In today's fast moving culture many people don't take the time to stop and think about what is going on around them, most don't even think about what they are about to do before they do it. In contrast I believe that we should take every thought captive and meditate on why we do what we do before we do it. Without a valid reason actions are a pointless waste of time and since time is one of the most valuable things we have I believe that we should take some time to think about Life because it is important.
So here are my "Thoughts on Life".

Tolerance: A Little Used Word of the Past

In recent years tolerance has become a word that you hear most everyday, you hear it at work, at school, on the news and sadly in some churches. The idea that we must ‘tolerate’ the ideas and beliefs of others and that we must allow them to believe whatever lie they choose is rampant in today’s society. Not only must we allow their ideas but we must allow them to indoctrinate our children with these same lies or be called intolerant which seems to be synonymous with judgmental, self-righteous hate monger. This idea of tolerating lies and allowing people to believe whatever ‘truth’ (meaning lie they choose to believe) they choose, is not compatible with Christian doctrine or the teachings of Jesus and the Bible. Jesus proclaimed that He was The Way, The Truth and The Life and that no one could come to the Father except through Him.
TOL'ERANCE, n. [L. tolerantia, from tolero, to bear.] The power or capacity of enduring; or the act of enduring.

Diogenes one frosty morning came to the market place shaking, to show his tolerance.

[Little used. But intolerance is in common use.]
1828 Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language

In the last 180 years the meaning of tolerance has changed drastically. Tolerance used to mean the ability to endure, in Eph. 4:2 Paul implores us to “[show] tolerance for one another in love.” That word tolerance is anechō in the greek which means ‘to hold up’ and is often translated as ‘suffer’ or ‘bear with’. According to the Bible tolerance isn’t allowing people to believe whatever they choose but rather tolerance is the ability to suffer and bear with your brother. Another interesting thing to note in the 1828 Webster’s definition is the note at the bottom “Little used. But intolerance is in common use”. In Noah Webster’s time tolerance was not a common thing, people did not tolerate or allow things with which they strongly disagreed. Disrespectful children were punished, heretical ideas were severely dealt with and new ideas were strongly discouraged. Like Webster said, tolerance was little used but intolerance was common. In some ways this intolerance was a bad thing. The suppression of new ideas both scientifically and socially contributed greatly to the delay in the discovery of many foundational truths in modern science and the understanding that all men are created with equal worth in the sight of God. In other ways this intolerance was good, the punishment of false (not different but false) ideas, teachings and rebellion (in both children and adults) were practices that have a very Biblical basis and are sadly lacking in today’s society.

As a Christian I am called to be an imitator of Christ and look to Him as my example for how life is to be lived. Looking at the actions of Christ, I see that the things He did would be called intolerant by today’s society. Christ came to save us from our sin not ignore it, He came not to condemn us but rather to redeem us. His is not a lifestyle of allowing people to wallow in their sin just because He doesn’t want to offend them but a lifestyle of looking beyond what feelings and looking to the condition of the soul. If the Truth is offensive it is because the Holy Spirit is convicting us of the sins in our lives.

”For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, [19]because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.[20]For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. [21]For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. [22]Professing to be wise, they became fools, [23]and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. [24]Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. [25]For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:18-25)

This is a 180º turn, just like in so many other areas our culture has “exchanged the truth of God for a lie...” we have decided that it is better to suppress the truth than to hurt someone’s feelings. Despite knowing that God is perfect and holy, and despite knowing that His Word is eternal and true, we have decided that we the creature know better than God our creator what is true. All this talk of ‘personal truth’ and relativism is just the type of thing that Paul was talking about in verse 21, futile speculation. We speculate that life evolved from nothing, we speculate that maybe life doesn’t begin until after birth, we speculate that immorality isn’t sin if both people feel it is okay for them. The collective heart of our world is being daily darkened, every day some ‘new truth’ is discovered and the so called enlightenment of civilization progresses in leaps and bounds toward destruction. “My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent.” (Pr. 1:10) to consent means literally to think with another, or entertain their thoughts and ideas. The idea of ‘tolerance’ today is very enticing, I mean who doesn’t want to live at peace with all men, who really wants to suffer persecution because of what they believe. This idea of tolerance of anything and everything for the sake of convenience is very appealing but also very wrong. Jesus said that as His followers we would be persecuted for His sake, He said we would suffer hardships and mocking speech but that if we persevered we would receive a crown.

