Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Without Love


In order to love others you must have humility. And in order to have humility you must see others as more important than yourself. That is a very great challenge. Without humility you cannot have God's love, and without love you cannot follow Jesus.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Thank you!


May I say how grateful I am for those who comment with no agenda and who do not attempt to bring their own theology but comment on the post itself. I am so encouraged! I do not avoid legitimate debate. but I do recognize people who consistently want to teach their own theology using this blog. But for the overall majority of brothers and sisters who comment here, even those who have some differences with me, you edify the body of Christ through a blog like this. May Jesus have all the glory!

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Being We Call Jesus


It is widely accepted that the word “God” comes from a Germanic strain. Although its original etymology is sketchy, and it came to serve as a catch-all for the Divine Being. But it also is nebulous and non-specific and is used by all sorts of religions and even non-religious people. The Old Testament used the tetragrammaton “YHWH” which specifically refers to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We would say Yahweh or Jehovah. Those are certain names which refer to the one and only Creator of the universe.

But when we get to the deity that came in the likeness of sinful flesh we must trace His name back to what we call Yeshua or Joshua. Yes, the name of “Jesus” is actually Joshua in the Old Testament pronounced “Yeshua” in the Hebrew. It means “Yahweh/Jehovah saves or delivers”.

Matt.1: 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.

So Mary was instructed of the angel to call the child Yeshua, or Joshua. Many of the Hebrew names reveal some attribute. And this child, born of a virgin, was to be called “Jehovah delivers” because He would deliver His people from their sins. This baby would have many names including Emmanuel” which is “God with us”. People who say they believe the Scriptures but deny the deity of Christ are just being disingenuous at best. In fact to deny the deity of Christ is blasphemous and is at the very heart of the overwhelming majority of cults. Both the Jehovah’s Witness and the Mormon cult deny this truth.

But sometime in our month of September or October the God-child comes forth and is born into an animal shelter. He is laid in a trough which was used to feed animals. We have come to see the word manger in sentimental terms but in fact it was a place where animals ate their food and salivated and drooled. I am sure insects travelled extensively within that trough as well. That was the first “home” for this divine child. To say it was humble beginnings is to be generous. We would not allow our child at any age to lay in a feed trough. But here was God the Son wrapped in swaddling clothes which were strips of cloth meant to keep the baby from too much moving. Of course we now can see they were a picture of wrapping a dead body. One day this child will also be wrapped in death.

We state in our theologies that Jesus was God in the flesh. Oh how easily those words run off our tongues. But let us pause and meditate upon the true meaning of those words for to use them like we use words in a assembly instruction for a child’s toy is oh so demeaning and it leaves an unsearchable amount of priceless treasure on the doctrinal table. This child was born by a meeting of Mary’s egg and the Spirit of God. That alone should make us ponder such a thing. The incarnation is a neat little term we use to say God became a man. But how it happened, to say nothing of why it happened, is a miracle of miracles. It is so fantastic and so surreal that most men can never allow themselves to even consider it.

But when the Spirit opens a stubborn or even a seeking heart and that inconceivable truth becomes a reality to a sinner it is a magnificent gift of grace. Mary, a chaste sinner, was chosen to be a vessel through which God would come. And when I say God I speak of the Creator who is also known as Jehovah. Many of the names of God are for our benefit. The Father, the Son, are used to give us some perspective but many times we see the Father as God and Jesus as a smaller God. That is wrong on any level. I cannot even attempt to unwrap the mystery of the Trinity, but Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit are one. They are all God from eternity past to eternity future.

The Apostle John tells us through the inspiration of God’s Spirit that Jesus was the Creator. He is identified as the Word and He created all there is and ever will be. And we call this Word Jesus. And this baby lying in an animal trough is the Creator God. Can you even begin to allow that thought into your heart and your mind. We are not speaking about economics or morality or patriotism here. This, my friends, is holy ground. Some attempt to create a Jesus who is one of the guys, but this child was God in the flesh and in Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Oh my. Can we even dare to imagine such a thing? This truth we call the incarnation is a monumental event which after it has run its course will change the destiny of many sinners and seal the fate of many more.

For over thirty years God walks among men, and even as a man. It is way beyond our comprehension to even imagine what thoughts go through this God man’s mind. He is the eternal Jehovah and yet He has a physical mind. So what does He know at age three? Age seven? We do have a short account of when He was twelve and listening to and teaching in the Temple. It slowly became obvious that this young child was different that the others. In a few short years it would become obvious that He was infinitely different. Do you ever wonder what He looked like and what His voice sounded like? I believe the Spirit was careful not to reveal those things because we would have been consumed with those things and not His Words of life and His ultimate sacrifice.

The Roman Church makes all kinds of relics and suggests there is some magic to them, but that is all vain idolatry. Our calling, our pursuit is His Being, His glory, His mystery. The Scriptures declare that God is a Spirit. So just what is a “spirit”? We imagine some kind of smoke or invisible cloud but that is as far as we can go. To be honest we cannot even accurately define a spirit much less surround our pitiful minds around the Creator. But God’s ways and purposes are always many from one. The incarnation was used by God for many things, but of course the cross and resurrection was Christ’s ultimate mission. But God in human form also served as something man could grasp and something we could understand on a child’s level.

So when we think of God we must think of Jesus. Make no mistake it is still a soaring mystery but He in His grace has removed the veil of Moses and revealed to us just who God was and is and always will be. This Being, this Jesus, is not just a reflection of God which helps the Spirit teach us about Him, but He IS God. And although God is all powerful and all knowing and all present and eternal in the heavens we are still granted a glimpse of His unfathomable Being and upon that glorious glimpse we are called to worship. We must learn of Him and speak of Him and think of Him and live in Him.

This Being will always be the only Being that can give life eternal and genuine life here on earth. And just by learning of Him through the ministry of the Spirit changes men. His words are spirit and life and just by reading it can change your heart. And when a sinner who was unaware of who Jesus really was is enlightened by the Spirit and now sees the true and living Jesus as His Lord and Savior, well that sinner’s entire life is changed both here and now and forever in eternity.

