Jesus Speaks to the American Church


Marvelous Marv Gerbig(The following is a GUEST BLOG POST written by our friend Marv Gerbig in Illinois, senior pastor at Wyoming 1st Church of the Nazarene in Wyoming, Illinois. Marv wrote this in response to my challenge posted on Facebook to identify “Seven Survival Tactics for Thriving Churches.” Thank you Marv for sharing…)

“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ~Revelation 2:2, 11

This is what I commend you for:

You have excelled in education. You have studied and gone very deep into my Word. Your system of education in the Church is unparalleled in all of Church history. Anyone who desires to go deep into the Word of God can fill their desire in your churches. You educate believers.

Nevertheless, I have a few things against you:

You have taken your educational system in the churches and made it a stumbling block for the sheep of my fold. Especially when it comes to Sunday School, you have made learning the Word of God difficult. You have taken too much authority from me, Jesus, as the Teacher. Have you forgotten what I said? “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah” (Matthew 23:8-10). Too many of my people feel as if they need the church to tell them what the scriptures mean. You have created a dependent church and have made people think they cannot learn from me directly.

This is what I commend you for:

Your leaders have been highly educated and somewhat trained.

Nevertheless, I have a few things against you:

You have created a professional office of ministry that only those who are of a certain learning ability can achieve. While you may think this is a way to qualify those called into ministry, you have created a system that is not duplicable. If the leaders of the church were to be taken out, your churches would cease to exist. How do you read Acts? My church, from the beginning, was not dependent on professional leaders. If a leader was taken out, the church could not be stopped!!

This is what I commend you for:

You have taken into account how I created believers to understand my Word as they age. Your ministry by age group is truly amazing as far as it goes.

Nevertheless, I have a few things against you:

Yet, you have segregated the generations from each other. No longer do my people congregate together as families, but rather on Sunday morning we look like the age-segregated secular world I am saving you from. Separating families from the time they enter into your churches until the time they leave is not my command. If my servant Paul were to see your world today, could he tell the difference between an elementary school and your church?

Creating age barriers is not my heart. Take a look at all the churches in America that are filled with seniors and no young people in the service. That is the fruit of generational segregation. Repent.

Your desire to build the church is admirable. You have many ways of attracting people and attempting to lead them to me. Yet, did I not say that I will build the church on your faith (Matthew 16)? Why have you tried to do my job? Did I not command you to “go and make disciples”? Why then do you try to get people “saved” when I told you to disciple them? I am Lord! I am the Savior! You are my friends and servants and your mission is to teach obedience in everything I have taught you. Yet, I see no obedience training anywhere in your churches. You have educated believers, but not many true disciples that understand how to be disciple makers.

My heart grieves as I see the American Church look more and more like the Gnostics. Prepare for the last days. Again, look at the Great Commission as I gave it to you in Matthew 28, and GO, MAKE DISCIPLES, for I am the Lord your God—and I expect obedience from you.

(Rod’s Comment: And so, dear brothers and sisters, please feel free to chime in with your own thoughts! May we listen continually to the still small voice of our Lord. And may we glorify him in all we do!)

“Holy Libido” in a Nutshell


Holy Libido_3-D CoverAs you might imagine, the book title “Holy Libido” raises eyebrows. In a nutshell, here’s what the title means:

“Holy” can mean to be whole and complete, living life in submission and obedience to the design of God; living life with an intimate connection with our Creator, made possible through the righteousness of Jesus. I believe we can think of being holy as becoming the masterpiece we were created to be. (Granted, the word “holy” is so much more; this is my “nutshell” version.)

“Libido” is an intense craving or desire, a longing after, straining for fulfilment. Although the word “libido” is typically used to express sexual desire, it may be used to express our longing – or craving – for anything.

What if we were more passionate about an intimate relationship with God than we are about our “natural” cravings…cravings that have no eternal value? What if we longed for completion in God!

Holy Libido ignites something within us that is unstoppable, incomprehensible, irrefutable. It is adventurous life with God…empowered by the unrestrained flow of his  Spirit to accomplish the work we were designed to do…for his glory!

So, what do you think? What does the title mean to you? Looking forward to your comments!