I for one am ready to take a stand, it has been said that “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” so lets take a stand. Let us say no to ‘tolerance’ and stand firmly rooted on the Word of God, the only real Truth in this dark and foolish world and let us take heed of Paul’s warning “The night is almost gone, and the day is near Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Rom. 13:12)

The Immensity of the Fathers Gift

The other day I was listening to the radio as the host was introducing the song Joseph's Lullaby (by MercyMe) and he said something that really got me thinking, he said that sometimes as a child Jesus probably called Joseph 'daddy'. Now the Bible doesn't say whether or not that happened, but it seems to me that it is very probable that it did happen. I mean that is the natural tendency of a child to call their father (whether their real father or adopted father) 'daddy' and Jesus was fully man, born just like you and me. So I was listening to the radio host and getting ready to listen to Joseph's Lullaby, which is one of my absolute favorite 'christmas' songs, and I started thinking, how much God sacrificed to allow His only Son to call another 'daddy'. I continued to think about this all throughout the song and for the next few days.

Now I don't for a moment pretend that I understand all that is involved in being a father, nor do I completely comprehend all of the emotions that are there, but as I have matured and grown I have come to better understand how my father feels about me, and through that understanding I can begin to understand how he feels. I know that if I were to call someone else (aside from God) my father it would break his heart. So how much more must it have broken God the Father's heart to hear His Son call another father. Out of all the names of God, I think that of Father is one of His dearest. The Bible tells us in countless places how much God cares for children (Luke 16:18), and how He desires the orphaned cared for (James 1:27), and how He is the father to the fatherless (Psalms 68:5). All of these things say to me how much God desires to be called Father, and how good of a father He is. Numerous places in the Bible (Exodus. 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9 to name two) it says that our God is a jealous God and He does not suffer another to take His glory, but He allowed Joseph to be Jesus' earthly father, to me that says a lot about the immensity of the gift that God made in sending His only Son.

Now as Jesus grew He came to understand that God was His Father and called Him such, just as I as a christian have come to understand that God is my heavenly Father and call Him father. But as He was growing it is quite possible that Jesus didn't fully understand that He was God's only begotten Son. The Bible says that Jesus was completely human and yet also God the Son, so as a toddler and young boy it is quite possible that He didn't really understand who He was. He probably loved to sit in His daddy's shop and watch him work. He probably enjoyed going fishing and playing with his dad. I sometimes wonder if Joseph ever thought about the honor that he had been given. Did he ever think about the fact that the little boy who was calling him father was really the Son of the Lord God Almighty? I think that he probably did, I think that as he watched little Jesus grow and thought about His future he was reminded that great things were in store for this boy who was "God with us". And while he held Jesus tight and loved Him as his own he was reminded that God had entrusted His only Son to him to raise and to love, and thinking this I imagine he took great joy. (Just as a side note, I believe that every child is a gift from God entrusted to the parents to care for and love as God loves them, and children should bring great joy to their parents as they are reminded that God has entrusted them with the job of loving His children as He loves them.)

All of this is yet another example of how great is the love of the Father towards us, and how great is the sacrifice He made to call us His own. This is just another reason why I am eternally grateful for what Jesus did for me on the cross, and what God did for me in allowing His Son to come and give Himself for me.
"But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, He entrusted His only Son Jesus Christ to another to raise and to love, and watched Jesus call another 'father' and die for our sins" (Romans 5:8 Paraphrased and Expanded)

Why I Celebrate Christmas

With the coming of the christmas season I have been contemplating why I celebrate Christmas. I mean it is so easy to get caught up in all the songs, the decorations, and all the gifts and traditions that sometimes I forget what Christmas is all about and why I am celebrating it. I encourage you to take some time in this busy season of the year and think about why you celebrate Christmas. Whether you share your reasons or keep them to yourself taking the time to think it through and organize your thoughts will be well worth your time.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about why I celebrate Christmas is the reason that most christians probably think of first, the birth of Jesus. Now whether or not he was actually born on December 25th is irrelevant, to me it is the celebration of His birth, not the exact day. One of the reasons that I celebrate Jesus' birth is because it is one of the most improbable, impossible, unimaginable things that could ever happen in the eyes of the world. Who would believe that a God who has all power and all authority would humble Himself to become like one of His own creations? Who would ever consider that He would be born in the simplest of abodes and have a feeding trough as a bed? Yet Jesus did all of this for us. In one birth hundreds of years of prophecy's were fulfilled, the Savior of the world was born against all the odds. So I celebrate Christmas because of Jesus' birth and all that it means.

