Who is this Man Jesus?


get-attachmentTHE WORD: Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” ~John 14:6-7

During this past Spring Semester at CCU, I took a Worldview class that awakened my mind to a stunning reality. I’ve always known there are many religions, philosophies, and ideologies in the world. However, what was most revealing to me in this class was the realization that even within the Church, a worldview called “pluralism” exists.

For many Christians, the Biblical worldview is too strict (and restrictive), too absolute, and too exclusive. They would rather live life believing that God is good, kind and fair, along with a brush stroke of faith that everyone is on their own path that will eventually lead to heaven. It is a form of “coexistence” that is a mockery of what the Bible teaches.

In the book Seeking and Finding God, by Dave Hunt, the author writes, “A conviction that there is a definite way to heaven (and only one) is not tolerated in this day of professed tolerance, because it insists that all roads don’t lead to the same place, that truth does exist, and that there is a distinction between what is right and what is wrong. Instead of such antiquated convictions, ecumenical broad-mindedness is the new wave for the new millennium. We are expected to set aside the rational necessity of being certain about our eternal destiny in favor of a mindless tolerance that promises only to avoid religious arguments in this life but offers no sensible assurance of the next.” (Hunt, 2007, p. 56-57)

So how do I live a life of congruency with God’s Word in a world where so many ideologies seem to be diluting the truth? The authors of Making Sense of Your World write, “The goal of every person is to discover truth about God, not to be found in error or be self-deceived. The question of truth however is not how we might want things to be, but how things actually are. Truth and sincere faith are an ideal combination.” (Phillips, Brown, & Stonestreet, 2008, p. 178)

As I studied various worldviews, listened to videos and read the discussion threads by my classmates, I recognized that integral to congruency in my life within the body of Christ is holding fast to my stance and not allowing the world’s philosophies or ideologies to water down my personal faith. It is my desire to seek unity and wholeness according to God’s standards – and not be compromised by man’s delusional thinking.

The passage that captures my theological perspective is eloquently written in the book of Ephesians:

“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” ~ Ephesians 4:11-16 NLT

One day, we must ALL answer the question, “Who was this man Jesus – to me?” Will we be prepared to face our Creator and say with confidence that we became intimately acquainted with His Son?

For me it is this simple: I will continue to be a student of God’s Holy Word, for it is within the pages of His Book that I will receive all that I need to live a life worthy of His calling. “For the Word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” ~ Hebrews 4:12-13

As we begin our day today, my prayer is that the Spirit of the Most High will move in our hearts and minds in such a way that we will not be intimidated or confused by the world’s views and ideologies. My prayer for you and me is that we hold fast to what we know to be God’s truth…and trust that He has already prepared our path and our purpose.

“Papa God, give us courage to stand firm. Help us to be your hands and feet. Give us a Spirit of gentleness so that as you give us opportunities to share your Truth, we do so with love, grace and compassion. In Jesus’ Name…Amen”.

In His Strong Love,
Rose

Our Audacious God


burning bush (2)In order to triumph over the beguiling charm of the Enemy, our attention needs to be laser-focused on our Creator. We need to know that God has stacked the deck of life in our favor.

And we need to open our minds to grasp a bit of the audacity of God.

Moses had an encounter with God that disrupted his life—in an epic way. You can read the fascinating story found in the third chapter of Exodus. God attracted Moses’ attention by an angelic apparition in the form of a bush in the desert. Moses was looking after a herd of sheep when he caught sight of the strange phenomenon. The bush captured Moses’ attention because it burned without being consumed. Where I live in New Mexico, we have tumbleweeds everywhere. I occasionally entertain myself by lighting them on fire. Poof—and they’re gone!

But there was no “poof” to God’s bush. As Moses ventured toward the bush to get a closer look, a voice told him to take off his sandals. Unbeknownst to Moses, he had entered a holy place in the desert.

That’s when Moses encountered the audacity of God.

And that’s when Moses got his assignment to lead God’s people out of Egyptian captivity. Naturally, he wanted to gain a better understanding of who was commissioning him to undertake such an epic task, so Moses asked who he should say sent him. The answer: “I AM WHO I AM.” There was no need for further explanation.

The essence of our Creator is beyond what we can comprehend with our limited one hundred billion neurons, give or take a few. Our brains possess enormous power to conceive and believe, but only to the extent of our innate potential, and we do not have the potential to fully understand or explain God.

Human logic is incapable of explaining divine truth.

It seems reasonable to assume the Creator will always be superior to the created. We are allowed to understand some things about him, but not everything. Fortunately, we are allowed to know everything about him we need to know. And again, his knowledge infinitely supersedes our own, so whatever he reveals to us is enough. Actually, it’s perfect.

