Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Power of the Resurrection

Consider this, Jesus is about to go to the cross. For 3 years he has been pouring his life into 12 men, preparing them to one day lead the church movement. At the last supper he is sitting with them, watching them eat. He looks across at each one. What a motley bunch of boys they are. You have Peter, the one who just can’t keep his mouth shut, a leader for sure. John, good ole emotional John, one minute nestling himself next to Jesus, but then, he is called a “son of thunder.” Andrew, a measly uneducated fisherman like his brother Peter, and Judas, who well, will not be leading the movement. Then there’s these other two over here. First is Matthew, the tax collector, one the others would call a traitor for working with the Romans. And sitting nearby is Simon the zealot, dedicated to destroying the ruling Romans and freeing Israel of their oppression. And Jesus expects these two to work together? Their hatred toward each other is almost palpable. 

And what do they do now? According to Luke 22:24; they start arguing about who will be the greatest in the kingdom.  At this point if Jesus were a little more like me, he would be praying “Father, look at these guys. Can we just start over and this time try picking a better group? Instead he begins teaching them to love one another.

Do they get the message? Well, look at what happens over the course of the rest of their lives. The church movement is begun under their leadership and ultimately changes the course of world history. So what changed? This indeed is the power of the resurrection. Where once there was a pathetic group of men that struggled to get along; they are completely changed, united toward one purpose. Salvation has come upon them, the Spirit has empowered them. All this is only possible because of the power of the resurrection.

He has risen indeed.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Is The Church Facing its Doom

It seems there is a trend among Christian writers seeking to assess the church in America with a doomsday type approach. One recent article I came across with this mentality was over at Charisma Magazine entitled Here's How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel. I will say I honestly am not entirely familiar with this magazine and from what I do gather it is one I would not ordinarily subscribe to. But I saw this article show up on my facebook newsfeed and it caught my interest. Originally I thought it might be a good article discussing the challenges facing those who minister to the younger generation and what we can do and be aware of because of these challenges. Instead I was frustrated to find it to horribly miss something very important; namely, the teachings of Scripture.

That may seem a very broad and severe accusation, but I believe it is accurate. Doomsday articles like this one miss out on one very important doctrine regarding the church, and that is the question of who is in charge. It is true that if the church was 100% guided, lead, operated, or whatever other word you might use, by man alone then the church is indeed doomed and one might argue it should have died long ago. But there is something much better, much greater at work in the church.

During Peter's confession, Jesus said "on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt 16:18). The verb for "I will build" is an active tense verb. Jesus is very clearly and very intimately involved in building his church and protecting it from every possible scheme the enemy may press against it.

In the Gospel of John Jesus relates to us his exact plan for how the church will be built up and protected from the enemy. Note some of the following passages from John 16:

7"But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
 8 "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment;
 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me;
 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me;
 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
12 "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
 13 "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
 14 "He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you.
 15 "All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine, and will disclose it to you.
The Helper, or Spirit is the one through whom Christ is even now working to build and protect his church. Just as God did not create the world, wind it up and stand aloof from his creation, so now he not only predicted the church, he started it, he is continuing to build it and will one day return for his church in its consumation.

So for articles such as this one to make blanket statements such as
Research tells us that evangelicals are drifting further away from the orthodox truths their parents and grandparents held dear. 
Our churches have rarely—if ever—faced the exodus we are seeing today. This will have a direct effect on the spiritual and moral values that will shape the nation in the coming years. That is why it is urgent that concerned Christians start acting now before the situation gets worse.
 tends to neglect the spiritual aspect of God's work in building and protecting his church. Yes we do need to be aware of the challenges faced by Christians to maintain doctrinal purity, but to speak as if unless we do something the church is going to die is an affront to God's sovereignty, power, wisdom, and love for his church.

I agree that we are facing many challenges today. But for one thing, as Solomon once stated, nothing is new under the sun. The church has weathered difficult storms before and our faith informs us that God will bring us through the next one. There may be some purging of the church, turning away those who are not true believers and making it clear who are his sheep and who are goats, but in the midst of the storm, have faith and stand strong against the fiery darts of the evil one.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Innocent Sin

A husband and wife approach the express checkout lane at their local department store. The sign states “20 items or less” and they look to their cart and see they have 24 items. They are almost to the counter and a line is forming behind them. How do you solve this problem?

Rather than get out of line, or even attempt to check out all 24 items, they choose instead to split it. She checks out 20 items, then he checks out the remaining 4. Seems clever, even a bit humorous. But what just really happened?

We can list off numerous examples like this, where we run into a rule that we don’t want to break out of desire of being “honest” or a person of “integrity”, so instead we show a little creativity and “bend” the rule or find some loop hole through which we can jump. But I wonder, is this truly a route to take. Sure technically we are not breaking the rule, but we are cheating the system, and by doing that we are breaking from a life of integrity.

But this is all too often how we operate, and the motivating force is not the desire for integrity or honesty or any other honorable motivation. More often the motivation is the desire for convenience, and especially in our American culture, speed. We look for the quick, easy way out of a situation, but yet want to be “good Christians” so we get creative and bend the rules just a little bit.

