Monday, November 7, 2016

Electoral Maps and Evangelicals

Many sit tonight and look at possible electoral maps that predict the future president of the United States of America.  I believe that it is very important that we select a candidate for president that best reflects values we find in Scripture, but this election has exposed a problem that has been emerging in our country for a long time now.  LifeWay recently did a survey among Evangelical Christians and the results of that survey was staggering.  Of those surveyed, the two most important topics that informed an Evangelical's choice for president was the economy and national defense.  The personal character of a candidate came a very distant third as a concern for a potential evangelical voter.  This to me betrays what I really already knew.  The Church in America has become compromised with the world.  We are really good at 'being in the world' but we are having a very hard time of 'not being of the world.'

Here is a sobering thought:  judgment begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17).  While we moan and wail about the condition of our country we have witnessed a secularization of God's people that is unprecedented.

Here are some things to thing about:

-For the first time in world history we, as Western society, have brought into doubt the foundational concept  of marriage being defined as being between a man and a woman (I acknowledge polygamy was around in the ancient world but it was a relationship between a man and women).

-We are not sure about the question of how to handle gender in our institutes of state funded education, but we are very sure that the name of Jesus Christ cannot be invoked in our classrooms.  We champion the idea in our schools of blurring lines and kicking down boundaries while eschewing any concept of objective truth.

-We can have the most blessed and affluent societies in the history of man and still turn our nose up at the poor.

-We endorse free sexual promiscuity and then try to cover for the consequences of that promiscuity by a policy called 'a woman's choice'.

-We apply names to evil actions like 'abortion' so we can sanitize it and not call it what it is, murder (you abort a rocket launch, you murder a human).

-While Churches assemble to bring honor and praise to the living God on Sunday's parking lots of the church are empty while the ball fields are full.  

- We have bought into the lie of the idol of statism that tells us that that the state can solve all of our problems.

-We have forgotten the boundaries that God set up in the sphere sovereignty of the family, church, and state.

-We have grown cold to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that tells us that we are sinners and we are called to love the world enough to tell them the truth of their sinfulness and their need of a Savior.

I say all this to point out that no election is going to save our country.  It begins with the Church repenting of the evil in our hearts.  It begins with God's people re-dedicating our life to Jesus!

As far as this election goes - I have to quote the venerable Leslie Newbigin- "I am neither a pessimist or an optimist, Jesus Christ has risen from the dead!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Kingdom Coaching

     While considering the upcoming season I like to reflect back on first principles.  As a coach my primary concern is the spiritual health of my team.  I believe the way to accomplish the spiritual health of my team is to integrate ‘Kingdom Coaching’ into my program.

    As Christian coaches we don’t have to go about coaching like the rest of the world.  Many of us can look at a culture that is becoming more and more self-centered and decadent and become discouraged.  We can see coaching in a post-Christian environment as overwhelming or a as challenge.  Michael Hyatt said, “You don’t have to stay stuck in the state you are in. But first, you must own your specific situation and take responsibility for the choices that led to it. Only then can you begin to create a different future.”

     I, as a Kingdom Coach, can make a break with mistakes of the past and look ahead to integrating Christ into every aspect of the program that God has entrusted me with.  God has put us in this spot and at this time to intentionally integrate our programs with Christ. 

    One of the major ills of our day is a dividing up of our world into the secular and sacred.  We have accepted the lie of secularism that it is okay to live a privatized faith.  Many Christians believe that religion is okay for the church house but not okay in the workplace.  We hear phrases from popular culture such as, “Your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth.”  Others say, “Don’t impose your religion on me!”  This type of thinking has saturated the world of sports. 

    One can observe a very pious coach on Sunday morning during worship, but on Monday at the practice field they display anger filled, explicative riddled behavior that looks anything but Christian.  Athletes also fall into this trap.  Many athletes have a hard time knowing what it looks like to honor Christ on the field because they have not seen it modeled by their coaches.  We witness athletes invoke the name of Jesus but have behavior that looks nothing like the teaching of Christ. 

    The answer to this malady is ‘Kingdom Coaching’ or, more broadly, “Kingdom Sports.”  In the Lord’s prayer we pray that, “God’s will be done on earth as in Heaven.”  We are crying out for God’s Kingdom rule to integrate every aspect of life.  We as coaches are tasked with challenging every aspect of our programs to fall under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  This all sounds like good philosophy so what is the practical applications of this?

