Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Theistic Evolution Reduces the Glory of God

God speaks; and it is so. What Glory is this that God can merely speak and it comes to pass?

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  Genesis 1:3 ESV

And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters,... And it was so.          Genesis 1:6, 7 ESV

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together,… And it was so.  Genesis 1:9 ESV

And God said, “Let the earth sprout… And it was so.  Genesis 1:11 ESV

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens… And it was so.  Genesis 1:14, 15 ESV

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures,,, And it was so.  Genesis 1:24 ESV

Then God said, “Let us make man… And it was so.  Genesis 1:26, 30

On each day of creation God spoke and brought into being what He declared; accompanied by the words “And there was evening and there was morning, (a sequential numeric) day.

The heavens and the earth are vast beyond our comprehension and complex beyond our understanding. The wisdom and power and presence of God are magnified in great Glory for he did what He said He did when He said He did it.

God speaks, and it is so.

How does it glorify God to inject hundreds of millions and billions of years between the time God speaks and the manifestation of His word? Is there even an obscure hint within the text of such long ages?

God speaks; and 900 million years later it is so? God speaks; and 3 billion years later it is so?

Or does the Creator speak very slowly?

One would tend to think that God’s Glory is seriously curtailed by such a method of interpreting Genesis 1. Reducing God’s Glory is not worship it is antiworship.

What godlessness and unrighteousness is this that suppresses the truth?  Romans 1:18b

Where are the Biblical expositions that teach theistic evolution?

Theistic evolution does not come from the mind of God, but from the imaginations of those who predetermine that they will seek knowledge without considering the existence of God at all. In fact, any reference to the Creator is intentionally excluded from their pursuit of knowledge. God is intentionally excluded!

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.  Psalm 14:1

            Will you reduce the Glory of God in order to Compromise with Fools?

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Flood of Noah: Global or Local?

…Noah, a herald of righteousness…2 Peter 2:5 ESV

What did Noah proclaim? Would he not proclaim what God told him?

“For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.  Genesis 6:17 ESV

God certainly told Noah more than this, but this word is the heart of the building of the Ark.

The context was a time in which mankind lived upward of 900 years. A little research on your part will reveal that the population was probably between many-hundreds-of-millions to possibly billions of people. A little more research on your part will indicate that we are genetic mutants compared to the people of this time.

Such people would not have stayed in one local area. Even if compelled by some great post-flood patriotism (Genesis 11:4) there would be rebels and outcasts who would leave the ‘local area’ far behind. They, in turn, would multiply and fill the earth.

How would those who heard the preaching of Noah interpret it?

Then, like now, there would be apostates who proclaimed their faithfulness to the Creator and yet doubted Noah’s word. They would have displayed varying levels of unbelief. Some would mock. Some would consider Noah’s words to be figurative. Some would want to believe but be unable to overcome the skepticism of the respectable intellectuals among them, and would compromise with them.

Believing that the flood was real, they would only consider it ‘local’. Appreciating Noah’s call to repentance they would fear the disapproval of the great men of the world even more than they feared God. It is still the same in that regard. After all, a global flood was not a ‘salvation’ issue.

Such an interpretation did not work out well for them. They drowned in their own unfaithfulness and took their followers with them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Little Tiny Post: Great Big Application

The demons all obey the Lord Jesus Christ.

You don't.

See the problem?

Think about it. Pray about it. Talk about it.

Just don't ignore it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior

If Jesus Christ is our Lord, then He will save us from sin, now and in
the future.

If we are saved from sin, then we are saved from wrath, now and in the future.

If we desire to be saved from wrath in the future, but do not want to
be saved from our sins now; then we want to sin now and get away with
it both now and in the future.

Did Jesus Christ die on the cross so we could sin now and avoid wrath?
Or did He die on the cross so we could be saved from sin now and live
a godly life now?

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,
training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live
self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,…”  Titus
2:11, 12

“Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no
one disregard you.”         Titus 2:15

Why give regard to anyone who does not ‘declare these things, and
exhort and rebuke with all authority?’

What kind of soil will this seed fall upon?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Biblical Inerrancy can Fail

Inerrancy, like physical training, is of some value; but it will fall short of addressing unfaithful teaching (doctrine).

I agree with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. I am impressed with this statement. I could not do better. I could not even come close to doing better.

While I deeply regret the godless way some Southern Baptists treated each other during the Conservative Resurgence (all sides), I agree that the issue needed to be addressed in that generation. It will need to be addressed in every generation until the Lord Jesus Christ returns.

But even if all evangelical entities embraced Inerrancy with all their heart, it still would not prevent many kinds of apostasy (falling away from the truth). And Inerrancy alone fails for the following reasons.

First reason

The flesh (ESV, NAS), the sinful nature (NIV), is capable of idolatry (Gal. 5:19, 20). A person without the help of the Holy Spirit is still disposed toward religious belief. The lost man and the Christian who quenches the Holy Spirit are still capable of understanding inerrancy. The lost man and the Christian who quenches the Holy Spirit are still capable of sincere zeal as they approach religious issues. But they do not have access to the leadership of the Holy Spirit who is necessary for guiding them into the truth (John 14:26, 1 Cor. 2:11-16); unless they repent. That does not prevent them from drawing conclusions anyway. They will ‘interpret’ the inerrant Scripture as they, personally, see fit. They will still share their influence, they will still teach and preach, they will still write books, they will still teach in the world’s seminaries, and they will still find denominational positions in which to serve.

Our denominational structures are becoming less connected with our ability to actually know the persons who lead the denominational structure. We are increasingly tempted to give our confidence to a person’s words when we have no meaningful contact with the way the person lives. When this happens, we are deprived of the following safeguards; “If you know that He is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him” (1 John 2:29; see also 1 John 3:4-10).  An inerrantist who does not walk in submissive and dependent fellowship with the Holy Spirit may be “accredited”, but not by the Holy Spirit.

