Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New Creations Burning with Passion for the Things of God

From Brennan Manning.  Good stuff.

"How is it that we’ve come to imagine that Christianity consists primarily in what we do for God? How has this come to be the good news of Jesus? Is the kingdom that He proclaimed to be nothing more than a community of men and women who go to church on Sunday, take an annual spiritual retreat, read their Bibles every now and then, vigorously oppose abortion, don’t watch x-rated movies, never use vulgar language, smile a lot, hold doors open for people, root for the favorite team, and get along with everybody? Is that why Jesus went through the bleak and bloody horror of Calvary? Is that why He emerged in shattering glory from the tomb? Is that why He poured out His Holy Spirit on the church? To make nicer men and women with better morals?

The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creations. Not to make people with better morals, but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipotent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friends, is what it really means to be a Christian. Our religion never begins with what we do for God. It always starts with what God has done for us, the great and wondrous things that God dreamed of and achieved for us in Christ Jesus."

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Decisions You Make Affect Those Traveling With You

Every parent has been there.  The trip ahead is long.  The travel schedule is tight.  You hit the road with a full tank, confident the plan you have crafted beats anything AAA could muster.  But twenty minutes down the highway you hear a small, squeaky voice from the backseat.  The artillery begins to bombard you.  The questions.

Some you expected.  Are we there yet? How much longer? Can we get something to eat?  I'm hungry!

The next barrage is unexpected. Who was the first person to decide to squeeze those things on a cow and drink whatever came out? Why does our dog get mad at us when we blow in his face but when we take him on a car ride he sticks his head out the window?

Every parent has been there.  Questions from the backseat.  You come to expect them.  Every journey to a destination includes them.  The same is true for the journey of faith.  

Just like kids on a trip we get tired of the journey.  We want to know when we can stop.  We get tired of serving.  We get tired of waiting.  We get tired of the people we’re traveling with.  

And we grumble.  The Israelites did.  They complained about the food, about the place they were traveling, and about their ‘driver’ Moses. 

Grumbling does not set well with God.  In fact, our grumbling can lead to our wandering.  When offered the chance to leave Kadesh and enter the Promised Land, the Israelites listened to the fear-filled report from ten spies instead of the faith-full report of Joshua and Caleb.  

Kadesh means “Spring of Decision” and it was time for one.  They were in the right place to make the right decision.  But the majority made the wrong one.  The people wished they had died in the desert.  So God told them they would get their wish.  They would wander until the unbelieving generation died out.

And they did.  They wandered in the Wilderness for forty years.  And their children were impacted by their decisions.

The decisions you make affect those around you, just like the decisions the Israelites made at Kadesh.  You can decide to grumble or be thankful.  You can decide to turn away from God or turn toward God.  You can decide to wander without purpose through life or follow God’s vision for your life.

Just don’t forget that those in the backseat will be affected by your decisions.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Time to go for a walk?

Some movies start at light speed. Case in point: Star Wars. From the opening scene to the end it barely lets you breathe. If you slipped out for popcorn you were sure to miss something important.
Some think that the way to maximize the movie-going experience is to be in your seat at least 20 minutes early. Never done that? Then next time you go to a movie look around and spot the person that is in the prime seat—dead middle, eye level with the center of the screen. That’s what 20 minutes early gets you. Popcorn and drink in hand, nothing will move this person from their secured spot for the duration of the movie.

That’s where you need to be for God’s story. Its opening scene also starts with a relentless pace that doesn’t let up. The first line reads, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”  (Genesis 1:1).

Right off the bat we find the main character in the story is not you or me. It’s God. And the rest of
The Story will unfold out of the nature and person of this character. Just ten words in and there is enough action to leave you breathless.
It doesn’t take long to find out what God’s great passion is. Birds? Nope. Animals? Not quite. Sun, moon or stars? Bright guess. No, in Genesis 3:8 we find that God is walking in the Garden with Adam and Eve in the “cool of the day.” Sounds nice if you are in a hot, humid climate, doesn’t it? And yet the “cool of the day” is not the focus.  God is...and he is near.  He is right with Adam and Eve. And he is right here with us. His simple vision for His creation was to spend time with them every day, to take a walk with them.  God's supreme passion is to be with us.
Some of you have lived your life with the idea that God is some kind of angry cosmic kill-joy who sits in the heavens and watches you, waiting for you to mess up so he can zap you. Or, you feel He is distant and doesn't care or has simply forgotten you altogether.
But from the beginning He has shown us this is not the case.  He wants to be with you.  He has not forgotten you. In fact, this might be the perfect time for you to go for a walk.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Church Ladies and Their Bikinis

Received this from my wife who received it from a good friend.  Please read the blog entry and watch the video.  I echo the sentiments here.

