherd we pray.”

Firsthand Faith 10

Do not love the world… if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15

Don’t love the world. That’s the counsel of John, the writer of the letter of 1 John. James breaks it down further for us. He actually calls attention to the progression of how we fall into “world love.”

First, James tells us not to “flirt” with the world. “Friendship with the world,” he tells us is “enmity with God.” That means when we flirt with the world we are in the process of making ourselves enemies of God.

Second, he tells us not to be “stained” by the world. James 1:27 warns us to not to be “spotted” by the world. Flirting with the world leaves us stained by its influence.

Third, we are told that compromising with the world is to become “adulterers and adulteresses.” Our flirting and being stained by the world moves us into a position that can only be described as adultery. There is no “halfway” adultery. We are either faithful or we are not.

Finally, the love of the world… the “harmless” flirtation, staining touch, the adultery… leads us to defection. Paul describes a man named Demas. Demas traveled with Paul, gone on mission trips with Paul and seen the hand of God move under Paul. And yet, as Paul waited in prison, he wrote, “Demas has forsaken me… having loved this present world.” (2 Timothy 4:10)

What a sad epitaph on an otherwise faithful life. But we cannot flirt with this world and not be spotted by it… stained by it… compromised by it… and ultimately fall in love with it.

No one can investigate your heart but you… where is your heart today?

“Father, we can so easily be seduced away from our love for You. Keep our hearts in love with You so much that we will not even flirt with a world at odds with You. And may we ever be found faithful. Through Christ our Lord and the One we love, Amen.”

Firsthand Faith 09

“If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him.” (1 John 2:15-17)
Well, love is in the air. As of today, we are one day away from our culture’s annual feast of love and romance called “Valentine’s Day,” or as one single adult called it, “my worst day of the year.”

Valentine’s Day is wonderful if you have someone you can call your sweetheart, but obviously for some it’s as painful as being an Orthodox Jew who is expected to sing Christmas carols. I do believe we are wired for relationship and wired to love. But that love can be co-opted and distorted and, according to our text, focused in the wrong direction.

That is the love John is warning against: a love that is misdirected, wrongly focused; a love that is truly not worthy of the name.

Don’t spend your love on that which is not worthy, not honoring to God, not lasting. Investing a life of love into a person… spouse, child, parent or brother and sister in Christ, pays eternal dividends. People will last forever. Loving this world, which is transient and temporary, is to borrow the phrase of an old mystic, like “painting firewood.” It’s all going to burn. Why dress it up?
“He who does the will of the Father will last forever.” (1 John 2:17) Make sure your investment is in the right thing. Don’t love what can’t be kept. Don’t “store up treasures on earth.” Invest in the eternal… people, the Gospel, God’s Kingdom. And that way, your love doesn’t have to end…

… ever.

“Our Loving God, Your Name tells us that You are love. You define it’s essence; You alone truly shown us the nature of a love that is permanent and selfless through sending Jesus Christ as our advocate and our atonement. The love You give never fails. It never gives up. It loves even when the love You give is not reciprocal. And while we use the word often today, too many times our love is not truly reflective of Your great love for us. Please help us to love those who need it most as we look around us today. And may the love we share truly be eternal. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.”

Firsthand Faith 08

“Love not the world neither the things that are in the world.” (1 John 2:15)

How do we understand the need today to live “in the world” but not be “of the world?”

As we know, our God is a God who “is love.” But love does not eliminate hate. Sometimes it accentuates it.

When we love someone we hate the illness that afflicts them. My grand darlin’ McCail is suffering her first cold. Right now, I hate the virus that is giving her a cough and runny nose and red eyes and stealing her energy. I hate the virus because I love McCail.

How could I possibly make friends with the germs that sicken her… NEVER… or love them?

Our love makes us hate the things that attack or injure or sicken or threaten our beloved. How then, if we love God, can we also love the things that have aligned against Him?

When we are called to love God we align ourselves against the things, the systems that seek to rise against Him. A doctor who loves healing hates the cancer, even microscopic, that threatens the patient.

“If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in Him.” And so our devotion to God requires our hatred of that which opposes Him. We are not bad because we hate… true love demands it.

“Father, we too easily give in to the seduction of a world system that is aligned against You. Forgive us where we compromise and offend You by loving the wrong things. Increase our love for You and all things that magnify You. In Jesus’ name we pray.”

Firsthand Faith 07

In the inspired, biblical correspondence we call “1 John,” the writer is prompted to write to an early New Testament church to stabilize their confidence. Apparently, teachers had infiltrated the fellowship who were undermining the ability of the new believers to “stand firm” in their faith. This is different than doubting.