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” ~Ephesians 2.10

http://www.amazon.com/Holy-Libido-Craving-Passionate-Life/dp/1414124449/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371563001&sr=8-1&keywords=holy+libido

Was Adam a Wimp…in the Beginning?


Adam (3)When did Adam become a wimp-of-a-man like us, blaming his wife for his foolish mistakes? Did God create him to be a milk toast kind of guy…a man who was too cowardly to take responsibility for his disobedience? Not likely. God created Adam in his own image.

I picture the newly created Adam as a confident man. It seems to me the moment his lungs were filled with the breath of God, and his eyelids opened, revealing the inexpressible beauty of his surroundings, Adam’s connection with his Creator would have instilled a deep sense of confidence. He had no competition, he had no hero image to live up to, and he had no shoes to fill. It seems that his primary inclination would have been to explore the wonderment of his surroundings—fearlessly. He would have been inclined to walk confidently with God in the stunning beauty of the garden.

Even so, Adam disobeyed God. Intentionally. He betrayed the One who breathed life into his body; the One who had instilled within him the almighty Spirit. Adam was not tricked or deceived; his choice was deliberate. We know we are inclined to disobey God, but we attribute our inclination to our “fallen nature.” Adam did not have a fallen nature. His nature—in the beginning—was pure and virtuous. So what could he possibly have been thinking when he took the bite of the forbidden fruit?

Something changed in an epic way when Adam took the bite. Perhaps at that very moment Adam became aware of his plight. He realized how ill-equipped he was to take responsibility for his rebellious choice, once he stepped out of the intimate fellowship he had enjoyed with his Creator friend. At that moment, Adam became a wimp like us. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say we have become wimps like him, since he was the first.

What if there was a way to regain the masculine strength Adam had in the beginning?

Actually, I believe there is a way to regain the sense of confident manhood we are intended to possess. But it doesn’t happen the way we think it should happen. It is not the result of our effort, or by pretending to be better than we are. It happens when we surrender our weaknesses to God. Men, it is in the admission of our weakness that we connect with God’s strength. God’s gracious strength flows into our lives through the humility of our spirit.

“God said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” ~2 Corinthians 12.9

…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!

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.

Flowing with the Tide of Truth


Water TideWe are often reminded that the current of popular opinion about what is important in life flows against the tide of truth. The following is a great illustration.

I will live life according to these beliefs

God does not exist

It is foolish to think

That there is an all-knowing God with a cosmic plan

That an all-knowing God brings purpose to the pain and suffering in the world

Is a comforting thought however

It

Is only wishful thinking

People can do what they wish without eternal consequences

The idea that

I’m deserving of hell

Because of sin

Is a lie meant to make me a slave to those in power

“The more you have the happier you will be”

Our existence has no grand meaning or purpose

In a world with no God

There is freedom to be who we want to be

But with God

Life is an endless cycle of guilt and shame

Without God

Everything is fine

It is ridiculous to think

I am lost and in need of saving

Now, lest your heart be swamped in despair, read it again, this time from bottom to top, beginning with, “I am lost and in need of saving…”

by Deo Volente Media

If You Love Her…Put Her in Her Place!


Numero DosWhile I’m not a fan of all the hoopla surrounding the “Love Holiday”…Valentine’s Day, it is a great opportunity for us guys to give some special thought to ways we can express our undying devotion to our chosen bride. Some guys will be inclined to spend a few bucks on a box of chocolate and some perishable flowers, and a card written by a professional writer. A few guys will show off (excuse my jealousy) by spending some big bucks for a piece of jewelry, or maybe a Lexus or a cruise to an exotic island in the South Pacific.

And the ladies will “Oooo” and “Ahhh,” and fling their arms around our neck in giddy gratitude.

It would be rare indeed to meet a woman who does not enjoy things that glitter and sparkle, and things that make her feel like the beautiful princess she is. She is refreshed in her spirit by the heartfelt message proclaimed by our beautifully wrapped gifts, “You are my treasure. I cherish you.” It makes her feel adored, and a woman likes to feel adored, because that’s what she is designed to be…adored.