Keep the faith!

Friday, August 9, 2013

How It Is

Had a friend send this to me on Facebook and asked if I could relate.  I can on most of these.  There are a couple where I stray (I'm not a mama's boy and I do like watching a game), but there are many points on which I would say, "Yes, that's exactly how it is."  Maybe this will give some insight into the life of a minister.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Good Question

When the Bible says we will be accountable for all of our actions, does that include sins that we've already been forgiven for?

Response is from RC Sproul.  Some deep thoughts here.

I think so. Some people will be quick to point out that the Bible says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our transgressions from us" and that he has cast them into the sea of forgetfulness. When God forgives us of our sins, he forgets them. He remembers them no more against us. So it would seem that we could conclude from those passages that once we are forgiven of a sin, that's the absolute end of it and we never have to be held accountable for it.

When we are forgiven by God for a sin, there are two things we have to understand. First of all, when the Bible speaks of God's forgetting our sins, we have to be careful how far we push that. That does not mean that suddenly the eternal God, very God of very God, who is omniscient and immutable, suddenly undergoes a memory lapse and that that which he once knew intimately he suddenly becomes ignorant of. If we push that, it would give us a ghastly view of God. Rather, the Bible is using this kind of language to say that he doesn't hold it against us anymore. He treats us without raising the issue in terms of delivering a punishment. The just punishment for any sin would be eternal separation from God. When we are forgiven, we are relieved of all eternal guilt and punishment so that we don't have to worry about going to hell because we have sinned.

At the same time, the New Testament tells us at least twenty-five times that the distribution of rewards in heaven will be done according to our relative degree of obedience or the works that we perform. We are told frequently by Jesus that on the last day all things will be brought into the light. Those things we have done in secret will be made manifest; every idle word will come into the judgment. I don't think that means that I'm going to be punished for those sins that I've confessed and have had forgiven. Those are covered by the righteousness of Christ and by my Mediator. But I will have to stand before God for a full and complete evaluation of my obedience as a Christian.

Whether or not at that time of evaluation he will mention the complete track record or just say, "Here's the bottom line, you'll get so many rewards"—I don't know how that's going to work. But I am going to be brought into a final accounting, and certainly in God's mind every detail of my life will be there. Even though I am forgiven and I am not punished, any sin still means that I will receive less reward than if I had been obedient.

Friday, July 19, 2013

What to do when you may or may not be a control freak

Excellent post from Mark Buchanan sent to me from my wife.  Great thoughts and a challenge.  This is one of those posts that I kept saying, "Ya, I can totally relate!" 
"Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control."  Proverbs 25:28
I was in a coffee shop the other day and a mom announced to her little guy – maybe 2 and a half years old – that it was time to leave.

Little Guy didn’t want to leave.

At first he ignored her, then he defied her, then he assailed her.

To her credit, she remained calm.

She spoke quietly. She stood her ground. She didn’t bargain.

In the end, magnificently composed, she carried Little Guy out the door, a wild banshee of a boy, thrashing and wailing as he went.

Mix of tears

It got me thinking about the difference between control and self-control.

These two things – control and self-control – stand at opposite ends of the maturity spectrum.

The toddler was a live-action reel of a fierce effort to control his mother.

And he was a spectacle of immaturity.
The mom was a breathtaking portrait of impeccable self-control.  And she was the epitome of maturity.

Toddlers brim with the impulse to control (even as they bungle the execution). A 3-year-old will resort to wild-eyed tantrums, incessant whining, ear-piercing screams, coy manipulation, and flat-out demand to try to get their way: to control their parent, or sibling, or playmate, or the situation at hand.

But as the toddler’s attempts to control things escalate, his ability to control himself deteriorates. His need to be in control makes him more and more out-of-control. The results are not pretty.

