Penn from Penn and Teller asks a profound question of those who have faith in God.  “How much do you have to hate someone to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”  Penn is a self-proclaimed atheist, and yet he gets this serious truth far more than many followers of Jesus do.  We can see the task Jesus gave us to do (“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…”) should be an obvious top priority.  Please also recognize how profoundly touched Penn was by a Christian who”loved his neighbor” by engaging him as the Scriptures teach us.  The video is 5 minutes long – it is worth your time – watch it!  You can also say a prayer for Penn that he will read the Bible he was given and come to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

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I.  The judgment of God:
C. through Jesus Christ (Romans 2:12-16)

“All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.”

Hearing the law or not hearing the law (the Mosiac Law) does not make a person guilty of innocent. Judgment is according to how you have kept the law whether you have heard it or not.  Even though the Jews read the Mosaic Law as part of each synagogue service, they did not all live by it.  Even though Gentiles did not hear the Mosaic Law some of them lived by a higher standard…”their conscience bearing witness”.

God has given humans a conscience to help them discern right and wrong.  For everyone who listens to their conscience and does not suppress it will see himself as a sinner and ask God for help.  An honest person with a well functioning conscience will always see himself as guilty.  All people need to have their conscience cleared by coming to faith in Jesus (Heb. 9:14). “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Jesus Christ knows the intent of every heart whether right or wrong and He will judge according to Himself.

Lesson – Jesus is the righteous Judge and nothing is hidden from Him!

This brings us back to the question about those who have never heard about Jesus, yet attempt to please God.

First, we can be assured that God will do justly, But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Options –

  1. they will be judged according to what they know and if worthy their faith will be accounted to them as righteousness (like Abraham).
  2. Someone will be sent to them to tell them the Gospel of Jesus (ex. Macedonian man in Acts 16:6-10), or God will reveal the truth of Jesus to them in some other way.

Lesson – Since this is not the normal course of events (because most humans suppress the knowledge of God in their hearts), God in His mercy has called us to go and preach the Good News about Jesus to all the people groups of the world.


The questions:
Am I right with God?
Is Jesus currently sitting in His rightful place as king of my heart and life?
Am I doing the basic things that a follower of Jesus should be doing?
Am I loving God with all that I am?
Am I more concerned with the things of God or am I more concerned with the things of myself?
Am I loving my neighbor as myself?
Do I put the needs of others on an equal or higher place than my own needs?
Have I dealt with sin in my life so that I am striving for holiness?
Can I say that I have no known and unconfessed sin in my life?

Beginning my Bible reading this year in the book of Isaiah, it is easy to see that God has always been holy and forgiving. Read Isaiah 1:15-20.

15 When you spread out your hands,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Even though you make many prayers,
I will not hear.
Your hands are full of blood.
16 “ Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.
18 “ Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD, “ Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Now surely we are not actively pursuing personal gain by oppressing people. As a church we are “learning to do good; seeking justice, rebuking the oppressors, defending the fatherless, and pleading for the widows.” However, we must always strive to have God as #1 in our lives and live in such a way that we can be confident that we aren’t just giving lip service to a set of good ideas and beliefs, but that our hearts are right before God.

If you have not been made right with God in a final sense, then you need to understand that there is nothing you can do to save yourself because just like everyone else you are a sinner and a spiritual failure. You need to recognize your need for Jesus to save you from your sins because He is the only one who can. You need to tell him you are sorry for all the bad things you have done and for the unholy person you are and thank Him that He died on the cross for your sins and rose from the dead. If you genuinely put your faith in Jesus then you are what we call born again – a saved person – a believer – a saint. You can now expect the world to call you crazy.

Now let me remind you that those who are redeemed by the grace of God through faith have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We have such an advantage over those who the prophet Isaiah was speaking to. We have the Holy Spirit living within us, and we have the complete Word of God. If you are consistently in the Word of God and in prayer then your sins should be obvious to you (Hebrews 4:12-16). 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.  14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

As a safeguard our lives should be open books within the church, and we need to give others the freedom to call us out when they see us in error.

We have the opportunity to always have very short accounts of our sins. Do we realize that we should always be able to go to bed at night with no unconfessed sin? How is this possible? Well if you have sinned in such a way that only God is offended, then you only need to confess to God and you know that Jesus is your Great High Priest. (Examples – you let your mind dwell on sinful thoughts of pride or lust). If you have sinned against your brother or sister through your words or your actions, you ask for forgiveness from that person and from God. In the days that we live with cell phones and email, we normally have no excuse for not making it right the very same day!

