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To An Unknown God January 8, 2007

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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Some say: “God is completely unknowable”.  Some stress this point to me when I talk to them about knowing God through the Gospel.  When I speak of specific instructions from God that are necessary to have the relationship God expects the response sometimes is: “You can’t say what is necessary because you can’t know God”.  So is it possible to know God at all?  Is it possible to speak with any certainty concerning what God considers necessary?  People often refer to a quote from the prophet Isaiah to say, “God is not knowable”.  The prophet wrote:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

These verses, taken out of context, might appear to be supporting the idea that God is unknowable, his ways are so much higher than ours.  But if you read the surrounding verses from Isaiah chapter fifty five you will see that the prophet is trying to encourage the people to seek the Lord and to know his ways.  Isaiah spoke to the nation of Israel, to a nation that had by and large wandered away from God and said that it would go better for them if they knew God better.  This is a major theme of his writing.  Isaiah spoke of someone who was to come through whom they could know God:

Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of these prophecies.  Through Jesus we can know God.  The apostle Paul, on one of his missionary journeys, visited the city of Athens.  Things in that city were remarkably like our world today.  The Bible says: “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.”  The initial reaction of some to Paul’s preaching of the Gospel was: “What is this babbler trying to say?”  Notice here the approach Paul takes:

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.  For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

With all their activity and interest in the latest thing, they did not know God.  God was still unknown to them.  Paul proceeded to tell them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is the way God chose to reveal his love for us.  If we follow in the teachings of Jesus we will know God.  We will know the love of God.  The apostle John wrote: 

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God , because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

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Illusion of Permanence January 5, 2007

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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“Tradition is the illusion of permanence” Woody Allen’s character said in the movie “Deconstructing Harry”. Here is the dynamic: from birth a person is taught certain religious traditions. The appearance is that these traditions are required by God and have always been done this way. Religious ceremonies reinforce this. The local religious leaders are often pleased to have one continue in ignorance of the truth that religious traditions evolve over the years and tend to move away from God. This is a natural process and unless a specific and constant effort is made to follow Gods instruction, it will happen. This is a very important theme in The Bible. Why did Israel have to go into exile? Who did Jesus reserve his sharpest criticism for? There are many other examples. Look it up. Tell me if you disagree.

Do not misunderstand, traditions can be a good thing but extreme care must be taken to insure they do not conflict with Gods instructions. My study of The Bible began with the intent of better understanding God. The furthest thing from my mind was challenging the local church. The conflict came about when I attempted to bring to church the things I was learning. Tradition and doctrine in the Catholic Church was in conflict with what I was reading in The Bible. The priests attempted to discourage me from continuing this process. This also happened in other churches I attended after I left the Catholic Church (my search continues). 

The Bible was teaching me that the traditions and teachings of men would eventually pass away along with the rest of the things of this world. The things of God would remain. Therefore I decided to follow God and not man and attempt to take hold of the reality of permanence.  The prophet Jeremiah delivered to the nation of Israel a message from God that used an example of a man made tradition that was a part of their contemporary culture to make this very point:

“This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the men of Judah and the people of Jerusalem, ‘Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?’ declares the LORD.

‘Jonadab son of Recab ordered his sons not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather’s command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me. Again and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you. They said, “Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. Then you will live in the land I have given to you and your fathers.” But you have not paid attention or listened to me. The descendants of Jonadab son of Recab have carried out the command their forefather gave them, but these people have not obeyed me.’

Sometimes the tradition is in and of itself not a bad thing, but often the tradition is honored above the actual word of God or not sufficiently separated from the things God commanded.  In other words religious teachers fail to distinguish between the two till even the teachers do not know the difference.  This makes it easier then to let go of the things of God and continue to hold onto the empty human tradition.  The religious leaders in Jerusalem found fault with the disciples of Jesus for not following a tradition from their contemporary culture that they failed to distinguish from the actual word of God.  Notice the response of Jesus to their complaint:

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?” He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 

These passages may be difficult to understand. Some preparation and study may be necessary before you can agree or disagree with what I’m saying. It is important that you prove for yourself what the truth is. Following are some guidelines to help you study the scriptures and avoid some of the common pitfalls.

Study Guidelines

Four principles to aid in understanding the text and help avoid some of the common obstacles to understanding;

· Context: understand who is the writer, who is being written to, what are the circumstances at the time of writing including where, when and any special conditions present.

· Definitions: understand the meaning of any important terms. Be careful that you understand what the writer is saying. Definitions of many important terms have shifted dramatically over time. Understand how these terms apply to the culture at that time.

· Inferences: test any conclusions you come to against all other passages in The Bible and against other important sources. Be especially critical of your own necessary inferences.

