Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Look at our new web page for discipleship

Take a look at the new web page I am hosting. It is called "Discipleship.chccsa.com" and is a page linked to our church web site intended for growing Christians and populated with articles growing Christians might want to read. This is a part of our new discipleship emphasis which we will unveil soon at Castle Hills Christian Church.
Here is the link for the site: http://chccsa.com/discipleship/

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Four Trees: Ed's Gospel Account

Four Trees: Ed’s Gospel Account

The Tree of Life: God’s Original Intent: Genesis 1-2

The only way for a human being to know anything about God is for Him to reveal himself in some way. Fortunately for us, God has chosen to do that very thing. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself and his plan for mankind. The Bible lets us know that God is love, and that he is all about having a close relationship with his creation. Genesis, the first book of the Bible tells about God’s creation of the world and the first humans he placed within a beautiful garden called Eden. Everything needed for human life was within that garden, and God himself, would enter the garden and speak to the two humans, Adam and Eve, every day in the cool of the evening. There was unbroken fellowship between God and mankind, and God directly provided all that was needed.

Within the garden, God planted two special trees. The first was called the “Tree of Life,” and as long as Adam and Eve remained in fellowship with God they could eat freely of this tree and live forever in fellowship with God. But God also planted another tree in the garden and called it the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” God told Adam and Eve that whenever they ate of that tree they would die. No doubt, you may wonder why God would bother to put the second tree in the garden. He had a good reason for putting it there, which will be revealed soon. Meanwhile, life in the garden was perfect in every way. God provided all that was needed, and the humans enjoyed every advantage that came with unbroken connection to God, their creator and sustainer.

The Tree of Testing: Mankind’s separation from God: Genesis 3

A new character enters the picture at this point. Satan, in the form of a serpent, arrives to put the human couple to the test. Though we may be tempted to blame everything that is about to happen on this evil intruder, we need to realize that God allowed his presence in the garden and was aware of what he would soon do. The serpent was nothing more than a catalyst to bring to light what was already stirring within the hearts of the humans, and the tree of knowledge was actually a tree of testing.

You see, God created free moral agents when he created the humans. They had the power to obey or disobey God as they might choose. Providing the second tree was God’s way to allow mankind the freedom to use the power of choice to either stay connected with God willingly, or to separate themselves from God and go their own way. In eating the fruit of the second tree, they chose the path of separation from God. The testing tree allowed the humans to taste disobedience for themselves so that they could literally know the difference between good and evil by experience.

Because they chose this way of willful disobedience certain things changed for them immediately. God removed them from Eden so that they would not be able to eat of the Tree of Life and live forever in a state of separation from fellowship with God. God cursed the earth introducing pain, hard labor, decay, sickness and death. All of this sounds cruel on God’s part, but there was a hidden mercy even in the curse. As for the humans, though they didn’t die immediately, they were now living in a cursed world, with bodies that would eventually succumb to disease and death. But the real principle of death now at work was the principle of spiritual death and separation from God. This was their new spiritual condition due to disobedience and separation from God:

  • They were now slaves to sin because disobedience ruled their hearts (Romans 6)
  • They were married to the law which continually condemned them (Romans 7)
  • Their minds were continually dwelling on the flesh (Romans 8)
  • Their spirits which would normally allow communion with God were dead (Romans 8)
  • They were in a hopeless situation because of sin and separation from God (Ephesians 2:12)

The Tree of suffering: God’s provision for man’s plight: John 1:1-18

From the very moment of mankind’s fall, God was busy working out a plan for mankind’s redemption and restoration. When God found Adam and Eve naked, he killed an animal and provided them with proper coverings even though they had tried on their own to cover their nakedness with fig leaves (an example of man’s puny religious attempts to cover his own shame). In this action God began a system of blood sacrifices to atone for sin. Already, God was working to reconnect man back to himself, but he had an ultimate plan in mind to take care of sin once and for all.

From the moment of Man’s fall, God began to reveal his plan to redeem mankind back to himself (Genesis 3:15). At just the right time in history God put on flesh, entered into time and space as a human baby, and lived a perfect life, thereby enabling himself to become a perfect and final sacrifice for sin. John’s gospel tells us about the life of the extraordinary man named Jesus, from a town called Nazareth in a region called Galilee. He was the one the Jews were looking for whom they called “Messiah” and Christians later called “Christ”. His entire life is worth careful study, but the greatest thing he did for mankind involves the third tree. This tree didn’t look anything like a tree, but it came from chopping down a tree to fashion a instrument of torture and death the Romans called a cross. Jesus was condemned to death by the cruel actions of godless men who, in a frenzy, shouted out “Crucify Him!” Jesus had done nothing worthy of death, but he was killed anyway. This would all seem pointless if it weren’t for the fact that God had planned this as his method of redeeming the world. He literally became his own blood sacrifice to atone once and for all for every sin mankind would ever commit.