First of all, we must simply show young men how to be followers of Jesus Christ.
We must develop young men and women that are disciples of Jesus Christ.  We need young men that are COURAGEOUS.  We need men as C.S. Lewis put it, “with chests.”

This begins with the idea of becoming like Jesus Christ - to follow the way of the Master.  This is not just head knowledge about Jesus but is a way of living. 

This is best embodied by a coach that is a follower of Jesus.  Coaches must model what a mature follower of Jesus Christ looks like. 

Paul told the Christians at Corinth, in 1 Corinthians 4:15-16, “For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.  I urge you, then, be imitators of me.”

The best method to learn how to follow Jesus is to imitate someone that is a mature disciple of Christ. 

2) The second aspect of Kingdom coaching is found in the realm of purity and personal holiness.

 With young people today, the flash point of the spiritual battle that we see ourselves in the midst of is in the area of purity. 

I Peter 1: 15-16, “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

As Christians, we are called to live a life of radical purity and holiness.  Many times professional athletes glorify a life of excess and immorality.  Some people, outside the realm of athletics, see athletes in a negative light because of this.

As coaches we must hold our kids to a higher standard of Biblical purity. 

3)  Another aspect in the structure of Kingdom Coaching is building upon a foundation of truth.

All relationships are built upon trust.  Trust is destroyed when truth is compromised.  As coaches, we want to build relationships built upon telling the truth to one another.  We need coaches that speak the truth to their athletes and fellow coaches as well as players that speak the truth in all situations. 

Adrian Rogers once stated, “It is better to tell the truth that heals than the lie the kills.”

We would much rather speak truth to players about their status on the team than mislead them and lead to further damage.  We also want young men that go into society as ones that tell the truth.  Jesus embodied truth in his very being and we are called to be people of truth.

Paul told the Ephesian brethren in Ephesians 4:25, “Therefore having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”

One of the main components of having a healthy team is to build that team on mutual trust and respect. 

4) Finally, ‘Kingdom Coaching’ encourages the ‘dos’ as well as the ‘do nots’.  We want to develop young athletes that will stand up for the defenseless.  So much of what we focus on as Christians is the negatives or the ‘don’t dos’. 

    Coaches want to develop young athletes that stand up for what is right in all situations.  Part of the measure of the character of a person is how they treat those that are less powerful than they.  We want our athletes to have the perfect mix of toughness and tenderness.  We want young people that are tough enough to stand up to the world but not so tough they they become overbearing.  We want to develop the proper mix of both toughness and tenderness. 

Psalm 82:3 states, “Give justice to the weak and fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.”

    We are called to stand up for what is right and to demand justice for those that have been mistreated.  We want to develop courageous young people that will stand up to evil and try to correct that which is wrong.

    As I consider the upcoming season I think it is important to remember what we are all about.  These first principles will come before we ever consider lining up and winning a game.   My prayer this season is that we will bring God’s kingdom rule into our football program. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Hermeneutic of the Cross

Sunday morning I will be preaching on the importance of the Bible.  While writing my sermon I thought a lot about interpretation.  The question arises, “How does one interpret Scripture?”  How do we make sense of the hard stuff we find in the Bible?  Even Peter says some of Paul’s writings are hard to understand and are twisted by those that have bad intentions. When considering interpreting the Bible many turn to understanding the following: learning the grammar of the text from the original languages, the historical background of the passages, the idioms used, and the context of the over passage in question.  I think all of these are excellent tools to use but I would like to propose another method.  I call it the hermeneutic of the Cross.

    I believe one way to look at hard passages is through the lens of the cross.  The cross is one of the single most dramatic ways that God demonstrated His love for us.  As John 3:16 tells us, “for God so loved the world.”  The Son going to the cross is Father’s ultimate display of His love for us.  Philippians 2 tells us that the Son willingly emptied Himself and died on the cross on our behalf.  I would propose that the cross is the template through which we should view God.  We see a trinitarian shape in the cross of Jesus.  We see the Father send the Son, the Son freely offer up Himself as the sacrifice, and the Spirit strengthen the Son in this mission.

So how can the cross help us with interpreting the Bible? 

