Monday, August 27, 2012

The Reason for the Atonement

 Just about every one knows the answer to this question: If God told you to do something and you do not do it, is that disobedience to God called Sin?

Of course it is. So why do people believed that Adam did not commit sin in the Garden, when it is so blatantly clear that Adam disobeyed God?

Did God forgive him? Yes, he did, however that is not the question that needs to be answered. The real questi
on is how did God forgive Adam? The answer: He covered Adam's sinfulness. So how do people believe that God will accept or hear them without their sins covered at the throne of judgment?

People are praying without the atonement that Adam needed to be forgiven with, they are praying in a sinful state. Even Job knew that atonement was necessary as he prayed for his own, covering the sins they might have done as well as his own.

Ok some people say that I am reading things into the the Garden Event, but here are the facts that everyone agrees occurred in the Garden: God commanded, Adam disobeyed, sin was born.

The next logical question needed to be asks is: How does a Holy God deal with Sin? Answer: He judges it. So why didn't God, being Holy, destroy Sin when Adam committed it? Because He in His Righteous and Holy judgment would have to destroy Adam along with it. The Human race would have ceased to exist. So what did a Holy God do? He covered the sin of Adam and made them depart from the Garden.

That is how a Holy God forgave a sinful Adam. He covered his sinfulness. He atoned for his sin. Adam taught his sons about the atonement principle. How since the Garden,  everyone had to offer up an atonement sacrifice to fellowship with God, because no matter how good a person is, he still needs his sinful nature covered and atoned for. If He did not then how did Abel and Cain know when and how to offer it up at all, if it was not necessary  to be offered?  Adam must of told them both that an atonement offering was necessary to have fellowship with the Creator.

Many people believe that Adam's sin was his own, that his disobedient nature, his sinfulness does not transfer to the next generation. If that was so, why did Abel offer up an atonement sacrifice? Why did Noah when he first got out of the Ark, after the flood, offer up an atonement sacrifice? Why Abraham customarily went to a mount to offer up an atonement sacrifice? If sinfulness is not transferable, then there is no need for an atonement sacrifice to be practiced. However the scriptures are full of stories that show that the atonement sacrifice practice was still needed. The practice of offering an atonement sacrifice continued and was codified under Moses, that is made into Law. This means if you did not have your sinfulness covered, you were in worse trouble because now you were condemned by the Law of God. If the atonement sacrifice was still needed all the way up to Moses' time, then sinfulness, represented by the outward disobedience of mankind to the commands of God, then even though God forgave Adam in the Garden,  Adam's sinful nature was transferred to all mankind. In fact the practice of atonement offering continued all the way up to Jesus' time.

So I ask those people who pray to God without their sinfulness covered and atoned for: Do you want to know how to get your sins washed away, so that you can fellowship with God and He with you as God originally designed? Because no matter how good you are, you still need your sins atoned for.  If you answered Yes, then I have Good News for you! All you have to do in this day, is accept God's atonement offering that He provided for your sins. Just like when God provided an atonement sacrifice on the mount for Abraham and his son, God has provided an eternal atonement sacrifice for you. God created a means to have all your inherited and inbred sinfulness washed away. So that you can pray to God with your sins covered. All you have to do is receive it by faith. What is this eternal atonement sacrifice? The atonement sacrifice provided by God for all who will receive it by faith is the Death of Jesus, the Christ, His only begotten son, upon the Cross. Why Jesus? For God, not finding any better atoning sacrifice on earth that would put to an end the sinfulness of mankind forever, He sacrificed a part of himself, represented in the life of Jesus, his only begotten son, allowed Jesus to be born, live, teach, preach and die for us all. So that now if we do disobey God, whether it be intentional or unintentional we have the atonement in Christ forever for our sins. For God's forgiveness is for all who believe in His son complete  atoning death upon the cross.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life"- Jesus quoted by John, the beloved Apostle, an eye witness of the life and death of Christ. (John 3:16)

What great news!  You do not have to pray in a sinful condition anymore. You can pray to God through Christ's righteousness.  It is your choice, it is no longer God's choice, for He made a way for every person to be saved and the door is open.  The question is now, do you have enough faith to make the choice to believe in Jesus and his atoning death upon the cross?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Principles of Recovery Part 3