There are so many mysteries connected to Jesus. How can someone who has never seen Him be so moved by His beauty that he is literally broken and moved to tears? How can someone who has never heard Him speak still hear His voice? How can someone look up at the ceiling and yet still see and worship Jesus even though he cannot see Him? How can someone who has never been in His throne room suddenly sense His presence in a grocery store line? How can someone read written words in a Book which he has read many times before and break down into tears? How can things be falling apart all around you and yet in a moment you are filled with His peace? Only those who have met this Being and have called Him by His name can ever understand these kinds of irrational mysteries.

And so, after we unravel all the neat doctrines and all the ecclesiastical machinations of men, we are left with what we began with…Jesus. This Being, this God, this Resurrected Lamb now reigns supreme and awaits His own return to claim everything for Himself. It sounds like some far- fetched fairy tale but I assure you that His reality is present and regal, and His coming will be with power man cannot even know. But instead of placing His power or vengeance today He offers His sacrifice to all who will repent and believe.

And therein lies the greatest mystery of all. A holy and August God creates man and this God has endured rebellion after rebellion and blasphemy after blasphemy. And although the Creator has been so kind as to give man life this creation has set up any number of idols and worshiped them. So without shame or sorrow man has sinned against his Holy Creator as if He was nothing. And then, in an unspeakable act of love this same God comes down in the form of this same sinful man. And He knows, oh He knows, that even with all the rebellion and blasphemy and dishonor and idolatry He has already endured, this Being called Jesus knows He is coming to suffer what can only be seen as a cruel and painful death at the hands of the same sinful man that still commits all kinds of sacrilege.

And why? What could possibly be the reason for Jesus to come and publicly be tortured and mocked by His own creation? There are no words really. All we can do is retreat into painless mantras like “love”. But oh how can we even pretend to know and even use such innocuous words which are so convenient and easy and fit so nicely into our 500 piece doctrinal puzzle? This Being, this Jesus, is beyond us when we think about the cross. This is much more than just love. In fact, there are no human words that can even provide a small glimpse into the motivation. I guess the only word we can use is “cross”. The stripes the thorns the whips the lashes the spittle the mocking the robe the plucking the nails the spear the suffering the bleeding and then the death. Go ahead, add it all up and multiply it infinitely and you have the love of God which must never be confused in the slightest way to the love of man.

This is God. This is the Creator. This is the Being we call Jesus. This is our Lord and Savior. There is no other. He will not be used for our earthly schemes. He did not suffer and die so that we can gather all we can upon this earth. You call yourself a follower of Jesus? Well you are called to the path He walked. It is sometimes lonely and is filled with many sacrifices. But in eternity you will be ushered into the very presence of this Being we call Jesus. And upon your very first glance you will be broken beyond words and you will worship this Being in all His majesty and glory.

And we will call Him the Lamb and the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and He even has a new name written that only He knows. But we will always know Him as Jesus. Oh yes, my Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen and amen.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Sacred Grace of Humility


I Pet.5: …Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

Let me say at the outset that the more I am humbled the more clearly I see Him. We as a culture within and without the church have so diluted the definition of humility that true Biblical humility no longer is even pursued. We live in a culture of achievement and individualism and boldness and self elevation. We look for heroes who will promote themselves and even belittle their opponents. We support politicians who inflate their own achievements and downgrade their opponent’s. Even in the church the solo singer as applauded and the great expositor draws great crowds. We have competitions to see which youths can memorize the most Scripture and then they receive a trophy.

Humility is a rare word in our cultural glossary. Our culture thrives on arguments and criticism. Listen to ten minutes of any talk radio or television show and you will hear absolutely no humility and a truck load of criticism. Listen to an evangelical family at the dinner tables of around the television and you will hear them criticism, and in some cases mock, the politicians they most dislike. Just read the comment section on Christian blogs including this one and it will very often disintegrate into personal arguments and self righteous presentations of Scripture.

But we as believers are called to a life of humility. And there is no greater example of humility that the Lord Jesus. And yet even as I say this many self righteous minds go to the scourging of the Temple. Yes men and women will take the life of Jesus, cull out some portion, and present as the whole. We aren’t even willing to see and admit the abject humility not only displayed by Jesus but just the mind boggling humility when God came in the likeness of sinful flesh. Our fallen natures resist any form of humility even to the place where we are unwilling to avoid an argument we believe we could “win” in order to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

This culture is consumed with competitive sports. We adore a winner and hate a loser. From the earliest age our children sense that to lose is a disgrace regardless of how we teach them sportsmanship. They witness ugliness even at the T-ball level, and when they get a good hit people cheer but only some half hearted encouragement when they fail. They see family members show exuberance for sports unlike anything they show for Jesus. People wear T-shirts which tout their team and sometimes denigrate their adversaries. In a way it is harmless fun but in another way it generates an atmosphere which is rich in pride and absent in humility. And that spirit has also permeated the church.

The church has adopted the patriotic spirit which is in no way humble. The pastor will say that America is the “best country in the world” and all the church members nod and even applaud such a statement. To say people are filled with pride at being an America is an understatement. Churches even have slogans meant to suggest they are a great place for you and your family. Clothed with humility? I think not.

Who speaks at “Christian” conferences? Those who have large churches and have written books draw crowds. The faithful pastor who toils in some small, rural church is invited to come and listen but not to speak. How many times is a pastor or preacher introduced as “ a mighty man of God” or an “anointed preacher” or some other personal tribute or accolade? Even among so called “orthodox” people there are a set of revered men who are showered with compliments and listened to as if they were the oracle of God. And these men receive no correction from their “subordinates” and their followers bristle at the hint of some words that are not linguistic flowers thrown before them. If I mention Joel Osteen I am applauded but if I mention John MacArthur I am warned. Oh but my dear friends we all need correction, and we have much land to cross to reach being clothed with humility.