Second reason

Our American culture is currently immersed in the pursuit of comfort and convenience. In such a culture it is rare to take the fear of God seriously. The fear of God is more than ‘reverence’. One can reverence God’s name and still take fearless liberties in interpreting God’s words in a way that God does not intend. If one has a growing fear of God then one will not dare to interpret God’s words in a way that reduces God’s glory or that ‘might’ be in error. To interpret God’s words in a way that changes people’s perception of what God has said is a serious matter. Even a false prophet can be sincere. What can a man possibly do that is more offensive to God than misrepresent what God has said?

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Pro. 1:29) and the beginning of knowledge (Pro. 1:7). The fear of God will cause us to approach His words with the absolute highest respect for submitting ourselves to His meaning. The fear of God will cause us to approach His words with the absolute greatest humility of which we are capable. It is easy to let this priority slip amidst our ambitions toward comforts and conveniences, yet God says, “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2b).  Impeccable credentials and vast knowledge and attractive articulation are not safeguards! Popularity is not a worthy sign of faithfulness. An inerrantist who does not tremble at God’s words will not securely handle God’s words.

Third reason

In a culture that is immersed in comfort and convenience it is hard to avoid personal ambition in a religious ‘pecking order’. Whether in a local church or in a denominational structure, we all are tempted to rise in the eyes of those who are around us. We crave the affirmation of our ‘peers’ and of our ‘idols’ ( !!!). We tend to follow men as if they were worth following. An insidious consequence of this ambition is that we do not want to seriously challenge one another to follow the Lord Jesus Christ whether the denominational structure agrees or not. We are beset by the fear of man instead of the fear of the Lord (John 5:41-44).

What is the answer to this problem? There isn’t a human answer to this problem! Only the Sovereign will of God expressed through the Holy Spirit will cause a generation to become faithful. Consider the following two instances and you will see the magnitude of the problem.

Instance #1.  Seminaries turn out men and women who want to learn about God. They are tested and trained by the seminary staff. If one makes the grades and earns the units; they are graduated. Which seminary will not grant an earned degree because the student is quenching the spirit or lacks a meaningful fear of God? Should such discernment fall to the staff of the seminary? Should such a weighty matter of discernment fall to the governing board of the seminary? Should it fall to those who appoint the governing board? No, no, and no. What mere humans could make such a judgment within the seminary structures? Will seminary staff keep their own ranks faithful? Will the governing boards keep the seminary staffs faithful? How? A degree is validation of educational achievement, but not a validation of faithfulness to God.

Instance #2  Denominational employees and missionaries spend a whole lot of time on their own. It is not possible to maintain close accountability with someone who is on their own most of the time. It is not desirable to maintain close accountability with someone who must be trusted to be on their own most of the time. To a lesser extent, ministerial staffs are also on their own a great deal of the time. Who can possibly know their hearts? Who can tell if they are walking in fellowship with God’s Holy Spirit? Who can tell what they are teaching regarding God’s words? Who can tell if they fear God in the way that humility demands? How does one discern whether they are ambitious for the Lord’s will instead of ambitious for their own comforts and conveniences?

In both instances, there is no sure human plan to maintain a faithful approach to God’s holy and inerrant words. However, there is something that can be done.

We can pray that God will have mercy upon us, and give us faithful leaders. We can pray that our leaders will care about God’s approval more than they care about the approval of men; even if the men are members of the same religious ‘pecking order’.

Our leaders can challenge one another to humble themselves, and tremble at God’s words, and walk every day in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and despise bitter jealousy and selfish ambition toward an ‘office in the church’, or a degree, or a denominational office, or a title, or great popularity among the people of the world. “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”  James 3:14, 15

Religious leaders who care more for their paycheck and their tenure and their denominational rise than they do for the fear of God and the integrity of God’s words are already quenching the Holy Spirit. How can the fear of God be before their eyes? Religious leaders who will not put their name behind their witness to righteousness are already quenching the Holy Spirit.

Why don’t most of the members of past and present evangelical denominations publicly condemn their own denomination’s apostasy? Why didn’t they prevent it? Could they prevent it?

Why don’t the staffs and professors of past and present evangelical seminaries publicly condemn their own seminaries’ apostasy? Why didn’t they prevent it? Could they prevent it?

Why do so many current people call themselves “Christians” and deny that every generation must always be wary of the many instances where they must confront unfaithful leadership? Haven’t they read the Old Testament and the New Testament? Are they unaware of apostasy even when our culture is submerged in it?

Fourth reason

I will risk saying that it is self-evident that those who speak of ‘inerrancy’ are students of the Bible; though some may only be students of the history of man studying God (theology). Some may be both. Both are beneficial. But the study of what God says about Himself and man far exceeds the study of what man has said about God. The words of theologians are not the words of God. Biblical scholarship trumps theology.

Here is a simple land-mine that you cannot pass without getting yourself blown away. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”  (James 1:22). A great deal of study (hearing) without a great deal of humility, obedience, and confession of sin; results in a great deal of personal deception. A disciple of Jesus Christ wants to know what their Master teaches so they can do what their Master says should be done. A disciple who only wants to know what Jesus Christ teaches so they can teach it also has a self-deception problem. God says the result of their Scriptural intake will result in deception, not faithfulness. Will a seminary degree, or the accolades of your friends in the ‘pecking order’, or acclaim from the congregation, enable you to see the truth? Not at all. When a Christian does not do what God says, they deceive themselves. They may be personally sincere, they may affirm inerrancy, but they are quenching God’s Spirit and they are not faithful teachers. The more one shows rebellious contempt for God’s words, while studying large portions of God’s words; the more they deceive themselves.