    First of all, the cross tells us how serious sin really is.  Isaiah 53 tells us that we are healed by His stripes and He was crushed for iniquity.  Sin really is that bad.  When we look at the Exodus and Conquest of the land we can understand a little better why God tries to drill into the head of knotty head Israel that he means business about purity and holiness.  God is a loving Father that knows best.  He knows that sin will destroy us.  It is the darkness of sin that drapes over the cross and drives Jesus to say, “My God, My God why have your forsaken me?”  Jesus is one that knew no sin but became sin on our behalf.  So when we look at the Bible’s prohibition against sexual sin, anger, discord, and impurity we can just look to the cross and see how bad sin really is.

    Lastly, the cross displays the love of God.  The cross cries out that God loves so much that He does the reaching.  God does the saving.  It tells us that grace is the only way we can get out of the pit.  God has stoop down, get in the mud, and draw us out.  God takes us out and cleans us up.  The cross tells us that there is no way a little ‘works righteousness’ is part of God’s plan.  There will be no boot strap saving but a radical grace that sends the Son into the world to be a ransom.  The cross displays to us that God does not want anyone to perish but to come to a knowledge of the truth.

 This love also helps us understand the doctrine of Hell.  So many people have a difficult time with the idea that a loving God would send people to Hell.  We should remember that love is about choice.  God loves us so radically that He gives us a free will to choose Him.  When someone is sentenced to Hell, in essence, God is saying to the sinner, “Your will be done.”  Sinful folks do not want to be in the presence of God for eternity.  Heaven would be miserable for those that do not love God for what He did for them in Christ.  God in his love allows those people to make the final choice to be alienated from Him for eternity. 

So I propose to you a new tool in interpreting the Bible.  I call it he hermeneutic of the Cross of Jesus. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Interesting Times

There is a Chinese proverb that says something like, “may you live in interesting times.”  I would say that many Christians would agree that we live in interesting times. 

Many have been shook to the core by the ruling on marriage by the Supreme Court.  I am not shocked in the least.  The seeds for this revolution in identity, marriage, and morality have been sown many years ago.  This post is lengthy and it reflects my own struggles.  Realize that these are areas where I fall short so I am preaching to myself also. 

The question we should be asking is, “How did we get here?” and “What is our response?” 

We are at this moment because of apathy and a lack of love.  Now you may think that sounds crazy that a lack of love has lead us to a moral decline in our country.  What I mean by love is Biblical love.  Love means that I care enough about a person to share the truth with them.  If I know that their lifestyle is destructive and that they are not in fellowship with their Creator, I should have enough love to tell them.  Love means that I will tell you the truth in a compassionate way realizing that you may hate me for that.  Love means that I will still be your friend even if my ‘truth telling’ has caused you to be upset with me.  Love means I will pray for my enemies.

Here is the problem with loving our enemies, we are so worried about offending people that we will never have any enemies to love. 

 Apathy is the other great elephant in the room that we must discuss.  Christians have become lazy and really don’t care until they realize Rome is on fire.  It is at that moment that we spring into action.  Here are some signs of the problem; you drive by a ball park on Sunday and it packed full of Christians playing some type of sport and the church parking lot is nearly empty.  We see people’s enthusiasm for a sports team is more fervent than their love for Jesus.  People would rather worship the god of personal peace and affluence instead of the living God of Heaven.  When the early Church wanted to make a difference they worshipped.  Notice in Acts 4:31 that when persecution arose it was worship that brought action.  Worship is an act of spiritual warfare that we take for granted.  But apathy doesn’t end there.  We are apathetic about reading Scripture.  2 Timothy 3:16 says that Scripture is God breathed.  The same breath that brought life to man in Genesis 2:7 brings life to us through the word in Scripture.  The Hebrew writer says that the word of God is living and active.  Many Christians cannot form a response to the gay marriage debate because they don’t even know that the Bible teaches on the subject. 

What is our response?

Of course it would make sense that we should start with Love.  It is the love that Jesus had when he gave His life as a ransom.  He came to serve and not be served.  We must be willing to get in the mud and love people that may disgust us.  We vehemently disagree with people on the issue of gay marriage but we have to engage them and teach them the truth.  We can’t teach them the truth from afar.  We can ‘loft’ Bible verse bombs from some place far off.  We must evangelize by meeting, befriending, and teaching them.  That is true love.  True love is knowing the salvation you have in Jesus and wanting to share it with others.  True love is seeing everyone as being made in the image of God and wanting them to reach the fulness of life. 