This is a part of an ongoing series of lessons following the story line of the parable of the prodigal son in the Gospel of Luke.  The purpose of these lesson is to supply information to those who find themselves outside acceptable economic and social circles in our various church communitites.  Just last year in America there was a great movement and effort to encourage people to come back to church.  Earlier in this year at  my local church, my pastor deliver a series of inspirational messages centered aroung perfecting the family, in which I was informed about the possibility of a generation that will grow up in Christian name only, but will know nothing about Christ or his church.  This inspired me to write this series about retaining your christian faith through the fammine of fellowship and recovering from the pig pen of life.  In the last lesson we talked about Resolution.  Resolution is the plan to solve a problem that is destroying your life.  The story of the prodigal son supplied us with the following perscription.   One:  If you don't have to tell anyone that your leaving the pig pen. Two:  Don't tell those who have ruled over while your were in the pig pen that you are leaving the pig pen.  Three: Plan on humbly returning to the Father's house.   Four: Apologize to those whom you offended on your way back to the father's house.  Five: Don't get hung up on being blessed upon your return, get hung up in service to God in the Father's house.  We now proceed to the next lesson,  Repentance.

Repentance Defined:
1. deep sorrow, compunction, or contrition for a past sin, wrongdoing, or the like.
2. regret for any past action.

In Christian Church circles repentance is not  only  the regret of past acts it is also the act of the change of a persons mind, heart and direction in life.  Therefore, it has been said that repentance is not real repentance if no change transpires in a person's life.  Please note that the prodigal son formed his resolution first before he acted upon the plan of repentance.   This teaches us that unless those in the pig pen of life don't make a choice to leave the pig pen, they will be just going through the motions as though they are going to leave the pig pen of life.   Now we are using the prodigal son as an example only, this means that people are in the pig pen of life for different reasons.  Utimately, the prodigal son has one thing in common with all of those who are leaving the pig pen of life.  He accepted the responsibility of his choices.  Once a person accepts the part he played in his own demise, the opportunity of self-correction becomes available.  Until then he will wander around in the pig pen of his life.  This is where some believers are, just wandering around, just like the Isrealites did in the wilderness prior to enterring the promised land.   The only benefit in wanderring in the pig pen of life  is that everything that a person was disillusioned with dies off.  The only thing that a believer should be left is his faith in Christ.  Sad to say many have allowed to let that die too in the pig pen of life. 

When I endured homelessness,  I saw men that gave up on life.  Persons with no hope of recovery.  I also met men that still believed that God loved them.  Those men were stuck in their pig pen, stuck in homelessness.  They needed help,  but because they had an anger about what had happened to them, they could not see the way out.  Some of them were there for years.  I befriended one person, who was a christian.  He was depressed also about what had happened to him.  He did not know which way his life was going.  Well every morning I would get up and pray and study my Bible.  Many men when they saw me studying the Bible said things to me to discourage me from studying like, "It is God that made you poor, why would you still want to serve him?" or "Or that Church stuff doesn't work, you need to get a real job".  Despite this onslaught of comments by the many men in the homeless shelter, this Christian friend would join me in my Bible Studies.  At that point of my life, everything was on the table.  When I would get up in the morning I would pray to God and say everyday, "God, Jesus, this is where the rubber meets the road, this is where either faith in Jesus works or it doesn't.  Lord, all these men are watching me, to see if faith in God causes a man to fail or succeed.".  For I came to the understanding that it does not matter if you live in a luxurious mansion or have no home at all, you still have to live for God before men so that they might also believe and have hope, that is every christians responsibility.  One morning, I received a revelation:  God has given all he is going to give,  he gave his only begotten  Son Jesus for believers to have it all.   God gave all that he has and all that He is, it is now up to those who have faith to work that power that He has invested in us.  I shared that revelation with my Christian friend that morning in our Bible discussions which had grew to about ten men, with many more listening.  All God wanted was all of me was to be in service to him, all God wants was all men to be in service to him.  I had some things though I had to repent of.  One was greed, the other was unforgiveness and a few other things like accepting the responsiibility of my choices.  I formulated a plan, my Christian friends did also on leaving the state of homelessness.  Within a few weeks each member of the Bible study left the homeless center and left homelessness including my Christian friend.  I was getting fustrated,  I wondered why I was left in a homeless condition.  I went out looking for work each day.  I attended classes that the Homeless center provided, I put my resume's everywhere.   The only thing I did not do was go to church on a regular basis.  Because of this, I was a homeless Christian in more ways than one.  Like many beleivers in Christ, I did not have a church home.  The church I was a member at lost contact with me and I did not hear from them once I became homeless.    Even though of all the believers that left before I did, I recognized that they all had joined a church somewhere.   So I prayed for guidance and went out looking for another church to attend, not to become a member, just to attend.  I went across the street from the homeless center and met a Deacon of a Church.  He invited me into a building that did not look like a Church, but inside was a church.  Right next door to the homeless center!  It was a few weeks before I was accepted as a member.   Things started to change as I got involved in the ministry and soon thereafter, I left the condition of homelessness.   I continued until through the power of faith in Christ I again had  a job, a home, a family and a vehicle.  Til this day, people in the homeless center and in that Church community knows about the trial of homelessness I had to endure and my testimony that God's word works if you work it and  many have been blessed by it.   So just like the prodigal son who returned to his father's house,  I had repented and  returned to the Father's house,  I had returned to Church, in service to God in Christ.  