A man’s affirmation of the truth of inerrancy is not enough. Believe in inerrancy? Yes. And fear God and tremble at His words. Maintain a daily humility that reveals a contrite heart to those around you. Do what God says. “To obey is better than sacrifice”. Care more for what God says than what your religious ‘pecking order’ desires. Have the courage to be a witness (Greek – martyr) and challenge those who are false. Challenge those who might be false. What will you tell Jesus on your day of judgment? “I thought it might be false teaching, but I didn’t dare find out?” Really? Put your name behind your actions so that you are not a false witness. Do what God says you should do. When you fail, confess it as sin (regardless of what others may think of you). Then try again sometime.

So what is the solution to saving the evangelical denominations from apostasy? There isn’t one that I can see. No solution was found for similar groups in Europe over the last 150 years. While I sincerely pray for mercy, I see cause for judgment and wrath mounting higher and higher.

Might there be a solution for you, personally? Sure. Read the Bible as if God breathed it Himself. Take it personally, with fear and humility and contrition. Confess your sin to Him and seek purification and faithfulness. Influence yourself!

And as God empowers your faithfulness, influence those around you. Who knows how far your faithful influence will spread?

If a nation follows a course of apostasy, the denomination doesn’t have to follow it. If a denomination follows a course of apostasy, the church doesn’t have to follow it. If the church follows a course of apostasy, the family doesn’t have to follow it. If the family follows a course of apostasy, the individual doesn’t have to follow.

Fifth reason

What God has said about love is critical regarding our faithfulness. Adherence to Biblical Inerrancy without the personal priority to love (1 Cor. 13:4-7) God and others (Matt. 22:37-40) results in becoming an ‘annoying nothing that gains nothing’ in God’s eyes (1 Cor. 13:1-3). I fear God too much to become an ‘annoying nothing that gains nothing’ in His eyes. The Holy Spirit will not fellowship with an ‘annoying nothing that gains nothing’. The very mark of being a disciple of Jesus Christ is that Christians love one another (John 13:34, 35). There is a massive deception in the middle of our culture: “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).

Unloving words and actions quench the Holy Spirit. Even when one is defending the truth of the Bible, unloving words and actions tend to annul the blessing that God wants to bestow. An unloving controversy over any given issue can do a lot of damage. Unloving advocates for Biblical Inerrancy can do the cause more damage than good.

Will adherence to Biblical Inerrancy help a person before God when they are apathetic about what God considers to be the Great Commandment? What kind of blindness is it, when Christians don’t bother with a personal awareness of what God means when He uses the word ‘love’?

What kind of religious organization is it, when the love of God is assumed, or ignored, or belittled? What is a Soldier of Jesus Christ who does not bother to carefully examine the Lord of Hosts’ greatest command?

I believe in Biblical Inerrancy. But it will not stand alone. The remnant will stand alone; and they will not fail. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How to Please God

Part 3

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.  Hebrews 11:6

The Infinite God knows where you are. He knows what you think, what you say and what you do. He does not forget. He does not get your thoughts and words and actions out of context. By definition; an Infinite God can give an infinite amount of attention to an infinite number of people. It is not difficult for Him.

He doesn’t have to seek for us, He knows where we are. He does not have to search for us to call us to account for what we have done with the life He has given us. He knows where we live.

In the distant future one thing will be clear: He will be in the company of those who have faith in what He says. He will be accompanied by those who want to trust Him. He will be attended by those who have suffered the consequences of living in a world that has rejected Him, and have chosen to trust Him instead of the apathetic and unbelieving world they are willing to leave behind.

Read about the lives of the people in Hebrews chapter 11. You will see that this is true.

Everyone acts on what they believe. Our thoughts, words and actions are the result of ‘what’ or ‘who’ we put our faith ‘in’.

Why should God let you find Him if you are just ‘curious’ about Him? We can be He would ‘curious’ about many things. But seeking God requires the awareness that He must be worshiped if He is found. Our attitude as we seek Him is critical. He will know our attitude.

Why should God let you find Him if your search is really to disprove His existence? He is calling to those who WANT Him to exist. He is calling to those who will worship Him when they find Him. He is more real than you are. Why should He prove Himself to you? Must God meet your terms to receive your approval? Such an attitude will fail. He will know.

Why should God let you find Him if you seek Him as if He were merely your equal? What terms for a ‘bargain’ do you hold in your heart? Are you (we) such a marvelous treasure that He should rejoice over your approval of who He is? He is Holy and Perfect and Infinite and Eternal. We are unholy and far-from-perfect and finite in significance and brief. We are not seeking our equal; we are seeking the Holy Creator of everything. He will know.

Why should God let you find Him if you seek Him without the humility of admitting you have sinned? If you look into the lives of those folks in Hebrews chapter 11 who were commended for their faith you will see that they were frail and often failed. They sought forgiveness for their sin. They trusted God’s love and forgiveness; but they never, never, considered themselves worthy before God. Seeking God is seeking your Judge, and the guilty verdict is already known. Seek God with the humility that is looking for mercy and forgiveness. Seek Him with a willingness to repent of the sin that offends the Infinite Judge.

To which ‘seeker’ will God reveal Himself?

“But this is the one to whom I (God) will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”  Isaiah 66:2b

There are consequences to being ‘made’ by God, and ‘owned’ by God, and being ‘accountable’ to God. Whether we know it or not; or whether we like it or not: He will do just what He wants to do with us.

The Father (God) loves the Son (Jesus Christ) and has given all things into His hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.  John 3:35, 36

The following Scripture is longer than I typically use; but it is worth your careful, prayerful, consideration!