· Balance: remember that many principles can only be properly understood as they relate to each other. Some instructions need to be balanced against other seemingly contradictory instructions. Also consider that the proper weight is given to the principle under consideration.

The meaning and importance of these principles will become clearer as you apply them to your reading. It is very important that you now do some reading and research and prove for yourself what the truth is.

The Apple Does Not Fall January 3, 2007

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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There is an often used expression: “The apple does not fall far from the tree”.  The idea being conveyed is that significant traits are often passed down from one generation to the next.  This expression is sometimes used in a good sense and sometimes in a bad sense.  This saying is often used because it is quite true.  In fact the most important characteristic that separates our species from every other species on the planet is that we are the only species that purposely transmit information across generations.  This is one way that we are in God’s image.  From the very beginning God has stressed this point to mankind, the things that we do either good or bad can affect the generations that follow.  None of us lives to himself alone.  We are all responsible to God wether we acknowledge that responsibility or not.  We are all responsible to future generations wether we acknowledge that responsibility or not.  Since this is so, how then should we conduct ourselves?

The best way to do your part to secure a good outcome for succeeding generations is to make sure you keep the instruction from God first and foremost in your life.  This idea of punishing the children for the sins of the fathers is often made fun of but this is really what God is talking about, this is his way of saying: “The apple does not fall far from the tree”.  But notice the contrast:    

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,  but showing love to a thousand [ generations ] of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Clearly what God wants to do is show love to a thousand generations, but what we often do by not following God’s instruction is cause suffering to the generations to follow.  Jesus Christ was chosen by God to be an example for us and as a result of his obedience to the the father all generations would be blessed, all generations who follow his example will benefit.  But since much of the world has wandered away from God and the apple does not fall far from the tree, many generations can be generally characterized as not following this example.  Jesus Christ characterized the attitude of many of his listeners with these words:  

To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:

“‘We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.’

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘  But wisdom is proved right by all her children.

The apostle Peter as he preached the Gospel on the day of Pentecost said: “save yourselves form this corrupt generation“.   The apple does not fall far from the tree.  The attitude of the parents will have a strong and far reaching affect on their offspring.  The apostle Paul wrote: “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough” referring to this effect and how a little error spreads and prevents people from seeing the truth.  So we have a responsibility to future generations to know the truth and be examples (as Jesus is) of the attitude and behavior that God expects from all.  The apple does not fall from the tree.  This saying is so very often true that we all need to behave accordingly.  We need to each pay more attention to God’s instruction and be examples to our children.  We need to teach our children reverence and respect for God and do our best to enable future generations to follow this example, because it is all too easy for entire generations to go astray and lead later offspring away from God.  The apple does not fall far from the tree.  Let’s close with these words of encouragement from the apostle Paul:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations , for ever and ever! Amen.

The Light Within You January 1, 2007

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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The scripture I quoted in the last post contains the statement “God is light“.  Light is a figure often used in scripture to express God’s goodness and purity.  Light often also represents truth and God’s redemptive work.  In contrast darkness symbolizes error and evil, the passage goes on to say, “in him there is no darkness at all“.  So when the apostle writes: “God is light“, he is making the point that in God there is no evil at all.  This is an important point to understand because in this world this is not a condition we are used to.  In this world evil is all around us, error and heartache are everyday things and so we ourselves have embraced many things that in truth we should be avoiding because they are evil and ultimately harmful to us.  Our focus is often on the darkness, we are often deceived into seeing the bad as good.  Jesus Christ uses the figures of light and darkness to make this very point:   

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Jesus puts it much more succinctly than I do.  If you see the bad as good then the light within you is darkness and this is a very serious condition.  But we all have this to some degree.  We have been raised in a world where the bad is said to be good and this is what we are used to.  We need to be trained to see things differently.  We need to be taught to choose light instead of darkness.  We need to find the truth, then together we can walk in the light.  The passage in First John I quoted in the last post goes on to say:  

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

This brings in the element of redemption.  In other words the result of walking in the light is setting us apart form the evil we were formerly a part of.  This is what Jesus accomplished by his walking in the light and this is why we must follow his example, we must walk as Jesus did.  Then the light within you will truly be light.  How do we accomplish this?  First we need to pay more attention to God’s word, this is key.  Psalm 119 contains this verse: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path“.  Jesus said:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

This is what the gospel is all about turning us away from darkness so we can walk as children of light.  Jesus Christ is that light.  But a world focused on evil, focused on darkness does not see that light.  Many do not see Jesus as light and as a result will not have the light of eternal life.  This whole business of eternal life is difficult for us, brought up in darkness to understand.  This is why Jesus was put to death.  This is also why he rose form the dead to shine a light on this concept and make it clear that the death of the body is not the end for us.  Jesus also knew that many do not accept this truth, he said: 

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.

