Friday, April 24, 2009

Day 5 ~ What Christians Believe...

"He Descended Into Hell..."

My favorite icon (those ancient pictures which Christians in the Orthodox East use as instruments of worship) is called “The Harrowing of Hell”.  It depicts Jesus coming out of the tomb - not gently, but leaping, his robe fluttering behind him in the wind almost like a kind of Superman’s cape! Scattered all around him are the broken down doors, the shattered wood, and the broken locks and hinges of hell itself.  With one hand he is grasping Adam and with another he is holding on to Eve, and a whole crew of people are scurrying out behind him. He has just conquered hell and freed its captives.

When the Apostle John was in exile on the Isle of Patmos he had a vision of the risen Lord who told him, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!  And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1.18).  From whence did he get those keys? Well, he got them from death and hell and the grave - when he descended there in his own death.   While he was in hell he not only experienced the depths of human death, he not only preached to those who were there, he also conquered the evil powers!  Paul writes, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2.15).

The early Church Fathers have seen this descent into hell as a fulfillment of Job 40.1, where God asks Job, “Who can capture with a hook the great sea monster Leviathan [the Dragon]?”  In his descent into hell, as a human, Jesus “tricked” the trickster, the devil, that old serpent, the dragon. Saint Cyprian wrote, “The divine power of God’s son was a kind of fishhook hidden by the covering of human flesh”. Saint Gregory of Nyssa wrote, “...the deceiver reaps the harvest of the seeds he sowed with his own free will.  For he who first deceived man by the bait of pleasure is himself deceived by the camouflage of human nature...”! John of Damascus explained it like this: “Wherefore death approaches, and swallowing up the body as a bait is transfixed on the hook of divinity, and after tasting of the sinless and life-giving body, perishes, and brings up again all whom of old he swallowed up.  For just as darkness disappears on the introduction of light, so is death repulsed before the assault of life, and brings life to all, but death to the destroyer”.

Do you see the brilliance of this strategic move?  Satan rejoices in the death of Jesus, and the demons of hell celebrate his descent into their territory!  But the shouts of joy soon turn to howls of terror when they realize that the One among them is himself Life and Light that cannot be extinguished! To put it another way, hells gates are broken down from the inside out! The great reversal has begun.

(From Chapter Five, What Christians Believe by Kenneth N. Myers)

To order Bishop Kenneth's book go to his website - www.kennethmyers.net

Thank you all for joining us on this blog journey!
Stay in touch and come back to visit our sites so that you can be kept updated on future releases and events.

It is my prayer that you will be rooted and established deeply in the love of Christ and will come to grasp even greater how wide - how long - how high and deep His love is for you!  To Him be all the glory  forever and ever!  Amen!
(Ephesians 3:14-21)

May we never be the same!

Blessings,
Vern



Lyrics to The Glory Of It All  ~ By David Crowder
At the start
He was there
He was there
In the end
He’ll be there
He’ll be there
And after all
Our hands have wrought
He forgives

Oh, the glory of it all
Is He came here
For the rescue of us all
That we may live
For the glory of it all
Oh, the glory of it all

All is lost
Find Him there
Find Him there
After night
Dawn is there
Dawn is there
And after all
Falls apart
He repairs
He repairs

Oh, He is here
With redemption from the fall
That we may live
For the glory of it all
Oh, the glory of it all

After night
Comes a light
Dawn is here
Dawn is here
It’s a new day, a new day
Oh, everything will change
Things will never be the same
We will never be the same

Oh, everything will change
Things will never be the same
We will never be same

 

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Day 4 ~ What Christians Believe. Jesus Christ...Born of the Virgin Mary

"Who For Us And For Our Salvation Came Down From Heaven"

We now come to the central truth of Christianity: “Who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven”. God the Son, the very manifestation of the invisible God himself, the one who is the Word of God and brought all things into existence, the one who revealed himself to Moses and Joshua and the Prophets, “came down from heaven”. And his coming from the heavenly dimension into our realm of the physical was not just for a visit, but for an eternal union with what he had made, and in particular with humanity. But it must be emphasized that this wonderful act was not for himself - he didn’t “need” to join himself to us - he did it for “us and for our salvation”. The very act of the incarnation (“enfleshing”) was to save creation and restore mankind to himself. It was an act of love.

How he came down from heaven was that he became “incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary”. In the third and final clause of the creeds we will learn more of the Holy Spirit, but here we see the Spirit of God is referenced as that life, that energy, that “flow” between the Father and the Son, and it was by the Spirit that the Son became flesh. The angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1.35).