Our Creator defies human explanation. He said so himself (remember, we’re talking about an audacious God): “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts’” ~Isaiah 55:8–9 NASB

(Excerpt from Holy Libido http://www.amazon.com/Holy-Libido-ebook/dp/B00DL7NXM6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1379680524&sr=8-1&keywords=holy+libido<a href=

Don’t Stop Believin’


TightwireThere’s a story in the Bible that sheds some interesting light on faith. I’m encouraged to know that the people Jesus encountered while here on earth are people just like you and me. They were not super-human men and women with super-human faith.

There was a guy who had a son who was possessed by an evil spirit. The spirit would throw the kid to the ground and make him foam at the mouth and gnash his teeth. (Some of us with kids and grandkids can relate: we sometimes wonder if some strange spirit has invaded their body as they kick and scream on the floor.)

The father of the tortured boy asked Jesus to heal his son.

Here’s the conversation we read in the 9th chapter of Mark:

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” (This strikes me funny. The boy is rolling in the dirt, foaming at the mouth, and Jesus is having a casual conversation with the dad.)

The dad told Jesus, “From childhood. The spirit has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” (Can you imagine saying to the Son of God, “If you can!” Come to think of it…yes, I guess we can imagine that.)

Jesus repeated his words: “ ‘If you can’? Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

WOW…me, too!

So…what can we learn from this encounter?

First, there was nothing impressive about the father’s faith. The guy said to Jesus, “If you can…” So faith is not the absence of doubt. Faith is refusing to allow our doubt to stop us from believing.

Second, it’s okay to be honest about our faith. We do not need to fake our faith. The man said, “I believe; help me in my unbelief.”

I can easily relate to the father of the tortured boy. I believe. And I wonder – not if he can – but if he will.

We sometimes mistakenly believe that the “size” of our faith is inadequate. But I don’t think it’s about the amount of our faith. We do not need to be the Superman (or Superwoman) of faith. I think it’s about whether or not we are willing to “risk” trusting God with all we’ve got. Like the little widow lady who gave her last few coins as an offering to God, it’s not the amount that impresses God. It’s about whether or not we will offer it all.

Possibly we have only a couple of small “coins” of faith. It’s enough! I believe God has some great things in store for those who are willing to trust him with everything they have to offer.

Pardon Me ~Your Humility is Showing


BraggingArrogance and showmanship – in the form of self-righteousness – annoy God. On the other hand, we who are Christ followers are told to be bold and bright – letting the light within us shine in such a way that it will be seen by everyone.

We’ve all cringed a bit when people seem to boast about the enormous amounts of time they spend on their knees in prayer, and how they’ve worn out their Bible (make that “Bibles”) from constant use. We find ourselves feeling a bit annoyed by this display of piety. Yet haven’t most of us boasted in similar ways?

In the 6th chapter of Matthew, here’s what Jesus teaches: “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

And here’s what he teaches us about prayer (also in the 6th chapter of Matthew): “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Yet earlier, in the 5th chapter of Matthew, Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

From my perspective, the decision about whether or not to “make my good deeds known” is a matter of the motivation of my heart. Here’s the question I must continually ask myself: “Is what I’m about to say for God’s glory…or for my glory?” I can tell the difference—usually. And I believe the ultimate “test” of my motivation is exposed in the response of other authentic Christians. (I specify other authentic Christians because anytime we open our mouth we are at risk of being misperceived by people who “project” their own self-righteous flaws onto us.)

The Bible does not tell us to avoid practicing our righteousness before others. Rather, we are told to not practice our righteousness—or to pray—to be seen by others. Which brings us back to the motivation of our heart. “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. ~ Matthew 6.1

Praying or reading your Bible in a public place, such as a restaurant, may be a display of self-righteousness. Or, it may be an act of genuine gratitude for God’s Word and his provision. It’s a matter of one’s heart motivation.

I believe we need to be bold in our Lord. I believe we need to be “out there” proclaiming the good news of what he has done – and is doing – in our lives, and what he will do in the lives of others who will humbly receive his gift of Life. And when we boast, we must be reminded to “boast in the Lord.” ~1 Cor 1.31

Let us be continually checking our motives, and asking God to search our hearts, and expose anything within us that distracts others from the glory of our God.

We are his servants, and we are honored to have been invited to serve the King of kings and Lord of lords by serving his people—boldly…and for HIS glory!

…and yet have BELIEVED!


Empty tombWhile Rose and I watched the crucifixion of Jesus during the final episode of the Bible, I felt ashamed for the times I have not been faithful to God’s call. I regretted the times I avoided the “discomfort” of bearing witness to the work of God in my life.

Watching as our Lord was beaten mercilessly—as an innocent man—was almost too much to bear. There were times when I wanted to look away. But I was reminded that since he was willing to be beaten to death as the payment for my sin, how could I look away! How can I ever be a faithful witness to his grace if I cannot even bear to watch as he took my place?

After the beating, and the gruesome death, in three days the morning came. And the resurrection! I thought my heart would burst as I shared in the elation of Mary and the others when they discovered that the tomb was empty. All of my shame melted away as I witnessed Jesus’ kindness toward his disciples, even Peter. Their past failures and disbelief no longer mattered. Jesus died to release them, and us, from the penalty of sin. And he died to release us from the guilt and shame of our past foolishness.