We know from ancient prophecies in the Old Testament that dying by crucifixion was always God’s plan to redeem mankind. Passages like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 which were written between 700 to 950 years before the events of Christ’s death on the cross are examples to show us this was always God’s plan for redemption.

So what did Jesus death on the cross do for us? Jesus took on a curse for us so we could be blessed through him. Galatians 3:13 says, “13Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (KJV)” Notice, in that passage, the cross on which Jesus died is called a tree, and it was a tree with a special curse placed upon who ever would die upon it. In taking a curse upon himself, Jesus represented every sin that could ever keep you or myself out of heaven. Though the whole experience was painful and shameful for Jesus, he willingly endured it all so that salvation could be made available to every human who sought to come back to a relationship with God (like Adam and Eve enjoyed in the beginning.)

So how does a person take advantage of what Christ did on the cross to redeem all mankind back to God? We simply receive salvation from God as a free gift by putting our faith in Jesus as our savior. What Jesus did on the cross was done in our behalf, so we simply acknowledge it and claim it for ourselves. If I believe that what Jesus did was done for me, then with my mouth, I confess the gift of salvation to be mine because I take Jesus to be my personal savior. In doing this I am also confessing that I know I am a sinner in desperate need of a savior, and I repent (turn away) from all the sins that used to control my life, and I submit to baptism as a testimony of my submission to and connection with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In my baptism, I declare that I have died with Christ, and therefore, know that my new condition as a born-again Christian is as follows:

  • With Christ I have died to Adam’s race and am now a child of God (Romans 5)
  • With Christ I have died to slavery to sin and am now a servant of Christ (Romans 6)
  • With Christ I have died to marriage to the law that condemned me and I am now part of the bride of Christ (Romans 7)
  • With Christ I am now able to have my mind focused, not on the flesh, but on the Spirit which is life and peace (Romans 8) because God has enlivened my spirit and placed His Holy Spirit within it.
  • With Christ I am no longer hopeless because I have the blessed hope (Christ himself) as my inner treasure. (2 Corinthians 4:7, Titus 2:13)

The Tree of Life restored: Revelation 22:2

There is a fourth tree mentioned in the Bible. This tree is the same tree we saw once before in Genesis. The tree is called the “Tree of Life” and we notice that what was denied to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, is prominently displayed in heaven. Notice the words of Revelation 22:2, down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. I admit that I am baffled as to how the one “tree of life” can be on “each side of the river,” But I am looking forward to eating a different crop of fruit each month from that tree which will be available to everyone living in the heavenly city. Notice that what was lost in Eden will be fully restored and then some in the heavenly city. Surely, you must want what is promised here to be available to you and those you love. By receiving Christ as your Savior and Lord you can enjoy the bounty of that fourth tree (which was actually the first tree), and you can erase the curse of the second tree by connecting with the man who hung on the third tree. Please don’t let this remain unfinished business in your life. Receive the gift of salvation today through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Simpleton Diet

I have come up with my own diet which seems to be working at the moment. I call it the "Simpleton Diet" because it is so simple any simpleton can figure it out. There is one rule to the simpleton diet: Eat one item per meal. What do I mean by that? I mean, "Eat one item per meal." Most people eat several items per meal. For example, the average restaurant meal has a main dish usually containing meat, and one or two side items (veggies, fries, etc.) My diet involves eating one thing per meal. Today I had a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast (one item). Then for lunch went to a Greek restaurant and ordered a Gyro. It came with fries or chips on the order so I chose chips and took them home rather than eat them. Susan brought home Pizza for supper and I had a piece. Get it? One item.
So what is the idea of eating one item? Simple. Eating one Item is less food than eating a plate of food. The problem with the American diet is that we usually eat too much food. I read that the average American eats over 100 lbs of sugar a year and about 65 lbs of fat per year. No wonder we are diabetic and stuffed with cellulite. So the answer is to eat less food. What about nutrition, vitamins, minerals, etc.? Eat a variety of items per day. Like everyone else, I am an omnivore so I don't eat the same thing throughout the day. I learned a version of this diet years ago when I learned about the Weighdown Workshop (Gwen Shamblin). She advised eating only when truly hungry. Unfortunately, for me, that was all the time. But she taught the wisdom of eating smaller portions and sticking only to what you truly like to eat and avoiding the rest. She warned that we had been improperly taught by parents to clean our plates. We were wiser if we left food on the plate and forget the parental rebuke about the starving kids in Africa. Since I generally eat what ever is set before me, the trick is to see to it that less is set before me.
I believe that most of the time, one item is enough. If I get hungry ("true body hunger" as Gwen called it) I can eat a piece of fruit or a few nuts. Anyway, I'm gonna give it a whirl. Being something of a simpleton myself, I must have a diet program that is a no brainer. So far, I'm about 9 lbs. lighter. I'll keep you posted about my progress if you need to know. Let me know if you decide to join me in my simpleton ways. Just a thought.