Even if by a hardness of heart we went a few days with unconfessed sin, surely having the bread and cup before us, representing the body and blood of our Savior would drive us to confess. For we know with certainty he who eats and drinks the bread and cup with knowingly unconfessed sin eats and drinks judgment to himself (I Cor. 10:13-17, 11:23-34).

10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.

11:23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.  27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come.

Participating in the communion is a testament that we are right with God, that we have our heart and our priorities in order, that we being multiple people show that we are one body of Christ (the church) as we take the bread. We are testifying that we have no unconfessed sin before God, and that as much as depends on us we are right with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and that our testimony to the world is solid. It is something that surely we should take with seriousness for we will be held accountable. And if there is something that we need to confess or do before we can partake of it – then we should be focused on taking care of that quickly – because what a dreadful thing to not be in a place where you can remember the Lord as He asked.

Being right with God has both a personal and communal aspect. Here is a reminder of what dcf as a church family is!

We are group of people drawn together by God for God’s glory. Jesus is the head of this church. He is the Chief Shepherd. The elders (Acts 20:28) are responsible to shepherd the flock, the deacons are to help serve and meet needs as they are appointed by the elders. The members are to be equipped and to do the work of the ministry as co-workers with Jesus, the elders and deacons. Our responsibility as a whole is to be obedient to Jesus, to love God, the believers, and the lost, to seek justice and to live in such a way as to help others. We praise God for all He gave us in 2008 and all the good works He enabled us to participate in. We boldly ask for much more for 2009 as we are stirred to love and good works. Let us pray!

Knowing where to begin in witnessing to a Jehovah’s Witness can be difficult because there are so many subjects where their teachings disagree with the Word of God. However, I recommend that at least initially you stick to the most imporant subject and keep the conversation from running down rabbit trails. The most important subject is the Deity or non-deity of Jesus Christ.

It is great if you know more, but you only need to remember two passages to have a meaningful conversation.

First, ask the Jehovah’s Witness to read John 1:1 outloud from their New World Translation. It will read, “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.”

Notice that instead of the correct translation “the Word was God”, their version says “a god.” Let it go for now.

Second ask the Jehovah’s Witness to read John 20:24-29 outloud from their New World Translation. The passage is the conversation between Jesus and Thomas after the resurrection of Jesus, verse 28 states, ” In answer Thomas said to him: “My Lord and my God!”

Notice that in the New World Translation Thomas calls Jesus God with a capital “G”.

You can then ask the Jehovah’s Witness, “Is Jesus a god little g or the God big G?” In compassion for them I would say something like this, “God preserved part of His Word in the New World Translation so that any Jehovah’s Witness could read John 20 and agree with Thomas that Jesus is God and believing in Him have life in His name. Do you agree with Thomas that Jesus is God?”

I hope this post helps you in sharing the truth with the Jehovah’s Witnesses you meet. Memorize the two references, John, 1:1 and John 20:24-29. Now you can answer that door with confidence or have that conversation with that coworker or family member that you know you need to have. If I can be of further assistance please drop a comment.

The last four days have been very interesting.  On Friday I had a conversation with a couple of friends about JWs because they are routinely going into my friends’ laundromat and handing out literature.  Saturday I am with a friend, and we are going to a trailer park to show the Jesus Film in Spanish.  As soon as we pull up we see the JWs going trailer to trailer.  On Sunday a JW was going to visit a young lady in our church.  I went and participated because normally the JWs visit you with at least two people.  Today, at lunch time basketball, someone says, “Merry Christmas!”  One of the other guys says, “I don’t celebrate Christmas.”  I think I was the only one who heard him say it so privately, I asked him why.  He said, “because of my personal beliefs and my religion.”  I replied, “So you are a Jehovah’s Witness then?” “Yes…”  Odds are they have already knocked on your door and will again.

So what are the main things that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe? It should be understood that the JW religion is a religion of denial.  It was started in 1879 because the founder Charles Russell did not like the normal teachings of the Bible.  JWs deny the following:

1.  The Deity of Jesus Christ
2.  The physical resurrection of  Jesus Christ
3.  The physical return of Jesus Christ
4.  The existance of hell as defined by the Bible (they view it as a grave until the resurrection)
5.  The place of all believers is an eternity with God (they state only 144,000 get this privilage.

They deny many other things but those five are of particular importance.  It is good for you to know that JWs are forbidden to take any literature you give them, and they are  forbidden to read any “religious” materials that are not from the Watchtower Society.  A more accurate name for Jehovah’s Witnesses would be “Watchtowerites” since they rely so heavily on their Watchtower materials.  They have their own translation of the Bible called the New World Translation.  As far as Bible translations go, it is terrible.  However, there is something in it that is very powerful that is easy to remember and that you can use when you witness to a Jehovah’s Witness.  Read the next post for the answer.