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:25-30

God is with you right now. Talk to Him (that is what ‘prayer’ is!). Call out to Him with faith, humility, and the awareness that you need forgiveness from the Eternal Judge of all mankind. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Ask Him to forgive your sin. Ask Him to change you into what He wants you to become. Keep seeking Him until you find Him.

As questions arise, find the answers. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

How to Please God

Part 2

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.  Hebrews 11:6

How do we please the God who exists? It begins by believing what He has said about Himself. It begins by having faith in what God, Himself, has said.

God is the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. He will also create a new heaven and a new earth in the future.

God is Eternal; that means He has no beginning and no end.

God is Everywhere (omnipresent); that means He is everywhere at the same time.

God is all-wise (omniscient); that means He thinks about all things at all times from all points of view, with all knowledge, at infinite speed, without forgetting or making any mistakes, while keeping everything in perfect context. It also means He knows the future in the same detail.

God is all-powerful (omnipotent); that means He can do anything He desires to do. There is no limit to his ability.

God does not ever change (immutable); that means His plans and character are so set in wisdom and rightness that He never has need of improvement or growth.

God is just; that means that He has decided what truth is, that He has decided what is good and evil, that He has decided what is most important, and that He cannot be counseled or corrected by anyone. It also means that God will judge what is wrong and that the consequences toward wrong-doing will be just.

God is also love; that means that 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes God perfectly.

God is a real person, and He is Spirit.  That means that He predates, far exceeds, and outlasts the physical world. It also means that He is involved throughout the world today, in the past, and in the future.

Does the above description accurately represent the God you want to draw near to? Is this the God you want to please?

The One True God is Holy; that means He is very different from us and far above and beyond us. God is infinite in all His qualities. It is remarkable that no one, ever, got into trouble with God by exaggerating His virtues or power or majesty. God is a real being (person) that is so great as to be far beyond our ability to exaggerate. He is worthy of worship.

Do you have faith that such a God exists? Do you have assurance and conviction that such a God exists? Is this the God you want to please?

The Infinite God became a man also. His name is Jesus Christ. Was Jesus 100% man? Yes. But He didn’t stop being God. He is both God and man. Jesus Christ is the Infinite God who became man ‘also’. He is not the god who became a man ‘instead’ of remaining god.

Want to know more about Jesus Christ? Read the histories of His life that are in God’s Word; Matthew and John are a great place to start.

Do you want to Please God? Do you, a tiny finite person; want to please the Infinite God without having faith that He exists? How can you have faith that He exists if you don’t know who He is?

Would you approach King Kong without the awareness that there may be consequences? How much more should we be aware of the consequences as we seek the Infinite God? He has made it known many times that He will judge the inhabitants of the earth. He welcomes and accepts those who seek Him before He calls them to account for their lives on the day of judgment. He may be found on His terms. You can only seek Him and find Him on His terms. His terms; not mine, not yours. The reward is Eternal Life, and it is much more than immortality!

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father (God) except through me.”  John 14:6

Friday, October 28, 2011

How to Please God

Part 1

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.  Hebrews 11:6

Without ‘faith’ it is impossible to please Him. With ‘faith’ it is possible to please Him. What is this ‘faith’?

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

The ‘faith’ spoken of here is an ‘assurance’ and a ‘conviction’. Now everyone has such faith, period! Let me give you an example. Will you sit down on a chair? If so, then you have ‘faith’ that the chair will not collapse under you. You trust the chair. You have an ‘assurance’ that the chair will hold your weight. You have a ‘conviction’ that the chair will not collapse under you. If you did not have such ‘faith’ in the chair, you would not sit on it. You HAVE ‘faith’; it is just ‘faith’ IN the chair.

Understand, then, that the Bible is talking about ‘faith’, ‘assurance’, and ‘conviction’ in God. It is ‘faith’ IN something, specifically, ‘faith’ in God. It is a ‘faith’ that results in confident action. If you have ‘faith’ in something, or someone, you rely on the object you have ‘faith’ in.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him. Hebrews 11:6a

How do you develop faith in God? Begin by asking Him for such faith. You have His attention all the time. There is a true sense in which faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8, John 6:65). Ask Him now. Why not?

Hebrews chapter 11 refers to many people of ‘faith’ who were commended for their faith in God (Hebrews 11:2). If you will review their lives by reading about them in the Bible, you will see that they had ‘faith’ in what God said to them. They received God’s words and had faith, assurance, conviction, in what God told them. They followed what God told them to do. They set their whole lives in the hands of God, for they had faith that God would not collapse under them. The Bible is filled with true history about such people.

We have a Bible that is considered to be God’s words to humanity. They are considered to be Holy Scripture (writing), and as accurate as if God breathed out the words Himself. When you say something, you do so by ‘breathing out’ your words. God considers the Scripture to be His words ‘breathed out’ to you. That is why the Bible is considered the Words of God.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16, 17

Take God’s words to heart. Put your faith in what He has said. With assurance and conviction, do what He says you should do. It will please God if you are ‘competent’ and ‘equipped for every good work. This will become a massive part of your relationship with God. He will reveal Himself to you. You will know Him better and better as the years turn into decades. You will come to treasure what He says (Psalm 119:1-176).

When you take God’s words to heart and do them, many questions will arise in your mind. Get answers, for they are available to those who seek Him. Having questions and seeking Him for answers is another massive part of your relationship with God.

If you don’t think seeking God is worth very much; He will notice. He will not be pleased, for you have no faith in your Creator. Consider: If you spent a lot of time and effort telling someone the truth about a life-and-death matter; and they ignore you or don’t believe you, would you be ‘pleased’? Of course not. If you go out of your way (at personal sacrifice) to tell someone the truth about their life; and they are apathetic or consider your words to be untrue, you write them off. Frankly, it is the same with God.