But let us embrace spiritual reality here? Who are we that God evens takes notice of us much less redeems our souls? With all our doctrinal bluster even to the point of embracing a doctrine with a man’s name as its moniker we show just how man centered we are even while self righteously proclaiming others to embrace a man centered faith. Through a systematic exposure to this fallen culture we have become affected and infected by its diabolical undertow. And after being affected the church has even embraced that which resists the Spirit and in no way represents Christ. Humility is not even sought much less understood as deep and foundational essence of the faith that follows Jesus. In fact, without a genuine and self denying pursuit of humility we live a religion which places ourselves as the deity.

Please do not see this post as a revelation of my own successful journey to be clothed with humility. God forbid. I have found that journey to be very treacherous and fraught with all kinds of obvious and not so obvious detours. My flesh and my pride are relentless deceivers who are quick to assure me of my humility even while they plot against it. I have found being clothed with humility a pursuit rather than a destination. And when I read places like Philippians chapter two and see the humility of my Lord and Savior I am quickly reminded that perfect humility can only be found in Him and that a genuine pursuit of humility must be a passionate pursuit of Him.

And if I told you that sometimes pride hides in a false humility would you believe me? One of the most difficult things to do is to receive some injustice or unfair criticism and endure it before the Lord without sharing it with a single human being. For when we seek human affirmation it many times ministers to the flesh and not the spirit. Jesus opened not His mouth during a crucial segment of His “trial” and we are called to do the same. That, my friends, is most difficult. We seek affirmation and support and the partial alleviation which comes from friends telling us things about ourselves we wish to hear. But true humility which dies to self and lives Christ needs no affirmation since He is and always will be our one true affirmation.

And so we are faced, if you open our eyes and ears, with an immeasurable challenge. If we desire to define humility in succinct terms then we can say that true humility is being and living like Jesus. And the church has so devalued that revelation that is presents little challenge at all. I mean go to church is about it now. But that is a profound affront to Christ and the gospel narratives which present a Creator/Savior who exhibits a humility which goes deeper than any of us can even imagine. And yet on one hand we have imprisoned Him within our theologies and on the other hand we have created a relevant and hip Jesus. He has become a motivation for our music but not our lives. We use Him for our own agendas and many times we seek those same agendas without Him at all. We present Him as a hater of sinners instead of a lover of the vilest of sinners.

And in all these creations of men we still call “Jesus” we treat Him like our own divine marionette rather than the Supreme Being He is. And if we truly take His true revelation and compare it with the gospel revelations we surely must see our personal shame. We have elevated ourselves in so many ways and in so doing presented a false revelation of the Suffering Savior. And instead of seeking brokenness and humility we have sought morality and religion and even national pride. Oh it is such a miserable indictment to all of us. We cannot escape our shame. The only relief from our sinful situation is a repentance fueled awakening that passionately seeks to ferret out everything which is not of Him but has found safe haven within our hearts. And after the Spirit of God shows us the beginning of our sin, we pursue the life of Jesus and our own death. This is the narrow path.

That, my friends, is true discipleship. It can be no other way. Count the cost.

Friday, February 14, 2014

To Whom Shall We Go?


Jn.6: 66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

I realize these verses are in the context of professing disciples walking away from Jesus because of a teaching which was hard to digest. Jesus said that no one could have life except by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. And after many walked away from Him Jesus turned to His original followers and asked if they also would walk away and they wondered to whom they could go. You see, although they did not understand many things they knew this one thing: Jesus had the words of eternal life. And after all is said and done that alone can make a true disciple.

But I would like to take this post in a different direction but with the same Scriptural theme. You see the world is searching for someone, anyone who can share with them the words of eternal life and the true love of God. I was moved today by the words of a sister in Christ who commented on my Facebook post saying, “I think many of these hurting souls would run to someone in Christ, if they could find Christ in someone.” I was moved deeply by those piercing words. And that statement beggars this question, “How deeply must sinners search before they can find Christ in you and me?”

Have you not heard that we called to let our lights so shine that sinners will glorify our God? Have you not heard that we are to be a city set high upon a hill where sinners can see and find our Lord? Have you not heard that our lives are to salt so that sinners can taste our wonderful Lord through us? And if we look around at the state of the church and the average American believer can we truthfully say that is the norm? Can sinners see and hear Jesus through our lives or do they hear little that is different than our conservative neighbors? Are we known for morality and conservative issues rather than Jesus Himself? And to be absolutely clear you cannot be known as a conservative American AND a follower of Jesus. You see those two paths lead in different directions.

Millions upon millions of souls are wandering about in spiritual darkness. Some are imprisoned by all kinds of sinful strongholds while others are in deep emotional pain and still others are in a state of desperation. They take drugs or alcohol or even engage in sinful sex in order to help alleviate their pain, but to no avail. Do you and I realize Jesus no longer walks this earth except through those He inhabits? And given that truth what should be, what must be, our commission? But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. You see, we are called to die to ourselves so that Jesus Himself may live through us. This is no hyperbole of philosophical musing. To be sure this is the glory of God and the very essence of discipleship.

Many people define discipleship as being taught the Scriptures and orthodox doctrine. Yes, that is foundational but it falls far short of being a transformed follower of Jesus. I have known many people who are well versed in orthodox doctrine who were nothing like Jesus. That is not being a disciple. Being a true disciple is one who has died to himself and now Christ manifests His life through that person. Sure he should have a great love for God’s Word and embrace certain tenants of the faith, however the world needs more than just theologians. It needs Jesus.

And of what does our theology consist? Does it magnify love and humility or does it magnify certain doctrines? Should it not magnify both? Of what good is theology if it can be thorough and complete on paper and requires nothing of our lives? And are we called to stand and defend or are we called to go outside the camp bearing His reproach? All throughout the life of Jesus He was a humanitarian who was active in meeting the needs of the people while using every opportunity to let His deeds and miracles point to who He was and what His ultimate mission was. We must never forget or even downplay the gospel message of eternal life.

