6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.
Romans chapter 8, verses 6-7; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
Recently I had a conversation with a fellow United Methodist clergy on Facebook. It was focused on a post this individual had made. It was surprisingly civil (up to this point)–still, I couldn’t help but think: What are they teaching now in United Methodist Seminaries? Here’s the screenshot of that comment:
This person compared understanding Scriptures to a 3-legged stool. The top is the Scriptures and the 3 legs are tradition, reason, and experience. Thus, without tradition, or reason, or experience, one cannot adequately understand Scripture. The primary (and often times “sole determining factor”) way to understand Scripture is through tradition, reason, and experience. Now, before you call me that dreaded “fundamentalist”, hear me out. We do not study the Scriptures in a vacuum. There are traditions. We all have experiences. And God created us to be able to reason, or think if you prefer.
But it seems that many of our clergy are using reason as the final determining factor. In other words, if it doesn’t make sense to us, or if the culture tells us something contrary, then we are free to change or ignore what the Bible clearly teaches. This is what many seminaries are teaching. Not all of them, mind you; but enough of them are and the result has been the dilution and devolution of the power of Scripture to guide us and form in us the life of Holiness demanded by God for His Image Bearers. Go back to the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool.
The writer is correct in stating that for a three-legged stool to be secure enough to sit on, it needs all three legs. And, by implication, those 3 legs need to be the same length. Otherwise it is unstable. But do not overlook the other implication–that Scripture (the seat of that three-legged stool) cannot safely support us until all three of those legs are the same length. In other words, Scripture is to be formed by OUR traditions, experiences, and reasoning.
Can I be frank with you? I know, my name is Randy. But I need to be FRANK with you this morning. Using the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool, when those who are supposed to be our Spiritual Leaders are taught that human reasoning overrides the Scriptures and that we need to change our beliefs about anything in the Bible, then the result is the chaos and soon to follow destruction of the United Methodist, and any other church that follows the same primrose path. And to my fundamentalist friends, if you allow your traditions to determine your beliefs about the Bible, then your three-legged stool is just as unsteady.
Hear me out! Yes, reason, tradition, and experience are helpful tools when it comes to understanding Scripture! But they do not determine what is THE TRUTH! The Truth is set by the Bible for all matters of faith, life, and conduct. But none of them gives us the permission to change The Standard clearly set in The Bible! From my perspective, many seminary professors took a bite of that apple Satan offered Eve and Adam, and unlike Eve and Adam who recognized the shame and mistake, they “reason” that the apple is good, and that Satan was right. Is there any doubts now as to why the United Methodist Tribe is imploding? It looks like that three-legged stool analogy doesn’t work after all.
I’m still on our spiritual retreat at the beach. My plan was to share some of my previous posts rather than writing new ones. And as I was praying and looking, and yes, thinking, I found this post from six years ago. Honestly, in 2016 I didn’t have a clue of how true it would be, especially this line: “I foresee the time coming of a “split” or “divorce” within the United Methodist Church, and coming much sooner than many anticipate.” And no, I do no consider myself a “predictor of the future”.
At that time, a ‘commission’ was formed to ‘find our way forward’. And in 2019, a called General Conference was convened in St. Louis to settle “that” issue once and for all. But read this in the context of 2016. Oh, and when I mention my age, add 6 years to it. Here is that blog:
3 Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. 4 I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives.
Jude, verses 3 and 4; from the New Living Translation
If you desire to be deemed mean, ugly, and phobic, then deeply study the Bible, and share what The Spirit reveals in the Bible. At least, that’s how it works in my United Methodist Tribe. I always believed that God watched over the entire process from writing and rewriting those sacred books, all the way to the Canonization that led to our Bible. Turns out I was wrong. Or so my progressive counterparts insist. According to them, God has just be waiting and waiting for folks like them to straighten everyone out on where the Bible just got it wrong. Now, I haven’t heard any of them use the exact words I have used.
But it is clearly seen in how they have conveniently correct the errors found in the Bible. And it’s all because Jesus told His followers to love others. Love erases the sinfulness of sin, and sanctifies it. Thanks to them, we now know that God Himself, created homosexuality. Oh, and the New Testament never used the word “homosexual”, so that makes it OK. Well, the New Testament never uses the word “pornography”, so by their logic, that makes pornography OK.
When anyone approaches the Bible with the attitude that they are right, then the results are clear–that God’s Grace justifies just about anything they want. Because of their contention, I am amazed and perplexed how this Bible has lasted so long–seeing that its writers didn’t really understand 21st century people. So, whenever the Bible gets it wrong–it’s up to sin-stained but enlightened people to set the record straight. Boy, I can just hear Jude going off on them!
Now, that’s the logic of progressive theology. They can disagree with my observation and conclusion. I’m OK with that. If they want to be wrong, that’s their right. The Bible doesn’t exist to justify our opinions. The Bible exists to tell us the greatest saga ever. It starts with perfection–but takes a turn when Adam and Eve believe Satan’s lie that they can know as much as God. (Sound familiar?) And it continues with the Saga of God trying to restore them and their descendants back to their rightful place by showing them how much they need Him to break free of the slavery of sin.
Finally, God showed humanity how ugly the sin was in them when Jesus was nailed to that Cross. That death didn’t put God’s Seal Of Approval on our preferred choice of sin. It shows us just how ugly sin really is. And with the Resurrection, God showed everyone how that He can and will deliver us from sin’s dominion and power over us. Unfortunately, too many don’t want to be delivered from sin’s power over them. They just want to think that if they love others, then the rest doesn’t matter. And what the Bible says about Holiness of Heart and Holiness of Life–well, that’s just wrong. But the Bible isn’t wrong
1 Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.
1 John chapter 4, verses 1 thru 3; from the New Living Translation
The days of business as usual for what is commonly called “the church” are over. Truth of the matter is, those days have been gone a long, long, time. But People Still Are Trying To Operate The Mission And Ministry Of Jesus As “Business As Usual”. Some may not be happy with me that I am bring this up. But I would rather they be unhappy with me because I’ve brought this up—than for God to be unhappy with me for NOT bringing it up.
There is a game that has been and is being played by a lot of folks. It’s called “Kick The Can Down The Road.” Some have been intentionally playing the game, and even more have been playing it because they haven’t been told the truth—or have simply ignored the truth. And here’s the 2 things we need to know right now about that can:
The Can That’s Been Kicked Down The Road Has Been Disintegrated By All That Kicking It Down The Road. Piece by piece, atom by atom, the can doesn’t exist anymore. Ever noticed how a can will eventually cease to exist? Either by wear and tear or rust?
Even If There Was Any Can Left To Kick Down The Road, There’s No More Road Left To Kick It Down. All roads end somewhere. And this road has reached that end!
We did not reach this moment overnight. It didn’t happen because of the past few months, years, or even decades. It’s been generational. We can also say that it’s been happening ever since The Koinonia came to life. But now it seems to me that it has intensified. Maybe it’s because it’s happening in my time. But for generations now we have neglected John’s Most Important Words For The Future Of The Koinonia:
You Must Test Them To See If The Spirit They Have Comes From God.
False teachings have been a part of what you might call “the church” and what I love to call “The Koinonia” ever since its inception. Satan is at the root of it all because he knows that The Koinonia is all that is standing between him and the people in the world. And now for generations, he’s been having a party—at the expensive of human lives.
This Season Of Discernment May Well Be Your Last Opportunity To Discern What Is Being Promoted And Taught. And to discern exactly what you are going to do! You have to “test the spirit” of those who want to lead you in a different direction from where you started.
It’s interesting that in writing his letter, John chose the Greek word “dokimazō (dah-key-mah-zo)” that’s translated “test” or “try”. It means: “To Test, Examine, Prove, Scrutinize (To See Whether A Thing Is Genuine Or Not), As Metals.” If someone offers to sell you some gold jewelry, are you going to buy it just because it’s color is gold? I don’t think so. If you would, then see me tomorrow after the Dollar Tree opens, and I will be glad to sell you some gold jewelry.
The only accurate way to test a teaching—is to compare it to The Bible. And all of the Bible. For hundreds and hundreds of years, people have misused and misapplied the verses of the Bible to support their own positions. I’m talking about using the whole Bible.
Those in our Tribal Leadership are promoting ideas and a life that contradictions thousands of years of the teachings in the Bible. They are leading a movement that in essence—and at its core—is saying that God has been waiting for a long time for some people to finally get the Bible right.
Now, if you’re OK with that kind of leadership—or if you believe that leadership—then there’s no need to discern anything. However—I said However!!!—if you think and believe that God’s Word is true and reliable, then you must discern whether you can follow God and align yourselves with their leadership. From the very beginning—I’ve been very clear. This Is YOUR Decision About The Future Of This Place. It’s not about me. It’s not about the decision Debbie and I have already made.
It’s About Discerning—Testing—Trying—The Teachings Of Your Leadership To See If It’s Really Of God Or Not—And If You Can Live Under That Kind Of Leadership. I can say so much more—but this morning is the time for you to seek, ask, and yes, especially pray. And I want to leave you with some words from Paul. This is why it’s necessary that NOW you determine which way you will go—Because The Way You Go, Determines The Future That Awaits You.
6 I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News 7 but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. 8 Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. 9 I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.
Galatians chapter 1, verses 6 thru 9; from the NLT
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
2 Timothy chapter 3, verse 16; from the New Living Translation
The most popular and familiar verse of the Bible is easily John 3:16. Right? But what about the most unpopular verse of the Bible? That’s easy, too. It’s another 3:16, but so many just don’t like it because they choose to ignore it: 2 Timothy 3:16! Speaking for my Tribe (and I see it a lot in other Tribes, too), someone needs to be holding a sign at their gatherings which reads: 2 Timothy 3:16! You know, like they do at ballgames! If I understand Paul, and I do have a depth of understanding of him, when Paul wrote ALL that’s exactly what he meant. But gee whiz, so many today think of the Bible as a Cafeteria Of Suggestions. To reject any of it is to declare that the rest of it is Uninspired By God! And thus, it’s meant for the dung hill of life.
And as Paul prepares to pass the mantle on to young Timothy, he reminds Timothy of the importance of the Scriptures–that inspired, God-breathed word! The Greek word that Paul used was graphē which means a writing, thing written. And notice–carefully and with deep intentionality–why exactly The Written Word, A.K.A. The Bible, cannot be treatly lightly–nor is it up to us to decide what works for us and what doesn’t work for us!
to teach us what is true–not beliefs or opinions, but what is TRUE! About God and about us!
to make us realize what is wrong in our lives–and yes, there is much wrong in our lives; the Bible is the standard and measure when it comes to living a life that God desires and demands from us!