One thing about true repentance is that it is an act, an act that you can not fake.   Either you do it or you don't.  What do you need to repent of that is keeping in the pig pen of your life?  More than that what are you in need of repentance so that you may continue to walk in the blessing of God in your life?  You see the common mistake is that once you have repented of something you don't need to repent of anything else anymore.  Repentance is a tool and whe used properly and in faith it will keep your Christian walk maintained and keep you from alot of trouble.  Couple repentance with forgiveness and you have a powerful duo that will allow you do many things by the Grace of God in your life for the glory of God.

The parable does not tell of the people the prodigal had to meet upon his return, the towns he had to go back through.  Enduring the humiliation of the journey all he coucl focus upon is getting back to his fathers house.  Why was he so focused?  The illusions of granduer of a life he imagined that he was going to live  had faded and died in the pig pen. What about his father?  His faither every day since his departure looked to the horizon anticipating his lost son's return.   That is exactly is what God, the Father is doing just that for each one of us.  He is awaiting for each of us to return to him. 

"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. "-Romans 8:38+39

It is time you left your pig pen, return in service to God, return to Jesus. leave whatever is in the pig pen of your life in the pig pen and make your humble journey back to the Father's house, back to the Church. The  loving Father God awaits you eagerly to repent and come home.

The Principles of Recovery Part 2

This is a continuation of a multi-part series of lessons aimed to assist believers who have found themselves out side of the acceptable social and economic circles of our church communities.  In order to give them direction through the teaching of parable of the prodigal son. We continue now with the second step on the road to recovery : Resolution.
By following the the story line of the prodigal son in the  Gospel record. We have learned some valuable and practical lessons:  One: never take the blessings of God on our lives for granted, Two: never squander the gifts that God, our father has bestowed upon each one of us and three: always protect your wealth against any anticipated or unanticipated losses.   Now we turn our focus upon the second principle of recovery. Resolution.

Resolution Defined: a resolve or determination: to make a firm an action to do something or the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc.               -source

"I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, " - Luke 15:18

The prodigal son makes a resolution, he makes a plan to return home.  A resolution is a decision to act upon a plan to correct or to redirect oneself from the way he was once going.  The prodigal was not going anywhere, he was in the pig pen, in a foreign land as an employee of a stranger.  I give the prodigal son credit to have the strength to make the descision to put away his shame and humbly return to his father's house.  Many believers today are stuck in the pig pen of life, subject to the rules of a stranger, because they are too ashamed of what their siblings and Parents would think of them.  So there they sit, in the pig pen of their lives, living off the scraps of human existence when all each of them could do is make a plan to get out of the pig pen and return to the place where they had the abundance of their Parents at thier disposal.  As demostrated by the prodigal's actions and resolution, the perscriptive actions one must take when in the pig pen of life is the following:

1. Make a plan to leave the pig pen of life
2. Prepare to make a humble return
    -plan on repenting to those whom you know you offended when you return.