And thus, for us, was God “made man”. In the womb of the Virgin Mary God joined himself to his creation. He took the flesh of Mary - her egg, and joined himself to her flesh and the child born was without human father but was of human mother. “The Word became flesh” (John 1.14). In the early Church the Virgin was given the title, “Mary, Mother of God”. Some people have been thrown off by this title, feeling that it elevated Mary to too high an honor. Laying aside for a moment that the Bible actually says that all generations will call her Blessed and that she is blessed among all women (Luke 1.42, 48), the title is not about Mary, but about Jesus. The title is not a marian statement, but a christological statement. It is saying that what was in the womb of Mary was really and truly God, “true God of true God”! In the inner chamber of humanity, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, God became man. He did not simply put on a human costume. He became man. Never again to not be man! God elevated the stuff of our nature to the place of Divinity eternally! Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man and the two shall nevermore be divided or separated. A man - one of us - sits enthroned in the heavenlies forever and is God Almighty! And it was all an act of love, a reuniting, a reconciling: “God was in Christ Jesus, reconciling the world to himself, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5.19)!

(From Chapter Three, What Christians Believe by Kenneth N. Myers)

To order Bishop Kenneth's Book - www.kennethmyers.net.

Even though we are not in the middle of Christmas season - today is a great day to give thanks to our Lord for the gift of Jesus...the One who saves and rescues us! Do you know my Savior?

If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord" and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Romans 10:9-10

Praise Yahweh for the Birth, Death and Resurrection of Jesus!
Give thanks for His saving power and his continued provision of forgiveness and deliverance!

Praise the Lord (Yahweh), O my soul;
all my innermost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord (Yahweh), O my soul, and forget not all his benefits -
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord (Yahweh) has compassion on those who fear him.

Psalm 103:1-5, 11-13


He has done great things!

Vern

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Day 3 ~ What Christians Believe. In One God...

"I Believe In One God..."

Christians have looked for a single verse to capsulize the entire Gospel, and many have settled on John 3.16. This is the verse that many little Christian boys and girls memorize before they learn any other. In the Hebrew world of the Old Testament, every little Jewish boy and girl also had a first verse to memorize. It was understood to capsulize the whole of their faith, and it was the most important verse in the Bible. In fact, the context of the verse is a command from God through Moses that its content should be memorized, written down, posted on the walls, said before rising from bed and before closing the eyes to sleep. This verse is the epitome of what it means to be Jewish, as opposed to the pagans in the surrounding nations: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6.4-5)

When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment in the Bible, being a good and faithful Jew, he immediately quoted the verse he had memorized since his childhood: “Hear O Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is one...” (Mark 12.29). He went on to say that this verse was the fundamental basis for everything else in the Law and the Prophets. So the verse, called in Hebrew the Schema, is foundational not only for the Old Testament faith, but also for the Christian faith.

This idea of one God stands over against two pagan ideas, and you should remember that Judaism was an island of monotheism (“one God”) in a sea of polytheism (“many gods”).

The first pagan idea which belief in one God stands over against is polytheism, the idea that there is a plurality of gods. Idolaters, both ancient and modern, hold that there is a plethora of deities to which we pray and make petition. One god controls the rain, another orders the seasons, another gives strength in battle, another brings fertility to women. There were literally hundreds of gods, all requiring a sacrifice in order to answer a prayer. Often times (as in Greek and Roman mythology) these gods were somewhat scandalous beings epitomizing all the more base characteristics of humans themselves. Sometimes the gods were tricksters and deceivers; sometimes they were drunken sexual predators taking on human form and raping women; sometimes they were fierce in unjust battle and slaughtered innocent people. Almost always they carried some sense of arrogance and had to be appeased in various ways - including the extreme appeasement of human sacrifice. One neighboring nation of Israel worshipped a god named Molech whose chief sacrifice was newborn babies.

In contrast to this Israel stood up and proclaimed, “God is One”! There weren’t a multitude of gods to be petitioned for various favors and appeased with various sacrifices; there was only one and he was unique, holy, and other. He was the God who had made everything and who was himself unlike everyone and everything else.

The second pagan idea that the Schema stands over against is pantheism - the idea that God is the same as creation. In other words, some pagans believed that all things are, in some way, God. The trees are God, the rivers are God, the animals are God, other people are God. Not, mind you, a multitude of gods, but that all things are part of God. There was, among these pagans, no distinction between the Creator and the created. In contrast, the Jews declared that God was wholly other. That everything else, and I mean everything, was made by him, but he was himself unmade. That everything else was finite - had a beginning and an end, but he was himself infinite. That everything else depended on him for its very existence, but he himself depended on no one or nothing. He simply was. He simply is. When Moses encountered God and asked him his name he simply said, “I AM” (Exodus 3.14).