It corrects us when we are wrong–no one like to admit it, but sometimes we are wrong! Remember Leroy Jethro Gibbs Rule 51!
teaches us to do what is right–Like it or not, believe it or not, but we are all tainted somewhere by sin. Our views and opinions really don’t matter when it comes to what is right!
Now, I’m not a fundamentalist who thinks that God treated Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the rest like stenographers. “Write this down word for word. Type it up and let me review it before you mail it out!” But I do believe that God inspired them because He knew not only what the people at the time needed to know, but also for us today. And I know that a bunch of men with a lot of different viewpoints got together, argued and debated before they produced what we know today as The Bible!And I am confident that God was present and overseeing that process so that WE can know God and what He expects from us! Whether those men realized it or not (and I hope they did), God was present in that process insuring that HIS Word would be both accurate and reliable for His Image Bearers! I once made this same statement to a person of the progressive persuasion, and they laughed at me.
The Bible is 100% accurate and reliable when it comes to God, us, and our relationship with God! THERE!!!! I SAID IT! And at the risk of sounding like Dr. Seuss’ character Horton the elephant: “I meant what I said and I said what I meant.” I close with the next line Paul wrote to Timothy:
God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
2 Timothy chapter 3, verse 7; from the NLT
Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.
2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 16 and 17; from The Message
22 When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?” 24 The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.” 25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him away, saying, “Don’t go back into the village on your way home.”
Mark chapter 8, verses 22-26; from the New Living Translation
This morning I was thinking–and those of you who know me, know this isn’t always a good thing. Nonetheless, fasten your seatbelts because we are about to take off. President Biden just signed a check for our government to spend another $737 BILLION. Purportedly this is going to get us out of inflation and help solve our economic problems. One would think, or at least I do, that after spending gazillions of dollars over the past several decades all the problems would have been solved. And then I was thinking about this mess in the United Methodist Institution. After saying gazillions of words our problems should have been solved by now. But in both cases, it ain’t happened and it ain’t gonna happen!
Yet, the dollars flow freely, and words flow even more freely! Politically, some are looking to Trump; and some are looking to Biden. They are looking for political salvation in parties that have neither the ability nor the skills to provide such a hope. And it appears at times that neither party wants to solve the problems; it seems that they just want to add fuel to the fire. Yet, people are tenaciously running down the path that leads us nowhere. And in our Tribe (the United Methodist Institution) it’s not any different. Some says it’s all about progressive theology and some say it’s all about orthodox theology. The view and perspective that both issues (in both the political and spiritual problems) have created is what I term perspective astigmatism!
Now, for those unfamiliar with astigmatism or do not live with this malady like I and so many others, here’s the medical definition: “a refractive error of the eye in which parallel rays of light from an external source do not converge on a single focal point on the retina.” And here’s the down-to-earth definition: “everything looks blurry!” And then I also started thinking (thank you, Holy Spirit) about this morning’s passage. A man was brought to Jesus for Him to heal. The villagers were just looking for a show; some entertainment and fodder for the dinner table conversations. But Jesus took this man outside the village and. . .well, you can read the rest of the story.
Here’s the point! After Jesus spit on this man’s eyes, he could see–but there was no clarity. He described people as, “They look like trees walking around.” I understand that, and so do you who have astigmatism. And be it in the political arena or the spiritual arena, the dominant views are creating and spreading perspective astigmatism. Neither side seems interested in getting to that focal point where everything comes clearly into focus. And as long as were are focusing on the wrong point–be it political or spiritual–everything remains hazy and blurry.
The problems–both politically and spiritually–are deep and complicated; complicated by years of living in perspective astigmatism. So what is one to do??? Live each day with nothing seen with clarity??? Give up and become a stoic??? Well, that is an option; but it ain’t a good one. May I suggest something different, using the analogy of visual astigmatism? We ALL need to do 2 things: first we need to admit that what we’ve been trying and looking towards just ain’t working to bring us the Clarity that we need. Second, allow Jesus and the Holy Spirit give us the lenses we need to see life with Clarity! The “eye chart” that Jesus and the Holy Spirit uses is the Bible. They will never contradict what The Word says. They may (and usually will) contradict what WE say about The Word. But They will never contradict That Word.
Philip said, “Master, show us the Father; then we’ll be content.”
John chapter 14, verse 8; from The Message
We husbands are often accused of “selective hearing” by our wives. Know what? They are right and we are guilty! Admitting one has a problem is the first step in recovery. But I’m not orating today about husbands and selective hearing. Nay! I want us to take a serious look at what I call “selective seeing”.
Look at this morning’s passage. Remember the context! Jesus has been preparing them for his upcoming and intentional death. Jesus told them he was about to go back to see Dad and that they would know the way to where He was going to be! Thomas’ opening salvo was that they didn’t know the way. Jesus tries to explain this simple principle when Philip adds his two-cents worth: “Master, show us the Father; then we’ll be content.” Both men were suffering from what is known as Confirmation Bias!
According to Wikipedia, “Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values.” Here’s the common sense definition: “It’s seeing what we want to see and ignoring what we don’t want to see!” When these 12 guys started following Jesus as a student, each had their view of what The Messiah should look like. After 3 years one would think that they’ve began learning about the true Messiah, not the one of their imaginations. Alas, it seems like Philip didn’t read all the memos that Jesus had been sending. Philip was looking for what Philip was looking for; but not for what Jesus was showing him.
And before we get too harsh on Philip, what about us? Do we tend to see situations, people, and even the Bible with Confirmation Bias? Any book, any teaching, can and IS subject to Confirmation Bias! Even The Bible. Just recently I was reading a blog where the author was talking about Jesus’ parable about the praying of a Pharisee and the praying of a Tax Collector (Luke chapter 18). This particular writer is of the more progressive theology group. He fixated on verse 14 that tells of both of them going home. He chose a single Greek word as his fixation (Confirmation Bias)–par which can be translated as with. He said that this meant that both the Pharisee and the Tax Collector left together as friends. That each one changed their opinion about the other and accepted each other.
When we look into the Bible WITH Confirmation Bias we will find exactly what we are looking for, but not what God is saying. One doesn’t have to be progressive or orthodox, liberal or conservative, to be afflicted with Confirmation Bias. Confirmation Bias, or Selective Seeing, can and does happen to everyone. It can be intentional. AND it can be unintentional. Don’t read the Bible to find things that support your views! Nay, my friends! Open your heart. Open your mind. Allow God to be God and see what HE is showing you. Don’t see what you want to see. See what God is really saying. If our Tribe, the United Methodist, had been doing this all along instead of Selective Seeing, then we wouldn’t be in the mess we are now.
Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.
2 Corinthians chapter 7, verse 1; from the New Living Translation
Paul says that we need to cleanse ourselves from everything that can–well–mess up our life and relationship with God. That prompted me to think about cars/trucks and all its filters. There’s the air filter, oil filter, transmission filter, fuel filter; there’s even an inside cabin filter, and maybe some I’ve overlooked. These filters are all about preventing the bad stuff from getting inside. If the bad stuff gets inside? Well, let’s just say that the outcome isn’t good at all.
Once we’ve been cleansed from sin by God’s Grace, how do we keep out the bad stuff in order to have God’s life of holiness? The late Albert Outler once described a way to help us filter out this bad stuff from the teachings of John Wesley. He called it Wesley’s Quadrilateral–Scripture, reason, tradtion, and experience. However, later in life Outler regretted coining that term. Nonetheless, it’s a great tool to assist us in pursuing this life of holiness.
But sometimes traditions are wrong. Experiences change from person to person. And human reasoning fluctuates more than the stock markets. But one of these tools never changes–and that’s The Bible. Use those other 3 tools because they are beneficial to help us understand the life of Holiness. But the aforementioned are subject to change and may allow us breathe in some of that bad stuff. But The Bible has withstood the test of time. Allow God’s word to be that final filter so that after God has cleansed us from our sins, we don’t get “dirty” again. God’s commands are not given to us to make us miserable and unhappy. They are the filters that PREVENT us from being miserable and unhappy. And remember–when I say The Bible, I’m not talking about what others say about it–it’s about what The Bible says to us!
Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.
1 John chapter 4, verse 1; from the New Living Translation
Have you ever come to a door, turned the knob, but couldn’t get in because it was locked? Try with all your might, it just won’t turn. And you can’t get in unless you pick the lock, bust down the door like you’re in an episode of “Cops”, or better yet, you have the key. Not just any key, but the right key. Every lock (unless it’s one of those “computer chip” locks) has a key with a specific series of cuts. A key that opens one door will not open another door, that is, unless they are “keyed” together. What does all this talk about keys and doors have to do with the Kingdom Life? Glad you asked this question!
There are a variety of locked doors we face in life. One of them is having a relationship with God. That door is clearly locked. And to get the door unlocked, we need faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus; the sacrifice that calls for our admission of guilt, trust in God’s grace, and the desire to change our life by living it in Christ and Christ in us. That’s the simple part. But what about once we get on the other side of that door?
On the other side of that door is the life of walking with Him in the way that honors Him! We call this The Life Of Holiness! Where do we find exactly what this kind of life looks like? The life that honors God is found within the pages of The Bible. But, if we are honest, we find another locked door and we urgently need the key. Now, don’t misunderstand me on this point (though someone most definitely will). I’m not suggesting or even hinting that The Bible is some kind of mysticism. Though The Bible is clear about many things, there are some things that we have to, call it “wrestle with”.
How do we come to understand The Truth of and IN The Bible in ways that enable and empower us to live in the way that honors God? Now, there are some out there who sincerely believe that we have both the capacity and the ability to figure out on our own how to do this. In other words, human knowledge, logic, and wisdom are all we need to understand The Bible so that we can live in the way that honors Him!
The Key to understanding The Bible, and thus to live the life that honors God is The Holy Spirit. Now, The Spirit can and does use the insights of others. But the ultimate Guide to understanding the entire Bible is The Holy Spirit. Jesus promises this in John chapter 16, verse 13: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.” (New Living Translation) It is God’s Holy Spirit, and never the human spirit, that will open the treasure of The Truth found in the Bible. Allow me to close out with a personal example.
