So Close…

“Jesus sent out the twelve apostles with these instructions, ‘Don’t go to the Gentiles, or the Samaritans, but only to the people of Israel – God’s lost sheep.'” Matthew 10:5,6

I live and do ministry in the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa – an area that sits right on the Mississippi River with a population of approximately 325,000. The QC is a pretty typical Mid-West area. There is massive farming communities immediately outside (and somewhat inside) the cities, We are home to several major manufacturers, and nearly everyone has a church background.

I’m amazed at how I often I run into people and how seldom any of them claim no church affiliation. Here in the Mid-West, church is something that nearly everyone grew up with. And regardless of whether or not you actually go to church has nothing to do with “belonging” to a particular flavor of of religion that your parents or grandparents said you belong to.

When Jesus sends His disciples out for the first time on their first attempt at doing ministry outside of his direct supervision, He instructs them not to go to the Gentiles (Non-Jews) or the Samaritans (Half-Jews), but to the people of Israel, “God’s lost sheep.”

Really? The Jews? God’s “lost” sheep?!? Didn’t Jesus understand how well these Jews knew God? How well they obeyed the Old Testament? Their superior understanding of the laws of Moses? Didn’t He see the synagogues filled each Sabbath day with Jews eager to obey God?

Out here, nearly everyone knows about Jesus, believes in God, and owns a Bible. Almost all QC residents would claim some building as “the church I grew in.” Many of them even make the occasional appearance for Christmas or Easter. Most were married in a church. But with all of this religion and church experience there is an enormous oversight…

You see, the Jews would not have considered themselves “God’s lost sheep.” They would have considered themselves to be God’s favorites. But the truth is, they were off. They had a “form of godliness” but not the true “power thereof.” Being in church doesn’t make you close to God any more than me being in a shop makes me a mechanic.

Be careful that you’re not so close to “God” that you miss Him completely. Understand that your connection to Him is as close as you want it to be – He’s never been the one to leave.

A lot of people know about God, but don’t actually have a relationship with Him. There’s a word for a person who knows a lot about someone without having a relationship with them: “stalker!” Too many people are stalking God, but have not accepted the invitation to know him through Jesus Christ.

What about you? Do you know God, or are you creepin‘?

The Questions You Asked… Part 4

The Questions You Asked… Part 4

  1. Question: “Is it true that there are spirits among us?” Answer: Yes: Angels. Both good and bad (demons). Are there actually dead people’s ghosts walking among us? No. At best, they are demonic impersonations of people who once lived. The Bible refers to people with “familiar spirits” (meaning the demon) and “mediums” who would do this. No, I’m not crazy. Yes, the Bible does talk about it (Leviticus 19:31).
  2. Question: “Exorcism?” Answer: Like, is it a real thing? Oh, yes. I know people who’ve been part of casting a demon from a woman. Horror movies don’t do justice from what eye witnesses tell me. Just know that as a follower of Christ, we are already possessed by the Holy Spirit of God (1 John 4:4). According to Matthew 7:21-23, just because a person casts out a demon from someone in the name of Jesus, doesn’t mean they have a relationship with Jesus.
  3. Question: “Why are there so many religions?” Answer: Because religion is man’s attempt to reach God. It is based on man’s attempts to please deity/deities. Because of that, there are more religious perspectives than there are people on the planet. Jesus did not come to start a religion – He came to replace religion with Himself.
  4. Question: “Why can I not always hear from God?” Answer: Because the teacher is always silent during the test. Your relationship with God is not based on how you feel. Feelings are fickle. Our faith is not in ourselves. Our faith is not even in our faith! Our faith is in the faithfulness of God to love us and guide us even when it feels as though He’s absent.
  5. Question: “What race was Jesus” Answer: Jewish. Thanks for an easy one.
  6. Question: “Where does our sin nature come from?” Answer: James 1:13-15. The real “enemy” is “in-me”. All sin can be narrowed down to one word: “selfishness.” In other words, I sin when I am more interested in what I want rather than what is right, what is good, or what God wants.
  7. Question: “Why do some people struggle with things that others do not (stealing, addictions, homosexuality…)?” Answer: Great question. I suppose the easiest answer is that we are all different. So we all have different strengths and weaknesses. What I struggle with might be no big deal to you, and vice-versa. Notably, most of us struggle over the same 2 or 3 things over and over again. Satan is not extremely creative, he’s just persistent.
  8. Question: “Who was your favorite Power Ranger?” Answer: Green Ranger! He was like this rogue ranger that the other rangers sort of ran into. His Zord was the coolest! It reminded me of Godzilla. Yes, I was a nerd as a kid too…
  9. Question: “How old is the earth?” Answer: By extrapolating the ages of the first humans recorded in the Bible to the point of a known point in time, we estimate the actual age of the earth to be as young as 6,000 years old up to approximately 10,000 years old. “What about carbon dating and stuff?!?” So what? God made a mature earth. He didn’t plant seeds and wait 200 years for it to grow into a massive Sequoia, He just created big, awesome trees. Science strongly favors a young earth concept of creation.
  10. Question: “What happens to your body during the rapture?” Answer: According to 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, we shall be changed into an immortal body like that of Jesus after He rose from the dead.