WARNING - Work in Progress

WARNING - Work in Progress
WARNING - Work in Progress

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Old Rugged Cross - 02/28/2016


Colossians 2:11-15 (MSG)

Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It’s not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you’re already in—insiders—not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin. If it’s an initiation ritual you’re after, you’ve already been through it by submitting to baptism. Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.

It is a paradigm really, that life should be found in an object of death; that a Roman element of execution became the Trademark of freedom and life.

1 Corinthians 1:22-25 (NIV)

22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

In the history of public executions I do not believe that there was ever an element of death that was so tortuous and painful as the Cross’s execution.  The guillotine, the hangman’s noose, the executioner’s axe, the firing squad, the electric chair, and lethal injection, all are humane ways of executing someone compared to the brutality of crucifixion.  And to think that the executed were whipped with the cat-of-nine tails 39 times because the 40th one would kill a man.  When I think of it, Jesus had to be born and die in precise time in history because Jesus had to die the most horrific human death in order to pay the price of sin.  So then, Jesus died a tragic death on a Roman cross.

It makes no sense that I should love that old cross but for me it is forgiveness and the grace of life.  And it’ all so unreasonable that this truth can only be realized by seeking God through His Holy Spirit -  it’s not as if I could have ever figured it out on my own.

And so in order to know the salvation of our souls it takes a very real effort to know the cross of Jesus and all of its implications.  But this knowing the cross is not a head knowledge but a very real heart knowledge. 

(Johnny Cash – The Old Rugged Cross) 

The Old Rugged Cross

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged Cross
The emblem of suff'ring and shame
And I love that old Cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain

So I'll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

Oh, that old rugged Cross so despised by the world
Has a wondrous attraction for me
For the dear Lamb of God, left his Glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary

So I'll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

In the old rugged Cross, stain'd with blood so divine
A wondrous beauty I see
For the dear Lamb of God, left his Glory above
To pardon and sanctify me

So I'll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

To the old rugged Cross, I will ever be true
Its shame and reproach gladly bear
Then He'll call me some day to my home far away
Where his glory forever I'll share

So I'll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Great is Thy Faithfulness - 02/21/2016


I am overwhelmed when I really think of it:  Why do I seem to have the blessing of God when most of the rest of the world does not? 

Why do I live in America and born in a time of such prosperity?  I have never known hunger, I have access to the best medical system in all of the world (even before Obama-Care), and when I compare my station in life to those born in the Middle East or Rwanda I recognize that I have it very good.  (No matter what others might try to lead me to believe.)

Do you remember the photograph of the starving child who has collapsed of hunger framed with the Buzzard that seemed to be waiting for the child to die?[1]  I look at this image and recognize that I could have been that child.  So I struggle with myself of how God can truly be “Faithful” while innocent children starve to death; while wars, civil wars, and genocides are a part of this world.  How can a “Faithful” God allow such suffering?  It angers me that human suffering happens and it seems only logical for me to blame God.  And in my guts I do shake a fist to the heavens and cry out; “Why are you allowing this to happen?  Why are innocent children allowed to suffer?  Why do you seem not to care?”

But then I view this reality with the eyes of faith.  By faith I have learned that things are not as they seem to me.  I remember that suffering is the result of the devil and his human minions.  We humans are the ones who pull the trigger, we humans are the ones who allow children to starve, we humans are the ones who are more concerned with our own well-being that the well-being of others[2].  For God has faithfully provided a way of hope for us men.  A promise that the evil in this world has been met and dealt with and now it is just a matter of time before all is returned to order.

God has given us a picture of another reality, a reality not of a buzzard but that of a lamb.  In God’s picture he is well aware of the suffering and destitution of men and thus becomes one of us in order to show us the way[3].  The picture of the lamb is every bit disturbing as the picture of the buzzard but which picture do we choose to focus on?  It is difficult to understand our world with the eyes of faith so the majority of us simply wallow in the world of the buzzards.

Truly God is faithful because despite everything else he submitted to the Cross in order to defeat Sin and death of our world.  When we look back on history we see that our lives are quite short [5]and we should pay more attention to lambs than to buzzards.

Today, try not to be turned-off to Jesus because of the so many religious “Christians” who have made our stomachs sour at the very thought of Church.  Rather, consider your life not destined to the buzzards but rather in the hope that we have because of Jesus[6], the Lamb of God.    


"Great Is Thy Faithfulness"[7]
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

  Great is Thy faithfulness!
  Great is Thy faithfulness!
  Morning by morning new mercies I see.
  All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
  Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

  Great is Thy faithfulness!
  Great is Thy faithfulness!
  Morning by morning new mercies I see.
  All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
  Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

[1] https://i0.wp.com/iconicphotos.wordpress.com/files/2009/08/kevin-carter-vulture.jpg
[2] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+58&version=NIV
[3] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+1%3A26-38&version=NIV
[5] Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14)
[6] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Colossians+2%3A8-15&version=NIV

Sunday, February 14, 2016

WARNING PREACHY - 02/14/2016

The Making of my Golden Calf…

John 5:39-40

39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

When God redeemed the Israelites from their Egyptian slavery, He did so with many undeniable miracles.  Then, some 40-days after they were released they gathered gold and created the Golden Calf which they then called God who redeemed them.  [(3/7/2016) NOTE: I have no idea where I got this number of 40 days, it has been something that I have believed for almost 20 years and I am not sure where I got it.  The number is wrong, as I read through it now I count roughly 110 days and I suspect there were more that I did not count.  The funny part is that I have never once been challenged on it. ;-) ]  I remember the first time I read the book of Exodus; I remember thinking to myself, “are they really that stupid?”  Time after time in quick succession they forgot about the God who redeemed them and went headlong into some form of idolatry.  