Decades ago I avoided reading and especially preaching, anything from the Book of Ecclesiastes. But now, it’s one of my very favorite books. What happened? Well The Holy Spirit introduced me to one of my mentors, Chuck Swindoll. It was his book Living On The Ragged Edge. One phrase that Chuck brought to light that is repeated throughout the book of Ecclesiastes is under the sun! Chuck brought out that Solomon is describing life without God. And the Holy Spirit leaned in, whispered in my ear, “Did you see that?” That key and the faithful presence of The Holy Spirit opened the door for me in understand Ecclesiastes. And to this day, The Holy Spirit continues to help me see, not only Ecclesiates, but the entire Bible.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. 7 Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
Proverbs chapter 3 verses 5-7, from the New Living Translation
1 You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!
2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1 through 5, from the New Living Translation
Just the other day I was reading what a fellow clergy from my Tribe was writing about some things written by John Wesley. He took a snipet here and there, and concluded that the word “eunuch” really mean effiminate–not someone who had been castrated. Another one of his conclusions was that Wesley would have accepted homosexuals as “ministers of the Gospel”. In other words, homosexuality isn’t actually a sin. And this is not an isolated view unfortunately. Claiming to be inspired by The Holy Spirit, 2,000 years of Orthodox teaching about God’s designed Sexual Ethic, as well as the Old Testament, has been flawed.
And now, our Tribal Leadership is declaring that they are being inspired by The Holy Spirit to lead the rest of us down a path that was described by Paul in his last letter to Timothy. The result for our Tribe, and other Tribes as well, is an institution that has denied the true work of The Holy Spirit. Now, I don’t doubt their sincerity; but since when has sincerity been exclusively tied to The Truth? They have a “spirit” leading them, for sure. But it’s not the Holy Spirit! Why say this? Because The Holy Spirit will never lead us to something that is outside the boundaries of The Bible. The Bible is the Boundary Lines for us in all matters of faith and conduct. Some are denying this to be true; but they are wrong!
The prophet Jeremiah wrote in Jeremiah chapter 17, verse 9: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” This is exactly why we need The Bible. Notice the words Jeremiah used: most deceitful and desperately wicked. Without The Holy Spirit we are powerless to change this! AND without The Bible as The Truth, the result is spiritual eunuchs. They are incapable of reproducing Followers Of Jesus, just as a literal eunuch doesn’t have the balls to reproduce another human being. We can be led by The Holy Spirit or we can be led by spiritual eunuchs. The choice is ours. One will lead us into a spiritual awakening that hasn’t been seen in a very long time. The other will lead us into–NOTHING! I close today’s musings with one of John Wesley’s thoughts–thoughts that are truly prophetic within the United Methodist Church leadership:
“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.”
How can we understand God and what He wants of us and from us? This is, call it, The Quest of the human heart. Some call this the purpose of religion. Me? I hate religion! So I call it being a follower of Jesus. My Quest has placed me firmly in the tradition of this radical man known as John Wesley. John Wesley’s Quest for God radically changed after he finally learned to accept and believe in God’s Grace revealed in Jesus. His primary (and most important) source in his Quest was The Bible.
But Wesley understood that The Bible cannot be studied in a vacuum. In his Quest he used his experiences, his traditions, and reason to help him. Now, the late Albert Outler, a Wesley historian and theologian, recognized it and coined the phrase: The Wesley Quadrilateral. (See the above pic) But now, some are using–make that MISUSING Outler’s phrase. Later on Outler expressed regrets for creating that term. And here’s why! Many have chosen to make all sides of the Quadrilateral equal in importance; even though they are not equal. If one follows the entire life of John Wesley they could see that even he did not see they were equal. By the way, John Wesley never used the phrase The Quadrilateral.
Many today want to use this tool and device in ways they were never meant to be used. By saying all 4 sides are equal creates that moment when one or more of those sides will disagree with the others. And the result, at least in the United Methodist Church, has been chaos and division. Reason and Experiences have concluded that Scripture and Tradition has been wrong. Now, if all 4 sides carried equal validity, then let’s follow our Reason and our Experiences. And the result should be no chaos nor division. Everyone agree to set aside for the moment Scripture and Tradition and run with Reason!
But all 4 sides are not equal! One side of this Quadrilateral must be more powerful than any or all 3 of the other sides. Look at the side of Tradition! When Tradition has the power the result is Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters who are stone cold dead; spiritually speaking. Or if Scripture is left in a vacuum, then we end up with Fundamentalists and New Breeds Of Pharisees; and they are not cold, but definitely spiritually dead. If Experiences are given the nod, the result is a quagmire of pain and disinformation. And if Reason is the only source? Well, look and listen to the gibberish that is being espoused by those who are using only Reason in the United Methodist Church.
The Quadrilateral doesn work because it doesn’t have a single and final source of authority. John Wesley used Experiences, Traditions, and Reason–but he always weighed them against one single authority in his life: The Scriptures! Look, sometimes Experiences do not point us to God. Sometimes Traditions do not point us to God. And dear Lord, most times Reason never points us to God; but that doesn’t meant it never points us to God–for it does.
Remember that The Quest is to understand God and what God wants of us. Experiences, Traditions, and Reason will sometimes–maybe often times–lead us away from God–whom our hearts long for. But Scriptures will always point us to God and what He wants of us. Our experiences, our traditions, and our God-given ability to reason are valuable tools to help us discover The Truth. They are NOTThe Truth. That’s what Scriptures Are For: The Final Authority Over Our Lives.
For my fellow United Methodists, I don’t have to tell you we are nothing but The Denominational version of the Titanic. If you are a United Methodist and don’t know what I’m talking about, “SHAME ON YOU! GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE SAND!” Why? Because this problem isn’t going away. And we cannot remain true to our Wesleyan heritage as long as This Problem exists. They (meaning Progressives, or as I prefer to call them, ‘ProAgressives’) want–nay DESIRE–nay again–they are DETERMINED to throw out the Bible and our Orthodox faith like yesterday’s trash. They “know” more than what The Bible clearly says–and for more than the Saints who sought and fought to preserve the Orthodox Faith. In case you may not be familiar with the word Orthodox (because it is a big word like mahogany), perhaps these synonyms will help you understand it better.
Three of them in particular fit the bill to understand what I mean by the Orthodox Faith: authoritative, buttoned down, and by the numbers! But. . . there are those in this Tribe I have been a part of for over 66 years who are convinced (or should I say deceived) that the tried and proven truth about sexual ethic of the Bible is. . .well. . .just plain wrong. Jesus was all about the love, they claim. And they claim that only 2 genders, male and female, are way too restrictive for people to really be who they are. So, they’ve added 72 additional gender designations. Forget the science, forget the biology, and forget Genesis chapter 2. And forget how our stance on sexuality has been unchanged since 1972. It states that all people stand equally in need of God’s grace. However, the practice of homosexuality is incompatable with Christian teachings–i.e.–the orthodox faith. Homosexuality is not any worse than any other sin–but it is outside God’s design and thus it is a sin–along with that long litany of stuff that puts all of us outside of God’s Desgin.
And now to this past week–and it shows how far my beloved Tribe has wandered. According to our approved procedures and rules, no self avowed practicing homosexual can be licensed, commissioned, nor ordained. To assure fidelity to the Bible and our procedures, we have this group called The Board Of Ordained Ministry. Some call it the BOOM or BOM for short. In the most recent session of the Florida Annual Conference, their BOOM recommended 16 candidates to be commissioned on the path to full ordination. Of the 16, two admitted that they were self-avowed practicing homosexuals–clearly in violation of The Bible and our rules. However, the Florida BOOM approved them. But they still needed 3/4 of the ordained clergy to give final approval. And the stuff hit the fire.
What Bishop Ken Carter and the Florida BOOM did was to put all 16 candidates in a single vote. As a group, vote up or down. Now, in fairness, I do not know that the other 14 candidates met the requirements. However, we do know that 2 did not! And the resulting firestorm has been aimed at the 27.3% who voted against the 16 because Bishop Carter would not allow them to vote on the candidates one by one. 27.3% voted according to their ordination vows and the Bible, and now they are the villians. So, the 27.3% who acted in the same spirit as Joshua and Caleb (see the story of the 10 spies) are treated with great disdain and anger.
And a fellow blogger joins in the disdain and anger, Rev. Jim Harnish. You can read his blog here. Jim asserts that the orthodox faith is invalid because, well because we are such more enlightened. And during the eventual commissioning and ordaining service, Bishop Ken Carter apologized to that group with these words:
“I grieve the harm you have experienced. I am committed to the support of your callings … I would have gladly commissioned each of you, and gladly appointed each of you …“
Bishop Ken Carter
So, Bishop Carter would have gladly thrown away both the Bible and our Discipline. Whether that’s what he meant or not, this is exactly what he was saying and doing. And to my fellow Brother Jim I say that simply because you have changed your views about The Bible and our Discipline, a Discipline you promised you would faithfully follow when you were ordained, doesn’t mean you are right. I am grieved that you would allow culture to define your faith rather than allow God’s Word to Transform the culture. And thus, we see the 21st Century version of the Titanic raising her bow in preparation for sinking. I am not angry–I am sad–and I am disappointed that there are those who will abandon John Wesley’s passion to be people of “homo unius libri.” (a people of One Book!)
To candid, reasonable men, I am not afraid to lay open what have been the inmost thoughts of my heart. I have thought, I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be “homo unius libri.”
John Wesley (June 17, 1706-March 2, 1791)
Footnote: Though I am saddened, maligned by others, accused of quitting and giving up–I am still praying and hopeful that this blight and disorder–this cancerous lie–can be put in it’s rightful place. Back to hell where it came from and where it belongs! Furthermore, I am confident that the Wesleyan desire for renewal and revival is not dead on this earth. The signs are everywhere. And if our leadership in the UMC doesn’t have a change of heart–it will happen with another people–NOT in the UMC!
We love watching birds; and we don’t have to leave our home to watch them. We have bird feeders and we even scatter some seeds on the ground for them. We also have a suet feeder. Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, and few others love it, especially since we found this apple flavored one. And when it’s empty, Woody (one of the woodpeckers) let’s us know when it’s empty. Lately we’ve been going out in the morning to watch Woody, but the feeder has been empty. I know Woodpeckers are not nocturnal, but other critters are–such as Raccoons. And this morning Ricky Raccoon and I came face to face! So, today I will purchase a live trap, just for Ricky, hopefully catch him and relocate him far, far, away.