And here are the crossroads ( And I do mean cross.) where theology either dies on the statement of faith vine or bursts forth with life through a crucified believer. The Scriptures teach us what we should believe on many levels and in many truths. But much of what we should believe demands action in speech and deed which should come forth from a heart which has been bathed in that truth and has been transformed by the power of God’s truth. That sounds very flowery but in reality it is a labor of love. Do you think it is easy to deny oneself and one’s flesh? Oh on the contrary it is a great and painful spiritual battle which even when won demands a daily occupation of the victory. Your life is not a partnership where you and Jesus discuss the best way to proceed. No, you have been bought with a price and your Master will show you and empower you to proceed on the path He already has trod. And in an amazing paradox the path which bears His footsteps is both the most painful and yet the most glorious. You will not know the power of His resurrection without knowing the fellowship of His sufferings.

So to whom can sinners go? If believers throw up moral crusades and legislation barriers and mixed multitude organizations designed to combat certain earthly “agendas” then to whom can sinners go to find life? “But”, you say, “They do not want life”. Yes, just like I was not searching for life, and although I was doing my best to make the death I was living my life the Holy Spirit still sought me. That precious Spirit of God did not seek to attack me or condemn me or even come after me with hollow and corrupt politicians. He gently and relentlessly sought me and revealed Jesus to me. Is that not our charge as well?

Away with all the carnal weapons of this world which seek hollow victories by “winning” over sinners through political agendas and legislations and the power of numbers which include the very enemies of Christ. It is all vanity and vexation of spirit! It is time we as believers allow that same Spirit to circumcise our hearts and crucify that old man who desires with all his might to reign in our lives. There is only one kingdom for us and only one King! Oh when will we understand that we cannot be friends with this world? Of course the world attempts to make tablets of stone which outline certain sins and which leave out their own sins and with those stones they will accuse and excuse each other. And in the end all that is accomplished are moral theatrics which have the appearance of life but which are nothing but spiritual death.

If you do not enjoy being vulnerable then following Jesus is not for you. If you object to being judged by the religious world then stay within the world’s systems. If you wish to keep your hands from being sullied through interaction with sinners than stay well within the hygienic place called self righteousness. But if you truly wish to follow Jesus then be prepared and count the cost. It is a lonely path but with deep spiritual fellowship. It is path that is filled with humility and self denial and yet with great glory. And when you esteem others as better than yourself it is there you will find your own esteem. And if material things are important to you than this path will seem quite unreasonable.

But you truly desire to see sinners find the Jesus that saved your own wretched soul then you must allow Christ to seek those sinners through your own life. Yes, you must surrender to a crucified life to which desperate sinners can find the only hope they have…Jesus.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Depth of Sin - The Depth of Grace


Ok, this post is meant to rattle our religious and self righteous cages. Bet let it be known that we are supposed to pursue Christ as believers and seek a deeper relationship with Jesus. We are never supposed to “get saved” and go about our business as usual. And even after many decades of being a believing follower of Jesus we should still stoke the fire and repent of the sins and weights which so easily beset us. However we must never, ever lose an understanding of the depth of our own sin even while being a redeemed child of God. We will deal with that in this post. And conversely we should never, ever lose an understanding of the depth of God’s grace even after we have been redeemed by that grace.

Should we as believers be wary of false teachers? Yes, of course. And those of us called to be ministers of the gospel should boldly speak out against heretics, false teachers, and blasphemers. We live in perilous times and there are many wolves out there with television programs and large mailing lists. It is extremely important we reject them. But while we identify and speak out against such men and women there is also a tendency to become self righteous and legalistic. And many times we call out a condensed list of a few sins which can easily be condemned and which we easily avoid without any real temptation. You see it isn’t the sins about which we feel no temptation which serve as a spiritual test for us. How many of us aggressively speak out against crack dealers? How about bank robbers? How about polygamists? If we made those sins the final exam we would all get a perfect score. But that is not how it works within the kingdom of God.

When we speak of sin we need to be very careful and very humble as well. We need not shrink from calling sin for what it is, but we also need not create a man made list of approved and unapproved sins. And we all need to realize that we need the grace of God and the blood of Jesus every single day. All of us. This is a sacred journey which requires a sacred and humble perspective. This is not just some moral checklist. This is a passionate pursuit of Christ lived within the mystery of grace. And therein lies a profound paradox. The relationship between sin and grace cannot be taken lightly. We must not sin because we stand in God’s grace, and yet we must admit openly we all still sin in thought, word, and deed.

Sin has been so compartmentalized in the general parlance of the church that we now consciously and subconsciously understand sin through the prism of observable and “major league” sins. Murder is a sin but a few words of complaint are just excusable transgressions if transgressions at all. Prayerlessness can be excused by busy schedules and being tired but robbing a bank is a real sin. Homosexuality is a sin but throwing away enormous amounts of food while children starve is just the way it is. Do you see what we have done? We have made large compartments of grace for our own sin while we have made the guillotine for others who commit sins on the unapproved sin list. And what do we call that class? If you said hypocrisy give yourself an “A”.

And what horrific sin sent the world into spiritual and physical death? Surely it was murder or adultery or homosexuality. But, no, it was one seemingly slight act of disobedience. That should not minimize sin. It should make sin exceedingly sinful. And that should magnify the power and scope of God’s grace while magnifying the power and scope of sin. Do you understand this sacred mystery? Of course none of us fully comprehend it all, but what we must not shrink from in our stand against sin is that we must also stand against our own sin. To whom much is given much is required. So who is more indictable? Is it the saved man who sins carelessly all the common and accepted sin or the unregenerate man who cannot know his sin and has no power to overcome? Of course the unsaved man’s sin condemns him to spiritual death, but why can we excuse our sin?

And follow me here as I attempt to unravel this question of sin a bit further. Those of us who were born into this western culture have picked up some of its practices and even some of its mindset as well. We waste money; we watch too much television; we watch things we should not; we do not pray as we should; we do not witness as we should; we eat too much; we do not read God’s Word as we should; we are not as humble as Jesus; and we treat money way too much as the heathen do as well. In fact we all live in sin. So if you want to minimize God’s grace then let it begin with us.