This all looks different in adults – usually.

Of course, we’ve all met 28- or 33- or 59-year olds (sometimes in the mirror) who, in an increasingly desperate effort to control people or situations, throw tantrums, power up, make threats, emotionally blackmail, withdraw into icy silence, and so on.

But most of us, by age 19 or so, have an epiphany of sorts: that the louder we shout, the less others listen.
That the more we manipulate, the further others back away.

That the more we toss a fit, the more others look at us and think, “What a sad strange little man,” or, “What a drama queen.”

That's the epiphany.

But what we do with it matters a great deal. It determines whether we really grow up or not.
The truly wise become deeply humble.  They realize that the only kind of control the Bible endorses -- indeed, commands -- is self-control.
The New Testament has 16 separate exhortations to be self-controlled.  It's a major theme.
So the wise heed that, and work with the Holy Spirit to get a grip on themselves. They receive the comfort, the rebuke, the strength, and the instruction of God himself to discipline their thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and actions.

They give up trying to control others and step up being in control of themselves.
The lovely irony is that the self-controlled exert wide influence. People listen to them. Heed them. Seek them. Follow them.

In other words, the self-controlled accomplish the very thing the controlling desperately want but only ever sabotage.

Here’s what I’ve learned: Every impulse to seize control — is the Holy Spirit’s invitation to practice self-control.

Every nerve jolt to freak out, melt down, start yelling, fly into rage or panic is a divine cue to slow down, breathe deep, start praying, and lean into God.

Every instinct to control something is God's nudge to control myself.
I don’t always get it right. When I don’t, I not only lose self-control: I lose influence. I lose respect. I lose dignity.

When I do get it right, I gain all around.

Lord, help me get a grip on myself.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Peacemakers or Troublemakers?

Another home run from my dear friend and mentor, Bob Russell.  Great insight, wisdom, and encouragement here for Christians to stand firm in the truth of God.  Please read!

Blog Post #1 from Bob

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit Louisville, Kentucky this week.  His appearance is attracting a lot of media attention and evoking a number of thorny questions.  When considering your response to this eastern, “holy man,” take a moment to review the following information.

Who is the Dalai Lama?
He is the traditional governmental ruler and highest priest of the dominant sect of Buddhism in Tibet and Mongolia.  He is understood by Tibetans to be the essence of perfect knowledge and compassion.  Though not a perfect analogy, we might say what the Pope is to Roman Catholics the Dalai Lama is to the Buddhist religion.

What is the Buddhist religion about?
Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama who is estimated to have lived from 566-480 B.C.  It’s reported that Gautama renounced his princely title and became a monk, depriving himself of worldly possessions in the hope of comprehending the reason for suffering and the truth about the world around him.  He maintained that the culmination of his search came while meditating beneath a tree, where he finally understood how to be free from suffering, and ultimately, to experience nirvana.  Nirvana is a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and represents the final goal of Buddhism.

Following this epiphany, Gautama was known as the Buddha, meaning the “Enlightened One.” The Buddha spent the remainder of his life journeying about India, teaching others what he had come to understand.

What is the difference between the beliefs of Christianity and Buddhism?


There is no creator (Buddhism is non-theistic.)  “in the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth”  (Gen. 1:1)
Man has no soul “What can a man give in exchangefor his soul?” (Matt. 16:26)

There’s no need of a Savior
“All have sinned” (Rom. 3:23)“the wages of sin is death”  (Rom. 6:23)“How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3) 

There is no heaven  (cycle of rebirth involving karma)  
“I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:3)

Truth is discovered through Human meditation  

“The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom”  (1 Cor. 1:25)

The purpose of life is nirvana – personal happiness 
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God” (John 17:3) 

Personal goal – Self realization
“Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matt. 16:25)

What did Jesus say about other religions?
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
“Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”   (Matthew 7:15)

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:17-18)

*For a more in-depth comparison chart explaining some beliefs and practices of Tibetan Buddhism go to Under Tibetan Buddhism on the first page, click on “Compare.”

Blog Post #2 from Bob

A few readers posted objections to last week’s blog that contrasted the beliefs of Buddhism with Christianity. Since the Dalai Lama was in town, one man suggested it was, “not very welcoming to our city” and “flame-throwing” to even bring up the subject.