One final thought for this post.  You should view most JWs with compassion.  They normally have very little Bible knowledge when they are deceived.  They are systematically brainwashwed.  If they deny the false teachings of their religion they will normally be outcasts and lose their family and their community of friends.  It costs a lot for one of them to have the courage to see it for the cult that it is and to get out.

Regardless of whether Obama or McCain wins tonight or whether you will be happy or shed tears after the election results, please keep a few things in mind if you are a follower of Jesus.

God’s people must let nothing keep us from the priorities that God has set before us – to proclaim the Good News about Jesus.  I am encouraged that so many followers of Jesus I know really love God and love people and strive to live what they believe.  Let us endeavor more to share the love of God!  Let us endeavor more to be generous with all that God has made us stewards over!  Let us endeavor more to help the most oppressed!  Let us endeavor more to be salt and light and hope in our very dark world!

1.  We have a responsibility to pray for our leaders (I Timothy 2:1-2).

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

The Scripture does not tell us to pray for them only if we like them.  Praying for our leaders to have wisdom, discernment, justice, peace, love, and truth is commanded for us to do.  

2.  Jesus is still the only true and eternal hope!  (Luke 4:18-19, John 14:6).

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, 
      because he has anointed me 
      to preach good news to the poor. 
   He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners 
      and recovery of sight for the blind, 
   to release the oppressed, 
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Words of Jesus)

 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

3.  We must endeavor to love, live, and share the Good News about Jesus, the payment for our sins (I Timothy 2:3-7).

“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.”

4.  We have a responsibility to stand up for the oppressed.  (Isaiah 1:17)

“Learn to do right! 
Seek justice, 
encourage the oppressed. 
Defend the cause of the fatherless, 
plead the case of the widow.”

5.  Regardless of who our leaders are, God is still God, and our privilege is to look forward to the day when Jesus Christ will reign (Revelation 11:15).

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.'”

I am so looking forward to the day when there will be no more tears and no more pain.  In that day, we will no longer have to wonder whether our leaders know what they are doing, or if they have good or bad intentions, or if they are wise enough for the job.  Our King Jesus will reign and all will be as it should be – finally!  What a sweet and blessed hope we have in Jesus!

The Psalms are incredibly broad and deep.  Though David wrote more of them than anyone else, there are a variety of authors who wrote over about a 1400 year period. When reading the Psalms it is helpful to understand that there are different types of Psalms, and that some Psalms are more or less appropriate for the situation you are currently in than others.  When the information is available it is also a great blessing to know the context of when and why the Psalm was written. How to classify the Psalms is in large part a personal preference.  It can be a useful tool to keep a chart for yourself or put notes by different Psalms in your Bible.  I’m looking forward to making my own chart as I read through the Psalms.  In the meantime I can share some categories from  The Believer’s Bible Commentary by William MacDonald.  I’ve added a couple of categories and given examples for each.

1. Worship and Thanksgiving – Psalm 93 (probably the greatest number of Psalms fall into this category for the purpose of enhancing our fellowship with God.)

2. Messianic (Prophetic Psalms that specifically speak of Jesus Christ).  It is important to remember that sometimes part of the Psalm has to do with Jesus while other parts refer to someone else.  – Psalm 22

3. Confession and forgiveness – Psalm 32,51

4. Petitions – Psalm 17

5. The righteous and wicked contrasted – Psalm 1

6. Historical – Psalm 78

7. Prophetic but not Messianic – Psalm 14

(Note:  It is also important to note that some of the Psalms in the petition category are not appropriate for us to use in prayer today.  The author was writing in the context of the Old Testament law of an eye for an eye.  Jesus calls us to a higher standard of loving our neighbors – whether friend or enemy.

As we read the Gospels we see Jesus in all His fullness. Jesus – the God-Man…fully God and fully human leaving His place of perfection in heaven and humbling Himself to put on human flesh in order to live with and serve fallen humans who were trapped slaves of sin. We see Him in power command the storm to stop, turn water to wine, and feed thousands with a meal for one. We see Him in compassion teach the multitudes, make the blind see, heal the paralyzed, comfort the sorrowing, and give hope to the poor. We see His righteous anger at those who would distort faith for personal gain… those who make God’s work into a lucrative business. We see His anger at false teachers who trap many with their lies. We see Him mourn the pain of death as He faces the consequences of a fallen world. We see Him put aside the easy road and walk the path to Golgotha – the hill of the skull. We see all creation tremble at His death, the bright sun even hidas Jesus paid for our sins. But on the third day, what a glorious morn, Christ risen indeed! Do you know Him? If you do, how will your participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus impact your life today?

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