Yet hidden away in the heart of every woman is a longing for something more…something more enduring than things that glitter and gleam. She longs for something that will withstand the trials of day-to-day life, and pass the test of time. At the core of her being, she needs to know her husband is equipped to lead with strong hands and a devoted heart. She wants to know that his vision for her—and their family—is greater than his own perspective. She wants to know she is safe in his arms, and safe in his heart.

Men, there’s only one way we can accomplish such a grand expectation: Make her Number Two (or in my case Numero Dos) in your life!

In Holy Libido, I mention a revelation Rose made to me during our whirlwind dating experience. She told me about my “place” in her life. Here’s the excerpt: “Before we were married, in the spirit of full disclosure she (Rose) told me I would have to accept second place in her life because the first place was already taken. Her ‘first husband’ is her Papa God.”

I was a little perplexed at first, and then it occurred to me, “How awesome to be second in line to the Creator of the universe—at least in Rose’s world!” Who would be silly enough to want to step in line in front of God in our mate’s life!

Rose’s simple yet direct remark started the wheels in my head spinning. In order to love her the way God intends for me to love her, I must also put her in second place in my life. My first devotion must be to my heavenly Father. I need to surrender my self-centered perspective in exchange for his perspective. I must learn how to lay my life down for my wife. While this sounds cavalier, quite honestly “laying my life down” often requires little more than seeing things through her eyes rather than through my own eyes.

God instructs me to love my wife as his Son Jesus loved the church. Reasonable men will admit that this love requires something far beyond our own capabilities. Guys, when God is truly in first place in our life, and we are allowing his amazing love to purge us and fill us and empower us, our wife will be the recipient of the unadulterated love of God…flowing from him, through us, straight to her precious heart.

So go for it! Buy her a gift. And write something special in the card…something romantic like, “You thrill my heart—will you please be my Number Two?” It’s the highest honor you can possibly present to her this Valentine’s Day—second in line to her PapaGod—ahead of every other “distraction” in your life…sports, your job, and even your ministry work.

“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her…” ~ Ephesians 5.25

So if you love her–and I know you do–put her in her place…

…her place of sacred honor!

‘SINtense!


Verb TenseKnowledge of the tense of a verb can sometimes be critical for accurate interpretation of the Bible. For example, consider the following verse:

“No one who is born of God practices sin, because his (God’s) seed abides in him and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” ~ 1 John 3:9

Look at the verb sin. At first glance, the verse seems to imply that one who is “born of God” can never commit a sin, and yet Scripture teaches us this is not a reality:

1 John 1:8 – “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
2 Chronicles 6:36a – “…for there is no one who does not sin…”
Ecclesiastes 7:20 – “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”
James 3:2 – “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.”

When we understand that the verb sin is in the present tense, it becomes clear that John is saying that one who is born of God cannot habitually commit sins as their general pattern of life. The verb “practices” is also present tense and conveys the same thought. All believers commit sins, but not habitually or as their lifestyle. (Note the importance of a Biblical definition of sin, which not only includes intentional disobedience, but also “missing the mark,” and the “sins of omission” – knowing the right thing to do but neglecting/refusing to do it. The “sin” highlighted in 1 John 3.9 is the sin of “omission or commission, in thought and feeling or in speech and action.”)

Application: If our lifestyle is a lifestyle of continual sinning with no desire for holiness: Hebrews 12:14 – “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord,” we must examine whether we are genuinely new creatures in Christ: 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” and born from above: John 3:3 – “Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again’” and 2 Corinthians 13:5 – “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?”

Armed with this knowledge, we can understand that a proper understanding of 1 John 3:9 requires a proper understanding of the verb tense.

May the Author enlighten our minds to receive the truth of his Word, and may we walk in the Light and by the power of the Holy Spirit!

(adapted from preceptaustin.org)

A Call for Your Heart ~ (Part 2)


imagesCAV88UL8The voice we once heard…His voice…is now a distant cry. And yet it’s there…that voice calling out…longing for our return! “Come out…come out and resist.”

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” ~ James 4:7

So how in the world do we begin to resist when everything around us tells us to ignore the call? Our flesh is weak; the cravings for instant gratification are strong.
The Word of God is clear. It is a bold statement, a present imperative – a calling for decisive, effective, definite obedience. An imperative leaves no room for options. It’s a God-given command.