A couple of weeks ago, I was a guest speaker at an event that was intended to encourage Christian educators to find ways to share Biblical truth in their schools. Some in the community immediately protested that the seminar was inappropriate because it violated the separation of church and state. As a result of opposition, many Christian teachers choose to keep their convictions to themselves rather than stir up controversy. They don’t want to cause trouble.

Since Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peace-makers”, some think followers of Christ should always bend over backward to avoid disagreement. Since our culture has become increasingly anti-Christian, it’s suggested we ought to be more discreet about our beliefs so the world doesn’t despise us even more. Why agitate the bully?

I’m not surprised when the world objects to what Christians believe. Jesus warned that carnal men would reject the truth because they love darkness rather than light. What does surprise and disappoint me is that some who claim to follow Christ are so fearful of the world’s disapproval that they allow tolerance to trump truth. It seems they mistakenly regard Christianity as just another system of moral guidelines instead of the worship of the person of Jesus Christ.

Truth matters! If a sign says, “Bridge out- stop!” it matters whether it’s true or not. If I dial a ten-digit phone number, it matters if I get one number wrong. If I cash a check at the bank it matters that the decimal is in the right place. Jesus made it clear that our belief in Him really mattered. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

The same Jesus who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” also said, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword” and that he would set brother against brother and parent against child. He said, “If the world hates me don’t be surprised if it hates you.” The peacemakers Jesus promised to bless were not those who ran from conflict, but those who courageously brought reconciliation between a sinful man and a holy God through the proclamation of the gospel. Without Jesus there is no peace.

Jesus also said, ‘Blessed are you when men persecute you, revile you and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my name’s sake. Rejoice and be glad for in the same way they treated the prophets.”

The prophet Elijah was called a, “troubler” by King Ahab because he insisted the three year famine in Israel was God’s judgment on the nation for its sin.

John the Baptist was accused of being a troublemaker because he publicly criticized King Herod for living with his brother’s wife. John was so intolerant and outspoken about evil that he got arrested and beheaded.

The Apostle Paul was often accused of being a troublemaker. In his sermon on Mar’s Hill he contrasted the Athenian belief in many gods with the Christian faith that there is one true God, “…who made the world and everything in it.” Everywhere Paul went he caused a revival or a riot – sometimes both. But he endured threats and imprisonment because a few responded positively and were saved.

It was said of the first-century Christians “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have come here”. (Acts 17:6) The early Christians weren’t despised because they believed Jesus was God. The Romans tolerated many deities -one more wouldn’t have mattered. The early Christians were arrested, tortured and sometimes set aflame on crosses because they insisted that Jesus was THE ONLY God. That was too exclusive – and it caused big trouble.

Those who follow Christ today are not commissioned to, “go into all the world and preach that Jesus offers a good example of compassionate behavior – one of the many equally valid belief systems.” No. We are commissioned to, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

Since our secular culture is becoming increasingly hostile to all truth-claims, believers are going to have to “toughen up” to survive. Instead of manufacturing a make-believe, wimpy, effete Jesus that is just a figment of our imagination so we can be accepted by the world, examine the Scriptures and note the claims of the real Jesus. He claimed that God created the world. He claimed to be God in the flesh. He claimed to be the only way to salvation. He claimed to have conquered death. He claimed to be the source of eternal life. He claimed the Bible is true. He claimed marriage is between a man and a woman. He claimed false teachers should be identified and opposed. He claimed we could be saved through trusting Him – not by our good works.

Those claims sounded outrageous and troublesome to Jesus’ religious contemporaries who were attempting to pacify the Roman authorities and avoid conflict. So they conspired to have Jesus crucified, “…lest we lose our place and this nation”.

There’s a difference between being a peacemaker and an appeaser. And there’s a difference between being a troublemaker and an agitator. Christian evangelism should attempt to, “make the teaching about God, our Savior attractive” and not deliberately antagonize.

However, we can’t water down the truth just to avoid controversy either. We can’t pretend Christianity is just one of a number of good religions and leave the impression that maybe they can all be blended together. Our goal should be to speak the truth in love. If some label us, “troublemakers” because of that, we are in pretty good company.