When I continue to think about Christmas one obvious thing that comes to mind is the one thing that every little boy or girl thinks of, gifts. Who doesn't like to receive gifts? But why do we give gifts at Christmas? I can think of a couple of reasons. First, as a reminder of the gifts given to Jesus by the magi, gifts that foreshadowed what was to come, and provided for what was at hand. I also think of a gift given on the night Jesus was born, a gift that saw it's fulfillment years later as He hung on that cross with the sins of the world on His shoulders. A gift that I cannot comprehend or understand, but a gift that I have accepted, the gift of God's only son to die for my sins. A gift of grace and mercy and a gift of love. Many people think of Valentines as the holiday of love but I have to disagree. Christmas is a holiday and a celebration of love. God's love for His people. When I think about gifts at Christmas I think about the reason that we give gifts, or at least the reason that we should give gifts. As an expression of our love for one another, to bless one another and to show the true reason for Christmas, Jesus. There is a song by Steven Curtis Chapman called "All About Love" and the title is so very true, as a Christian everything that I do should all be about love. God's love for me, my love for God and my love for my fellow man. If you think about it Christmas, and Christ's birth, isn't about the birth but about the gift. The gift of God's love and forgiveness.

So as I move into this season of gifts and Christmas music, decorations and warm fires, my goal is to remember what Christmas is all about and share the love of God with others around me. Through the carols that I sing and the gifts that I give I seek to give God glory. And like the star in the dark night sky so long ago, I hope to point people toward Jesus, who came to earth as a baby, and gave the greatest gift of love anyone has ever given.

Consecrated Lord to Thee

Today I have been thinking about the state of the Church and our nation. I have been thinking about how we can change our nation and what is required for us to move into what God has for our nation. One of the many things that has gone through my mind is that God wants us to be completely dedicated to Him, He wants us to be Concecrated to Him.

A couple of years ago I wrote a article of sorts about Consecrating the Church and I found it today and thought that it was time to bring it out again.

Consecrated Lord to Thee
By Joshua Russell 10-24-06

Take My Life and Let It Be A song by Frances R. Havergal.

Take my life and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee; Take my hands and let them move At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be Swift and beautiful for Thee; Take my voice and let me sing, Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be Filled with messages from Thee; Take my silver and my gold, Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my moments and my days, Let them flow in endless praise; Take my intellect and use Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine; Take my heart, it is Thine own, It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour At Thy feet its treasure store; Take myself and I will be Ever, only, all for Thee.

Consecrate the Church
This is a song of surrender and submission to say “Take my life and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee” means take my life Lord, purify and use me. To offer your self up as a sacrifice is the meaning of Consecration (Consecrate - to dedicate something or somebody to a specific purpose ~ Encarta World English Dictionary.)

"Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, 'Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the LORD, the God of Israel, has said, "There are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst." (Joshua 7:13)

Today’s Church must rise up and Consecrate it’s self unto the Lord. We must remove all sins from our midst not because it is required for salvation, but for three other reasons, which I would like to discuss in more detail, these are 1.) As an act of Gratitude, 2.) To enable us to stand before our enemies, and 3.) To prepare for tomorrow.

Reason 1: As an act of Gratitude
If you have truly accepted Christ into your heart how can you help but be Grateful for all that He has done for you? He gave his life so that you might live what more can you do than to offer up your life as a living sacrifice and consecrate yourself unto the Lord? If you are Grateful for your salvation and the grace given to you then should you continue sinning? If you are already forgiven of all your sins (past, present, and future) should you worry about continuing to sin? These are question that every Christian must ask himself / herself at some point in their life. I believe that the Apostle Paul stated it very clearly when he said

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? [2] May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2)

So what shall we say then? Will we say that since Christ has given us grace we will “live life to the fullest” or will we say, “Father not my will but Yours”. What will you say?