If you have breath in your body, and have the ability to read what I’ve written, then please pay attention for a moment!

Jesus endured an unimaginable death! With a cat of nine tails embedded with chards of glass and metal, the Roman soldiers ripped the flesh from His body with 40 lashes, until His body was spent and disfigured. In mockery, a crown of thorns was driven into the flesh on His head. He then picked up His cross and drug and carried it through the streets of Jerusalem, up the hill to the place called Golgotha. There His body was thrown on the cross, and nine inch nails were driven through His feet and hands…he was lifted up…His disfigured and bloody body put on display. The crowds cheered and mocked Him as His mother and disciples anguished for the Son of God….Mary’s precious son, the disciples’ Master and friend…God’s gift to mankind.

There on Calvary’s cross our Savior in this final hour looked up to the heavens and said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” Mercy and grace on display for all the world to see! He didn’t have to endure this death! He could have wiped mankind from the face of this planet and rescued Himself (and the few who believed). Instead He endured the Cross so that you and I could experience His redemptive power of mercy and grace! Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price! He CHOSE to pay the price for US!

I love the Message version of Romans 5:6-11: “Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. Now that we are set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, the consummate blood sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way. If, when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we’re at our best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life! Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah!”

Jesus’ words, “Forgive them for they know not what they do”…they resonate so loudly! Do you hear His voice? Do you hear Him calling your name? He died for you; He longs to have relationship with you! He chose you…He chose me!

He tells us in John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other”.

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” ~ Hebrews 10:19-24

“Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and will not faint!” ~ Isaiah 40:28-31

“So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” ~ Hebrews 10:35-36

“Papa God, I pray for those that hear Your voice today. Ignite a fiery passion in our hearts! Place Your favor in our lives as You have promised. Give us courage and strength to surrender our baggage and carry on in our journey with You! Purify our thoughts, purify our hearts and help us day by day to persevere and grow stronger in our relationship with You! Help us understand that our source of power is in Your Holy Word! Help us to treasure it and take it in every single day! In JESUS’ name I ask these things, amen.”

His voice…His calling. Your heart…His heart…choose to obey and persevere! ~ In His Strong Love ~ rose

Making Friends with Your Shadow


ShadowWhen we deny our “shadow” in order to maintain the appearance of holiness, we put ourselves at risk of being swept away by the evil we deny.

In his book Make Friends with Your Shadow, Dr. Miller makes a provocative claim:
“Movement towards the achievement of wholeness or completeness (or “perfection” in the sense of Jesus’ use of the Greek word telios) is accomplished not only through the continued infusion of goodness, righteousness, and morality, but also through the “owning” and conscious incorporation of one’s dark and shadowy side into one’s self. I am not a complete person until I incorporate into my conscious self that dark side of my person which is every bit a part of me as is that bright self which I parade before the world.”

This type of activity goes against the grain of our desire to “look good” to the world around us. How much energy do we expend trying to conceal the undesirable part of who we are? We somehow got it in our head that an authentic Christian should appear to be unblemished—should create the illusion of perfection in the sense of appearing to be flawlessness.

Could it be that perfection has more to do with authenticity—being “real”—than it does with pretending to be something we’re not?

There are times when we’re surprised to hear how “one of our own” has been swept away into a sinful scenario. And then we remember we have been swept away too, maybe not in a public way, but swept away just the same. It’s happened to me. Looking back on those times, I can see how I set myself up to fall by allowing my pride to get in the way of being real. I pretended everything was good when it wasn’t. I denied the truth about my shadow.

And we all have a shadow. It’s an area of vulnerability within us. It might be a tendency to twist the truth, or possibly it’s an evil imagination, or a secret prejudice. It could be a secret craving for an illicit pleasure. Or maybe it’s a bitter tongue. Or laziness.

I realize it seems terribly risky, but when we are committed to living life in the flow of God’s Spirit, we must become transparent. We must acknowledge the “dark” side of our thought life, and the ungodliness of our inclinations. It is imperative we embrace the truth of who we are, and be willing to take the risk of letting someone we trust walk with us as we make friends with our shadow.

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