But that does not mean that we should continue to sin. Again, here is a great mystery and a journey which should pursue practical holiness but which relies entirely upon the grace of God.

So we must not stop speaking about sin among the company of believers. Specific sins must be addressed among the redeemed for only they can make such distinctions. This is sorely lacking in today’s feel good church. But we present the gospel to lost sinners and speak of sin primarily in the principle. For if we tell a lost sinner that he must forsake his particular sin we make a stumbling block to the gospel. And after a sinner is redeemed his journey to sanctification begins. But here again we find something quite revealing. How many professing believers who have been saved for years are still eager and energetic in allowing the Spirit to ferret out any sins in their own lives followed by a robust discipline of repentance? Come on. Let us not lie to God’s Spirit here.

But many of these same comfortable saints will gladly join in a discussion of what it requires to be saved especially when the discussion allows for their sin and disallows others. There has been a major movement across America where local churches have been started which are known as “gay churches”. They accommodate the gay lifestyle and they are wrong in God’s sight and most have their own gospel. I do not suggest we support such churches. But there are a growing number of gay people who have received Christ and much of their life has been changed. They support missions and they pray and on different levels they are conflicted about their same sex attractions. Now if you do not believe that some are born with same sex attractions then this post is not for you since you live in a safe and convenient world.

Now some professing believers with same sex attractions battle them with varying degrees of success. Kinda like the way we battle our sins. Some still have those temptations but consistently overcome them. Some stumble form time to time and others have been overtaken by them once again. Only God knows those that are His, but I am dealing with the possibility that some could be saved. And what I am trying to convey is that if a person who is living in sin cannot possibly be saved then no one is saved. And all of us commit sin we should know is sin and others that we are blind to. Let us whittle it down even further. Do you believe that it is God’s will for the open idolatry connected with American sports? With all the hunger and thirst and disease in the world is Jesus leading us to spend money to go to games and eat and enjoy ourselves? And even though men are paid obscene amounts of money to play a game is it right for believers to support them and cheer them on even when the entire construct goes against all the teachings of Jesus?

Is it right for believers to pay money to support the Hollywood industry when we go the movies and be entertained by lost and sinful people? And as we sit in that movie house surrounded by hell bound sinners and we laugh at what they laugh at without warning them is that following Jesus? And when we open our closet and see all kinds of clothes we could never use and some of them fairly expensive is that following Jesus? And when we go to a restaurant and spend a lot of money when we could have eaten for much less at home and given the difference to mission or starving children, is that following Jesus? And when your next door neighbor for many years is lost and on his way to an eternity separated from God and yet you have never shared the gospel with him, is that following Jesus? I hope you can see that you and I commit all kinds of sins that we do not even consider as sins and yet we have no problem believing we are saved. And if we are to use the Scriptures then it is beneficial to realize that for ever verse about gay sins there are twenty about greed, pride, and heterosexual sins. Just sayin'.

And it is at this juncture that grace must enter in all its majestic fullness. Make no mistake, grace does not excuse sin. Just look the cross and see the unfathomable price that was paid for sin. But if a person who professes Christ cannot live in sin and still be saved then no one is saved in this western culture. No one. That does not excuse sin nor does it alleviate our calling to pursue Christ and His righteousness, but it must bring into focus the power and expanse of God’s grace.

No one can deny that there are many who make some sort of profession for Christ and then show little fruit. That is rampant even among church members. But we loudly shout through our doctrinal bullhorn about justification by faith and salvation by grace through faith and then we seem to dilute that theology by creating a sort of backdoor legalism. And again may I suggest that there are deep caverns of mystery here which only the Spirit can accurately unravel. It is wrong to give people unwarranted assurance but it is also wrong to build unassailable walls that disallow even the possibility of some people being children of God. Most of us would have vehemently taken the stand that the man in the Church at Corinth could not possibly be saved. I mean he was committing a sin even the unsaved would not commit. But we would have been wrong.

Oh yes, you argue, but that man repented. Are you suggesting that leaving a particular sin saves a soul? And are you suggesting that if that man had died before he repented he would have been lost? I mean just what kind of theology are we supporting here? So a professing believer can seek personal wealth, save up large amounts of money, never witness, hardly ever pray or read the Word, and yet because he is not homosexual he is saved? Let us be honest, what I just described can be applicable to millions of evangelicals as well as to many evangelical pastors. And are we openly suggesting that God’s grace has its limits? So no one can in truth believe on Jesus Christ as Savior and yet not recognize all his sins as sins and still practice things that are against God’s holiness?

And once again I must present to all of us that the issues of sin and God’s grace are the fine china of God’s truth. We have become so lazy and like a reclining king we point to this one or that one and pronounce judgment or excuse. The tithing church member who has no spirituality but is on the right side of a few moral issues is saved without a doubt. But the gay guy who supports missions and is humble and kind and prays and believes on Jesus but struggles or even succumbs to that sin cannot possibly be redeemed. Ok, well at least we know the rules now. But those are not God’s “rules”.

Here is the process of salvation for a lost heterosexual sinner:

He must believe on Jesus without any preconditions and if he commits adultery later and marries his mistress he can still vote as a church member and sing in the choir.

Here is the process of salvation for a lost gay sinner:

He must believe on Jesus with the precondition that if he does not completely give up any gay behavior than he cannot be saved.

And with that prescription we have obliterated God’s grace. Martin Luther lived a life which in many ways might be seen as unregenerate by today’s standards and yet he is revered in orthodox circles. Martin Luther said, “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.” You see, ALL men have feet of clay but God’s grace is the foundation of rock.