The God who in the beginning said: “let there be light” has chosen his light to shine in Jesus Christ.  We all need to see that light and walk in it.  If we are focused on Jesus then the light within us will truly be light.  The apostle Paul offered these words of encouragement and instruction the the followers of Jesus:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)  and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  But everything exposed by the light becomes visible,  for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise,  making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

That Doesn’t Apply To Me December 30, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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We are at our best, not when we see how the instruction in God’s word applies to everyone else, but when we apply it to ourselves.  False teaching often has the effect of giving us a false assurance that we are OK.  In other words often we are deceived into thinking that some important instruction doesn’t apply to us.  Let me use myself as an example:  I was raised Catholic and as an infant was “baptized” by having water sprinkled on my head.  This is what I was told from the beginning.  When I began to study the Bible and I came across the instruction to be baptized my initial reaction was: “That doesn’t apply to me”.  It wasn’t until someone specifically pointed out to me that what I had been told was according to a false tradition that came from the minds of men and not in agreement with God’s instruction that I began to correctly understand and see how the instruction applied to me.

I was not convinced the instant I was informed.  I first set upon the task of proving by the scriptures that what had been passed on to me was correct.  When I could not, I had to face my own error and correct my thinking.  Then do the right thing.  I was then baptized for real.  I was baptized according to God’s instruction.  Baptism is something you do when you believe the gospel.  When I was an infant I didn’t know what was going on and so could not ask to be baptized.  But this post is not specifically about baptism it is about the effect of false teaching.  It often causes us to say, when we see God’s instruction: “That doesn’t apply to me”.    

The process of repentance does not end when you are baptized.  Repentance is an on going thing.  Getting things wrong is human nature and getting our thinking and actions in line with God is a life long pursuit.  Everyone teaches error.  Some teachers say: “We are doing the right thing so follow us”.  The problem with that type of thinking is that when those teachers see the instruction to repent, to correct error they think: “That doesn’t apply to me”.  Everyone teaches error.  The teachers should rather say: “Join with us as we strive to follow God’s instruction”.  Always keeping in mind that the instruction to repent, to get our thoughts and actions (and teaching) into agreement with God is something we are never finished with in this life.  It is wrong to think, “That doesn’t apply to me”.

If we’re breathing we’re making mistakes, that is a main theme of the Bible.  Everyone needs to repent every day.  We should all be helping each other with this.  Religious folk should not get the false idea: “That doesn’t apply to me”.  God showed his love for us by sending his son to teach us and show us the path to agreement with God.  The apostle John wrote:

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.  The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

Jesus always did what God The Father told him to do.  His teaching and actions demonstrated his perfect agreement with the Father.  This is what we should all be striving for as we strive to walk as Jesus did.  This applies to everyone. No one can say: “That doesn’t apply to me”.

Truth Is The Glue December 28, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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To paraphrase the now late president Gerald Ford: Truth is the glue that binds us together.  Ford was talking about government.  His comments were hopeful and perhaps often contradicted as people and factions often prefer to be bound together by falsehood.  This is also often true in the spiritual realms.  Truth should be the glue that binds us together.  The only glue that is going to hold permanently is the truth.  The truth is superior to the lie because in the truth is freedom in the lie is bondage and oppression.  So why do many choose to believe the lie and fail to embrace the truth?

This is a great spiritual challenge because in this world it is so easy to be deceived.  We have been brought up to be deceived.  We are so used to being lied to that the truth seems strange to us.  Because it is natural in this world for things to simply go their own way their must be a conscious effort to find out what the truth is, to separate the truth from all the lies we are so accustomed to.  We should be working together to do this.  If someone comes to us with a spiritual idea and says: “This is the truth”, we should not just blindly accept it.  We should not be swayed by the individuals conviction or the widespread acceptance of the so called truth.  We should together investigate and firmly establish the facts so our belief can rest on the truth.  Then the truth can be the glue that binds us together.

We need to be more honest with each other.  Sometimes the truth is a little hard to believe.  Sometimes the truth is something we are embarrassed to share with each other.  There is such an incessant drone of nonsense that we need to overcome.  But we must overcome it if we are ever going to be free.  This can be a tall order but we should start by telling each other the truth.  We should not fail to speak, we should not remain silent.  If we want the truth to be the glue that binds us together then we should actively seek the truth and share it with each other.  To remain silent, to not share the truth when we know it, is to give falsehood the floor, is to allow the lie to have the upper hand.  We should all encourage each other to share in the truth.