And what do birdfeeders, suet feeders, and Raccoons have to do with the Kingdom Life? Well, here goes! Often times, as human beings, we see things that are not meant for us–but still we go after them, just like Ricky. We see nothing wrong. We see no danger. Besides, it “tastes” good! So, that makes it OK! Right? Not hardly. That extramarital affair; using others to promote yourself; keeping that extra change the cashier gave you; wanting that new car because your neighbor just got a new car; leaving your server a measely 5% tip, especially on Sundays; putting your hope in political parties. These are just a very small sampling of things that are not meant for us. And hold on to your hat for the next line: Whether you are a Follower of Jesus or not, these kind of things are not meant for you–that is–if you really want to enjoy the gift of everyday life!
Wanting what’s not meant for us is where the trouble all started–in the Garden of Eden. Remember, it was Satan (who is also known as the father of all lies) who successfully convinced Adam and Eve that they could become their own gods. And the downward spiral began–and the joy of life disappeared! Our Creator, God, designed a way for us to enjoy life to the max! But sin–and sin is very, very real–takes it away from us. Just yesterday afternoon while working in our garden, I was reminded of the curse placed on Adam–that thorns and weeds would infest our gardens. Paul reminded the Thessalonians (and thus a warning to us) in First Thessalonians chapter 5, verses 19 through 22
Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.
(from The Message)
And what determines what has been tainted with evil? The Bible, of course! As much as we may desire certain things; as much as we believe certain things are right though it contradicts the Bible–they were not meant for us. And when we get “caught” in that trap? Unlike Ricky who will have no choice but to relocate–we do have a choice.
On the other hand, if we admit our sins—simply come clean about them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.
1 John chapter 1 verse 9 from The Message
So quit going after what’s never been meant for you! And. . .Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
Question for you this morning: Do we speak for the Bible or does the Bible speak for us? No, it’s not the same thing! Folks, believe this or not, it doesn’t matter one single iota! The church today has a serious problem–when it comes to the answer of this question. In my own Tribe, the United Methodist Tribe, the given answer by leadership is literally ripping us apart. But before you Baptists gloat over our split, look at the beam sticking out of your own eye. And this isn’t just a 21st Century problem. It’s plagued the history of The Body Of Christ. The disease is speaking for the Bible rather than the Bible speaking for us–and thus–to us!
It was even a problem back when Jesus walked this earth as one of us. The Pharisees and Sadducces saw their job was to speak for The Word Of God. They thought it was their job description–but it wasn’t. And today, it isn’t in anyone’s job description to speak for the Bible. In my own Tribe we have those who are doing just that. Speaking FOR the Bible means it’s up to us to determine what it means and how it applies to daily life!Mishegas! Oy vey, nosh, klutz! It’s pure schlock! Pure bupkis! I love Yiddish words and phrases. Here’s some examples of speaking for the Bible.
Torturing and killing anyone NOT a “christian”–by their definition
Judging others based solely on their race
Justification of slavery
Making women as second class citizens by saying they can’t do certain things
Jesus only died for certain people (predestination)
The blood of Jesus wipes away every sin and gives us all a new beginning–except when it comes to divorce
Jesus came to show us how to love, so this eliminates the long-standing sexual ethic, so it’s OK to be how you feel, sexually speaking
On that last example–Oy, Oy Vey, Oy Gevalt! It’s Dreck! Our Tribal leaders feel it is their job description (remember how Jesus felt about the Pharisees and Sadducces?) to tell the world that the tried and proven sexual ethic from the Bible is outdated. It takes an enlightened person, like them, to straighten out what the Bible got wrong. And if we don’t agree with them, then we’re mean, ugly, phobic, and hateful. What a bunch of schmucks!
Making decisions is the most important decision you can ever make! But to make more than good decisions–you need to make GREAT decisions. But to make a decision you need a source that will shape and form that decision. And it needs to be a tried, tested, and proven source; unchanged by time. An ever changing source leads, always leads, to poor choices. This scene from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade bears it out.
For example, the Supreme Court of the United States. They are preparing to undo a flawed decision made 22 January 1973 with Roe v. Wade. The SCOTUS at that time ruled that abortion was a constitutionally guaranteed right. But there’s nothing in the U.S. Constitution that guarantees it. So, it is about to be overturned. Now, before my Fundamentalist friends declare that abortion is unconstitutional, that’s not what this Court is about to declare. Their decision, and a right one I might add, is that abortion is a state and legislative issue, not a constitutional issue. Bravo, SCOTUS, bravo! About time the Tenth Amendment is recognized. Enough about the SCOTUS.
Today’s culture wants to make decisions based on feelings and how they think. Forget the proven science–each decision is a matter of personal preferences and how one feels. If you feel a certain way, then you make your decisions based on that feeling or that thinking. Remember my earlier comment about having a source for making great decisions? That source needs to be anchored to an unchanging truth. Feelings are subject to change more than the weather. And about our way of “thinking”? Well, thinking is always influenced by information. Unfortunately many are using flawed and untruthful information. (Go back and watch that scene from the above and what happened to Walter Donnovan)
What about you? What is the source for your decisions? Anything that is tethered to human logic and thinking is flawed. Always flawed. Think about it. Have you ever bought something and when you got home and opened it up, you discovered that it didn’t work! Why do you think there are so many automobile repair shops?
What you need to make GREAT decisions is the most reliable and greatest source ever: The Bible! Not what people say about The Bible. But what the Bible really says. The Apostle Paul reminded young Timothy of this by writing in 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verses 16-17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”
And when (not IF) you can’t or don’t understand The Bible, God has an app for that! It was developed by James, the biologically half-brother of Jesus and the full brother of Jesus by faith. He wrote in James chapter 5, verses 5 and 6: If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Remember the words from William the Lion, Duke of Brittany in the movie The Last Crusade: Choose Wisely! And yes, the picture is of my Go-To Bible!
My “Oh Lord, It’s Monday” post talked about how Interruptions get in the way of life the way God intends. Well, guess what? A Monday can happen on a Tuesday…and it did to me. Sunday night Debbie, my wife, got that blessed “stomach bug”. I prayed for her to get over it quickly–but I didn’t pray for it to stay away from me. Another “Guess What?” for you this Thursday morning: Tuesday afternoon that “stomach bug”–I prefer the term “Spawn Of Satan”–hit me, too. I hope this isn’t too graphic for you–but my mouth revisited everything I had eaten the past 2 years, or so it seemed. About 2 hours later, Satan’s Spawn decided I needed to visit the Porcelain Altar again until it was sure absolutely nothing remained in my stomach.
And that got me to thinking–OK, so I’m one of the few who can get a lesson from a “stomach bug that’s really Satan’s Spawn”. The lesson is this: What The World Offers Us Comes Back On Us, And It’s Never Pleasant. The food I had enjoyed so much, that tasted so good the first time it was on my palate, tasted horrible the second time it was on my palate. (Again, I hope this wasn’t too graphic for the “delicate” folks out there.) That’s the nature of Sin! It always does!
Yet we go back to it again and again. The outcome is always the same. Progressives who teach that some sins are no longer sins bear proof of this axiom. People who live by their “insights” that parts of the Bible are wrong continue to be miserable. And so they blame us Orthodox folks for their misery–that if we would just accept their views, the misery would disappear.
Sin always tastes worse when it comes back up when we least need it to. That’s why God tells us to avoid it! Not to make us miserable–but to keep us from being miserable! How long will you and I keep going back to the Porcelain Altar regurgitating the effects of sin and keep believing one day it will taste as good the second time as it did the first time? Be confident of this–that Sin will always come back up on you. I’m not asking you to be honest with me–be honest to yourself! Think it through, people! Do you still need more convincing?
The man described as the wisest man ever, Solomon, tried to live his life outside of God’s design–in other words–in SIN! He wrote a book about it; we call it Ecclesiastes. And in the very first chapter, he lets us know what it’s like living without God’s guidance. He wrote in Verses 16 and 17–I said to myself, “I know more and I’m wiser than anyone before me in Jerusalem. I’ve stockpiled wisdom and knowledge.” What I’ve finally concluded is that so-called wisdom and knowledge are mindless and witless—nothing but spitting into the wind. I would say, “It’s like kneeling at the Porcelain Altar rehashing what I thought was good–but it ain’t!” For 2022, why not give up thinking that sin will ever taste good the second time around? And Solomon would agree with me–It’s never as good the second time as it was the first time!
Does one have to be “my” age to know about 411? Hopefully not. For readers not familiar with it, it is the number one would call to contact the phone company if you needed information about someone’s phone number. I think it’s still around. If it’s a business, I just use Google. What does this have to do with today’s musings? I am so glad you asked.
We all need to be INFORMED. The issue is, who or what is INFORMING you? I came across this recently:
People want to be INFORMED–but alas, they make one of these mistakes; or both. They get their INFORMATION from the wrong places. Or, they process that INFORMATION the wrong way. There are three ways for processing INFORMATION from any and every source.
One way is to rely on how we feel about the information. Gee whiz! What the what? Blech! Arghhhh! Hmph! Oy, oy, oy! Tsk-tsk!It makes my head ache when people use feelings to process INFORMATION. Feelings fluctuate like a politician’s views. It’s like trying to erect a vertical wall without using a plumb. Oh, my, the chaos in the United Methodist Church should be enough to show the imbecility of this approach. In spite of the fact that their feelings continue to undermine the church, they persist with the ferocity not seen in even the animal kingdom. Feelings change more in a day than weather does in a typical Alabama day.
Another way is to accept what THEY say. OMG! Jeeezus Christ! This is doltishness and stupefaction to the Nth degree! Or as Buzz Lightyear would say:
Who, in the name of all that’s sane, is THEY? You’ve heard it, may even said it: “They say blah, blah, blah. . . .” It may be the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the Libertarian party or some institute of alleged (but not proven to be) institute of higher learning. Or it may be some Instagram Idiot, or Twitter Twit, or Facebook Fatuity, or maybe some YouTube Boob. Often times they are anonymously unknown. Absorbing the views of they is like drinking a glass of water dipped right out of Love Canal. No thank you!!!!!
If the first two ways are exasperating and rankle your sensibilities, then maybe this will help–more than MAYBE–it WILL help. Turn to the Truth of The Bible. Not someone else’s explanations about The Bible–just The Bible itself. What some people say about The Bible–well–it sometimes verges on, and other times go beyond the obtuse. Oh, it may take some time–it may even take a lot of time–but God’s Word is both relevant and reliable.