In the end the depth of sin is very, very deep even descending into the uncommitted sins of the mind. But even deeper and unfathomable is the depth of God’s grace which awards eternal life to sinner’s who not only are undeserving of such a reward, but who consistently reveal their unworthiness until the day they go to be with Jesus. And yet one unworthy and practicing sinner rejects the idea that the other unworthy and practicing sinner could possibly be saved. Let us all cling strongly to the hope that God’s grace is stronger than our theology.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Its Own Shadow


Instead of seeing a remarkable light, the fallen culture sees its own shadow in the church.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

The Stigma of the Lord Jesus


Gal.2: 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Gal.6: 14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

Gal.6: 17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

The word translated “marks” in the KJV is the word “stigma” in the original Greek. The teaching is clear. Are we living so deeply in Christ Jesus that the imprint of His marks can be seen in our lives? In other words, are we bearing His stigma with humility and gladness?

The word stigma is defined in Webster’s as:

"a mark of shame or discredit : or an identifying mark or characteristic"

Now take that definition and purify it as it applies to bearing the stigma of the Lord Jesus. To bear His marks is not like wearing a sports team jersey. It’s not like wearing your school colors. It is nothing like coloring your hair or wearing a certain hat or placing a sticker on your bumper. To bear the marks of Jesus in our bodies is a great and sacred mystery, but to be sure it comes with sacrifice, self denial, and even suffering. And in general it is those very things that the church avoids at all costs. Even when a believers suffers something that is common to man we are quick to pray for a quick release and hardly ever do we consider an opportunity to reveal Christ to others.

We desire the glory and the blessings and the comfort and the promises and the miracles. But if His stigma comes with suffering, pain, mocking, or anything associated with earthly shame then we would rather not. The life which follows Jesus is now presented as filled with earthly blessings and the honor of men. But that is a path upon which Jesus never walked. The leaders of Rome never called on Jesus to offer up prayers for a new Caesar but the hedonist leaders of America call upon men who claim to follow Jesus to speak at a prayer breakfast and pray at the inauguration. So what has changed?

Well, the whole thing has changed. In the modern church Jesus has changed as well as what a follower looks like. Everything has changed and been clothed with earthly culture and human desires and pride. There is no longer any shame or stigma. The modern believer sticks out his chest and loudly and militantly storms the moral Bastilles of the current political issues while leaving behind any semblance of God’s redemptive love. The switch has been made and the counterfeit is complete. The loving and gentle and humble Jesus has been transformed into a group of patriotic Americans who love a good moral fight and who show sinners their boots rather than the cross.

But the Spirit is calling out any believer who can look at himself in the mirror of the gospel narrative that truly reveals Jesus and admit we were wrong. And if we truly repent of our pride and religious hubris that same Spirit will guide into all truth which is Jesus Himself. Anyone who has ever had a genuine revelation of Jesus can never have any personal pride. We see ourselves in the sea of lost sinners and we have no stones to throw. None at all. The Spirit speaks of Jesus and His ministry is to take these earthen lumps of clay and mold them into the a tangible vision of Jesus which can be seen by saved and lost sinners alike.

Oh to be so like Jesus that His stigma is imprinted upon your heart and life. But these words are something quite foreign to any group of professing Christians who have embraced a culture that only allows a false revelation of Christ. Those words about some stigma seem so ethereal and impractical to the religious mindset. The sacred vision of the Son of God has been muscled out by an earthly plastic figurine which can be stuck to the dashboard of your life and even used to batter sinners. But please do not believe that is Jesus. That is not Him. But there is a path which leads to His feet and to His heart and in that place we are changed. Completely changed.

Is that really possible? But we do not hear that from our pulpit. We do not see Jesus in that form. The things of which you speak cannot possibly be true since our peers never speak of such things. I know, dear one, I know. I was once standing where you stand. I once embraced an earthly Jesus and an earthly faith which I could use for my own purposes and desires. Yes I had been born again but I had been assimilated into a western religious culture. I was blind to the glory of the Risen Christ and the love of the ungodly shown through the sufferings of that same Christ. And when we see a false image of our Wonderful Savior we get a false image of what we should be as well.

But it is possible to be utterly transformed by the power of the Spirit. It is not an easy path and it exacts a high price…your life. If you are willing to place your life upon His altar He will take it from you. He will crack open the ugly oyster of your life and He will present you with the Pearl of Great Price. Do you understand the profound truth of it all? When you are a redeemed child of God you are called to allow that same Jesus to live through you. And that does not come from religion or just being moral. That can only come from a personal journey to see Him for Who He truly is.

Paul says that no man should trouble him anymore. He now lives with the stigma of Jesus and there is no higher honor. Let us offer our lives and allow that same stigma to mark us as His alone.

The Death of Jesus - A Life Giving Mystery


Spurgeon once said, “If you would have your faith made vivid and strong, study much the story of your Savior's death.”

People seek all kinds of sign today. They look for miracles, they look to Israel, and they even look to America or some other earthly sign. But Jesus already told us that the sign of Christ’s death and resurrection symbolized in Jonah would be the only sign given to us. And how repugnant is it when supposed children of God downplay His sufferings and seek some external sign? Oh the blood, oh the sweat, of the stripes, oh the thorns, oh the pain! If you truly understand and embrace those awful wounds, and if you have truly been redeemed by those sacred horrors, then you and I need no further sign. They are more than enough for all eternity.

It is out of vogue today to speak about the death of Jesus the Savior. People swarm to hear upbeat messages of success and divine favor. They will give great amounts of money to a King Midas god and then await the prosperity which must come. But they wait in vain. But to speak at length and width and depth and height concerning Christ’s death has all but vanished. Many recoil as such a savage spectacle. It is as they say, “a downer”.

But when the church turns its back on the preaching of the cross it has turned its back on the true Jesus. Without the cross there is no faith and no eternal life. I realize it seems so unsophisticated and archaic and even barbaric to imagine that this excruciating death is the exclusive path to eternal life. I realize that in these enlightened days we need a more esoteric and intellectual faith which appeals to our minds. I realized that a more metaphysical or even a more utilitarian faith is required to appease the modern hunger for more knowledge and more usefulness. That which can enhance our earthly lives and bring us to a higher level of self esteem is what sells today.

