Sunday, November 29, 2009

Can't We All Just Get Along?

In a word, no.

I was visited at my home by some Jehovah's Witnesses this weekend. Their approach is pretty salesman-like. "Hi. We are passing out information that answers some of life's difficult questions. Why is there suffering in the world? Why do bad things happen to 'good' people? Have you ever thought about these questions?"

I used to be in sales. One of the "tricks" is to ask questions that you know people will say "yes" to. Do you like saving money? Do you want to cut your business expenses while increasing your productivity? You get them comfortable saying yes with the hope that they will still be saying yes when you go in for the commitment.

So, who hasn't thought about the questions of suffering in the world? However, I am not ready to let them run away with the conversation. I say, "I am sure your answers are interesting and I might even agree with some of them. The disagreement that you and I will have is on the person of Jesus Christ. John 1:1 says 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.'"

However, the New World Translation that the JW's use translates the last phrase "...and the Word was a God." They insert an English indefinite article where no article exists. They use an obscure translation method, that treads upon normal translation rules. No article exists because in the Greek construction the definite article (translated "the") is implied. So a literal translation could read ..."and the Word was the God."

What's the difference you may ask? Their doctrine states that Jesus is not God-- Yahweh, but rather a god (little "g"). They do not believe in the Trinity--triune God. Beyond the subverting of the clear teachings of the Bible, the implications are huge. The Bible says in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." If Jesus is not God, then he is mere man. If he is a man, his death on the Cross was merely a sinner dying for his own sins. If that is the case, then there is no payment for my sins, and I am most miserable above all creatures.

So I shared these things with my dear friends, the JW's. This brings out the truth that they do not really believe in the sufficiency of the substitutionary death of Jesus to pay for our sins. They believe in a works-based hybrid religion that (surprise, surprise) requires them to be out spreading their doctrine for the salvation of their own souls. So, try Ephesians 2:8-9, "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, Not by works, so that no one can boast." Blank stares. Blink, blink.

"Well, you know, Jesus never claimed to be God." Oh no you didn't. Really? Try John 8:58, "Jesus said to them (the Pharisees), 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.'" What else could Jesus have meant than He is God? We especially see that the Pharisees understood that He was claiming to be God, because they tried to carry out the Levitical prescription of punishment for blasphemers (what they thought Jesus was). Verse 59 says, "Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him..."

Further, I said, "You are familiar with The Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, yes? What is the 1st commandment? Exodus 20:3 'You shall have no other Gods besides me.' Throughout the prophets of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel we see God severely judging the nation of Israel for the sin of idolatry, on Earth. Imagine if someone dared to worship someone other than God in the throne room of Heaven. Wouldn't God be furious at the defilement of His sinless presence? If Jesus is not God, then why would God allow the worship of Him in the Heavenly throne room?"

Revelation 5:11-14

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands,

saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."

And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever."

And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen " And the elders fell down and worshiped.

So we have the Father (the One on the throne), and the Lamb (beside the throne) being worshiped simultaneously, in Heaven. Their response, "We can agree to disagree." I agree that we disagree. I warned them that taking away the deity of Jesus Christ takes away their only hope of salvation. I pray for their souls and the many who are blinded by the enemy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Oh Baby, Baby

August 30, 2008.

Early morning. Sun's just breaking through the windows. A rare Saturday. My wife is not at work today (truly rare). We haven't been bombarded by the kids (even rarer). Enjoying the silence. I watch her stir a little...eyes peak open...a slight smile. I take her hand...a kiss...small talk. Then, a grimace. More intense now. She's hugging her own abdomen. The blurriness flees. I sit up straight; alert. I can feel needles throughout my body. My stomach wrenches. "The baby?" I ask. A nod. Deep breathing. "Labor pains?" A shrug. Concern. It can't be. We're only 15 weeks. Dear God, please don't let it be! Pain fades. Take a breath. Calm down. Be confident; for her.

Driving fast! Irritated that Floridians drive slow in the LEFT lane. Hospital is too far away. Talking calmly; reassuringly. Dear God, please, "no."

Monitors. Ultrasounds. Conjecture. Opinions. Noise. Chaos. "Squeeze my hand." Try to relax. Breathe. Dear God, please, "no."

Waiting down the hall. Hurting. It's so late. Tired. Drained. What could be taking so long? "Mr. Sanborn, she's awake now."

Tears. A hug. Hold her hand. More tears. No words. Be strong. Dear God, why? This little one gone. Just like last year. What'll we do? What to say? Hurt. Tears. Sad. Empty. Loss.