The return is ineffective without the plan of return.  A person must know what direction he must now take in order to make the move to recover.  A few things are noticable about the prodigal's plan to recover: He did not ask he employer for any assistance or permission when he left the pig pen.  Many people go to the one that is oppressing them for relief and assistance.  The reason they are opressing people stuck in the pig pen is so that they would be discouraged from leaving it. Next he did not tell his plan to leave the pig pen  to his employer.  Understanding that the employer would be upset finding out  that  the cheap labor he was getting was soon to be gone.  Finally he never got comfortable in the pig pen to the point that he was satisfied with it. Many people has gotten too comfortable in their pig pens in life that they look no more to rise from it.  The reason why some people do not recover is because they have not tasted a better life than the one they are living in the pig pen. 

I had a friend once who did not have a High school diploma,  this friend could not find a basic job to provide for his living.  So he became content with the under the table jobs that he could do.  Sometimes they would pay well and sometimes they would pay nothing at all.  This friend of mine would live off of refunds, and financial kickbacks.  Flea Markets, yard sales and clearance sales was the limit of his shopping venue.  Everything he owned came from one of these sources.  He believed in Jesus and was thankful for the little things he could afford.  He lived in subsdized housing until the Landlords sold  their property to a corporate management group and the rent would get too high for him.  He would have to move to another location.  He was content to living at this level until he got a taste of the life that was a litte better than his.  I took him to a place that was everything he dreamt of and desired.  We talked to another one of my friends who lived in that neighborhood and owned his own home.   He thought that Christian people was not supposed to live that good, but after we showed him from the scriptures that it was up to him where he lived, that God gave him everything that he needed in Christ to make the journey from one level to another, he changed his mind about his level of living.  He began to dream big.  He had one major stumblimg block, he had no high school diploma.  My friend that lived in that well off neighborhood and I decided to help him study and pay for his GED test. After a few tries he finally recieved a letter from the state issuing him a GED.  He was off to the races.  He went to school got a skill, soon after that he got a job, he continued his education and graduated from college with a degree, which in turn gave him more opportunity to earn the kind of money he dreamt of.  He now lives in his dream house that he owns, makes enough money to support himself and most of all He is still a Christian through it all.  Now he helps others to turn their lives around, just as he was helped so that he could turn his life around.

Just like the prodigal son, he realized that he did not have to live in that economic condition.  Unlike the prodigal son who was blessed already, he had a road block and all he needed was someone to bless him along the way.  He had no High school diploma which is essential to fundamentally succeeding in life.  If anyone one suggests to you that obtaining a high school diploma is not neccessary to for you to succeed at life, just remember the testimony I shared with you in this article.  I am not saying that God cannot bless you despite you obtaining one, but those examples and testimonies are few and not the way that God has provided for most of us. Here are some of the scriptures that we shared with that friend of mine.

"Buy the truth, and sell [it] not; [also] wisdom, and instruction, and understanding."                           - Proverbs 23:23

 "..I am come that they might have life, and that they might have [it] more abundantly."                   - John 10:10 

"Wisdom [is] the principal thing; [therefore] get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding."- Proverbs 4:7

"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,.."- Ephesians 3:20

These above are just a few of the scriptures my friend and I shared with the Christian friend who was living below his status.  Simply put.  If one wishes to recover, they have to change whatever they are doing now and do something different.  Now in doing something different, requires a change of mind, a change of direction and a change of purpose.  The prodigal son changed his mind about living in the mire of the pig pen. He change the direction of his life from wandering in want in a foriegn land to heading back to his father's house. He changed his purpose of living from that living beneath his status in the pig pen to that of living as a servant in his own father's house.  All those changes did not come from without the prodigal son, they came from within the prodigal son.  This teaches us that all we need to succeed is already within us, if we are willing to change our minds about our present condition, change our direction of each of our lives and change our purpose for living. How do we do this? We do it with education, learning something new that can provide for each one of us a better level of living.   One caution however, choose what ever you are going to learn as a trade wisely.  Make sure that whatever you choose is always going to be in demand or going to be in demand for a long time.  For it is foolish to learn something different and new to make a better life for yourself only to find youself and your new expertise is not any longer needed by anyone. In other words, that people find you newly acquired skills obsolete by the time you graduate.

