Why Doesn’t Life Get Easier When We Become Christians? (Great question….)

The simple answer is that Jesus never said life on planet earth was going to get “easier” after professing our faith in Him. However…..

When we profess faith in Christ, “God moves in” and unleashes metaphysical power within us. Read on….

“When we come to faith in Christ, we become liberated prisoners of war. However, the battle is not over; we just changed sides. A new battle begins within us – the battle between what the Bible calls the flesh (our natural desire to sin), and the Holy Spirit who now dwells within us. Our former master, Satan, the enemy of our souls, (using our flesh as a sort of ‘base camp’) tries to apply and enforce bogus fugitive slave-laws to reclaim our mental and emotional allegiance….But, God has equipped us for overwhelming victory (Rom. 8:37). God’s greatest demonstration of His power was in the resurrection, ascension, and exaltation of His Son. We share in that power because we were raised with Christ, seated with Him, and now rule with Him (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 1:16-23). We lack nothing (Philipp. 4:13)….We cannot exaggerate the power of Christ’s person and work. Christ has triumphed over the [satanic] principalities and powers (Col. 2:15). He has rendered Satan powerless (Heb. 2:14). Because we are in union with Him, we share His victory (Eph. 2:6). That union is demonstrated by our deliverance from the dominion of darkness (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13). Our union with Christ also means that He dwells IN US by His Spirit, and we dwell with Him (Rom. 8:9). We are now a Holy Habitation (a living, breathing temple) of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20).”  (Brian Borgman & Rob Ventura; Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical and Balanced Perspective)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Shields Up!

“The Shield of Faith” – Part 4 of a 7 part series on the “Armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-18)

In the 1989 movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” Indiana (Harrison Ford) is being forced to endure successive “tests” of skill (and luck) to accomplish his goal: discover and acquire the “holy grail.” To make things even more critical, his father (played by Sean Connery) is dying, and the only cure can come from the sacred cup. The final “test” for Indiana is, by far, the most difficult. Because, instead of skill, the test now requires faith. The ancient writer of the biblical book of Hebrews described faith as the “assurance about what we do not see [i.e. perceiving as fact what is not revealed to our senses]” (Hebrews 11:1) So, what makes this particular test the most difficult of all previous tests is this: what we’re called to believe makes little or no sense. But, that’s why it’s called faith.

The Bible is replete with passages about the importance of our faith in God (we’re “saved by faith”; we “live by faith; we “walk by faith;” – Eph. 2:8; Rom. 1:17; 2 Cor. 5:7) But you won’t find a single biblical example of a person’s faith being easy. In fact, as one of my best friends told me, “Nick, if it’s easy – it’s not faith.”

The “shield of faith” described in Paul’s passage on the “armor of God” (Eph. 6:16) is based on the large, heavy, door-like shield that covered an ancient warrior’s entire body….As the shield protected a soldier in combat, so also faith spiritually protects us in every situation from whatever the devil might launch at us.”

The enemy’s overarching goal is to destroy our faith – which renders us useless for the Kingdom of Heaven here on planet earth. The devil’s “flaming arrows” of doubt, discouragement, anger, unforgiveness, lust, materialism, pride, etc. “come unexpectedly, suddenly, with great speed, and in great number. Sometimes we are even attacked while having some powerful thought about God!”

Faith is hard or it wouldn’t be called faith. I heard a preacher once say, “Faith is like a muscle. It doesn’t grow unless it’s exercised.” “Faith is a firm persuasion; an unwavering trust in God based on everything He said to us about Himself in His Word….Unbelief will weaken you before the enemy will.”

In the early years of Billy Graham’s ministry, his dear friend (and fellow evangelist), Charles Templeton, shocked Billy by abandoning his faith due to nagging questions about evil in the world. “People no longer accept the Bible as being inspired the way you do,” Templeton told Graham. “Your faith is too simple.” Billy Graham found himself in a crisis of personal faith. Lee Strobel recounts the story: “Graham searched the Scriptures for answers, he prayed, he pondered. Finally, in the moonlit San Bernardino mountains, everything came to a climax. Gripping his Bible, Graham dropped to his knees and confessed he couldn’t answer some of the philosophical questions that Templeton and others were raising. Graham confessed, ‘I found [by attempting to know the answer to every question on earth] I was trying to be on the same level as God. And, at last the Holy Spirit freed me to say it: Father, I am going to accept this as Your Word – by faith!