1) I am thankful that God is sovereign over all things.
2) I am thankful that "children are a blessing from God."
3) I am thankful that God lets us participate in His creative attributes, especially
in procreation.
4) I am thankful to hug and kiss and hold two of my beautiful children everyday.
5) I am grateful that Jesus hugs and kisses and holds two of my beautiful children
every "day" in Heaven.
6) I am thankful for the peace that surpasses all understanding that guards my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
7) I am thankful that "he who finds a wife finds a good thing" has become so
blatantly true in my life in the person of Sarah.
8) I am grateful that "all good gifts come down from my Father of Lights, in whom
there is no variation."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanks for the Memories...Reminders Really.

Every so often I am tempted to fall in with the Health and Wealth Gospel folks. Make no mistake, I am truly not one of them, but I will sometimes catch myself thinking in their terms.

For instance, this school year has been one of personal growth for me, by God's grace. After seeing my beautiful wife's remarkable success, I decided to put myself on Weight Watchers to deal with those pesky pounds I added after getting married, taking a desk job, and just being older than 25. (All of those milestones in just one year). And you know, it's been slow, but it's working. I combined that with a decision to get up early and walk 2 miles every morning. Unlike most of my past New Years' resolution-type delusions of grandeur, this seemed to set the bar high enough to be beneficial, but low enough to be attainable. Also, I used the walk as a daily time of prayer (the real reason it's working, by God's grace). 30-35 minutes of concentrated, consistent, daily prayer has been a life-transforming practice. To be clear, it is not that prayer is some powerful personal mantra, but that looking daily to my personal Savior Jesus Christ has created in me a clearer understanding of His majesty; and my inability to meet God's standards in any area of life without Him. The list continues: consistent daily Bible reading, delving into good Christian books, more responsibilities at work; I even dug out my old Greek books from college and am starting to work on re-learning it.

Yes, I was really starting to make progress. Until... you ever have that one week at work where it all just explodes and it seems like you did nothing that week, but in fact you worked just as hard or harder than usual? Combine that with one of the cars breaking down (God has blessed me with a few automotive skills... which is good because we rarely have money to pay someone else to fix a vehicle). So I am in for a couple of nights of wrenching on the same week. Then, last weekend hits. I come home Friday night to a broken washing machine. Again, by God's grace I am able to fix it. Now the second vehicle is in need of repair. Suddenly the kids are sick; then, the wife and me. I spent all of this past week dragging my sorry sick behind to work, and basically nothing else.

And so, on this beginning to Thanksgiving Week, I want to thank God for two weeks of broken stuff and a broken body. These are great reminders of the truths of His Word. Truths that debunk my misplaced trust in health and wealth.

Sickness and death are a result of sin:

Romans 5:19
For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

So through Adam's sin we were made sinners (and received the condemnation he received, namely: death). But the One, Jesus, obeyed God (to death on the Cross), and His obedience makes me righteous because of repentance and faith I have in Him. Look at what the verse does not say. That through the obedience of the One the many will be made well, or healthy, or rich.

In fact, Hebrews 9:27 states:
And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.

Death is still coming, and so is judgment. I thank God that in Christ I am spared from His judgment because of Jesus' righteousness credited to me.

So physically I will die (it has been appointed by God). Getting sick, and stuff breaking, is a reminder of the Fall. For which, I thank God for the reminder because it inevitably brings to remembrance the mercy of Jesus in saving my soul from destruction; and, the eventual health and wealth waiting for me in Heaven. (Revelation 21-22; Matthew 6:19-21).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nearly Three Decades and Still Protecting and Serving

Today is my brother's birthday. Deputy Tait Sanborn: Corporal, soon-to-be Sergeant, SWAT member, sniper, Reserve soldier. I should have known that this would be his track in life... when we were kids (I was about 5, he was 3) some older boys at the daycare were picking on me. Tait saw this from across the playground and ran as fast as he could and slammed into one of them with his belly bounding the boy backward. Then he pointed his tiny finger in their faces and snarled, "You leave my brother alone!" And you know, they did. He has always been tough, but what makes him truly honorable is the tenderness I see him show his wife and children. And as impressive as his resume' is, he is one more thing that is truly rare: humble. I am proud to know him.