The writer of Psalm 1 was concerned with this problem. When we flirt with sin, when we participate in what are innocent sins, we are opening ourselves, allowing our minds to begin to rationalize small infractions, and those small infractions always seem to lead to larger and more significant sins. Some time ago I posted about a song called Pebble in the Shoe which directly relates to this danger. Casting Crowns also has sang a song about this, called Slow Fade. I suggest we all take to heart the words of this song, and maybe think twice next time before we rationalize some innocent sin.


Casting Crowns – Slow Fade

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Extreme Fidelity

The premise from which Joshua Harris gets the title for his book, Not Even a Hint comes from Ephesians 5:3;

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.

It is a high calling, particularly for men but also for women, to seek out total sexual purity in this sex-obsessed culture. We are drowned by sexually explicit imagery all around in advertising, humor, clothing choices, and even holiday celebrations. The last one is becoming more evident particularly with Halloween as sales for adult costumes are now exceeding costume sales for children, and the majority of these costumes are sexually provocative. So how do we live without a single hint? What is our motivation?

The answer I believe comes in the following verses, Ephesians 5:25-30;

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

Consider it with this question; what motivation do I have for choosing not to be unfaithful to my wife. We might say because of our love for her, because of the pain it would cause. Or that it would be harmful toward the family, thinking of the children. Or simply that we just couldn’t live with the guilt incurred. But there is a much higher reason given in this text. Marriage is a picture of the Gospel. For us to have infidelity in marriage is to be an affront to Christ. I choose to be faithful to my wife because I do not want to trivialize the Gospel of Jesus Christ before the world.

Now consider this. Christ gave up every other desire for the sake of sanctifying his bride; the church. That is the call we are given. We are to give up every form of expression that is selfish in nature. In the realm of sexuality, it includes things such as pornography and masturbation. These acts are completely selfish in nature, seeking to gratify personal sexual desires rather than live selflessly for our bride. Our engagement in these acts deliberately attack the legitimacy of the Gospel picture being presented. Do we want to show our gratitude to God for the inexpressible gift he has given us? Then we must live in extreme fidelity.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Books for Short-Term Mission Trips

Over at a ministry I find is kindred in spirit to my desire with missions, they have posted a listing of books for use by people who go on short-term missions trips. Topics include cultural sensitivity, what to do after the trip, support raising, and several other good topics. I highly recommend browsing their list located here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Are You Really Getting It?

These past few weeks I’ve been paying more attention to how books and stories within the Bible fit together. Then I read a blog post over at King’s English that sparked some important thoughts. First I’ll rehash a bit of what the author pointed out.

Proverb’s 1:1 says it was written by King Solomon of whom it is said was the wisest man to ever live. 1:8 then tells us who he is addressing;

My son, hear the instruction of your father, and the law of your mother.

The words, “my son” are repeated 20 times in the book. The king is addressing the prince saying in 1:6 that he is offering “words of the wise and their dark sayings.” As the blogger at King’s English said; these dark sayings are “riddles to be chewed over and reflected on.”

This is where my mind began to wander. Remember how the life of Solomon turned out? Seems he did not listen to his own wisdom. And what of his son Rehoboam? I am confident he heard the words recorded in the book of Proverbs, but we know even from his first major decision that he did not seem to follow after what he was taught.

So hearing may be good, but is it enough?

As we study Scripture, listen to sermons and other forms of Bible teaching such as Sunday School or reading books and blogs, simply hearing is not enough.

David had the right idea in Psalm 119:9-16:

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

It wasn’t just head knowledge, it was heart knowledge. He actively listened and studied it, meditated on it meaning he carefully mulled it over in his mind to grasp its full meaning and implications for his life. He longed for more. He delighted in what he heard and read. It truly was his passion.

So by way of encouragement; do more than simply hear the word. Listen. Think carefully about what is being said. And as James wisely stated, be doers of it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How Can They Know If No One Tells Them

The recent anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic produced at least one surprising reaction. A number of young people tweeted their surprise that the disaster was more than just another Hollywood film.


While this did make the news, perhaps it is not quite as newsworthy as we may be inclined to think. Another blogger wrote a fine piece on what this really demonstrates in American culture here.

But there is something else this helps demonstrate; The importance of education and the ease which knowledge can be withheld. I am in particular thinking about the Gospel. Americans live in a “Christianized” culture, but how many Americans know the Gospel? How many can tell us just what the mission of Jesus time on this earth was all about? I even wonder how many in our churches could tell us.

This just demonstrates the importance that we take the time to learn the Gospel ourselves, then go and share it with others. We cannot assume that because a person says they go to church or that they are Christian means they know and have accepted the Gospel message. I guarantee these people would have said they knew about the Titanic before this past month, but there source was only Hollywood (and we know how historically inaccurate they can be). So true is it that people may claim to know Jesus, but not really know him. And the only way they will hear is if we go and tell them.

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel.”