When it comes to processing INFORMATION, you can rely on The Bible. Our world is filled with all kinds of alleged truth. God’s Word will give us the tools, skills, and wisdom to process all that IMFORMATION in the way that builds us up, and keeps us from falling apart.
Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.
This will be the last in the series of blogs. And in my humble opinion, here is the greatest heresy of all that some believe is in The Bible, but it’s NOT!
All God Expects Of Us Is To Love Like Jesus!
This is the creed and mantra from those who self-identify as progressives. I have a difficult time calling it a theology, because Truth has been completely ignored–even erased. Those who have been deceived by this lie freely quote all the passages that talk about love–and ignore the rest. They love to even quote a “bit” of Jesus: “Neither do I condemn you.”
They insist–scratch that! The DEMAND we see this their way–or else we are mean, ugly, dumb, hateful, homophobic, despiteful, heinous, odious, vicious, and vile creatures. To focus on LOVE and ignore TRUTH is a train wreck about to happen. Yes, sometimes Truth hurts–but living Lie? This hurts beyond our wildest imaginations.
However, here is what Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-19 (NLT)–“17 Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.“
And let’s not forget good old Peter. He wrote affirming the standard of God’s holiness is to be our standard in 1 Peter 1:15 (NLT)–But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. If one cannot trust The Bible to identify sin, then they cannot trust The Bible at all! Love doesn’t mean we “gotta” obey God–it means we “get to” obey God. Yes, sin does still exist–and we are not qualified nor capable of defining sin.
I struggled this morning–not for a lack of ideas in this series–I have more than enough ideas. No, I struggled for what I should write–more of What’s Not In The Bible or Hurricane Ida. I firmly believe that The Bible has something valuable to say about every thing that happens on this third rock from the sun. At first, I thought I was going to interrupt this series, but this I remembered something I’ve often heard people say was in The Bible:
It’s God Punishing Our Nation!
Be it floods, tornadoes, wildfires, or hurricanes–it seems to me that many believe that God is punishing the U.S. of A.
Now, if God was even interested in establishing a “Christian nation”–then it might be possible. But Jesus didn’t come to proclaim the Good News Of A Nation–rather it is The Good News Of The Kingdom! I know my friends who believe this will respond by saying, “The why did God punish the nation of Israel in the Old Testament?” Glad you asked. God established Israel for the express purpose of revealing God to ALL nations–and for one of Abraham’s descendent (that’s Jesus) to open the way for all people to have a relationship with Him! Remember, that when Jesus came in our human form, the Religious Folks were looking for The Messiah to establish a “nation” that no one would mess with. Thus, they failed to recognize the True Messiah.
And there’s a Biblical Reason why Hurricane Ida (and its ilk) is NOT the punishment of God for us not being that illusionary “Christian Nation” that God wants. The reality is there are several Biblical Reasons why disasters aren’t God’s punishments. For the sake of time, I will quickly share two. Here’s the first, and it’s a biggie:
4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6 (NLT)
Either Jesus carried our punishment, all of it, or He didn’t. If these disasters are God’s punishment, then apparently, someone forgot to put all of our sins on Jesus! Nope, don’t think that happened! And here’s another reason of many why it just ain’t so:
“O God, declare them guilty. Let them be caught in their own traps. Drive them away because of their many sins, for they have rebelled against You.” (Psalm 5:10, New Living Translation)
Notice the underlined part: Let them be caught in their own traps. That’s what sin does–it traps us in our own traps. Paul Young, author of The Shack, wrote: “Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside.” And if you need a New Testament verse to verify it (as if the two Testaments somehow contradict each other), try this on for size:
7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. (Galatians 6:7-8 NLT)
We bring the punishment of sin upon ourselves–through our choices and our designs. God doesn’t “punish” us–through disasters. The punishment is that we reap what we sow–we call it CONSEQUENCES. Every day–with each choice and decision–determines our eternal outcome.
Do the survivors of disasters really need to be told, “Look, it’s God’s punishment on our nation!” But what about those who are faithfully living this life of grace? Does God inflict collateral damage, cause victims of fratricidal? What about those who were on the verge of surrendering their life to Jesus? Would they want to serve a god who creates hurricanes?
If you want to do something in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, do something constructive. Help them! The best way to help them is with “Green”–not environmental green–money! But give wisely. Find an organization where your donations go to the survivors, not those sitting behind a desk. My favorite organization is UMCOR. I know how they use their funds; I have overseen several grants in our area. To donate online–click here!
And PLEASE, PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE–DON’T SEND USED CLOTHES! (this also includes your yard sale leftovers!) I served at a distribution center in Waveland, Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We built our own levy with used clothes around our center. In the aftermath of disasters, there is neither the time nor people to sort through used clothing.
For now, pray for the survivors. And if you want to do some hands-on work, wait until the local authorities say it’s both safe and OK for you to go in. Ida wasn’t God’s punished on America. America is punishing itself right now. No, it’s the result of living in the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s choice, and our own choices.
Here is one of the most challenging things that simply are not in the Bible. You may want to don your Personal Protection Equipment for this one:
God wants me to forgive others, but He doesn’t expect me to forget it.
See, I told you this was the most difficult one–and it’s one that I struggle with perhaps the most. It definitely falls into the category of “Things I wish was not in The Bible!” One of our justifications for believing this is that God gave us the ability to remember, so surely He doesn’t expect us to forget when someone wounds us. But then, there’s this Text that fits my definition of “Things I wish was not in The Bible!”
Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)
And how does God forgive us? Just look at Jeremiah 31:34 to see: “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” Tough and hard, isn’t it? So we come to another justification to alleviate our duty and responsibility: “He’s God and I’m not! God can forget, but I just can’t!” Granted, we cannot just forget–a truth I was painfully reminded of last week when an old wound opened up.
But there is a way to forgive and forget. It’s in how we treat the memory of the wound. Let me tell your a true story–a short one. I was only 6 years old when my Papa Burbank died. I was sad when it happened. But when I remember “Papa Banks” (that’s what I called him), the memory is me with him in his blacksmith shop. I remember him turning the bellows handle–the coals getting hotter–and the smell of that coal and coke. I not only smell it, I can taste it. Remembering him doesn’t make me sad, it makes me smile.
My point is, it’s not in the forgetting but in how we respond to the memory. When we remember how someone wounded us, we choose how we respond to that memory. We can either open that wound back up and feel the heat–and like I watched in Papa Bank’s smithy shop–the let all that resentment and bitterness grow and glow hotter. OR–we can respond by remembering how God has forgiven us.
We choose how we respond to our memories. It’s about maturing to the point when we remember the wound–but without the pain. It’s about releasing our pains to the One who was pained by us as He hung upon that Cross. It’s not easy to get to this point–trust me; I still struggle. Not easy–but it is possible. It will happen as we allow God to work ON us and IN us. We’re not the finished product–yet. But as we learn to think more like Jesus and less like us–we arrive at the point where we have forgiven them just like God has forgiven us–when we choose to release that pain. And God does expect us to release that pain. OUCH!
Well, here I go with yet another one of those incongruous and cacophonous things some people believe are in the Bible. Today’s episode is:
The Lord Helps Those Who Help Themselves!
Now, I do agree that way too many people live out their paltry and pathetic lives as if there are no consequences for their decisions, choices and actions. Way too many are waiting for a free lunch that isn’t going to be delivered. Heck, there’s no one even in the kitchen cooking that free lunch. And The Bible is clear that whatever kind of seeds we plant, THAT is going to be the crop we produce. But this? The Lord helps those who help themselves? That’s a train of thought that derailed at the station! This kind of thinking isn’t a train without a caboose (this analogy goes back to the days when trains had a caboose)–it’s a train without an engine! It doesn’t get us anywhere!
It’s preposterous and maniacal to think that God is waiting for us to do something to help ourselves before He is willing to lift a finger to help us. It only makes sense to those who live in the futility of believing that we, broken and messed-up human beings are au fait when it comes to fixing the messes we create. Do you want the truth about the human (in)ability to help ourselves?
SPOILER ALERT! We cannot help ourselves. Our best efforts are always tainted by our sinful and fallen nature. Here’s the Truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! It takes the Grace of God to help us, period! God doesn’t give His Grace to those who are trying–and certainly not to those who think they deserve His Grace. If we deserve Grace, then it’s no longer Grace. It’s payment for our efforts. Do you want a Bible Verse to prove it, and thus make me “Biblical” in this assertion? OK, buckaroo, you got it!
The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.
Romans 8:3 (NLT)
So, quit tell others that if they want their lives to change, they have to help themselves first before God will help them. And if you still believe this anathema and abomination–all I can say is: God help you! Please God, help them!
Loopholes! Admit it, we all look for them. Whether it is in a legal contract, or tax laws, and even in The Bible. Loopholes relieve us of something we should do, but don’t want to. And the best part of loopholes is that we rest easy at night thinking we are justified. And here is one of the oft used loopholes by those who self identify as Christians:
I love them but The Bible doesn’t say I have to like them!
I wonder if God looks like this when people say this? Well guess what, buttercup? That’s not in The Bible. To those who hold tightly onto this loophole, it may hurt your brain–but think about it. Now, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, as a verb the word like means “to feel attraction toward or take pleasure in; enjoy”.
Now if you don’t like someone, it means that you dislike them. And what do you suppose the word dislike means? It means “to regard with displeasure, antipathy, or aversion”. Look at that word antipathy! It means “an instinctive contradiction or opposition in feeling”. Catch it? CONTRADICTION! When you say, “I love them but I don’t like them” you are contradicting yourself. And it certainly doesn’t look like the kind of Love that Jesus modeled, and expects us to do.
Here is what The Bible says about Love: “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.” (Romans 12:9) And please, please, please, notice that Paul said hate WHAT is wrong–not WHO IS WRONG!What is a THING and not a PERSON! If you don’t like someone, this means you have an aversion towards them. And God doesn’t have an aversion towards any person.
To say you love someone but just don’t like them and think it’s OK because The Bible doesn’t say you must like them–my response to you is: Negatory! Nope! Absolutely not! No way! Not at all! Nay! Never! And in the words of the immortal philosopher Barney Fife: Andy, you gotta nip it! Nip it in the bud!
Three of the most dreaded words to read are: “Some Assembly Required”. Maybe that’s just the “man” in me–you know–“Who reads the instructions? Real men don’t need instructions!” But have you ever tried to put something together and near the end find out that some parts are missing (or lost)? Frustrating, isn’t it!