Happy Birthday, Tait. Love you, bro!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You Are Now Free to Move About the Cabin

Not long ago there was a story in the news that got my attention:
Northwest Flight 188 from San Diego to Minneapolis, Minnesota, an Airbus 320, lost communications with the ground for over an hour, and overshot the Minneapolis airport by 150 miles before air traffic control reestablished contact.

You can read about it here: It was suspected that the pilots were sleeping, or engaged in a heated discussion. After interviewing the pilots, it turn out that their story is that they were each working on their lap tops. Thankfully, the FAA has grounded these pilots, and the airline has fired them. But this story got me thinking. How does this happen? The answer: Autopilot. They are flying a giant airplane filled with people and they have become complacent. They have been to flying school, passed exams, flown countless hours...they've seen and done it all. There is no reason to worry; no cause for concern. The passengers likely now disagree.

I am not relating this story to raise anxiety the next time you fly. But, I did think that we often treat the serious matters of the Christian heart and life with the same flippancy. The Word of God is opened to us and we yawn and think, "I've seen that before." We hear sound preaching and may think, "I really like he how well he preached that." "I've been a Christian for ___ years. I'm doing pretty well." We often operate in our daily lives without thinking. We go on spiritual auto pilot. Like the Airbus that struggles to get off the ground, but then finds its optimum altitude and speed for autopilot, we are often guilty of being zealous at the new life given us early in our Christian lives, but unaffected by the Gospel as our spiritual age progresses. We need to be digging ever deeper into the mysteries of the Gospel by careful study and application of God's Word, but instead we become content with the outward cleansing of our speech and appearance. We walk around in Christian circles speaking Christian-ese saying pious things, but neglect to have meaningful interaction with our great God and Savior Jesus Christ through His Word and effective, furtive prayer. We reform ourselves in our daily goings-on by being trustworthy workers (not stealing time from the company like those people). We pride ourselves in being involved parents, committed spouses, reliable Sunday school workers and deacons, all the while casting but a mere token of appreciation in God's direction. The whole system becomes one of satisfaction when we find ourselves handling the pressure well, and sef-loathing when it stars to crumble.

We simply are not thinking; or, perhaps not on the right things. We can become so focused on the temporal issues of life, that we never really consider eternal matters. This is not right thinking. Paul emphasized thinking rightly in chapter 2 of his letter to Titus.

(vs.2)Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.

And again in vs. 6:

Likewise urge the young men to be sensible;

(vss.11-13)For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,12instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,13looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.

It just does not make sense to live the Christian life on autopilot.

Monday, November 2, 2009

What It's All About

Colossians 1:15-18

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He (Jesus) Himself will come to have first place in everything. (Emphasis and italics added).

Here is the point of it all; the purpose.

HE created it all.

HE is the head of it all.

It is all for HIM… so HE gets the glory.

We, as Christians, like this truth… most of the time. We like to know that Jesus is in charge when we pray. For, who would pray to One who has no power or control to answer. But, what about when we get a “no” answer? Or, what sounds like a busy signal. All of us would love to glorify Christ as the once lame man leaping for joy… but, what about when He calls us to herald His goodness from our pallet, with legs still withered? Can we say with Job, “though He slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). It is counter to our sinful natures and is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I had occasion recently to wallow in self-pity. By comparison to others I know who have suffered for Christ (or at the very least because Jesus allowed their sufferings), my situation was laughable and will, therefore, remain unmentioned. However, in my insanity of selfishness it became about ME. Why would God allow this to happen to ME? God began to appear smaller—a sure sign of my foolishness. The problem seemed insurmountable; the situation hopeless. God did not appear to care about ME, nor did He honor MY service to Him. What BLASPHEMY! (Thought I would get that out before any of you said it).

I was encouraged by a good friend to read The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. Now, there is no magic in this book, and frankly, my circumstances have not improved at all since reading this book. No, what I got was a reminder (with the use of Scripture) of the immensity, the absolute mind-numbing grandeur, and the majesty of my God; and, the great chasm/gulf between who He is and who I am.

It is in this context, that the words of Colossians 1:15-18 come alive to me… It isn’t about ME. It is NOT about ME. Sure, He loves me. Sure, He cares. Sure, my problems matter. But, they are being orchestrated by a wonderful, mighty, loving, all-wise, eternal, immense, infinite, all-powerful, all-knowing, holy God… to whom I belong. “I am made FOR HIM, BY HIM. HE is BEFORE me.” “In HIM, I CONSIST. And HE is my HEAD”…“That in me HE might have PREEMINANCE.”

May we all learn to rejoice in the glory He gets when we suffer patiently, for Him.