Here is the lesson: If we change our will and subject it to the obedience of God will, then anything that God wills for us is possible.  So the questions are: Does God want us to be blessed? Does God want us to  recover? Does God want us to serve him?  The answers to these questions are yes, yes and yes.  So many of us get stuck on being blessed, but being blessed is just a means to serve the will of God in our lives. This the same test that the young rich ruler failed when Jesus asked him to sell all the wealth that he had acquired from doing the will of God and serve God with Jesus.  The wealth possesed the heart of the rich young ruler, not serving God with Jesus  which is the will of God for all.      

Principles of Recovery Part 1

I. Introduction 

A. We live still in a throw away society in the United States.  If something or someone is no more use to us we throw them or it away in leu of whatsoever new thing or person we wish to associate ourselves with for whatsoever the reason.  We as a society has gotten better at it in recent years which is evidenced by the human services that has asrisen  to restore and rehabilitate the segments of our American society that have been injured, misdirected, and corrupted as a result of being thrown out of acceptable social circles.  The only place that it has not gotten better is in the Church community.  This, I believe in part, is the result of an abnormal  prosperity teaching.  Many prosperity teachers have taught that if a person suffers loss, socially and economically, that it is a result of being cursed by God, or due to their lack of faith.   They often point to a person's level of giving  as the cause of their social and economical loss.  Consecutively they also point to the level of a persons faith is equal to their level of giving.  What happens when a person suffers an social and economic loss that has been a faithful giver? Do we call that person cursed by God because they do not give at the level the Church was accustomed to them giving at?  The sad truth is that many Church communities do.   By doing so, they alienate people from their church and some of them choose to seek alternative faiths. What do these believers of God really need?  They need to be told how to recover from social and economic loss and how to keep their faith intact.  They do not need to be thrown out of or alienated from our church communities.   This is what this set of teachings is about:  How to recover and keep your faith in Christ intact.     This book is based upon scriptural stories and parables of recovery, so that the people of God may know the principles of recovery and understand how to recover from the social and economic loss they may have experienced in their lives.   

There are seven principles of recovery that the Bible shares through the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:14-24.  These principles are as follows:

1. Realization =Vs. 17
2. Resolution=Vs 18
3. Repentance=Vs.19 
4. Return=Vs.20
5. Reconciliation=Vs.20
6. Restoration=Vs.22
7. Rejoicing=Vs.23, 24                

II. Realization

"And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!" -Luke 15:17

 A. Realization is defined as: (noun)  The process of making real or being made real something planned or imagined.-Source:

1. Realization therefore is the process of the revelation of  a reality that supposed to happen from  either effective or ineffective planning or choices.

A. It was the prodigal son's poor planning and poor choices that allowed him to experience the reality of the pig pen. What choices did he make?

i) He chose to take his share of his inheritance and spend it any way he wished.

       a) He effectively excuted his plan and sqaundered his temporary wealth.
       b) He evidently was decieved by the amount of wealth he received from his father, he thought    
           that it was inexhaustible.  So he spent all of it down to the last coin, and found himself to be 
           in want.

*We find a truth here; That wealth is not determined by how much money you possess, for money does not last forever.

ii) His mistakes are notable: Luke 15:11-13

a) He was self deceived about the longetivity of his share of the inheitance.
    - This is why I say that the worse kind of deception is self deception
b) He made a  poor choice of friends:  They did not have his financial security interests in mind.
     -When you base your relationships upon what you can give them, when you fail to give them 
       what they expect at the level  they expected it, your relationships will also fail.
c) He excercised implusive and liberal spending habits.
d) He made no investments to secure his inheritance

iii) The one mistake he did not make: He did not attempt to borrow any money .  He was only in want, he was not in want and in debt.  Because he was not in debt, he preserved his name which was the only thing he possessed.