When you are ready to seek Him, He will begin rewarding you. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases toward those who have faith in Him.

The God who calls to us is an Infinite God. He is worthy of our worship. His ways are vast and marvelous and amazing. He is the most remarkable and interesting person you can ever meet.

About 2,000 years ago He became man also. Read what God says about Jesus Christ in the Bible. You can find these real histories in Matthew and John.

I will be posting more about ‘How to Please God’ in the coming weeks. If you can’t wait, then contact me now.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What is the Best Part of the Baptist Faith and Message?

Hey! This is just my opinion of the Best Part of the BF&M. You are welcome to share your preference for another part. For me, I recognize the BF&M 2000 as THE Baptist Faith and Message.

In Article I it (all historical versions) says, in part, {The Bible} “is,  and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried”.

Remarkably, this phrase is unchanged since the 1925 version of the BF&M.

While the phrase includes reference to ‘creeds’, I am more impressed with the part about ‘human conduct’ and ‘religious opinions’. I am a human and I get to assess my ‘conduct’ every day. I also have a lot of ‘religious opinions’. So I interpret this part of Article I in a very personal way. In fact, the Bible has so much to say that I find it virtually impossible to find any personal opinion that the Bible does not speak to in some way. So I affirm the part about ‘religious’ opinions and assert that it should apply to ‘all’ opinions. That is my opinion.

Now the BF&M is for Southern Baptists in particular. But the concept of laying our conduct and religious opinions along the supreme standard of the Bible is worthy of all Christians to consider. Think the Thoughts. Do I measure up to the supreme standard? If I don’t, then I call it “sin”. Then I seek repentance and measure myself again later.

I find that the time I spend in confession of sin is a whole lot more than just ‘mentally verbalizing’ my failure. Confession of sin is not some magical incantation to get me off the hook with God. The Holy Spirit tends to lead me to dwell on the context of my sin as well as the issues involved. He also leads me to dwell on forgiveness. It is like God wants me (us) to talk with Him about our sins; our conduct and opinions. Confession of sin is not an unpleasant bother that I (we) just try and get through. There is real Divine fellowship here! We can think through what we have done and what we believe. It is amazing how God may recall His words to you about your conduct and opinions. It is amazing how He will love you through this time. It is precious to Him. It can be precious to you. I find that I enjoy telling others of my sin, confession, repentance and forgiveness. {Of course, I don’t enjoy telling gossips much of anything.}

I won’t talk here about a perfect world. We don’t have one. I won’t talk about a perfect convention (or denomination). We don’t have one. I won’t talk about a perfect church. We don’t have one of those either.

I will attempt to talk about a faithful group; whether it be a church, convention or nation.

Is it the practice of those who are leaders in the group to compare their opinions and conduct to the supreme standard of the Holy Scriptures? Is it your practice to compare your opinions and conduct to the Holy Scriptures? If I see this practice in a leader I trust them more. I am skeptical about the influence of a person who does not practice the humility of confessing their own sin. This skeptical conduct of mine seems to compare well with the Supreme Standard.

When you find that your expressed opinions or past conduct do not meet the Supreme Standard of the Holy Scriptures; do you admit it to yourself? Do you admit it to others?

In my opinion, Southern Baptists will thrive or decline in direct proportion to their faithfulness to this particular part of the Baptist Faith and Message. I am aware that it does not apply to the areas of our fellowship that have nothing to do with our opinions and conduct. However, I can’t find any areas of our fellowship that have nothing to do with our opinions and conduct. So it seems to apply everywhere, all the time. That makes it a fellowship issue (1 John 1:6, 7).

And as long as this portion of the BF&M is there; it doesn’t matter which version of the BF&M your group follows. You HAVE a basis for discernment. You have the basis to compare your opinions and conduct to the Bible, and you have the basis to compare other’s opinions and conduct with the Bible.

Having accepted the BF&M as your Statement of Faith, it ought not to be considered divisive if you dare to compare. Since you have it for a purpose; is it wrong to use it?

In my opinion, if I dare to compare someone’s opinions and conduct to the Holy Scriptures; and do not use the Holy Scriptures to do so; then I am just pitting my frail, narrow, untrustworthy opinion against another person’s frail, narrow, untrustworthy opinion. In my opinion, this doesn’t please God or anybody else.

Judge yourself first (Matthew 7:1-5). Dare to make decisions (Galatians 6:1, 2), and gently restore others to God’s opinions and conduct. Have confidence that the Supreme Standard is both wise and sufficient (2 Timothy 3:14-17). Keep love primary (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Some groups are still in disagreement over which version of the BF&M to hold. Some are suspicious of the BF&M 2000. Some are suspicious of the suspicions of those who will not hold the BF&M 2000. What will be the public outcome of such a disagreement? Well, the character of the character’s who speak to the issue will have a lot to do with the outcome. Perhaps each can measure their own opinions and conduct along the Supreme Standard of what God says about our opinions and conduct.

A lot more could be said; care to say it?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Do You Want to Love? Part 6

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.                  Philippians 1:9-11

There is more to Christianity than escaping hell. Affirming Jesus Christ as Savior without truly wanting the Holy life that He offers will not work. It is inconsistent to want a Holy life in the ‘here-after’ and to disbelieve that such a life is a attractive in the ‘here-and-now’.

When God tells us that we can be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, then we can ask ourselves whether or not we are experiencing such a reality, or whether we are existing in denial of what our Lord tells us to do. And while the “fruit of righteousness” is more than just the love of God; the “fruit of righteousness” is never found apart from the expression of the love of God.

Are there no consequences to existing in denial of what our Lord tells us to do?