We must have courage.  God has given us a spirit of power not of timidity.  Recently, I was studying Revelation 21 and noticed that in verse 8 that those that will go into Hell will be the ‘cowardly’.  I realized that I never considered that an attribute of the ungodly is cowardice.  I then remembered how much the Bible says about courage.  How many times have you read, “be of good courage’?  We must be like the Peter and John before the Sanhedrin and be bold in our proclamation.  We need Christians that understand the Gospel is a proclamation of truth and not something to be apologized for.  I believe the Gospel is like a lion.  What I mean is that no one has to defend a lion but only has to unleash the lion.   It is time for the Gospel to challenge every strata of our society. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Christian Roots of Religious Freedom

Most of us remember our Western Civilization courses in college or a World History class in high school. In those situations we learned about the evil of Christians over the ages and how the institutionalized Church persecuted everyone else. Enlightenment thinkers, such as Edward Gibbon, were taken at face value when he asserted that raw power was supported by religious authorities at the expense of the common man. This is a very truncated and dangerous view of history. Protestants and Evangelicals have swallowed this way of thinking ‘hook line and sinker’ and failed to realize that the Enlightenment writers that they take for the gospel truth had an axe to grind against the Christian faith. The truth is much more complex than what we have been taught. I am not defending the atrocities people have committed in the name of Christ against other religious groups at times in history. What I am proposing is a fresh look at the roots and wellspring of our Christian forefathers in their teachings on religious freedom. I am proposing that Christianity is the very root of Christian freedom. This is such a timely subject due to the rise of a type of radical secularism and the intolerance of radical Islam. We must be courageous people and thinking people in these interesting times. It would also do us well to understand the underpinnings of our religious freedom that was birthed at the founding of our country.

       We must turn back to the earliest Christians to see how the ideas of religious freedom trickled down to the founding fathers of our own country. The earliest followers of Christ were persecuted by a pagan empire but the tide was changing by 300 years after the death of the last Apostle. Not long after the fiercest persecution of Diocletian an emperor would come to power named Constantine, and he would issue the Edict of Milan. The Edict of Milan was a turning point in history in that it would be one of the first statements of religious tolerance of its kind. Contrary to popular belief, it did not make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire but made it a tolerated religion. But how did this way of thinking come about? Who shaped this idea of religious freedom? Was it the pagan Romans that so many believe were enlightened versus those backwards Christians?

     Fresh voices of religious toleration can be found in early Christian leaders such as Tertullian. Tetrullian stated in the early 200’s AD that it is a “fundamental human right, a privilege of nature, that every man should worship according to his own convictions.” This was a revolutionary concept in the Roman Empire at that time. The Imperial Cult of Rome was fine with you worshipping your own gods or as long as you accepted the Roman pantheon of gods, as well as the Emperor as a living god. What Tertullian was calling for was a much more extreme form of religious freedom. Tertullian would actually be quoted by Thomas Jefferson during the 18th century to defend the right to religious freedom.

      Another shining light of religious freedom from the beginnings of Christianity was Lactantius. Lactantius lived into the early 300’s and acted as an advisor for Constantine. Lantantius stated the following: “Religion is to be defended not by putting to death, but by dying, not by cruelty but by patience, not by an impious act but by faith […] For if you wish to defend religion by bloodshed, and by tortures, and by doing evil, it will not be defended but polluted and profaned. For nothing is so much a matter of free will as religion, for if the mind of the worshipper turns away it is carried off and nothing remains.” One can see the influence of Lactantius on the thinking of Constantine. Constantine in writing to the Eastern Provinces stated the following: “contest for immortality must be undertaken voluntarily and not with compulsion.”

 It was this radical view of religious freedom that was first birthed from the earliest thinkers in the Church. Here is a synopsis of what Christian thinking gave us as a nation as we look at religious freedom:

 1) Faith is a matter of an inward choice and should never be coerced or forced. This would rule out an official state religion that makes all other expressions of faith illegal.