(from Chapter Two, What Christians Believe by Kenneth N. Myers)

To order Bishop Kenneth's book - What Christians Believe go to - www.kennethmyers.net


He is truly the "I AM"...The God, Elohim, The Mighty Creator, The ONE!!

ELOHIM ~ Hebrew word for God.
He made everything out of nothing, gave birth to beauty, and called it good!
He is reliable and trustworthy...He is the answer to your needs!

When I called out to Him in my darkness and pain. He delivered me and touched my life with His love, mercy and peace!

Be encouraged with these words and know the One who is Lord of all never changes...He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
May He steady your world today and be your peace.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

We appreciate your comments and would love for you to take the time to share with us any prayer needs or testimonies of praise!

Thank you for your visit today and congratulations to our first winner - Jen at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam! Contact me and I will send you a copy of Bishop Kenneth's book!!

We will have another giveaway on Friday...leave your comments on today or tomorrows post and be qualified for something special!!

Live Inspired!

Vern





Monday, April 20, 2009

Day 2 ~ I Believe...

Today we come to the question of the week...WHAT DO CHRISTIANS BELIEVE?

Believe -
a: To have a firm religious faith.
b: to accept as true, genuine or real.

Think about it right now - How would you answer that question if someone approached you with it today? How do you think your children would answer that question? Would we all know how to answer with more than just I believe in God...or Jesus?

Todays topic begins the journey of digging into and exploring segments of the Apostle's and Nicene Creeds. Inside Bishop Kenneth's book - "What Christians Believe" - you will find a more extensive exploration of these Creeds side by side. It is what I call - GOOD STUFF!!


It is my prayer that this information will come as new revelation to some readers and for others it will remind and speak to us in a new fresh way. For all - I pray it strengthen's and expand's our desire for greater knowledge of the Bible and the heritage of our faith.

Whatever stage you are at it does not matter. What matters is if you have discovered the wonderful truth that brings you to God.
Belief is necessary for salvation...Do you believe?


"I Believe..."
Taking it Personally


Being a Christian is a personal thing. I should point out that by personal I don’t mean individual. Being a Christian is not an individual thing. When we become believers in Christ we also become members of his family, his Body, the Church. But as someone has said, “God has no grandchildren”. Our relationship with him isn’t mediated through some other channel so that we are in Christ but don’t know Christ; real faith has a personal dimension to it. You can personally know God. You can personally pray to him. You can personally encounter his presence. You can personally obey him or disobey him. So, when the Creeds begin with “I believe” they mean just that. By personally affirming what the Church believes you are joining together with untold millions of Christians who throughout the ages have also embraced the truth of the Christian faith.

But - and this is a big but - what follows after the words “I believe” is not up to us. Although the Christian faith is personal, it isn’t individualistic. You can’t just make up your own creed (though heaven knows enough people have tried to). “I believe in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches” is not an accurate statement of what it means to be Christian! Our personal faith, our “I believe” joins with the whole of the Church in embracing the faith once delivered to the Apostles by Jesus himself.

How many times have you heard people say, when speaking of some text in the Bible, “Well, what it means to me is...”? Hop efully what they intend to say is, “Well, this is the application the text has for me.” Application is one thing, interpretation is another. We approach the Bible, and the Christian faith, together. We don’t believe whatever we want to believe. We believe what we have received from those who have gone before us. Saint Paul, writing the church in Corinth said, “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread...” (1 Corinthians 11.23). The words that Paul used for received and passed on are technical words for the passing on of tradition. As Christians, we do the same. Like the Christians in Corinth, we receive the teachings of the Apostles, and we pass them on to those after us. So when we come to the words “I believe” in the Creeds, we should understand that we aren’t making this stuff up as we go. We are standing at the end of a long line of men and women who have defended and protected the precious faith, some with their very lives, in order to pass it on to others. We believe the faith that has been delivered to us from the Prophets (the Old Testament), from Jesus, and from the Apostles (the New Testament), and which has been guarded and kept from their day until ours. What “I believe...” is of necessity what we believe.

(from Chapter One, What Christians Believe by Kenneth N. Myers)
To order a copy of the book by Bishop Myers go to http://www.kennethmyers.net/.

Enjoy this video of the group Third Day singing Rich Mullins Creed Song.
May it sing in your soul throughout the day and days to come!