Since your moment of becoming a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) truly takes place in a moment; it is important to discern your present reality. “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

So, Behold!

What is the primary purpose of this promise that “the new has come”? It is the Great Commandment, to love God (and others) with all of your heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37-40). How can we possibly think we are pleasing Him on a daily basis if we do not give attention and reflection upon His first priority for us? I am not saying we do not occasionally love Him, or incidentally love Him. But is not the Infinite God worthy of our intentional cooperation? Is occasional love and incidental love ‘good enough’ for our Lord Jesus Christ?

In the Philippians passage above it says that we can be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.  It also points out that such a condition flows from our love that abounds more and more in knowledge (in the context of knowing love) and all discernment (in the context of discerning love), with a result of purity and blamelessness (in the context of love), so that we can be filled with the fruit of righteousness. This comes through Jesus Christ. This glorifies God. This is our primary purpose after we have become a ‘new creation’.

Why wander half asleep through your only life on this planet? Why not live the life He offers? Why not try what He says we must do? What might happen to your awareness of eternal life if you set out to become skillful at loving God and others? As for me, I don’t have anything better to do. And I find nothing even remotely as satisfying!

I am not advocating a human program or paradigm. I am not even the advocate! I am trying to get you to see that Christianity is a great practical, knowable, and measurable way to live. Live Jesus’ way; He is the advocate!

What of your experiences with and among other Christians? Does the following passage accurately describe what you are finding in the world?

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,…                                    Titus 2:11, 12

Does this describe who you are right now? Is this description a characteristic of those who profess Jesus Christ around you? Isn’t the most excellent way to do what God says - actually to do what God says?

Now, it is not up to me to pass judgment on how Christians live. But when I am dissatisfied with what I see in others I can at least try and follow the Lord myself. And I can affirm and encourage those who love others intentionally. I can try and set the example of what I think I discern about eternal life. People need someone around them who will love them with the love of God. So that will be the goal of my life. God help me! For I want to do what You say must be done.

Do I love perfectly? Am I your example of holy love? Don’t be absurd: I am as dumb as a post. Jesus Christ is you perfect example of holy love. He is the one we should follow. Follow Him!

The book, “The Most Excellent Way”, can help. It continuously points out what God says about love and applies it to most areas of a Christian’s life. It is not my human theory based on human experience. It is constantly calling attention to what the Bible says about love.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Do You Want to Love? Part 5

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.                  Philippians 1:9-11

Can God trust you? Do I even care to try and be trust-worthy?

Many Christians realize that God knows the future perfectly. He knows what we think; He knows what we have thought in the past. He knows what we will think in the future. He is everywhere, and thinks all things through perfectly, at the same time, and remembers it all. He is All-wise. Only He can do this.

So He knows when I am going to do what He says and He knows when I will sin. In that sense, He knows when to trust me and when not to trust me.

Since God knows everything, should I become apathetic and irresponsible in my faithfulness? Should I conclude that “since God already knows, why should I care?”

I do not know everything. In fact, if I begin to consider all that I do not know; it becomes clear that I do not know even a tiny part of all there is to know. Since I have very few clues about what is going on in the world around me, I might as well admit that I am mostly clueless.

But God is not clueless. He knows how to tell me to live.

One thing I do know is that God is All-wise, and everywhere; and He is the perfect Lord, the perfect counselor, an ever present help. Since He is always with me, and since He loves me, and since He knows everything that is going on around me; I might as well trust Him.

I trust Him totally. I do not trust myself.

And I WANT to be trust-worthy in His eyes. I know that is not going to happen perfectly in this sinful time; but I treasure the ideal. He has made me more trustworthy through the decades of my life. He will continue to make me more trustworthy through the remainder of my life. Why shouldn’t I set my trust-worthiness before God as a serious goal? Would such a goal please Him? Would such a goal be something that He would bring to pass? I think such a goal is a true blessing that He will eagerly bestow upon everyone who treasures His opinion (His judgment).

Review the passage at the top of this article. See the phrase that says, “and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ”? God is talking about something real, here! There is a “purity,” and a “blamelessness” for the day of Christ that is founded upon what He has said earlier in the passage. That is why the words, “so that”, appear. There is a “purity” and a “blamelessness” that we should take seriously.

Those of you who have been given faith is Jesus Christ as Savior already know that God does not think people can be perfect by obeying laws. We are given a “righteousness” that enables us to survive the final judgment. This righteousness is a gift that God gives to those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Romans 3:21-26 and Ephesians 2:8-10).

Jesus Christ remains both Savior and Lord. When He saves us from the penalty of sin He changes us into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). We have passed from spiritual death to spiritual life. But the forgiveness of our sin is not the end of the matter. It is the beginning of life. How blind I must be if I have been given life, and do not value it enough to live it? How can I pretend to love God with all my heart, soul and strength, and not care whether I actually ‘love’ or not? How can I be sincere in my desire for the return of Jesus Christ if I do not enjoy living life as it will be when He returns? If I do not enjoy following Him now, why should I think I will enjoy following Him then?

It is very easy to be swept away by the current apostasy and think that being “saved through Jesus Christ” is the end-all and be-all of Christianity. In reality, it is just the beginning.

Jesus Christ saves you from the penalty of sin in one day. He is “Lord” of your life every day. This Lord Jesus Christ has given us one over-arching command; to love one another (John 13:34, 35). And to call him ‘Lord’, and then to refuse to do what He says is a denial that He is Lord (Matthew 7:21-23). We can deceive ourselves, and for a while we can deceive others, but we do not ever deceive Him. And it is such a horrible thing to be apathetic toward the Love of God when there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that God would rather give to you than the mind and soul and strength to Love Him and others. After Jesus Christ becomes your Savior from wrath, He continues as your Savior from daily sin. He delivers you from daily sin. He changes you day by day. And Love is His most excellent way.