2.When he was in the pig pen, he came to the conclusion that his faither's servants has it better than he now.  He also realized he had it better off back home than how he was living now in the pig pen. -Luke 15:17

A. Isn't it amazing how a person's perspective changes when their financial circumstances change:

i. When one becomes financially wealthy, the amount, nature and quality of their friends change.  Their environment changes and their spending habits become more implusive and liberal.

ii. When one becomes financially poor, the amount, nature and quality of their friends change.  Their environment changes and their spending habits become more planned and conservative.

B. Life for many of us, is a struggle to transend from a status of being financially poor to being financially wealthy.

i. What the prodigial son exhibits for us are the things we ought not to do, if we aspire to leave the life of poverty behind.  We ought not to do the following:

a. Believe that any lump sum of money or wealth received  will last your entire life.
b. Make friendships on the basis of what you can do for them with your money
c.  Excercsie implusive and liberal spending habits.
d. Fail to invest to secure your money or wealth.

C. Why did the prodigal leave his home in the first place?

i. He possibly percieved that his life at home was not as interesting as what he imagined what was in the world.  He possibly heard about the exciting things that happened in other towns that his faither traveled to.  He possibly heard about the places that vistors told his father about.  So his vision of the world was that it was an exciting place more exciting than what he had at home.  Such things possibly fired his imagination and inspired him when he had come of age to ask his father for his share of the inheritance.  He wanted to see the big wide wonderful world for himself.  He figured that his inheritance was worth the adventure.  He had no way of knowing of the many pitfalls he would experience.  Maybe he did not pay attention when his father talked with other busniessmen that passed through, who his father warned of the dangers of the trail and the cities they intended to visit.  So the prodigal son's education was incomplete.

* Education is paramount for one to experience success in life, so pay attention and learn all you can.

a. The prodigal reasoned within himself that his share of the inheritance that he recieved from his father would last him for the rest of his life, so that he would never have to work. He found out that his money ran out before his life was over and he had to work for a living.

*This is why it is said that a fool and his money is soon parted from one another.

b. Many people dream of not having to work for a living.  The prodigal had a chance to establish his finances in such away that he could have accomplished what envisioned his life would be, but he instead squandered it all away.

1) Some people use unexpected wealth that has been deposited in their lives foolishly and implusively. Some do not.

*The people that become rich did not spend their wealth foolishly and implusively.

c. The prodigal's father was wealthy, so wealthy that he continued to be wealthy even after his yougest son took his share of his inheritance.

1) The father of the prodigal servant's were not financially affected by the withdrawal of the prodigal's share of the inheritance.

a. The father of the prodigal possibly hedged himself from financial damage by the withdrawal of the prodigal's share of his inheritance.

*It is always wise to protect your assests from financial loss so that when that loss occurrs it is easier to recover.

d. What did the prodigal do after realizing that he had it better back home?

1) The prodigal son realized that the foolish choices he had made has brought him to poverty , that all the fault was his for his present condition in the pig pen.

a. It is when a person accepts the mistakes he has made, then the opportunity of change is available to him.

2) The prodigal son found out that the lifestyle he ventured out to live with his wealth does not last forever.  He also learned that such a lifestyle comes at a cost, and that cost is poverty.

a. He realized how good his father servant's had it back home.  So what does he do? -He resloves his present dellemma and plans to to return as his father's servant. No longer disollussioned with the exciting wide world nor enchanted by it.

3. What did we learn about the principle of realization?

A. We learned that so many of us have taken what we have inheirited from God, our creator, our father; Our strength, our gifts and various abilities and have vainly squandered them in loose living in order to make fair wheather friends. Until our strength has gone, our health has faded and our gifts and various abilities have wained.  "Our friends" have left us and we find ourselves in the pig pen of life. Cast out of society and the lifestyle we aspired to live.  There is good news! We need not to wallow in the mire of the pig pen of life.  We have a father in heaven who still love us and is still waiting for us to return to him.  A Father who takes care of those who willingly serve him.  If only if each one of us who have found himself in the pig pen of life would choose to humble himself and choose to be a servant of the heavenly father.  All each one of us need to do is repent from our sinful and worldly ways and make Jesus the Lord of our lives. Secondly, we each need to commit to live according to the will of God.