 2) There are two realms in your experience. There is the spiritual dimension and the material world. Now, this is not to be confused as deism or what Francis Schaeffer called the ‘fact value dichotomy’ We know that we are integrated beings of flesh and spirit and what we do in the body matters. The point I am making here is more in line with what Abraham Kuyper called sphere sovereignty. In the sphere sovereignty paradigm one understands that there is the role of the Church and the role of the state. Actually, Kuyper had three spheres of influence that each had sovereignty. He added the family as the third sphere. The church exercises the keys of excommunication, the state wields the sword, and the family has the rod of discipline. One should not bleed into the other. For the state to take on the role of the Church or the Church to take on the role of the state leads to a blurring of lines that God never intended.

 In this time of uncertainty about our own religious freedom in our country we should gladly turn back the pages of time and drink deep from the wisdom of the early Christian thinkers. As Christians we should stand on the solid ground that religious freedom is a non-negotiable. Also, the state has no right to declare secular humanism as the official state religion of America. We need to do the tough work of asking how does the Church inform government and how does the government ensure religious freedom? How do we have an open market place of ideas while not drifting into relativism?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Life Stinks and Then You Die

The book of Ecclesiastes is one that I have always had trouble understanding. As a minister I say that with great humility and embarrassment. I have actually avoided teaching that book and studying it because of my lack of understanding. I recently had the pleasure of reading the book, Life Stinks and Then You Die by Bob Hostetler. Hostetler takes on the book of Ecclesiastes in a way that everyone from the learned scholar to the average member in the pew can understand. I can say that this book has given me a new appreciate for the genius of the book of Ecclesiastes. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this book, and I believe it has allowed me to reclaim a book of the Bible that has laid dormant in my devotion and teaching. I will have to say that that the title of Hostetler’s book may seem odd, but once you pick up the book it makes perfect sense. He points out that Solomon, by the time he writes Ecclesiastes, has lived a long and full life. Anyone that lives a long life will experience heartache and dispair. The book of Ecclesiastes does not sugar coat the issue of pain in this life with mere moral platitudes, but hits it head on with sobering teaching. Hostetler has organized his book in a masterful way that begins to unpack the main theme of the book of Ecclesiastes which is found in chapter 1 verse 2 that says, “Meaningless!, Meaningless! says the Teacher, Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” Hostetler points out that the word ‘meaningless’ or ‘vanity’ appears 38 times in the book of Ecclesiastes. From that statement one would think that Hostetler’s book is depressing but it sincerely deals the problems that we face today with boldness and provides hope throughout its pages. Hostetler sheds light on the why so many things seem to be meaningless in this life. Hostetler takes the ancient wisdom of Ecclesiastes and makes it relevant for postmoderns. For example, Hostetler pulls into the light the vanity of the fast paced life that pursues money and the fleeting things that will not last. As a matter of fact, after reading “Life Stinks”, it seems like Ecclesiastes speaks perfectly to this current age. The pointless pursuit of just ‘being busy’ to the point that we look back and realize that none of this ‘stuff’ lasts leads one to throw their hands up and cry ‘Vanity!’. I believe the real strength of this book is found in the wisdom that he unpacks from Solomon in that if you live your life for those things that last you are impervious to the things that tend to rock people to their core. The greatest highlights of the book are the following: just because we age and grow older does not mean we mature, we should expect the unexpected, and we should live each moment as it is the last of our life. The title of Hostetler’s, which at first seemed to be odd to me, truly nails the outlook of this amazing book of Ecclesiastes as “Life Stinks and then you Die.” I would highly recommend this book to anyone struggling with life and its many problems as well as anyone that wants to unlock the meaning of the book of Ecclesiastes.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Do Matthew, Mark, and Luke Present Jesus as Divine?