Several years ago my fabulous wife purchased me a Smoker. I couldn’t wait to put it together and try it out! Well, I removed all the parts, found that useless Instruction Manuel, but something was missing! The nuts and bolts required to assemble it. I called myself looking, still no nuts and bolts. I started to return it to the store, but that useless Instruction Manual caught my attention. It said, and I quote: “If any part(s) are missing contact customer service. Do not take it back to the retailer.” So I called and in just a couple of days the nuts and bolts arrived. And I assembled it; mind you, without the Instruction Manual because that’s what real men do!
It was a work of beautiful art when I finished it. I began cleaning up all that cardboard and packing materials and something hard hit the patio floor. Can you guess what it was? Yep! The nuts and bolts. In defiance of my most diligent search, right there they were; plain as day! But how could that be? I rummaged through all that packing material and I knew they weren’t there. Put me on a lie detector machine and I would have passed it with flying colors! So, how could they have been there all along? There must be somebody to blame! They snuck in when I wasn’t looking, carefully cut the packing tape, found those nuts and bolts, and sealed the box back. Yes, that’s what must have happened! I mean, it’s impossible for me to have missed something! Isn’t it?
No it’s not impossible! And it’s not impossible to miss the presence of God. It happens with regularity to the best of us. It happens as we get more busy with things than with life. It happens as we live life haphazardly–with no real focus. It happens when, as in my case, we think we are right–but we are wrong, oh, so wrong! It happens when we look only at the surface of Scriptures without taking that deep dive where the Treasure often lies.
Following Jesus isn’t always easy–but it is really simple. So simple, that many often miss out on Real Life. We let the wrappings and “packing materials” get in the way, and like I thought about those nuts and bolts, we believe the lie that God is holding out on us. The truth is, Life has been there all along–we just didn’t look deep enough. Learn from my mistake (no, not ignoring the Instruction Manual)–take a deep breath, and look through everything. And if you want Life–I mean Real Life–I mean Life To The Max–look to Jesus. He’s been there all along!
For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.
This is from an older post. When I started blogging I made a promise to myself to never re-post a blog because I wanted my material to always be fresh. Well, early this morning, The Spirit asked me, “Would you like salt and pepper for eating crow?” Needless to say, this morning’s post was from a few years ago, August 3, 2016. I’ve updated some personal references and edited some of my typical errors, a.k.a. typographical errors. It just seems that this is the Word God wants me to share this morning. It seems that Solomon was right, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
Before I begin sharing my heart I must, in all honesty, begin with a warning and a disclaimer. The warning is that due to the mature subject matter, some may find this offensive, even to the point of labeling me something I am not. The disclaimer is that I am NOT being unpatriotic. I fly our country’s flag at our home. I stand at attention with my hand over my heart when the national anthem is being played. I am very patriotic for many reasons–I appreciate the many freedoms we enjoy and I have a son and son-in-law who are combat veterans. Since this was first published my son, Matthew has retired from the military (and now serving in law enforcement). My son in law, Michael, continues to serve in defense of our wonderful nation. I am very proud of Matthew and Michael and every day I pray they will never have to go back into harm’s way. With this being said, I want to share something with you that has been troubling my heart and mind.
I am acutely troubled by the emotional climate that exists in our nation in this current election cycle. I am seeing and hearing a lot of conversations that are soaked with frustrations, anger and fear, especially around this current Presidential election. My deepest concerns are the words I see and hear from the “Christian” community. Many of my friends are saying that this is THE sign that Jesus is about to return because the wrong person was elected. Others are saying that America is doomed.
I am left wondering, “Why so much concern about who sits in the chair behind that desk in the Oval Office? Why does that thought create such anger or even fear?” Regardless of who sits there, God is still God. He is still sovereign. He is still in control. The waves and the winds still know and obey the voice of Jesus. In a message series it was something I said that inspired this blog. It came from a series based on Ecclesiastes, that book where Solomon shares all the things he tried to find a life with meaningful purpose that would give us that deep and abiding peace with joy. Of the many things Solomon tried one was the political process. He described putting our hope on the political process was like “chasing the wind.” During that message, here is what I said: “The hope for the United States is not about who sits in the chair behind the desk of the oval office, but rules on the throne of your own heart.”
I listen with all respect to the passion of the many voices who spend their time and energy on their desire for the United States to become once again a Christian nation. There seems to be a lot of passion and energy as well as fear being expended in this idea that God, and thus the Gospel, wants us to create a Christian nation. Now comes the offensive part so brace yourselves for you have been warned. Jesus never asked us to follow Him in order to set upon this earth a Christian nation. God hasn’t called us or anyone to create a Christian nation.
If you, the reader, are among the many here in the United States that sincerely believe that God wants us to create and maintain this Christian nation and are now offended (and maybe even labeled me a heretical liberal), I have one word for you: Good! About six and a half ago years God turned my theology and understanding about the collective gathering we call the church on its ear. Well, actually He helped me move from upside down to right side up, by reminding me the work of the collective body called the church is not about what we call church work, but Kingdom Work.
Out of this has God has brought me back to a familiar verse from which directs my thoughts and words in this blog, and why I do not think God wants us to be so adamant about this being a Christian nation. It is from 1 Peter 2:9-10 and I want to share it from both the New Living Translation and from the Message:
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”
New Living Translation
But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.
The call of God is about more than a piece of real estate. Notice Peter’s carefully selected word: YOU! We, who have been called out by God only because of His grace and mercy, are to be royal priests that are to be collectively formed, under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, to be this holy nation. It is just like the church. We never, ever go to church if we are doing it right. WE are the church, not a piece of real estate. The real church never has a single address, nor does it exist within multiple campuses.
The church exists wherever you happen to be at that moment, that is, if you are have some clarity about the nature of the church. And within our collective body our work is to be Kingdom Work. Kingdom Work is about restoring people to what Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert describe in the book When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . . and Yourself as the 4 key relationships God intended in creation for us. They describe these 4 key relationships as relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation. Poverty exists when 1 or more of these relationships are broken.
One way that I see that we have Americanized the Gospel is in how we define and treat poverty. In their book, Corbett and Fikkert point out because of our American bias, we define poverty as the lack of material substance. So we treat poverty with material substance. And be honest, how has this worked out? IF poverty is the lack of material substance (which it’s NOT), then we should have solved the problem a long time ago. Instead of solving the problem, people continue to live in broken relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation. Even we who call ourselves Christians experience poverty in one or more of these relationships.
The Work of God’s Kingdom ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve has been to restore His most loved part of creation to those 4 key relationships. It is in these 4 relationships that we reflect His nature, His heart, and His glory. And it is within these key relationships that we begin to live out our created design and purpose. And here is where I believe that we “American” Christians have forgotten something that should never be forgotten. I am convinced that much of our dysfunction as a nation (notice I did not say “Christian Nation”) is that we have chosen to ignore this absolute truth.
God calls us to proclaim the Kingdom right smack dab in the middle of the Enemy’s Kingdom. Albeit the kingdom of Satan is temporary, still at this time he rules it. Do you remember what Jesus said to Pilate when questioned about being a King?
Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36 NLT)
If Jesus wasn’t interested in establishing an earthly kingdom, meaning “a nation”, then why are so many of us obsessed with having one in the United States? Here is my thought: We have forgotten that God has placed us in the middle of enemy territory for the purpose of spiritual warfare (and remember this warfare isn’t against people, corporations or governments, but the Evil one) to reclaim those whom God created in HIS image, but have been disfigured with the image of the Enemy. I’m sitting here wondering if Christians in places like Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia, and a host of other nations ruled by petty despots, are wondering, “Why are those Americans so up in arms about that election? Every day we live under the threat of imprisonment and death and it hasn’t slowed the Kingdom down one little bit. Truth is, God’s Kingdom is growing here but declining there.”
I want to challenge you stop insisting that our job as Disciples of Jesus Christ is to make sure this great nation with so many wonderful freedoms turn back to becoming a Christian nation. You may think I am dishonoring our Founding Fathers and their desire and intent. Are you aware that some of our Founding Fathers were Deists? Deists believe in a divine creator but not in the Trinitarian God. Though they rejected the idea of Jesus, they understood the importance of freedom of thought, speech, and yes, religion.
Let’s stop trying to “make” this a Christian nation and instead BECOME the nation God has called us to be. A nation that exists, not on real estate, but a PEOPLE who faithfully live out as His priests, Royal Priests! Forget Republican or Democrat priests–let’s be Royal Priests who serve not a political ideology or party or even flag, but The King of all Kings! Would you love to see a culture shift in the United States? A culture shift that moves away from political ideologies, from greed and selfishness, from that sense of entitlement, and from the idea that as Disciples of Jesus we are supposed to establish a “Christian” nation? Then remember where your citizenship lies and under whose command you serve.
Stop freaking out about Donald and Joe and instead focus on your own brokenness in the 4 Key Relationships–God, self, others and the rest of creation. And then step into the Territory of the Enemy and share your brokenness with others who are broken and say to them, “Let’s walk together out of our brokenness towards the only One who can restore us to who we truly are.” Don’t worry about the nation–BE the Nation of people called out by God to walk through the Enemy’s territory with the light of His love, grace and mercy. I was reading the other day but unfortunately I did not write down the source of it, but here are my closing words: 95% of Christians pass the test of adversity but 95% of Christians fail the test of prosperity.
There is a crisis in our culture. Duh! The cause of this crisis? Well, that’s where things get dicey and heated. I may loose a few “followers” (that’s OK, just keep following Jesus) with the next few thoughts; but I believe I have uncovered the roots of this present crisis. To overcome a crisis one cannot deal with the surface issues but get to the root cause. Failure to get to the roots is like breaking off a dandelion on the surface but never extracting its roots. The dandelion will come back and bring all its cousins.
We read the Bible through a set of lenses provided by opinions–both our own and those of others. The result is we do not see Truth. We accept that it is true, but we never Discover THE Truth. And the results of such a view is. . . chaos, discord, disarray, turmoil, pandemonium, and anarchy. People are muddling through life angry, disappointed, unruly, distressed, disillusioned, disgruntled and add your own synonym here. So how do we unsnarl this mess of yarn? See the Bible for what it truly is; not what we think it is!