What does this have to do with the passage above?

There will come a day when God will call us to account for our lives. If we take Him seriously about this time we will be about our Lord’s business. And that means that we intentionally try and love Him and others. If we are serious about Jesus Christ our Lord, then we are intentional about loving Him, and others, over time; month after month, decade after decade.

The passage above says, in part, “and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ”. It is possible to ignore our Lord’s words. It is possible to not care what He says. It is foolish, and wicked, and worthless, and it damages our lives and the lives of those around us; but it is possible to not care what He says.

We know that we have a righteousness from God, through the blood of Jesus Christ, that enables us to survive the day of judgment. But this Philippians passage speaks of a ‘purity and a blamelessness’ that is in addition to the gift of righteousness that we receive through faith in Christ.

Is this ‘purity and blamelessness’ worth your time? If God promises us a blessing, a reward, do we pretend that His offer is of little value?

Let’s narrow it down to these two questions. Here is the first: Do I want God to trust me in regard to His greatest commandment? If so, then I should remember what He says about love. I should (and He says, “You can!”) let love abound more and more in my life. I can set a ‘pure and blameless love’ as a major goal in my relationship with my Creator. I can ask for it; practice it; and become skillful at loving Him and others. I can ask others to pray for me, that my love can abound more and more. I don’t think I have anything to do that is more important than that.

Here is the second question: Since Jesus Christ is my Lord, is there any possible way I can please Him more and have Him more active in my life than by doing what He says is most important?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6).

Love is the straight path.

The book, “The Most Excellent Way”, can help.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Do You Want to Love? Part 4

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.      Philippians 1:9-11

Do I know perfection when I see it? Is it possible for something to be perfect? Is this a trick question?

My short answer is this: I am dumber than a post. A post knows how to be a post. All of my understanding is limited by my ability to only see one thing at a time; to only think about one thing at a time. I cannot be certain that I see the most important thing, or that I think the most important thought. All my sincerity does not guarantee that what I see and what I think is true. A drop of seawater cannot comprehend the oceans.

But God does not abandon those who seek Him. His Holy Spirit is our Guide, our Counselor. He gives us every point of view and every thought that we need. We are not alone.

Do I know perfection when I see it? Is it possible for something to be perfect? These are not trick questions.

There was a time when the world was totally perfect. There will be a time when there is a new earth that will be perfect. We are in the “in-between” time now, when the curse of sin affects everything. But the curse of sin does not pollute God himself, nor does sin prevent God from leading us in the way we should go.

This Infinite Creator God became a man also; as Jesus Christ our Lord. He was always perfect and He remains perfect. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is real history. This happened as surely as the sun warmed the earth today. God came into the world to tell us the truth, for mankind cannot find it any other way (John 18:37).

If we ask ourselves questions about our ability to know perfection then we have the opportunity to humble ourselves and seek our Creator. His word is truth (John 17:17). He seeks people who must come to Him for truth (John 4:23, 24). God is the author of truth, and hundreds of millions of people have been given faith in Him through Jesus Christ. These people could admit to themselves that they are blind to truth without Divine help. They recognized perfection in Jesus Christ, and they believed all that He said. In John 8:31 He says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”.

What does all of this have to do with Love? Review the key passage at the top of this article. See the underlined portion which says, “so that you may approve what is excellent”? What does this mean? It is more than just recognition of what God says is “right” or “wrong”. God has told us many things; all of them are “right”, but some are “more important” than others. Love is the most excellent way. The perfect God gave us perfect direction.

Love is the most excellent way.

Love is greater than faith or hope (1 Corinthians 13:13).

God says that your Love can abound more and more in knowledge all discernment “so that you may approve what is excellent”. When Jesus gives you faith in Himself you are forgiven for your sin. This is why He is called “Savior”. When you know that He is God Himself, you treat Him as your Lord, your Creator, your Master, your King. This means that you give yourself to Him day by day. How should you do this?

You can “approve what is excellent” above all other good things. If you approve of what He says about Love being the greatest commandment, then you are “approving what is excellent”. If you learn exactly what He means by Love; then you are “approving what is excellent”. If you practice Loving God and people, then you are “approving what is excellent”.

Heaven is about perfection. Heaven is a perfect ‘physical’ environment, and a perfect spiritual environment. While we may tidy up our current physical environment, it will never be perfect. When you Love God, you tidy up your spiritual relationship with Him. When you Love your family and friends, and even your enemies, you are bringing the most excellent spiritual environment possible into their lives. To “aim for perfection” (Matthew 5:48) is to take God’s great commandment seriously.

Approve what is excellent. Practice it. Watch your spiritual life come alive when you are doing what God says is the most excellent way. Experience the fullness of the very-real-God when you are taking this very-real-Lord seriously.

If your Love is abounding more and more so that your knowledge and discernment about Love is abounding more and more, then you can approve what is excellent more and more. We are not alone; God Himself is the greatest part of our lives. He knows if we are serious about doing what He says we should do. If I am apathetic about Love, then my arrogance does not result in knowledge and discernment and I cannot approve what is excellent. Apathy about our Sovereign Lord’s greatest command is a denial of our Sovereign Lord.

Find out who Jesus Christ really is. In humility, surrender your will to Him. Do what He says is most important. Pretty simple really.

The book, “The Most Excellent Way”, can help.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Do You Want to Love? Part 3

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.                  Philippians 1:9-11  ESV

Find a nice thick concordance and look up the word ‘emotion’. We all know what emotion is, we all experience emotion every day. But the Bible does not use the word. The experience of emotion is not new to mankind, and the Bible does not ignore it. The Bible speaks to emotion but uses other words for it. The Bible calls this experience ‘passion’ and ‘sensuality’.