Many blogs and conservative websites have recently posted on old interview of Bart Ehrman by Stephen Colbert. Colbert gets into character during the interview and it is very entertaining. Colbert actually does decently well in his rebuttal of Ehrman, even though it is a bit 'tongue in cheek'. Erhman actually admitted that Colbert was correct in presenting the Gospel of John as holding forth Jesus as God incarnate in flesh. Where Colbert could have taken Ehrman to task was in the assumption that the Synoptic Gospels (Matt, Mark, and Luke) did not present Jesus as God. Ehrman, in his book Jesus Interrupted, proposes that the Synoptics paint a picture of Jesus as the purely human Jewish Messiah. He believes that the Divinity of Jesus is a later 'add on' of the Church. I would like to propose that Ehrman has not considered the Synopics as the original audience would have heard them. For example, if we could go back in a time machine and ask a Second Temple practicing Jew a few questions it may shed light on this issue. If one were to ask a practicing Jews the following questions: Who can forgive sins?, Who is the Lord of the Sabbath?, Who could be worshiped?, and Who could restructure or reconstitute what it means to be and Israelite? The resounding answer would be, "Only the one true God of Israel!" Now take that into consideration when you think about how Jesus claimed all of these roles in the Synoptics. In Mark 2 we read of Jesus' healing of the paralytic man let down through the roof of a home. Mark 2:5-7 reads, "And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7“Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (ESV) One can quickly see that Jesus claims to have the authority to forgive sins and the reaction of the scribes says it all, "God ALONE can forgive sins" Here is just one implicit claim to divinity by Jesus of Nazareth. Matthew bookends his gospel with folks worshiping Jesus. We see that he is worshiped as a baby in Matthew 2:11 and worshiped after His resurrection in Matthew 28:9. We know that only to God alone is worship allowed but Matthew is rubbing our nose in the fact that the story of Jesus is bracketed with worship. The question Matthew is asking the reader is, "Will you worship Him too?" Jesus does other provocative things such as claim to be the Lord of the Sabbath and reconstitute what it means to be an Israelite by literally 'making 12' (his disciples) and determining the boundaries of being God's people as those that are with Him. One could just look at the only accusation that stuck to Jesus in his trail before His crucifixion and see that His claim to Divinity was what put Him on the cross. Mark's Gospel records the sham trial of Jesus and how the Council tried to get false witnesses to testify against Jesus. The problem was that the false witnesses had contradictions in their testimony. What finally stuck was that Jesus claimed equality with God. We read in Mark 14:61-63 "Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death." (ESV) Jesus claimed the right to sit at the right hand of God which clearly means to share in His glory. One can witness the violent reaction of the high priest to see the effect of this claim. The very reason that Jesus was put on the cross was because of His claim to Divinity. To the Romans it was presented as a claim to Kingship but the Sanhedrin wanted Him on the cross because of their perception of blasphemy. In this post I just explored a few of the examples of Jesus' claim to Divinity in the Synoptics. It is a shame that Ehrman and other scholars try to discount the Christian faith using less than honest tactics. In a sound-bite society I am afraid that many people stop short of truly investigating some of the wild claims by a man like Ehrman.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Intolerance of the Tolerant

Many of you have heard of the controversy surrounding Brendan Eich the former CEO of Mozilla that came to its climax last week. Eich was actually the founder of Mozilla and the board of directors of the company recently decided to name him CEO of the company. This announcement touched off a firestorm in the liberal community. In protest some businesses blocked the Mozilla Firefox search engine from visiting their sites. Their reasoning was to put so much financial pressure on Mozilla that they would have no other recourse but to fire Eich. Eventually, Eich stepped down and is no longer employed by the very company that he helped found. You may ask what had Eich done that was so terrible? Had he committed a heinous crime? Had he stolen some poor person’s last meal? His only fault was that he had given $1,000 to support a California amendment to ban same-sex marriage. It was found that Eich actually endorsed traditional marriage. Can you believe that! The audacity! With all joking beside it is a sobering reminder that we live in interesting times. The irony of this entire pitiful situation is that one of Mozilla’s commitments as a company is to tolerance and equality. I guess that commitment is only extended to people that agree with the country’s current slide into moral oblivion and relativism. What should we do as Christians? 1) Pray for our country. 2) Wake up and decide that we are willing to give up personal comfort so that we can take stand. 3) Realize that we belong to God’s kingdom first and we are just aliens in a world that has turned its back on God.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Life and Death Struggle

A Life and Death Struggle

                I remember as a teenager seeing a movie about a foreign country invading the United States and a group of high school kids fought a guerilla war against this invading army.  I vividly remember thinking about what I would do if I were in the same situation.  I dreamed about going into the woods and fighting this communist invader just like the kids in the movie did. 

                It was easy after watching that movie thinking about being in a life and death struggle and the excitement of being in that type of situation.  Many Christians today have no idea that they are in a struggle that is much greater than any military conflict.  We are in a struggle that is more important than D-Day, Guadalcanal, or the fiercest battles of our nation’s history.  But this battle is not seen with the physical eye but is seen with the eye of faith. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 that we are in a spiritual struggle.  We are in a spiritual battle with Satan and the stakes are the souls of men and women. 