“When Satan strikes we are to look away from ourselves to Jesus Christ, lay hold of His Word, and say with the Apostle Paul, ‘I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.” (Acts 27:25)

NOTE: The video clip from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” is below.

Some quotes were taken from Borgman’s & Ventura’s “Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical and Balanced Perspective”

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Internet Atheism

“All atheistic blogs & social networks are intelligent while all sites representing religion are dimwitted.”

Ever get that vibe from reading opinion after opinion on the internet? I do. And so does Tom Gilson, who, a little over a year ago, wrote a wonderful blog on the topic. (link is provided at the bottom.)

Have a teen in your house? Have them read the blog. Better yet – as their parent, read it with them and discuss it afterward.

Internet debate is tricky. RARELY – if ever – does it change someone’s convictions about something as important as the existence of God. However, if entertained long enough (in place of the study of Scripture), Satan will use it to plant and water seeds of doubt. This strategy of the enemy is no different than his strategy in Eden.

Ever entered into a religious debate and quickly felt like you were thrown to the wolves? Me too. Note Gilson’s observation below:

“Social theorists know that the collective intelligence of a group is often lower than that of any of its members. ‘Groupthink’ is a familiar manifestation of that effect. Less well-known is the polarization effect, in which social pressure, selective presentation of information, and seeing others as outsiders can lead a group to adopt extreme positions that no one person would take up on his or her own.”

To illustrate, let’s say you decide to comment on the topic of evolution. The original poster is clearly pro-evolution/anti-creationism. While you may have a very intelligent comment, a “mob mentality” quickly erupts and you likely find yourself “thrown to the lions”, i.e. being vilified by all of the poster’s friends. That’s ok. Don’t lose your temper. I guarantee – someone is taking note of your intelligent response. And never – never – become defensive or ugly. Stay cool. Love deeply. The ones calling you names and making fun of you are NOT your primary enemies. Remember what Paul told the Ephesians, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (6:12) The LAST thing satan wants is for a Child of the King to bring light into darkness. (But the enemy can’t stop it – Light can dispel darkness, but darkness cannot dispel light. And this is exactly why Jesus used this metaphor.)

Gilson continues: “It seems to me that it’s this kind of group effect, operating through blogs and social networks, that makes Internet Atheism different from other forms of disbelief. It’s what makes it a uniquely Internet-based phenomenon, and justifies giving it the name ‘Internet Atheism.’ They convey a common message; they live in one world. In that world, atheists can think. Christians cannot. Atheists build their knowledge upon science. Religious people build their beliefs on blind faith.”

Satan’s always embodied hubris. So, it’s no wonder that those that deny Christ (in light of compelling evidence for Christ being exactly who He said He was) would be known by the same.

Personal note: Within the first hours of finding my son’s body after he’d taken his life I was honestly considering the possibility that there was no God….that the Bible is a book of fairy tales, and that Christianity is an emotional crutch for the weak-minded. However, it was due to my questioning everything about God – weighing the overwhelming evidence for His existence, the reliability of His Word, etc – that brought me to the following, thought-out decision: “The Bible is true; Jesus is exactly who He said He was; the resurrection happened. I don’t understand you, God. But, by faith, I will trust you. Even in light of the senseless death of my son, nothing else on this planet makes sense in light of You and Your Word.”

Gilson goes on to site, “Time and again, atheists on the Internet have said of my ‘Thinking Christian’ blog, “Thinking Christian? What a joke! There’s no such thing! If he were thinking, he’d be an atheist.”

To say a “thinking Christian is a joke” is, itself, an arrogant, self-serving, UNthinking statement. This is why God is, at this moment, re-assigning me….adjusting my “role” within the Body of Christ to help believers better know how to know & use their Bible, know why they believe what they believe, and encourage and witness to others.