‘Passion’ and ‘sensuality’ are not words that are always good, or always evil. Our passions and our body’s sensual perception are ‘good’ or ‘evil’ in relation to what we are passionate and sensual about. Passion refers to the strength of our desire for something. Often it refers to the strength of our visible desire for something. Sensuality refers to what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. Sometimes our sensual passions are revealed in physical lust for something or someone.

Our emotions; our passion and sensuality, have a lot to do with how Americans define ‘love’. But this is NOT the heart of God’s definition of ‘love’. God’s love is primarily a choice, not a feeling.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.      1 Corinthians 13:4-7

We can choose to be patient, and kind, and humble, and polite; even to people we don’t emotionally like very much. We can choose to act in a loving way even when we don’t ‘feel’ like it. We can choose to treat our enemies in a loving way; even though it is hard to like your enemy emotionally. In fact, trying to find warm friendship with your enemy may be playing on the wrong side of the edge of sanity.

There is no doubt that our passions and sensuality affect our expressions of patience, and kindness, and the rest of God’s definition of love. But do not think that the key to faithfulness toward God is based on how you feel. Christian love is based on what you know, and what you discern, and then on what you choose to do.

Look again at the Philippians passage at the top of the article. Our love is to abound more and more “with knowledge and all discernment”. Certainly ‘knowledge’ begins with remembering how God defines ‘love’. Certainly ‘discernment’ involves measuring yourself (and other people) in relation to how God defines ‘love’.

At some point in your Christian pilgrimage you simply must come to grips with remembering what God says about love. Then you can commit yourself day after day to choosing to love God and others. As you dare to try this, you will find that your love will abound, and over time it will abound more and more. The Christian life will take on God’s intended meaning. This is good for you, it is good for your spouse and family, and it is good for the people around you.

Or, you can be swept away with sensual passions toward infatuation, romance, friendships, physical intimacies and altruism. You can even think you are pleasing God while you do so, whether God agrees with you or not.

Do not let your love grow cold. Love on purpose. Thank God for the experiences of passion and sensuality, but don’t let anything cloud your intention to follow Jesus Christ in the way He leads. Passion and sensuality are real, but the love of God is more real; and more powerful. If you express your passions and sensuality in the love of God, then they are holy.

The book, ‘The Most Excellent Way’, can help.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Do You Want to Love? Part 2

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.                  Philippians 1:9-11  ESV

Is God, the Holy Spirit, leading Paul to pray for something that is not the will of God?

In the previous verse (Phil. 1:8) Paul called God as witness for how he yearned for the people with the affection of Jesus Christ, himself. The Apostle Paul was definitely asking God for something that God would do. Paul’s prayer is a request that God would definitely bring to pass; IF the recipients wanted to love.

It is my hope that God will give you the gift of faith regarding His words, so that you can follow the Lord Jesus Christ in this life of love; and not just wait for ‘eternal life’ to begin in the here-after.

In group prayer meetings it is common to hear prayers for someone’s healing, of for someone’s employment, or for someone to find faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. These are good prayers, and we should always be willing to ask God for these blessings.

But it is very rare to hear someone asking our Lord for the ability to love Him and others ‘more and more’. It could even be considered a mean-spirited insult to ask the Lord that the pastor, or another person, be blessed with the ability to be more loving. We presume that ‘love’ is inherent in our nature (actually, it is not). We assume that love is automatic. In our ignorance of the love of God we neglect the importance of God’s Great Commandment, to love Him will all of our being(Matt. 22:37, 38). We try to be disciples, yet ignore Jesus’ own priority of the New Commandment to ‘love one another’ (Jn 13:34, 35), even though loving one another is the primary mark of His disciples.

We live in a world that is filled with much lawlessness, and we see it increasing over the years. The increase of lawlessness alarms us, for we see prophecies of the last days coming to pass before our eyes. But it is easy to see the problems of ‘other people’ and miss the warning signs that are meant for us, personally.

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold (Matt. 24:12).

Has the love of the American church grown cold? If American Christians do not even know what ‘love’ is; then their love is stone cold. Can our Lord’s prophetic condemnation of people in the last days be about us? You can decide to find out, and then make sure that it is not about you.

Please do not assume that the American cultural definition of ‘love’ is accurate in God’s eyes. Such an assumption on the part of the Christian church is direct evidence that love in the church has grown cold. God has told us about His most excellent way, and continuing apathy about His greatest priority is inexcusable. This is a terrible thing. It is faithlessness to what God considers most important.

Learn what God means when he uses the word ‘love’ (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Watch your desire to treat people in this truly loving way and measure your faithfulness to your Lord by the harmony you find between what you say you believe and what you actually do. Watch the way you think about people, and the things you say to people, and the things you do to other people; and measure your thoughts and words and actions against what God has said.

Measure your Christian maturity against the scale of your love ‘abounding, more and more’. Then you will feel no shame when someone prays that you will be more loving. You will understand it as a request for God’s greatest blessing upon you. In hungering and thirsting for this righteousness you are on your way to being satisfied (Matt. 5:6).

If you want direct evidence that love is growing cold in American churches, then you can see it for yourself. The next time you are in a prayer meeting, offer the request “that the people of the congregation become more loving”. It is certain that someone will write your request down. One or two may voice the request in prayer. Perhaps you will find that your request will find a tiny part in the enthusiasm of the congregation. Perhaps you will find that the congregation does not even know how to meaningfully pray for love. Perhaps you will find that the congregation is far more intense as they pray for health, and wealth, and personal convenience.

The book, “The Most Excellent Way”, can help you, your spouse, and your family and church.