                If you doubt that you are in a struggle just pick up the most recent newspaper and you will see the reality of this struggle playing out in the public stage.  Disney Channel recently announced that it will have an episode of a popular kids’ show that will introduce children to the idea of a child having two “moms”.  Gay marriage is now supported in popular polls by over half of the American people.  Our national government is turned upside down by multiple scandals that hit at the root of folks just not telling the truth.  In the coming months we will see a call for women to become part of the selective service for possible drafting into the armed forces. 

                It doesn’t take long to see that our country is literally flying upside down and not looking to God’s word for our guidance.  So what are we to do?  I would propose to go back to the model of the first century church.  How did they turn the Roman Empire upside down and basically win over an Empire for Christ?  They were committed to the faithful obedience and teaching of God’s word and they were willing to be fed to the lions in the Coliseum.  Or simply put – radical obedience to the Bible and radical self-sacrifice to Christ.  We must be willing to teach the Bible, implement the Bible in our lives, and offer our lives and ambitions as a sacrifice for Christ. 


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Study of the Church - The Trinity - A Community of Love

I put this study together for our adult class during VBS and I thought I might share this online for anyone that would be interested.  I will continue to share installments in this series. 

I.                   God as Trinity

One of the basic tenets of the Christian faith is the idea of a triune God that reveals Himself and is characterized as perfect love. 

The Trinitarian nature of God would not be known by man unless it was revealed by God.  One could not just look at the created order around him and determine that God is Triune.  This fact must be revealed by God. 

A.      God the Father, Son, and Spirit

The Old Testament reveals God as ‘Father’ as the creator of the world (Deut 32:6).  Israel is known as God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22).  God is also known as the Father of the King of Israel.  God is also revealed in the Old Testament as the Father of the poor, the orphaned, and the widowed (2 Samuel 7:14, Psalms 68:6).

From the Old Testament revelation of God the Father we can learn two things about His nature and they are the following:  He is the origin of all things and He is intimately involved with His creation.

The Son Reveals the Father:  Jesus states in Matthew 11: 27, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father ; and no one knows the Son except the Father ; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”(NASB)

Jesus states that the Son reveals the Father and one can turn to the pages of the New Testament and find this to be true.  It is in the pages of the New Testament that the doctrine of the Trinity is made clear in the annals of salvation history.  The Father’s relationship to the Son is an eternal relationship in which the Father is eternally the Father and the Son is eternally the Son.  In other words, there was never a time that the Father did not exist or the Son.  The Father –Son relationship revealed in Scripture does not mean that the Father created the Son but just denotes the relationship.

John 1:1-2 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

John leaves no doubt that the Word (Son) has always existed through all eternity with the Father.

Jesus, just before His final Passover, mentions another ‘Helper’ (Paraclete) that will be sent to empower the Church (John 14: 17, 26; 16:13).

John 14:16-18, 26

16 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever ; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. 18 "I will not leave you as orphans ; I will come to you.   26 "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

John 16: 12-15

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 will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will 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. (NASB)

 The completion of Christ’s revelation of the Trinity is found in the sending of the Holy Spirit into the world especially after His glorification by the resurrection from the dead and coronation in Heaven (John 7:39)

The Spirit will share in the life of God the Father and the Son to Christ’s followers after His glorious ascension.  

Jesus taught His disciples that it would be better for Him to ascend to the Father because of the gift of the Spirit.  The Spirit would bond the followers of Jesus together but would also reveal God’s truth to them.  This idea of truth and unity go hand and hand.

Spheres of Work in the Trinity:

In the relational names of the persons of the Godhead we can observe the following:  the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both.  While they are called three persons in relation to one another we believe that they are one nature or substance (the early Church used the term ‘Consubstantial’ to illustrate this one nature- which literally means of the same substance).

1)       All Things Come from and originate in the Father (Romans 11:36, 1 Corinthians 8:6)

2)      All things are created through the Son- The Son is the instrument of the Father in Creation.