I imagined what it would have been like to have been visited by Jesus after his resurrection from the dead. The look in his eyes supercharged my desire to “risk” being faithful to him, especially when things get a little uncomfortable. One day we will look into his eyes—and he will look into ours—as we give an account of the opportunities, and the gifts, he gave us to serve him.

Jesus commended his disciples for believing in him. And then he said something that reignited my faith: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” ~John 20.29

Rose and I looked at each other with a renewed awareness: That’s us! We, and all those who believe because of the witness of the disciples who were there to see with their eyes our risen Lord, are those who have not seen. Nevertheless, he has given us eyes of the heart to believe. Jesus tells us we are blessed for believing.

May we each experience a surge of confidence as we go about our day-to-day activities. Our Lord suffered the death that was meant for us, so that we can have everlasting life. How can we do less than bear witness to his amazing grace in our lives!

The Roar of our Rights


Yelling ChildThe uproar of men and women proclaiming their “rights” is reverberating throughout our nation. I can relate to the frustration of being told what I am allowed–or not allowed–to do, either legally or morally speaking. While I cannot relate to a desire to marry someone who is equipped the same way I am, genitally speaking, I remember a time when I thought the “one wife” rule was too restrictive. Looking back on that time in my life, I now realize I was simply enticed by the lust of my own flesh-stained immaturity. At this time in my life, the “one wife” rule makes perfect sense to me, and it makes perfect sense to Rose, too.

There are at least a couple of things that come to my mind when I consider the whole “rights” uproar. The first is that not everyone believes the Bible is the authoritative Word of God. For these folks, I can easily understand why being told I must conform to some “antiquated” teaching to which I do not subscribe would be annoying, if not infuriating.

The second thing that comes to mind is that for those of us who do claim to believe the teaching in the Bible is true, we do not think of it as being relevant to us in a personal way if it conflicts with our desires. In other words, our desires trump God’s truth. I believe this is true because of my own struggle at times to allow God’s truth to trump my desires.

But God’s design for marriage has not “evolved” to adapt to our (un)natural inclinations. As Christ followers, I believe it would be good to rethink the whole “rights” issue. I write about this in Holy Libido:

 

As Christ followers, our rights become secondary to what is right from God’s perspective. In fact, we need seriously to question whether or not we still have any rights at all. Based on God’s Word, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). So, in essence, I’m a dead man. What rights does a dead man have?

When I look at situations from God’s vantage point, I learn that my most godly right is the right to waive my rights. Or possibly that should read “the right to waive my phantom rights.” The default mode of my second nature is to stake my claim, defend my ground, and set the world straight, but when I am in the flow of God’s way, these things no longer make sense.

Satan wants to bind us up in our phantom rights—the rights we no longer have. He smirks at the things we cling to, like our grudge-encased right to judge, for instance, or even our right to be hurt or offended. We are tempted to react according to the gospel of our own selfish ambitions. After all, it’s our second nature. (Holy Libido, pg. 144)

 

I encourage my brothers and sisters who believe the Bible is God’s written Word to stand steadily on the Rock. Now, more than ever, we must surrender the way that might seem right to us–from the perspective of popular opinion–in exchange for God’s unwavering design for marriage. And may we resist our natural inclination to judge those who believe differently than we do. God grant us wisdom to be a conduit of his grace in our embattled world.

Runnin’ Naked…and Lovin’ It!


Running Silhouette“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” ~Hebrews 4.12-13

So here’s the question: Knowing the Bible “exposes” our innermost thoughts and desires, do we feel comforted…or condemned? Do we think of the revealing Word of God as a good and beneficial thing, or as a frightening thing?

It seems to me that the answer depends on our level of trust in the goodness of God. The more we trust him, the more safe we feel in our “nakedness” before him. Otherwise, we feel violated by God’s “intrusion” into our secret thoughts and desires.

I’m beginning to welcome the search light of God in my life. Knowing that he is for me and not against me makes all the difference. Although in the past I typically imagined God exposing the “bad” things lurking deep within my soul, it has occurred to me there are a few good things within me that God is exposing. For instance, one of the things he is exposing is my deep and enduring desire to be the man he designed me to be, and to be a husband and father and grandpa that will honor him.

He is exposing my willingness to learn to trust him more fully.  He is revealing my confidence that he is the One who will complete the work he has begun within me. Today, my greatest challenge is to live in humble submission to the things he reveals to me…as I live in his Word.

Sometimes when we’re reading the Bible, we simply quit reading too soon. Immediately after we read about God using his Word as a sword to slice and dice our innermost thoughts and desires, we read this:

“This High Priest of ours (Jesus) understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” ~ Hebrews 4.15-16

May we invite—and welcome—God’s loving revelation that brings healing into our lives and relationships, and peace that boggles our minds.

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