“So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, [27] that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:26-27)

Christ has cleansed us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) by the washing of the water with the word, so that He might present to Himself the Church in all her glory. Who doesn’t want a perfect and spotless bride? A bride that is holy and blameless. For this reason we must sanctify ourselves though the Word of God, that we might become the holy and blameless bride of Christ. Ask any bride-to-be on the night before her wedding and she will say that she wants everything to perfect for her wedding. She will want her dress to be perfect and beautiful, and she will want herself to be perfect and beautiful. So I ask again, What more can we do than to offer ourselves a living sacrifice and consecrate ourselves unto the Lord?

Reason 2: To enable us to stand before our enemies
Imagine: it is 1314 A.D. and you are in the army of Robert the Bruce, you are fighting for the rightful King of you country, however you do not have on any armor and you are carrying several burdens. You might wonder how you are able to stand and fight while carrying these burdens, and you are right to wonder because you can’t. A knight can’t go into battle loaded with stuff and without his armor. Neither can a Christian go into battle and fight the evil one while loaded down with sins and without his spiritual armor.

This is the second reason why the Church must be re-consecrated unto the Lord. If we as a body are going into battle carrying our sins and leaving our armor how can we expect to stand strong against the wiles of the devil? We are instructed in Romans 6 to put on the full armor of God.

"Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil." (Romans 6:11)

We are not called to put on only the parts of the armor that we chose, rather we are called to “Put on the full armor of God”. When arming for battle a knight would not put on his armor on-top of his court attire (worldly baggage), rather he would remove all of the things that would get in the way and hamper the efficiency of his armor. Likewise we as Christians must put aside the things of this world that way us down and keep us from going in to the entire world to spread the gospel (Mark 15:16). So today’s Church must set aside the things of this world, take up the armor of God, and consecrate itself unto the Lord

“But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness you are blessed AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, [15] but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:14-15 emphasis mine)

When you stand before an enemy you must do so with courage and with power. Imagine: the smallest weakest guy in school standing up for what is right against the biggest strongest guy in school. Would the big guy think that the little guy was very dangerous? Of course not he would laugh in his face and ridicule him in front of the entire school. Now imagine that the little guy is ready to make a defense against everyone who asks him to give an account. Imagine he knew karate and so could beat the big guy. Now consider your average Christian, they don’t know what they believe, they are apathetic about what their faith. They are sort of like the wimpy guy that doesn’t know karate, they don’t have a chance whenever someone challenges what they believe. They are not “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks them give an account for the hope that is in them [paraphrased]”, today’s Church must learn what they believe and be able to give an account of it to whoever asks.

Reason 3: To prepare for Tomorrow
The meaning of sanctification is.

SANCTIFICATION - The act of consecrating or of setting apart for a sacred purpose; consecration.” [Noah Webster 1828]

So in order to become consecrated we must go through the process of sanctification and set ourselves apart for a sacred purpose. In part 1 I discussed that how consecration (sanctification) should be done as an act of gratitude, in part 2 I talked about how we must be consecrated (sanctified) in order to stand before the enemy, remember how I talked about the knight without armor and loaded with stuff and how he can’t do battle? Now in part 3 I would like to talk about the reason for sanctification, which is the process of consecration.

As an example of sanctification consider the refining of gold. The gold starts off as a lump of ugly useless rock, and the refiner takes it and puts it into the fire (trials and hard times). While in the fire the sludge and grime (our baggage and stuff) are separated from the gold, it is then put in to the fire again and more sludge is removed this process is repeated several times (we go through hard times throughout our lives) to ensure that all the sludge is removed. Next the partially refined gold is refined in water (Eph. 5:26) and it is then 99.99% pure (our lives will never be completely pure until we are with Christ in eternity)

So you see how the process of sanctification takes a lifetime and even then is not complete no matter if you live to be 200 years old you will still not be completely sanctified. For as long as we are still in our physical, carnal bodies we will not be completely sanctified, however we must continue to “read the Bible, Pray every day so we can grow, grow, grow” we must continue to strive for purity and holiness because that is what it takes to be a living sacrifice. We, the body of Christ, his Church must prepare ourselves for tomorrow. For we are the bride and tomorrow is our wedding day, we must cleanse and prepare ourselves for our Savior and Lord.

If we want to be ready we must consecrate ourselves unto the Lord and dedicate ourselves as living sacrifices. So the question I ask you is this, Are you ready for the Lord to do wonders?

“Then Joshua said to the people, 'Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.'” (Joshua 3:5)