John 1: 1-3 “ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (NASB)

3)       The Holy Spirit brings life into the world and energizes.  The word Spirit in Hebrew (Ruah) is synonymous with breath or wind.  The word in Greek (Pneuma) is also connected with breath or wind.  The Holy Spirit also brought order from the primordial chaos in the beginning. (Job 26:13; 33:4, Psalms 33: 6; 104: 30, Genesis 1:2; 2:7)

This community of Love found in the Trinity is evidenced in the role of the Trinity in the redemption of man.

One of the earliest evidences of this is found in the baptism of Jesus found in Matthew 3: 13-17.  In this passage we see Jesus go into the waters of the Jordan River and when he comes out of the water we witness the descending of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and the voice of the Father.  In this one instance we see the confirmation of the Trinity together in the plan of redemption by the ratification of Christ’s mission in His baptism. 

The most obvious place in the New Testament that we witness the role of the Trinity in God’s plan of salvation is in the Great Commission of Matthew 28.  In Matthew 28:19 Jesus instructs His followers to baptize new converts in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit thus tying in the entrance into the Church with calling on the authoritative name of the Triune God. 

The epistles of the New Testament make it clear the Trinitarian shape of our redemption. 

Ephesians 2: 18

18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father (NASB)

Ephesians 2: 18 shows that through Jesus we have access to the Father through the Spirit.  Paul tells us that it is the work of Christ on the Cross and the mediating of the Spirit that brings us back into the courts of God the Father and back to the family relationship that God had planned for us from the beginning.

God as Love: 

God’s Love is first revealed in the Creation of the Universe.  God does not need anything but created man to be able to share His love with man.  Pure love is always expressed by wanting to share and that is exactly what the Bible reveals as God’s nature and desire.  God wants to share His love and glory with us. 

One analogy may help us understand why God wanted to create the Universe.  We may ask ourselves, “Why do people have children?”  The purest answer to this question is for the woman and man to be able to share their love with a child.  In marriage we see an example of Trinitarian love (in a very limited and imperfect sense).  A man and woman love one another so much that they become ONE flesh and that unity is so real that in nine months in becomes a tri-unity.  That love that a child shares with their parents was already there in the family before the child arrives.  In the same way God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit already existed in a community of love before we were created.  We were created to share in that divine love and to live in a covenantal family bond with God. 

            One of most revealing passages about the love of God comes from Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer found in John 17. 

John 17:22-26  "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one ;  I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.  "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.  "O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me;  and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." (NASB)

Jesus makes it clear that the ultimate purpose for His ministry is for man to share in the love of God and that love had already existed for eternity between the Father and Son.   The Church is to ‘image’ that love of God by loving one another.  The love that the church has one for another is to be a sign to the world about the unity and love of God. 

1 John 4:8 expounds a spiritual law that is unshakeable and that is God is Agape.  God is Love.  One should consider God’s love as a spiritual gravity that pulls all men to Him.  This is God’s ultimate purpose is to call man back into communion. 

Christ tells us in John 17 and in John 14: 23 that the person that keeps His words will have fellowship with God the Son and the Father.

One can see this displayed in the worship scene before the throne of God in Revelation chapters 4 and 5.  We see in Revelation chapter 4 that the human representatives and the entire created order worships God the Father as Creator and a shift occurs in Revelation chapter 5 when that worship and adoration is shifted to the Lamb (the Son) for redemption.  This worship is all enabled through the Spirit and this worship is all in the Spirit. 

Another way to understand the life of the Trinity is to understand the inner workings of the love reflected in the Godhead.  Christ is the very image of God and God the Father gives love to the Son in the form of the Spirit.  The Son then reflects that love back to the Father through the Spirit.  This love is then offered to man through the victory won on the cross.  That victory on the cross was a victory over sin and death.  When Christ was resurrected and glorified in His heavenly coronation the Spirit was sent into the Creation to enable the communion with God.

We can see this theme over and over again in Scripture.  We can summarize it as follows:

1)      God the Father sends His Son Christ in an act of Love (John 3:16)

2)      Christ the Son submits Himself to God the Father in humility and out of self-sacrificial love gives up His life for man (see Philippians 2)

3)      Because of this sacrifice and victory the Spirit is sent into the world to bring communion between the Father and man.  (John 14, John 16, Acts 1 and 2, et al) 

Through this brief investigation of the Trinity we can see that God’s purpose is to have communion with man and bring His just Kingdom rule to this earth.

In this study, I will propose that the vehicle to bring about this communion is the Church.  The Church is best understood in this light.