But God in His infinite and immeasurable wisdom has mocked the intellect of the wise and the power of the rich and brought to nothing all the religious constructs of man. It is through the cross that all things eternal were given life. There is no other way even though men are still attempting to weave a patch quilt from all religions and spiritual streams and then suggest that all sincere paths lead to God. But the cross has no friends, no competitors, no contenders, and no equals. In fact the cross has no helpers. It stands alone as the door to eternity through which all must pass who hope to gain that eternal life.

But before you can fully see this cross you must fully see this man they called Jesus. This was a man, born in Bethlehem to a young woman, and raised in Nazareth. But the young woman named Mary was a virgin when she gave birth. What, you say? Yes, she was a virgin, and when that fact penetrates your mind and heart you have begun a journey which can and should lead you to who this man really was. This was a man, but this was not just a man. This man was God in the flesh. And within that succinct statement lives the mystery of the universe.

The incarnation begins its monumental mystery in Bethlehem and in an animal shelter, however that mystery unfolds as years pass and this God-baby begins to grow in human form. Miracles and love and profound teachings will come from this One sent from God and who is God as well. Does that shake your human sensibilities? It should. Only God the Spirit can illuminate a human heart concerning God the Son. Can I share a personal experience with you? I had heard the name of Jesus as I grew up. I knew who people said he was and I went to three years of catechism and was confirmed as a believer and a church member.

But when the Spirit began to draw me to Christ it was something special and something I had never experienced. My earthly comfort zone had been invaded and I could not shake this feeling that there was more to it than just a religion. And somewhere along a period of several months I broke loose from my religious moorings and I began to entertain the thought that maybe Jesus was more than a good man and good teacher. And then one night in March of 1975 on top of Garret Mountain, in an indescribable instant, my heart was filled with a sacred knowledge I had never known before. I believed that Jesus was God and that He was who He claimed to be and that He had died for my sins. And even though I was a theological novice I became a joint heir with Christ. How can I describe something that fills you with wonder and awe and spiritual certainty while at the same time you enter a world that is also filled with mystery? No one who has never been born again can even approach understanding what the experience is.

I now knew that Jesus was a God-man although that was a colossal mystery. I knew He had been born of a virgin but again that was still a colossal mystery. I knew He had died for the sins of the world but still that was a vast mystery. Can I make a confession that we all should openly confess? I have been to Bible college and studied theology and I can recite to you all the major redemptive truths of Scripture with confidence in their validity and integrity. But they remain profound mysteries that have so impacted our hearts that we have dedicated our lives upon their truth. And at the very center of it all is this man called Jesus. Who can explain the incarnation or the death of God or the power of the resurrection? But to us whose lives have received the breath of illumination we cannot deny any of it.

We may not be the most effective communicators but we must be the most committed followers. You see there is a vast and even eternal difference between knowing facts and knowing truth and having that truth come upon you and open your heart and from that day forward that truth who is Jesus now owns you. Yes, I said owns you. And for the rest of your life you are invited to continually unwrap a package that was placed in your heart and with each ribbon you remove a new and fresh flood of sacred truth comes rushing out and once again changes you. It may not even be a new truth. It may be a new and deeper revelation of a familiar truth, but you are amazed once again.

I fear that so many do not comprehend the magnificent mystery expressed through the cross of Christ. Even those who profess Him and may well be redeemed but have such a limited and doctrinal understanding of its horrific beauty so that they dwell in a theological wasteland which is dry and void of the deep revelation which captures the soul and owns the heart. How many of us have actually seen a crucifixion in person? Just that thought of standing in a town square and watching a man die for hours should shock and disgust us. Most of us could not bear that sight.

But if we truly know that Jesus was God the Creator wrapped in human flesh, and then we couple that with the gruesome pageantry of the crucifixion, then we are undone. And after we process those two truths, and if we still scarcely have some room for any more truth, then we can add this to those swirling mysteries: It was ALL for us. Oh my. I must now bow my knee and dip my head for such knowledge cannot be completely unraveled by any human mind, and yet the Spirit presents it to my heart all within a framework of a grace that breaks my heart and makes it whole at the same moment.

But let us tiptoe with reverence even further. There is a conundrum here which confounds the wise and shatters the fallen intellect. How can a suffering and then a dead Jew hanging upon a Roman instrument of punishment give anyone life? This makes no sense at all. This is even offensive to our sense of logic and fair play. The innocent are murdered so the guilty can go free? And this is some twisted kind of justice? It goes against all that we as humans know to be right. And yet here it is. The Spirit did not attempt to minimize the cross or push it to the back burner of spiritual realities.

In fact all four of the gospel writers took time to openly reveal the excruciating details of His sufferings and death. The cross was never meant just to be just a foundation for our faith although it is surely that. But it was meant to be the foundation and the mortar and the bricks and the walls and the roof and entire housing for the faith which follows Jesus. And if we find ways to build bridges which minimize and dilute the cross as if it is an archaic embarrassment then we have left the faith altogether. The cross has within its message and revelation a power which can reach the most stubborn heart, even hearts which can be reached by human logic but to no eternal effect.

This is not child’s play or theological gamesmanship. What would we think of a man who reads a treasure map and embarks on a journey to find that treasure ad when he reaches the X which marks the spot he sits down and dwells completely on the knowledge that he has indeed found the spot where the treasure is buried? And yet how many believers have found the Savior and now sit upon that treasure and dwell upon that fact the He is indeed that Pearl of Great price yet do not dig to find the ever expanding revelation of that treasure?

The death of the Lord Jesus is indeed a bottomless treasure which will reward the seeker time and time again if that seeker is relentless in his quest for Christ. The church has misrepresented to people that when you receive Christ as Lord and Savior your quest is finished when in fact it has only begun. Dig, my fellow saints, and the Spirit will guide you into truths which will energize your spirit and reward you with unspeakable treasures of glory which can sometimes be so wondrous and astounding that they cannot be communicated with words. Only a similar experience can substantiate to another what you cannot speak.