Jesus Christ often opened his comments with: “I tell you the truth”.  Christ was quoted in the gospel of John chapter fourteen saying, “if it were not so, I would have told you”.  Jesus promises his followers eternal life.  This is hard to believe for those of us who are slaves to the prevailing deception of this world.  But in order for each of us to receive this promise we must each embrace the truth.  Truth is the glue that binds us together.  The apostle Paul encouraging the followers of Jesus Christ to greater truthfulness wrote this:     

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

Those who are followers of Jesus Christ, who have already made a commitment to the Truth still need to be constantly encouraged and reminded.  It is so easy to go off track.  It so easy for our thinking to be slowly, bit by bit pulled away from the pure truth.  Deception then creeps in and groups of believers find themselves being bound together by something other than the truth.  We all need to be constantly on guard against this.  Jesus Christ said:   

If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Christ stresses the importance of the truth.  We need to know the truth and share it with one another.  We need to be on guard against falsehood creeping in.  We need to have the courage to speak the truth to one another and stop hiding behind lies and deception.  We should make every effort to all share in the freedom that comes with the Truth.  Truth is the glue that binds us together.

Everybody Does It December 26, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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Everybody does it.  But don’t use that as an excuse.  For a long time whenever I thought about discussing the Gospel with people this thought occurred to me: Who am I to tell anyone to change and follow God?  I’m as bad as anybody and probably worse than many, so why should anyone listen to me?  Finally though as time went on and I realized how many do not acknowledge the simple truth, I decided not to use that as an excuse and do what I can to help.  When it comes to not following God’s simple truth (believe His promise follow His instruction):  Everybody does it, but don’t use that as an excuse. 

We should each try to do better, first in the understanding, then in the doing.  Always keeping in mind that one thing we all have in common is that we all need to do better in understanding and following God’s word.  I’ve taken a lot of heat from friends and family for opening up my mouth about this.  So besides anything I was already doing to offend people there is now an additional offense.  But friends and family should not use this as an excuse.  They should not let the failings of the messenger obscure the message.  They should look past me and see God’s eternal yet simple truth and decide to follow it.

Those who are religious yet fail to let go of their own traditions and false teachings that have been passed on to them from previous generations need to see this also.  Everybody does it.  But don’t use that as an excuse.  Everyone of us has some sort of tradition or false understanding that stands between each of us and the truth.  These cultural artifacts prevent us from first understanding and then doing the simple things God requires of us.  Religion should not be an obstacle but so often it is.  Each of us needs to do what we can to counter this universal trend.

Many people see themselves as generally good and therefore really have no need for putting an awful lot of effort into this specific study of God’s word.  But once again, everybody does it.  We should not let our satisfaction in our own good works deceive us into thinking that we do not need to make a specific effort.  The message of the Gospel never is: “You people are doing just fine, keep up the good work”.  We all have faults we need to correct.  We all have thoughts and heartfelt beliefs that separate us from God.  We all need to make a specific effort to draw nearer to God.   Just because when it comes to wandering away from God, everybody does it we should not use that as an excuse to continue the trend.

God understands what we need and God has not made it difficult for us.  We make it difficult sometimes by clinging to useless ideas and following the crowd this way and that.  Let’s each make an effort to latch onto to something solid.  Let’s all do our very best to turn away from these natural tendencies that separate us from God and from each other.  We are all in this together, we are all connected.  Even if we do not always see the connections.  Even if we do not want to acknowledge our connection to some of the less favorable aspects of humanity, we are all connected.  We all need to see ourselves as sheep that have gone astray and make every effort to get back into the fold. Cliche yes, but it’s a cliche because everybody does it.  But don’t use that as an excuse.    

Keeping The Doubt Alive December 24, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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The word of God presents a clear picture that is not difficult to understand.  Why then is there so much confusion and disagreement?  Why so much doubt?  One way that the doubt and confusion is kept alive is by obscuring the truth with a whole lot of made up stories and superstitions.  These things come from the fertile imagination of man.  Sometimes these things come from well meaning folk who are trying to share what they believe.  But these made up stories do not bring us any closer to God.  These made up stories do not help us understand the power and majesty of the Lord.  The apostle Peter wrote:

We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

Peter was an eye witness to actual events.  His faith is based on things that actually occurred and promises that God actually made.  His religion was not based on vague notions and fuzzy reasoning that evolved and grew over time.  One of the ways religious teachers get away with teaching all sorts of things that are not backed up by the word of God is that most people are not sufficiently familiar with God’s word to say: “The Bible doesn’t say that”.  Or people are not sufficiently familiar with God’s word to separate a teachers personal inferences and conclusions from what the Bible actually says.  Everyone needs to become more knowledgeable of God’s word to help prevent this.  The apostle Paul also stated clearly that his understanding of the Gospel came not from man, but from God:   