Within academia, you will find something common: a fear of truth,…a sense of panic that maybe – just perhaps – the resident “experts” may be wrong, in part, or altogether. Read on from Gilman: “Internet Atheism is a frontal attack on Christianity, operating on many levels. Recently Jerry Coyne mounted a blog-based campaign to have a Ball State University astronomy professor barred from teaching a course on the “borders of science,” because it has implications that could support Intelligent Design theory. The university has undertaken an ‘investigation,’ the results of which remain to be seen.”

My position, based on Gilson’s story immediately above, is this: professors & teachers should present the entire spectrum of truth. To refuse to do this more resembles indoctrination. (They don’t even need to mention God. The book of Esther doesn’t :)) Simply present what can be proven empirically (scientifically) and allow the student to arrive at their own conclusions based on the evidence. I am certainly not afraid of this teaching strategy. But, apparently those hostile to Christ are – and for good reason. The evidence for God is not only compelling, it’s overwhelming. Renowned British atheistic philosopher, Antony Flew, was a champion for the atheistic community. Just a few years before his death he stunned the atheistic community by stating that the universe, having an intelligent design, demands a creator. Now, Flew, as far as we know didn’t believe in a “personal God” manifested in Jesus Christ. But, he most certainly changed his longstanding opinion on the creation of the universe. Why? Flew stated, “I must agree with Plato’s Socrates and go where the evidence leads.” Translation: “thinking people” – if they are honest with themselves – upon careful examination of the evidence will, in my opinion, eventually wind up at the truth. Through the prophet, Jeremiah, God said, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (29:13)

In conclusion, Gilson concludes: “Our best defense is careful study, clear thinking, a presence of our own on the Internet, and quality teaching in our churches. Internet Atheism is too simple to succeed in the long run—provided that we do our part to show it for what it really is.”

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/breakpoint-columns/entry/2/22562

“When We Hurt, God Hurts”

Our son, Jordan, was born with the “golden retriever” personality. He was loyal to a fault. He absorbed the emotion of those who surrounded him. When he loved – he loved deeply. Whatever he felt – he felt deeply.

This was both a blessing and a curse.

The loss of my job in the summer of 2003 was traumatic on the entire Watts family – but it devastated our three children. In particular, Jordan.

As a victim of Clinical Depression, myself, i was wrestling with very dark days at that time. Jordan absorbed every last drop of fear, confusion, and despair that tormented me. That was the part of Jordan’s personality that was the “curse.”

But here’s the part of Jordan’s personality that was the “blessing.” An awe-inspiring blessing. (This is powerful truth that God can take the worst this planet can deliver – and use it for His glory.)

As I was busy one afternoon putting together my resume I heard something behind me. I turned around to discover it was Jordan (he had just turned 10 years old.) Huge tears rolling down his cheeks, I could literally feel both the hurt and compassion emanating from his little body. Then, I noticed he was holding something. He looked at me and in his yet-to-have-deepened-high-little-boy-voice said, “Dad, God told me to paint this for you.”

It is, to this day, the most powerful “sermon” I’ve ever “seen.”

There are those rare moments you are keenly aware that you are on “holy ground”. This was one such moment.

He showed me his painting. The watercolors were still wet. We embraced, held each other tightly, cried together, worshiped Christ together, then cried together some more.

Inscribed on the plaque at the bottom of the painting: “When We Hurt, God Hurts” – Painted by Jordan Watts; August 2003.

Jordan’s painting (shown below) has since always hung in my office. It now hangs in our home. Little did Jordan know that he was, at 10 years old, preaching to our family a sermon we would again need 9 years later after his own death in May, 2013.

To you, my friends: This is truth! We have a God who not only cares, but who “put on skin” and entered into our mess – to hurt with us, cry with us, hug us, hold us, and save us.

Oh, halleljuah!

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

image

Nike, Adidas & “εὐαγγέλιον”

“The Gospel of Peace Footwear” – Part 3 of a 7 part series on the “Armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-18)

“…to stand against;….to withstand;….to stand firm;….Stand, therefore….” Four times Paul reiterates the overriding purpose for our “armor” as he introduces the believer’s supernatural panoply: to stand i.e. not give ground to the enemy (Ephesians 6:10-14). And most everyone knows that standing firm requires the right kind of footwear.

“Along with the belt and breastplate, proper footgear was a vital piece of equipment for the first-century Roman soldier….To fight well, he needed to move quickly and decisively….His shoes actually were equipped with the ancient precursor to today’s athletic cleats worn in football and baseball.”