And so I close this with thorns and whips and sweat and groans and lashes and spears and spit and mocking and robes and nails and wood and cries and gasps and a gruesome amount of blood. And through all of it…life and life everlasting. You cannot believe it on your own. But if you repent and allow the Spirit to illuminate your heart, then and only then can you truly believe. And in that moment you will pass from death to life. And through a death that lasted six hours you will receive a life that never ends.

Saturday, February 08, 2014


Men will do almost anything with Scripture except live it.

They will preach it. They will quote it. They will defend it. They will create systematic theologies. They will make organized doctrines. They will make bumper stickers. They will make refrigerator magnets. They will make bracelets. They will underline it in their Bibles. They will make billboards. They will get Scripture tattoos. They will have favorite verses. They will debate it. They will make many different translations. They will make many different commentaries. They will learn about it. They will make concordances.

And yet to live it with passion and self denial seems too radical and difficult when we can do all those other things instead.

Going to Church


Perhaps all of us have used the phrase “going to church”. And that phrase indicates we are headed for a building which is a colloquialism for church. But not only is there no building or place which can Biblically be called a church, but that inaccurate reference indicates a startling mindset. In America we have come to see and understand the church as a building, a place, and even an organization. And yet nothing can be further from the truth.

The Greek word for “church” literally means the “called out ones” and it generally refers to a group of believers who have gathered together primarily to worship God. It never refers to a building or an institution or any place. But since the word has become to be accepted as referencing a place or a building it has created a disturbing mindset. We pass a building and we say “There is our church.” Or we get up on Sunday and say “I am going to church.”

And these kinds of remarks continue to lead us astray and further into an earthly mindset. This mindset has had disastrous consequences and has altered God’s vision for His people. It is impossible to completely identify all the ways in which this church mindset has kept God’s people in bondage to a religious system which does not reflect a true expression of Jesus Christ. And because we have become accustomed to this system and in reality know little else it is most difficult to understand what God’s church should look like Scripturally.

You see, we have in our minds a model that organizes a local church in a certain building in a certain place and then through that organization we do some things that we think Jesus wants us to do. That has unwillingly created an unbiblical mindset which makes a building a church and us its servants rather than seeing us as the church who is the living conduits of Jesus Christ. Now that is most difficult to understand and embrace and to live, but when we have the wrong vision of the church it becomes impossible. We are left with an earthly model with religious overtones but without the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let me confess that as a pastor I was imprisoned by this mindset. The average pastor reviews his Sunday morning attendance and the offering and evaluates his approach to leadership based largely upon those criteria. If more people are coming then subconsciously you feel that everything is good and you also subconsciously and consciously say things that will not drive them away. It is quite a phenomenon and it is practiced all across the evangelical community.

Col.2: Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

The external always vies for power over the internal. The temporal always vies for power over the eternal. And so it is with the collection of believers known as the body of Christ. What once was a spiritual discipline where believers gathered for prayer, communion, worship, and the ministry of the Word all wrapped up in a celebration of Christ and the agape love they had for one another has now turned into a redundant exercise which is scripted, time framed, predictable, and formulated primarily to make people feel good. And somewhere along the way the body of Christ ceased being the church and now goes to church. And as I have said it is really impossible to realize just what a New Testament gathering should look like without a painful inventory and self examination based upon God’s Word. When people say and think along the lines of “going to church” it reveals that the very foundations of what it means to be the church have been undermined.

We are the church of Jesus Christ. We are the body of Christ. But we have reduced that great mystery into buildings and programs and celebrities. And in so doing we have forfeited the sacred power that comes with a Spirit filled follower of Jesus Christ. The sacred mystery and power has been sucked out of the faith and all that is left is a few scraps of morality, patriotism, and utilitarian principles. The glory and majesty and high calling of following Jesus has been defined by earthly causes, and when some important preacher is interviewed on worldwide television he speaks of Islam or gay rights or socialism or some other moral or economic issues. Does he speak humbly about the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus and the undeserved calling as a follower and worshiper of the Risen Christ? No, because the world has dictated to him what they wish to discuss. They really have no interest in Christ and preachers bow to their fallen wishes.

But in the end a carnal cult of codependence is formed and it gives birth to many creations of men in order to keep its people interested and attract goats as well. One can hardly imagine what kind of monstrosity is built when it is designed and fueled by those kinds of strategies. This not what Christ commanded and it is the opposite of what the early believers practiced. We have come so far away from what Christ’s body should be that like Hansel and Gretel we cannot find our way back.

But out of this mindset has grown the “church service” which is neatly organized with music, announcements, greetings, the offering, and a sermon from the pastor. But it was never supposed to be like that at all. In the early years believers gathered for most of the day. They fellowshipped, they ate, the observed the Lord’s Supper, the sang praises, they worshiped, they opened the Word, and all of those in no particular order.

The average local church advertises itself as a warm and friendly place where you can find a welcome for your family. They have a great music program, a wonderful Sunday School system, a great youth program, an anointed pastor, and modern facilities. You see when people look for a church they want to see what benefits them. But how many pews would be filled if a church placed this kind of an advertisement:

We are a place where you can deny yourself.

We challenge believers to sacrifice for Jesus Christ.

Congregants must be willing to take up their cross.

We stress profound humility for all of us.

We teach not to love nor seek money.

We take care of our pastor but with no set salary.

We refuse to borrow money.

We use almost half of our offerings for missions.

We love all sinners with the love of Jesus.

We pledge allegiance to Christ alone.

We stress holiness without legalism.

We have many prayer gatherings throughout the week.

We pray for a long while before the Sunday morning gathering.

All of us are called to repentance.

We observe the Lord’s Supper every Sunday morning.

Everyone gives as the Lord leads.

One Sunday every month we eat together and the gathering lasts into the afternoon.

Do you think the church doors will be beaten down? Renew your mind. Gather together with other believers, however you are the church.