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up .  I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

The problem with all these man made stories is that they prevent people from respecting the real thing.  Most people do not differentiate.  They see everything as something that man made up.  Most teachers who do this are sincere and well meaning.  They are just following a method of handling the scriptures passed down to them from previous generations, a method that has strayed from the truth.  But whatever the reason these made up stories and unsubstantiated inferences are all examples of false teaching.  The apostle Peter sternly warns us concerning false teachers: 

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them — bringing swift destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.  In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

Made up stories and unsubstantiated inferences wether they come from well meaning but misguided teachers or from those who plan evil willfully are all false teachings.  They lead people away from God.  They put stumbling blocks in the way of those who seek the truth.  They cause division an disagreement.  They are instrumental in keeping the doubt alive.

The Power Of Prayer December 22, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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I was asked a question the other day about prayer and part of the question was: “Is God really aware of every request or prayer made to him?”  The Bible indicates that God is indeed aware of everything that is going on, hard as that is to comprehend and he cares deeply for his people.  Jesus Christ said: 

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows .

So God is certainly aware of every prayer.  But the key to having confidence that God will answer your prayer lies in your every day relationship with him.  Jesus made the promise that you will receive anything you ask for “in my name“.  What does that mean?  It means according to the teaching and ways of Jesus.  The person who is acting in the name of Jesus is acting according to the instruction of Jesus and following his example.  Remember Jesus always did exactly what God the Father instructed him to do.  We can have the same relationship with God and power in prayer if we strive to do likewise.  Jesus made this promise:    

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name , so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name , and I will do it.

I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

Notice, when Jesus is speaking, how “in my name” is always included with the promise of receiving what you ask of God.  Clearly this is very important to God.  This aspect of prayer is so often neglected by religious people today.  The book of Acts shows the disciples of Jesus carrying out his instructions.  We see in the book of Acts that the believers were going about believing God’s promise and following his instructions and as they were doing just what God told them to do they were encountering threats and resistance.  So they prayed to God.  Look in Acts chapter four for example, their prayer started off talking about how they were doing exactly what God wanted them to do, but they needed strength and encouragement from God in order to overcome their fears and continue despite the opposition they were encountering.  Then God gave them a sign to indicate his support for their prayer:  

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind.

Also notice that because their thoughts and actions were in agreement with God (in his name) they were one, in agreement with each other.  This is the key to the power of prayer, unity with God and with each other is both a requirement and product of this process.  Believe God’s promise, follow his instruction and you will also know the power of prayer.

Peace, Peace December 20, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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People often talk about peace this time of year.  You hear the phrase: “Peace on earth good will towards men”.  God promised his chosen one would bring peace.  So why, almost two thousand years after his coming, do we still have war and strife?   Let’s look for a moment at some passages from the word of God, the prophet Isaiah wrote these words about the coming Messiah about seven hundred years before Christ:

Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire. 
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace . 
Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.

But for many in this world things go on as they always have.  The prophet Jeremiah passed on this message from God to those who would not listen to his instruction:

They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
when there is no peace.

Christ came to bring about peace between God and mankind.  He indeed accomplished this.  Those who follow Jesus have peace with God and with one another.  To put it another way, a more personal way, if you and I have peace with God we will have peace with each other.  We can have peace with God by believing his promise and following his instruction.  Jesus knew that in this world, even after he completed his work in the flesh and returned to the Father, there would continue to be disagreement.  Jesus said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace , but a sword“.  Jesus knew that there would continue to be a contrast between those who follow him and those who follow the ways of the world:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace . In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Christ overcame the world when he rose form the dead.  Christ brought about the peace with God that was promised.  But until his return we will all be among those who have not yet understood this and remain separate from this peace.  This is why we still have war and strife in this world.  So what if you decided to be an activist for peace, how would you go about doing that?   Or to put it another way, whose plan for peace would you follow?  First we all need to believe God’s promise and follow his instruction to achieve peace with God, then we should pass that on amongst each other.  We should educate and encourage each other in God’s instruction.  This is the only way to achieve real peace.  Since this is turning out to be a scripture heavy post I’ll close with a passage from the apostle Peter, he quotes from the book of Psalms and the prophet Isaiah:   

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  For,

“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from deceitful speech. 
He must turn from evil and do good;
he must seek peace and pursue it. 
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”  But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.