Paul described the type of footwear we need this way: “as for shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” (6:15) The gospel (literally: “good news”) of the Bible is found in the life, death & resurrection of Jesus Christ – and how Jesus satisfies God’s wrath over sin, thereby giving sinful/corrupt mankind peace and reconciliation with a holy & just God, both now and in eternity. (“…God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” 2 Corinthians 5:19)

The Greek word for our English word “gospel” is “εὐαγγέλιον”. When transliterated, it’s pronounced, “yoo-on-GEH-lee-on”. And here’s the cool thing (think: supernatural power) about this “footwear”….

(1) It advances the kingdom of God against a hostile enemy: “Paul is calling believers to strap the good news of the gospel of peace to their feet. Consider the Old Testament herald announcing the good news and liberation to those in bondage. Note the words of Isaiah 52:7 – “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace,who bring good tidings,who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!” God’s people today must do the same, which means going forth courageously and boldly into enemy quarters, equipped with the combat boots of the good news of Christ Jesus.” And there’s not one thing Satan can do about it. ([Jesus said to Peter], “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades [the powers of the infernal region] shall not overpower it.” Matthew 16:18 – Amplified)

(2) It empowers the believer with courage, strength, and peace: “Just as the gospel is a powerful means for advancing God’s truth and delivering many from Satan’s clutches, it is also a powerful means for stabilizing us as believers, helping us stand against the devil’s attacks….Satan lives to make us miserable….he is relentless….We need peace when the spiritual bombs of the enemy are exploding around us. We find that peace in the gospel.” (cf. Philippians 4:6-7) As we live/share the gospel we are constantly reminded of its truth. And the truth, Jesus said, sets us free. (John 8:32)

“As we understand and appropriate the gospel more and more in our lives, we will advance in our ability to hold our ground when the enemy strikes.”

NOTE: Unless otherwise noted, all sections in quotations are from Brian Borgman’s & Rob Ventura’s “Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical & Balanced Perspective”.

Soli Deo Gloria, nw

“Me? Righteous??” (God: “Yes, you.”)

“The Breastplate of Righteousness” – Part 2 of a 7 part series on the “Armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-18)

When I was young i was always conflicted when I read James 5:16 – “….The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” I found myself being glad that prayer contained such power, but at the same time, discouraged that, due to what a mess my life is, I wasn’t in a biblical position to offer that kind of prayer.

Then the book of Romans showed up. And I was, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “surprised by joy.”

Continuing his description of the “armor of God,” Paul describes the second piece of armor as “the breastplate of righteousness.” (Ephesians 6:14) For a soldier, the breastplate protected the vital organs, specifically the heart. Spiritually, “heart” denotes the center of a person. Jerry Bridges puts it this way: “The mind as it reasons, discerns, and judges; the emotions as they like or dislike; the conscience as it determines and warns, and the will as it chooses or refuses – all are together called the heart.”

Prior to reading the book of Romans I lived most of my life in perpetual guilt i.e. “As hard as I try – I’ll never be ‘righteous’ enough.” The devil continually rubbed my face in my daily failures. Then, through His Word, Christ shouted truth so loudly into my life I could hear it echo through 20 centuries all the way back to the cross at Calvary. He held me close and said, “Although you fail/sin, ‘there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.’ (Romans 8:1) When the devil points his accusing finger at you, you should say with the Apostle Paul, ‘Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:33-34) (Brian Borgman & Rob Ventura)

This truth remains beyond my grasp. I believe it by faith.

Christ’s “perfect merits are ours by faith alone apart from our works (Romans 4:1-6). His life, death, and resurrection are the complete and final grounds of our acceptance before the Father. We are accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6). When God looks at us, He does not see our filth and sin; rather, He sees the beauties and perfections of His Son that have been credited to our [formerly bankrupt] account. As Christians, our standing before the Almighty is not only ‘just-as-if-i-never-sinned.” Because of Christ’s righteousness, which God reckoned to us, it is ‘just-as-if-i-lived-a-perfect-life.”

Hallelujah.

So, now – when I pray fervently, I know my prayer is “powerful and effective” – because i am righteous, because of Christ Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria, nw