Now I feel for the Israelites.  

I know my own propensity toward being superstitious and creating my own Golden Calves.  Not that I would ever use my gold to make a graven image (the Lord knows I’m too cheap (ahem) I mean frugal for that) but I do know my own capacity of making God in my own image; I just do it in the construct of my mind.

Someone said: “When God hates all the same people you do, you can be sure that you have created a god in your own image.” 

I am guilty of this.

I don’t believe God hates the people I do.  I realize that the same blood that was shed for me was shed for even my enemy.  But I have certainly created a god in my own image because I have translated His very essence into definition that my limited human brain can make sense of.  Instead of seeking to be led by God through many long and tedious hours of prayer and guidance through the Holy Spirit, I read the words of my denominational literature or the faithful men of Church history, heck; I even read the Scriptures and form grandiose ideas that I can make sense of.  And it is my thoughts, my best reasoning, the images in my limited mind that I hold dear to and say “This is my God.”

When Jesus rose back to life from the dead he appeared to his disciples and he breathed on them the Holy Spirit (John 20:22), at that instant faith in God became forevermore a spiritual concern; never again to be confused with something physical that is created.  The Holy Spirit of God is not to be captured, defined, and then repackaged into a neat comfortable doctrine by the likes of me.  But that is exactly what I do; I recognize the obvious abuses that men have done (and do) in the name of the Holy Spirit and so I reject the pursuit of God though the Holy Spirit for deference to a sound reason.  I cling to doctrines and theologies that are neat and tidy; highly defined.  I throw the Holy Spirit out with the proverbial bath-water and trade it for the popular systematic theology of the Holy Spirit.  And then I stand back with those of my ilk and say “Here, here is our God”.

And when I am silent and still before Him I get a sense of that breath.  As the nephesh (breath of life) was breathed into me at my creation (Genesis 2:7) so also the Holy Spirit has been breathed upon me by my resurrected savior.  I do recognize that I have physical life through Adam and when I recognized my redemption and bent a knee to Jesus, I realized a newly born spiritual life in me (John 3:5-8).  And yet, like a scared Israelite, some 40 days out of Egypt, I always seem to return and seek those definable physical constructs of my own mind. 
Because of this I find comfort in the words of the Apostle Paul.

1And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.   2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.  (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

As I ponder the above words I am stopped dead in my religious tracks as I see clearly the calf that I have made.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

WARNING PREACHY - 02/07/2016

I once got into a “Your Mama!” shout out with a guy in my squad in the Army.  What I thought was good fun actually was no laughing matter to the guy I was sparring with.  I did not take his insults seriously because he didn’t know my mom, but after a few minutes he was ready to get into fist-to-cuffs with me after I said something derogatory about his mother being in the male oriented services.  (Maybe I unwittingly hit too close to home?)  So when I write the following statement I do so without meaning to be insulting but because of the truth I may just be.

Jesus’ Grandma was a Hooker. 

This fact makes me wonder how much compassion Jesus had on the woman at the well[1] (John 4) or the woman caught in adultery[2] (John 8) because of the skeletal remains of his own family heritage.  Too many of us see the skeletons in our closets and try to conceal them.  Either shame or pride keeps us from embracing the reality of our pasts. 

Personally I am comforted to know that my lord came from low beginnings.  (Heck, he was literally born in a barn.)  But despite that fact Jesus was God’s chosen, the redeemer of the world, the salvation for us all, and his personal humanity was marred with the reality of his Grandmother’s once impure social status.  However, God used him to redeem the likes of us all with skeletons in our own closets too.

What is the skeleton in your own closet that you think God cannot (or would not) redeem?  It could be our own sin or maybe the sin of our mamas.  No matter what we believe, the blood the Jesus shed on the cross defeated sin and death[3] (1 Corinthians 15).  Our Lord redeems our pasts and his blood did so whether we like it or not.  This then is the state of the power of sin and death  – it lost.

The question then is do we understand this?  Do we acknowledge that Jesus has redeemed our pasts and defeated the power of the skeletons in our closets?  Do we acknowledge Jesus as the only Redeemer and Hope for our lives?  If not, we will always have skeletal remains that keep  us from embracing our pasts and keep us from moving toward our future.
Today, sin and death have been destroyed.  How then shall we respond[4]?

[1] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+4%3A1-42&version=NIV
[2] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+8:1-11
[3] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+15%3A55-57&version=NLT
[4] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+2%3A37-38&version=ESV