Doubting salvation often comes about due to a loss of hope, not the absence of “right answers” theologically. Doubting can come after a season in which things we thought were true were things that we had gotten wrong. We were standing on the wrong platform when the train came, and we missed it. At a time when we thought God would come through for us with an answer to prayer; a new job, a repaired marriage or a healed body… it didn’t happen. At least in the timeline we thought it should. Doubting salvation is often boiled down to how we feel more than what we think.

Confidence is what comes about because “we know.” This word is used by John thirty-six times in this brief, little book. It is such a matter of focus for John because HE knows that if WE know then our confidence cannot be shaken… at least not easily. In other words, the question of confidence is not about “how do we feel” but “what do we know?” Doubting makes us look within; taking our eyes off the very One who can help us. Confidence is looking BEYOND ourselves to Jesus, and when we see Him and know Him more fully. Confidence flows through that connection.

And that’s how John can say in Chapter 5, “These things have I written… that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.” Not that you may FEEL you have it, but that with confidence and assurance and stability you KNOW it and stand firmly upon it. In short then, doubting becomes a reality in direct correlation to how much you are looking within for answers. But confidence comes when you are constantly, urgently and even desperately looking to Jesus and in His righteousness we can KNOW that we KNOW that He is our salvation.

A truth – if there ever was one – that we never need to doubt!

FOR MEDITATION: These things are written to you who believe on the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:13

FOR REFLECTION: How do you validate and verify that you have eternal life? It is not based on how we feel or what we’ve done. We know we have passed from death to life eternal by Who we trust and Who we know. It is His righteousness that saves us… not our own actions or our changing, emotional state. Turn your eyes upon Jesus… your confidence is there.

Firsthand Faith 06

The conversation grew increasingly theological as it went along. A father had caught his six-year-old daughter yet again doing something he had warned her about before… several times before.

He sent her back to her room and he dreaded having to punish his little sweetheart… the apple of his eye. But, ever the dutiful father, he entered her room.

She sat doe-eyed and tearful on the side of her bed as he patiently sat down and told her again that what she had done was wrong.

He took the moment to talk about sin and how it affects us and what the Bible says about it.

Then he looked at her and said, “Did you sin?” She solemnly nodded her head.

“And what happens when we sin?”

“We get in trouble and get punished.”

“And should I punish you?” He asked.
Silence. Then, she shook her head no. “Why not?” her Daddy asked.


One simple word, one profound thought. Like her, we have sinned. Like the father, justice should be executed… but Jesus interrupts the process.

Through the punishment He endured for us, we can now plead a perfect love that covers. And it perfectly covers us all.

FOR MEDITATION: And He is the covering (propitiation) for our sin and not only for ours but the whole world. 1 John 2:2

FOR REFLECTION: “Jesus loves me this I know….”

Firsthand Faith 05

The movie Sully ( a great movie by the way) retells the story of “The Miracle on the Hudson,” of Captain Sully, played by Tom Hanks, safely landing United Flight 1549 on the Hudson River. The moving story ends with an unforgettable documentary as the grateful surviving passengers and crew members come together and walk past the camera, reciting their seat numbers. It added to the drama and realism; reminding the viewer this was a re-enactment, not a fictional account.

It was obvious the harrowing flight and landing bonded the surviving crew and passengers to the “rescuer” who reminded them “I am still your Captain.” They had something of what John reminds us WE have as believers: fellowship with one another through the saving work of Christ.

Our fellowship is an exclusive club, with an open invitation to any who would want to join. There is only one requirement: you had to have been rescued through the saving work of Jesus Christ!

This fellowship is not a country club, reserved for the best of the best. It is not simply a group built around a common affinity. It is a blood-bought band of brothers and sisters who know each other and who have walked together through the experience of redemption. This salvation is what sets them apart… what makes them new… and the grounds of their belonging are simply this: Jesus loved us and died for us. He is the “propitiation” (the “mercy seat;” the satisfaction and payment) for our sins. (1 John 2:2)

And again, it is a fellowship that is inviting any who will confess their need for forgiveness and come. Come and be cleansed. Come and be made new. Come and be born again.

Then, come and join the family.

FOR MEDITATION: He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

FOR REFLECTION: We really do need each other. If you have experienced the joy of being cleansed and made new by Jesus, it is too good to keep to yourself. We need each other; to build each other up, to pray for each other when we’re down. You were redeemed to be part of a family that is going to Heaven together. Don’t neglect the gathering of worshipers each week, and the common life we need to share. Your seat is waiting for you at the table!

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