The Bible is a book full of human stories. Each story is unique; each story is the same. In these very human stories we find people who sometimes get it right–the rest of the time they get it wrong. But we read it is as though they were perfect saints issuing to us perfect edicts. But sometimes they got it wrong.
Abraham and Sarah got it wrong when they came up with their plan.
Moses got it wrong when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it.
David got it wrong when–where do I begin with this guy.
Solomon got it wrong when he tried to find the purpose of life outside of God (See Ecclesiastes). Just a small sampling from the Old Testament.
Even in the New Testament, some got it wrong; I’m not talking about Judas or Peter’s denials. Yes, even Paul got it wrong sometimes. Now that I’ve raised the hair on your neck with such a statement, I’ll show you some examples (This is where I may lose some followers, but I’m OK with that because I’m a “Follower” of Jesus) where Paul got it wrong. Paul, who had been the champion of the Gentiles and insisting they did not have to be circumcised, had Timothy circumcised. Paul who claimed citizenship in the Kingdom of God, played his “Roman Citizenship Card” in Philippi and insisted on an apology from the city officials. In Athens, at the Acropolis he preached without ever mentioning the name of Jesus. Enough about Paul’s getting it wrong.
Now, I am not revealing these character flaws to diminish their accomplishments; truth is, I find hope in their flaws because if God used them in spite of those flaws, He can use me. No, my purpose is to make this point:
Humans, even those in the Bible, sometimes gets it wrong–But God Never Does!
The stories of those “saints” in the Bible are that, stories; stories that reveals their ups and their downs. But they also reveal the faithfulness of God who never gave up on them.
Progressives want to take the fact these “saints” were sometimes wrong, so there must be other places where the Bible is wrong. Thus, we are free to figure out, on our own (boy, is this a disaster waiting to happen!) where else the Bible is wrong; especially in the realms of the role of women in the church, drinking, marriage, divorce, the meaning of church, politics, nationalism, and sexual ethics, just to name a few.
We need to see The Bible for what it really is: Stories of flawed human beings in the process of being restored by the Flawless God. There are things in the Bible that humans said that are sometimes Truth; and sometimes flawed. BUT. . . whatever God says is NEVER flawed. Look at the example of the Bereans in Acts chapter 17. They looked, studied, talked and did all that again and again. And Luke called the “Noble People”. Man, do we need some Noble People today!
Think about the California Gold Rush; how many people walked by looking in those streams but never saw that there was gold just lying there waiting to be discovered. It was there all along but you needed to work to get it; sifting through all the other “stuff” to get those nuggets. Now, more than ever we need to become Bereans and Gold Prospectors who will take the time and energy to sift through the “stuff” to find the nuggets of Truth. And that Truth will not be found through the eyes of others nor even through our own eyes.
We need the Holy Spirit to help us “see” the difference between the human flaws and His Eternal And Unchanging Truth! There are standards God has clearly given; but we may never see them using the wrong lens. But we can find The Truth even in the middle of this muddle of 21st Century Culture. This is possible if we commit to the effort through our time and energy under the direction and authority of the Holy Spirit to “pan for the gold” that is always there.
If I have made someone mad with this post, oh well. But. . .if this post is prompting and prodding you to open that Bible in a new light, with different “eyes”. . .you’re welcome.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure ALL the glory goes to HIM!
Well, after a season of computer problems (it died, had the blue screen) and getting caught up, I’m back to my insights from the Book of Acts (Of The Holy Spirit In Surrendered People). If you missed the first one, then click here, because it is, call it our Magnetic North in this journey. As I was reading in the first chapter, there’s another insight that I’ve overlooked for all my life. It is one word, and that word is TOGETHER. It’s from Acts 1:14
They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.
That word, “together” is one that has been, call it haunting me. I use the word “haunting” because it is M.I.A. in many, many established congregations. Between congregations and within congregations, little exists that would even slightly hint that we are together. And here, in the good old U.S. of A., people sit around McDonald’s, in church committee meetings, around the water coolers lamenting that this culture is so far from God. They blame Hollywood, Trump, Democrats, Republicans, Educators, Video Games and various News Networks. As I read this part, I am left wondering, “Is it really ‘their’ fault? Or is it the fault of the Body of Christ forgetting our humble beginnings? Of being together–in life, in helping others and in Christ?
Between congregations there is much competition. To have the best preacher. The best musicians. The most campuses. Rather than moving in and claiming the territory of The Enemy, they encroach on each other trying to draw away members. Together? Hardly!
And don’t get me started on within congregations. They meet in the same building, but are not really together. Each part moves, speaks and acts out of an agenda, their agenda. Those who have been in power do not want to give up their power. They operate on a seniority system–whoever has been there the longest (including previous family generations) are the only ones who should have power. And should a congregation actually decide that the Kingdom of God is the Pearl of greatest value, it becomes a matter of navigating the rapids. The Art of Compromise becomes the guide, and those who recognize that Pearl, either find another congregation, or simply give up.
But it wasn’t that way then. They were Together. Men and women. Young and old. Educated and uneducated. Poor and the not so poor. They were in this TOGETHER. This means that they supported each other. Encouraged each other. Listened to each other. At this point, now get this: They were of one mind. They were in this for Jesus, not themselves. Jesus said stay together and they did. Jesus said wait, so they waited. Jesus said don’t begin until you receive the Holy Spirit, and so they waited–TOGETHER.
Think about this, they didn’t really know a lot about the Holy Spirit, other than what they saw of Him in Jesus. After the Resurrection, they were smart enough to know that they would be foolish to do this Kingdom Thing without The Holy Spirit. And to that goal, look at what else they did TOGETHER:
and were constantly united in prayer
Because they were TOGETHER, it wasn’t about selfish prayer. It was about being TOGETHER in what Jesus wanted. I strongly suspect, no, I strongly believe that they were so intimidated by the task in front of them that they knew they NEEDED each other. They needed each person to be committed to Jesus; to be completely surrendered, completely passionate about this Kingdom. Folks, they were UNITED in prayer. They were praying FOR each other, not against each other. Wow!
Recently I was reading through one of my personal study times. It’s from a group called SEEDBED (website is here). J.D. Walt is one of the writers and one of my teachers. He wrote that there are only 2 stories being told in our world: 1 is the story of the world, and the other is the story of The Kingdom of God. J.D. said that we will live out our lives on one or the other storyline. Then he said this (and I quote):
“Until Jesus becomes the center of our devotion, He’s just another distraction.”
And thus, that word, TOGETHER. I want to speak now only to my American readers. What would happen here in the good old U.S. of A. if WE, who profess to be followers of Jesus, gave up our agendas and made an all out commitment to being TOGETHER?
Feel free to answer this question in the comments section. I would love to hear what you believe would happen IF we were really TOGETHER. And remember to love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
Welcome to my next edition on the Book of Acts. If you haven’t read my first one on Acts, then you need to read it here. I’m looking for those nuances and truths that I may have missed. And here’s my second observation. It is in Acts 1, verses 11 and 12
“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a distance of half a mile.
Did you see it? I confess I’ve seen it before, but I never really paid attention to it. I suddenly realized the importance of verse 12 and I’m putting myself in time-out for not understanding the importance of THE PLACE! I would like to think that I am like so many that simply focus on the BIG event–The Ascension–and think the rest of the story isn’t important. I was wrong, and so are you if you think that way.
Why is the place, the Mount of Olives so important? I’m so glad you asked that question. Go back 55 days from the Ascension. It’s nighttime. Jesus has just celebrated Passover with the Disciples. But this time there were new words and new meaning. They left the supper table and went, where? The Mount of Olives. Good class, I’m glad you remembered. And where did Jesus go when they arrived at the Mount of Olives? It said He went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Great, class! You really know your stuff.
Now, before I ask you what did Jesus do in the Garden of Gethsemane, do you know the meaning of that word “Gethsemane”? It means “oil press”. If you got the correct answer, consider it a bonus point on the test. Most folks I’ve found do not know this. Every, I mean EVERY olive grove had a gethsemane. It’s where the olives would be squeezed and pressed for its true purpose–to produce olive oil.
Now, the next question, and this counts on the test. What did Jesus begin doing? Did you answer “Pray”? If that’s your answer, you missed the question. It was at the Oil Press that Jesus began His suffering. In the magical world of theological terminology, the word is “The Passion” begins. His suffering didn’t begin on the Cross, in the court of Pilate, or in that Roman Garrison courtyard, or at the place of the Mock Trial of the Sanhedrin. It started BEFORE He was arrested.
Only 3 people were privy to those moments: James, John and Peter. Read the account from the historian Luke in Luke chapter 22 verses 39-46. His suffering there was for each and every one of us. Without His suffering we would be without any hope. And here’s my Epiphany Moment: At the place His Suffering began for our redemption and transformation, the Mount of Olives, is where those disciples saw the Glory of Jesus.
Now, here’s the lesson: The is NO Glory without THE SUFFERING. This was true for Jesus, and it is true for US! But, alas, (insert very heavy sigh, here) we want the Glory but sans the suffering. If Jesus teaches us ANYTHING, it’s that without the Suffering there is no Glory.
We don’t suffer the way Jesus suffered. Jesus’ suffering was unique–to pay the penalty of our sins. But suffering is inevitably a part of following Jesus. In the desire to miss our suffering, we opt-in for Comfort and Convenience. When you opt-in for Comfort and Convenience, you opt-out of the Glory. Suffering means the same thing it meant for Jesus–Giving up Comfort And Convenience for something much bigger.
Have you given up your comfort? Your conveniences? The easy way? If not, you will miss out on the glory. Jesus gave up the Comfort of Heaven for the womb of Mary. Jesus gave up the conveniences of His Eternal Nature being adored and worshipped, for a dirty diaper. The One who spoke creation into existence had to learn how to talk. The One who walks across the expanse of Heaven, had to learn how to walk. Need I say more? OK, just one more:
He who lives in eternity stepped into time in order to die!
We would rather be on the Mount of Transfiguration and on the Mount of The Ascension. It is, after all, a much better and easier place to live. But to get to those moments, we have to go by way of The Gethsemane. It’s the Gethsemane Life, and only the Gethsemane Life, that gets to the Glory. Jesus was squeezed and pressed for His True Purpose. And so must we be squeezed and pressed for our true purpose. Here’s your homework:
In what ways are you suffering for Jesus?