 

Blog Series Begins! Deep Roots ~ What Christians Believe

Greetings Blog Friends!

Recently I have had the wonderful honor to be reunited with an old friend.
He has long been an inspiration to me with his example, his strong quest for the Lord and his passion for the Word of God.

When I heard he was in the midst of writing a four volume set on the basics of Christianity I was ecstatic! I was even more pumped to discover the first volume of that series is now available!!

This week I have invited him to be my special guest. Beginning today through Friday we will join hearts and efforts together to bring you a chest full of treasures. It is our prayer that these words will awaken, strengthen and stir your understanding and belief in Christ!

You will not want to miss out each day as we share excerpts from his new book and have a sweet time experiencing God together...and enjoy some fun giveaways in the midst of it!

We would love to hear from you!
So leave us a comment or question on the post by clicking on the word "Comment".
This will automatically qualify you for one of several giveaways this week...which include a copy of Bishop Ken's book, a music cd, and other surprises to encourage you!

I am so excited to introduce to you my friend and special guest, Bishop Kenneth Myers, of Christ Church Cathedral in Sherman, Texas!

Be Inspired!

Vern



Deep Roots

Man, I love Hill Country peaches. If you're not from Texas, you don't know what you've missed in being able to have fresh Hill Country peaches chopped up and mixed in with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream! We all enjoy good fruit - it's not only healthy, it tastes delicious! But good fruit comes from good trees, and good trees come from good roots. Everyone knows that a healthy tree has deep roots. And everyone has heard the analogy of believers being like trees. The Psalmist said that a righteous man is "like a tree planted by streams of water" (Psalm 1.3), and the last book in the Bible describes the people of God as "trees, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations" (Revelation 22.2). Can we talk?

Too much of modern day Christianity produces barely tolerable fruit because it hasn't given much attention to the root system. In the early church (I'm talking about the first 1000 years, when there weren't Methodists and Baptists and Roman Catholics and Presbyterians and Pentecostals and Non-Denominationalists and - well, you get the picture - but when there was simply "the Church")...I got a little carried away there; where were we? Oh, yes: in the early church there were four things that made up the "root system" for growing Christians. I would suggest that we modern followers of Jesus would do well to recover these four things, not just in theory, but in practice. Here they are:

The Creeds
The Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creeds are succinct statements of what it means to believe like a Christian. I'm not going to go into detail here as to what they said (you can Google them, or you can order my new book and explore them in detail!), but suffice it to say that before there was ever a New Testament (which was canonized in A.D. 431) there were these "symbols" of Christian faith which clearly lined out what it meant to think like a believer. In our day of pop-psychology passing for biblical sermons and polls showing that many Christians have no idea what they really believe, we need to rediscover, understand, and embrace these core statements of faith.

The Ten Commandments
These ten "words" are directives from God that show us what it means to behave as Christians. "But that's Old Testament!", someone might cry. And so it is. Of course, it might matter that Jesus himself repeats them (so that makes them New Testament, doesn't it?). The Commandments are not harsh, nor are they burdensome. Ten simple rules that God gives us to direct our lives and which bring a life, not of legalism, but of true liberty.

The Lord's Prayer
This short prayer models how to pray as Christians. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he gave them an outline to follow (Matthew 6). To this day no one has written or prayed a better prayer (but to be fair, competing with God himself on writing a prayer is a pretty tough challenge)! We ought to pray it everyday. We should study it and understand it.
A serious study of the Lord's Prayer will spiritually form us, and the regular and intentional praying of it will order all the rest of our praying.

Worship
Finally, early Christians were rooted in how to worship.
One of the mistakes we make today is thinking that worship is for us. It isn't. It is for God. So instead of worshiping in a way that I like, maybe I should figure out what God himself says about worship and do it that way. Fortunately, I don't have to work too hard at figuring it out, because it's already been figured out before me. Worship is for an audience of One: God himself. And it involves the people of God (not, mind you, a gathering of individuals, but this single entity called "the Church") gathering in his name, thanking him for his amazing grace, growing in his Word, and feeding on him in the sacraments. Obviously there isn't space here to fully develop all these things (that's what books are for), but we can at least maybe see the importance of focusing on the roots instead of just on the fruit. In the coming articles, I'm going to pull a few ideas from my new book, What Christians Believe, and share just a taste of the power of the Creeds.

Here's to your roots going deeper than you know!

God Bless,
+ Bishop Kenneth

Website to order the book: http://www.kennethmyers.net/kennethmyers/Welcome.html and click on "Books I've Written"

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