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way HE loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
It hit me late yesterday afternoon. We had been to our family doctor for check-ups, blood work, renewing prescriptions, flu shots, oh, a taking a slice of a mole on my shoulder for a biopsy. That last part wasn’t part of the plan. But perhaps it was that last one that led me to these thoughts: The Church Today Needs A Potato Theology. Are you scratching your head now, wondering where this left-handed maniac is headed? I know I’m thinking that, so stay with me a moment.
The nurse practitioner isn’t expecting anything bad from the biopsy of that mole. But…but to be sure she needed to get beneath the surface to know for certain. Then I started thinking about potatoes. Growing up with a Dad who loved to garden, I clearly remember that sometimes he planted potatoes. Most of the other fruits and vegetables he grew could be seen. But potatoes–all one could see is the plant. And they didn’t look like the french fries I so dearly loved. Oh, and the mashed potatoes. Before I could savor those flavors, I had to wait…wait until what was beneath the surface could be brought up. And it is now what I realize the Holy Spirit is trying to teach me.
The Bible is a lot like the simple potato. What we need and long for isn’t found at the surface, you have to dig down into it. It’s what I’m calling a “Potato Theology”–a theology that goes beyond the surface, and to the heart. Now, I know some, actually a lot of folks who openly say, “I’m not a theologian, I’m a Christian!” And they wonder why the church is suffering such great losses. Look at that word: Theology. It comes from 2 Greek words: Theos which means “God” and Logia which means “to reason or to study.” Theology is to study and think about God. To say you are not into theology or being a theologian means you are not into studying about God.
A Christian who claims they are not a theologian is saying “I’m not a thinking Christian.” Such an attitude fails to fully love God. Isn’t the greatest commandment to love God with all your heart, MIND, soul and strength (Mark 12:30)? The place, the best place, the foundation place to study about God is the Bible. But many, way too many, read only the surface words. And the result is that though they deny they have a theology, they do have one, and a poor one at that.
For example, many people believe that divorce disqualifies one from being a pastor and quote Titus 1:6 as their proof. That phrase “husband of one wife” in the Greek is ane mia gyne. It literally means “be faithful to the woman”. The Greek word for divorce is apolyo. Not present in Titus 1:6. Then there’s all those who quote from the Old Testament without understanding what is being said. Some use Leviticus to back up their point without discerning the different kinds of laws God gave the Hebrews. Some were moral laws while others were health laws. Unless one studies deeply they can mistake health laws needed to protect the population from sickness and disease, and consider them moral laws. For example, pork and shell-fish back then could contain all kinds of deadly bacteria. They didn’t know anything about bacteria, so God tells them not to eat those items. But today, we have health codes to protect us from those deadly bacteria.
It’s not always easy to discern what the Bible says. But because it’s not easy, doesn’t mean it is impossible. Use good resources to explore deeper. And thanks to this varmint called the internet, you don’t have to pay for tons of books or spend time in your local library. All I’m saying is that just as the best part of the potato lies beneath the surface, the best parts of the Bible are beneath the surface words.
Words cannot contain the wisdom of eternity, so we need more. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us through this awesome and powerful book. Take the time to go beyond the surface, beyond what others have said a passage means. Discover it for yourself. It’s not what’s on the surface we need most of all, but the Truth that lives deeply within these words. Without that deep dive into scriptures, we will reduce the Good News of The Kingdom to a list of rules, a list of “do this” and “don’t do that”, which results in a lot more “don’t do that”. Thus, a disciple of Jesus is reduced to what they don’t do, rather than the Holy Spirit that lives in them.
In short, we need to quit judging people based on what’s on their surface. Body piercings, tattoos, designer suits, how they fix their hair, wearing jewelry–all on the surface. Even Jesus made the point in Matthew 15 that it’s not the external that matters, but the internal. And when God went searching for a king to replace Saul, He looked deeper than surface appearances, He searched for a king who would share His own heart.
So, you see, we do need that POTATO THEOLOGY, one that looks beyond what’s one the surface. Let’s all dig deeper, it’s where the really good stuff is…..
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him….and get that shovel out and start digging, thar’s gold in them thar’ hills!
Well, here we are at the end of this semester. I pray and hope that you are able to see with clarity the fallacies of these 5 Plans. I would be remiss and a failure to be a good professor if I did not give you the correct answer to the question: How Do You Get Into Heaven? Now, there are some other ways out there, but I think they will fall into one of these 5 plans. So, what’s the answer to the question, How do we get into Heaven? Remember my earlier disclaimer—this might be offensive to some. If you’ve been reviewing your notes as I instructed you to do, you will now remember from the first lesson that this question is really the question of your heart: How Do I Get Into A Relationship With God? With no further ado, let’s look at the correct answer:
We do it like Jesus said to Nicodemus—and here’s the plan: To Get Into Heaven, We Live In A Relationship With God Now! And here is how Jesus says this relationship happens, the only way the relationship happens: Be Born Again
Anyone here ever heard of the expression Born Again Christian? This phrase falls into the category of Repetitive Redundancy. It’s the same thing as saying “Christian-Christian”. If you’re a Christian, you’ve been Born Again. If you’ve been Born Again you’re a Christian. You don’t have to say it both ways. Here’s a diamond of Truth: You can’t be a Christian if you’ve never been born again. Not now—not ever! But if you have been born again–born from above–born through the Grace and Mercy of God–you are a Christian, or as I prefer to say–A Real Follower Of Jesus!
This was the source of confusion for Nicodemus. Do you know what Nicodemus’s name means? Conqueror of the people—but Nicodemus is the one conquered by this single thought. And this is the one thing you need to remember today: You Cannot Have A Relationship With God Until You Are Born Again! We need to be conquered by the same thought that conquered Nicodemus–the conqueror of people. Until we have been conquered—our egotistical pride has been conquered—our feelings are conquered—our ways of thinking are conquered—heaven will always be out of reach—and so will God be out of reach.
None of these 5 very human Plans will cause anyone to be born again. So, how are we born again? It’s 3 simple steps that defies human logic and destroys human ego.
1. WeDie! Die to all that you have been. If it’s your goodness, then die. If it’s your sense of failures, die. If it’s you sense of worthlessness, die. If it’s your fears, die. Being born again is all about starting all over in a new way of living in relationship with God. Philippians 3:8-9—
8Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.
Until you die in this moment and die to all your past moments you can never live in this Relationship with God. This is what it means to Confess our sins—that God is right about us being sinners.
2. Be Born By The Water. Not the waters of baptism, but the water of the Word of God. Paul was writing to Ephesus about how husbands are to love their wives. But it’s also about how God loves us and what needs to happen in us.
Ephesians 5:25-26—For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.
This is what repentance means and looks like. We turn away from that old life and into the new Life. We let the Word of God go to work in our daily life—doing what the Word says do—avoiding what the Word says don’t do. You allow the Bible to shape your life from this moment forward. What God’s word says to do and not to do cleanses us and liberates us from our default setting–that of being hostile towards God.
3. Be Born By The Spirit. The Spirit is the one who creates the new heart that fills you with new desires, new passions, new strength, new gifts and a new purpose for your life. It’s the only power for people who are Born Again. People who are not Born Again only want the form but not the power.
2 Timothy 3:5 (TPT)—They may pretend to have a respect for God, but in reality they want nothing to do with God’s power. Stay away from people like these!
This is what walking by faith means. This is what it looks like to live a life IN the Grace of God. You look towards and listen to the Holy Spirit. This is the power of God that you need to be at work in you. It is the Power that you need UNTIL the Head Master gives the Final Exam. Read what Paul wrote in Galatians 3:3
How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?
At that moment of The Final Exam, He will see you as you are–covered with the blood of Jesus and clothes in both His righteousness, and your life of honoring Him–if you have been born again. The Final Exam has only 2 questions:
1. Did you trust in Jesus so that your sins could be taken away? Did your trust come through Confession (admitting you’re a sinner) and repentance (meaning you choose to turn away from your old sinful life in order to live life as He intends)?
2. Did you join in with God’s work of redemption and restoration by living in His Power as you loved the least, the last and the lost? It is the Holy Spirit that both empowers and equips you for this task–the very task you are created for.
Get ready for the Final Exam by practicing–practice living in the Presence of Jesus so that you become the Presence of Jesus in this fallen and sinful world. At the risk of sounding like your piano teacher: PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE!
And remember…love God with ALL your heart. Love others the WAY He loves you. And make sure ALL the glory goes to HIM, The Head Master and Keeper of your hearts!
So here we are, the next to the last class. I hope you are learning something valuable here. Yesterday we looked at the Rules Plan and its shortcomings. Hopefully by now you know that God is not the Cosmic Warden, but that He sends The Good Shepherd to search for us. Take really good notes as we now look at:
Now this plan acknowledges that we don’t always get it right. But hey, it’s not our fault. There’s always a reason and good excuse for whatever we do wrong. For extra reading I encourage you to obtain the book Yes Lord I Have Sinned: But I Have Several Excellent Excuse. The best part of this plan is that it challenges our “creative” side to be able to justify our sins. And if you come up with an excuse that sounds good to you–then you get into heaven.
Another bonus to this plan is that if we want to be lazy and not find an excellent excuse, then there’s someone else to blame. It’s called “playing the victim” card. This plan works off of a truth: That Life Isn’t Fair. But hey, life should be fair, am I right? It’s about getting what we rightfully deserve, and usually without much if any effort.
In This Plan Consequences Are Inconsequential. Either by justification (coming up with an excellent excuse) or by playing the victim card, surely God won’t keep us out of heaven. It would not be reasonable of God to keep us out of heaven when there’s so much bad stuff out there. It is His creation. All He has to do is make life fair. Yet because of the evil and unfairness in this world, God will not hole us responsible. There are no consequences, so we get in.
But there are consequences to our choices and actions. Paul wrote in Romans 6:23—For the wages of sin is death. It doesn’t say, Unless you have a good excuse. That’s not how it works. Sin is sin regardless of our intentions or beliefs. Our intentions may have been good, our beliefs may have been sincere, but sin pays the same dividend every time—death! So, this plan doesn’t work either. This is perhaps, the riskiest plan of all. I say this because deep down inside us, we know there are consequences. It’s called shame, guilt or that nagging sense of personal failure.
Well, class, that’s the last plan. Tomorrow we will look at the Plan, the ONLY plan that will work. It tripped up Nicodemus, but maybe it won’t trip you up. And remember….love God with ALL your heart. Love others the WAY God loves you. And make sure ALL the glory goes to Him! By the way, don’t forget there will be a final exam.