WARNING - Work in Progress

WARNING - Work in Progress
WARNING - Work in Progress

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Simple Faith - 08/28/2016


As I was praying this morning (8/26/16) I was impressed with the thought that we humans really are too smart for our own good – especially we modern day Americans.  I was made aware of how many times my response to statements of faith is; “Yeah but”.  I’m not alone in this because I first started thinking about it when I heard you say it to me.  Then, as I considered the repercussions of such a statement, I recognized its attitude in myself.  As part of my prayer time, I read something that fit, that sharpened the reality of what was pressing on my soul.

A man named Dallas Willard wrote[1] that there is a very real power of God transmitted in the laying on of hands by the redeemed.  He writes that even though the Holy Scripture points to such a reality in the early church,“We have so little experience of or so little teaching about such things.  And in a world of naturalistic outlook, where secularism takes many guises and even penetrates deeply into the substance of the “church visible,” some will go to great lengths to explain away such manifestations—or at least to explain why they have nothing to do with us.”   In other words, he says that we have this way of responding to the words of faith with a “Yeah but”.

This response is across the board too: Christians and non-Christians alike.   

Non-Christians are often "too smart" to accept the faith of the resurrected Jesus while the modern American Christian very often will accept the faith, but live out a faith with a complex parenthetical statement.  

I’m often guilty of the “Yeah but” response to discussions of faith.  I believe that my education in the scriptures has hurt me because, after I learned how to translate and dissect them in order to find the exegetical and hermeneutical interpretations, I lost the ability to simply accept my lord’s instruction to “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”  I think maybe that is why the Sunday sermon has so often become a 50 minute college lecture rather than a simple encouragement to "go and do likewise".

So, when you hear the words of faith, how do you respond?  With the response of pure faith or with a “Yeah but”?

John 14:6 -- Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Mark 11:24-25 -- Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Now, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the faith of Christ I bid you to, go and do likewise…


[1] The Spirit of the Disciplines – Understanding How God Changes Lives (Harper One, 1991: Pg. 123)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The New Israel - 08/21/2016


In Exodus 19:5-6, we learn that God chose and redeemed the Israelites in order that they would be a “Holy Priesthood” among all the peoples of the earth.  

5” Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”  (Exodus 19:5-6)  

And in 1 Peter 2:5, Peter explains to the New Testament church that we are “A Holy Priesthood”.

you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  (1 Peter 2:5)

Just as God set the Israelites free from their 400 hundred years of Egyptian slavery, so also you and I were set free from our own slavery to the Law of Sin and Death.  Just as God used the Israelites’ faith in God through the blood of a lamb to redeem them from their slavery, so also God uses the blood of Jesus to redeem us from our own.

Church, we are much more than what we often believe about ourselves.

Somehow we’ve learned that we just come to church, join a church, get baptized and or confirmed by the church, give money to the church, and exist solely for the benefit of the church.  It is true that we are literally the physical manifestation of the spiritual body of Jesus Christ on this earth, but somewhere along the way, how the church is defined is different than what it really is.

We, as the Church, are not to be defined by our “flawless” systematic theologies, which leads to denominationalism, our grand buildings (remember the Crystal Palace?), our styles of worship (no matter how great our choir or worship leader might be), or even the charisma of the preacher’s personality.  As humans we naturally have preferences for all of these things but these things should never be what define our Church, but rather, we as the Church of Jesus, are to be defined by the Narratives of God’s Holy Word, and by the rich heritage of the Story of God.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

If I Were to Start a Church - 08/14/2016


If I were to start a church…

This is now the third time I have come back and started over with what I had wrote.  It's Saturday 13th at 10:13am.  I just left an elders meeting and am stoked about the vision I just heard.  I'll not detail everything but this is what stands out to me.

Churches can often be known with false identifiers.

  1. Systematic Theology
  2. Buildings
  3. Style of worship
  4. Personality of preacher or congregants
However, a church's identity should be solely created by the narrative of God as described from Genesis to Revelations in the Scripture.  Every part of the ministry of the church should be focused on communicating that identity to the congregants and the world.  In her preaching, her praise, and her practice, everything should communicate the identity that God has created in us.  And to this I give a hearty Amen!

Rather than deciding on a narrative that we like, we need to humbly accept the narrative that God gives.  Rather than singing songs that please me, I should sing songs that remind me of His story, and rather than have a lot dry liturgies that a church "aught to have", instead our liturgies should communicate the reality of our resurrected savior.  

And in all of this, nothing changes in our churches except our emphasis.  In other words, we don't do things just to do them, we engage in the things that we do because we are just being who God has called us to be.  Our identity is so formed by the narrative of God that everything we do now has purpose and a meaning.  And if it doesn't, then we discard it as something that is outside of who we are as the church (i.e. the people of God)

So if I were to start a church, I think I would start here, communicating who we are as a redeemed people of God, who is very intentional about who His people and church truly are.

You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” (Exodus 19:6)

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  (1 Peter 2:9)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Who Are YOU? - 08/07/2016


Considering identity.

Who are you: do you know?  Many people may not.  Identity is not just a matter of designation (i.e. your name), but it is a matter of what you are (the essence of your being).  Because of this, your identity is more of a spiritual aspect of who we are than a physical one[1].  And because of this, when we have a wrong understanding of our own spiritual identities, we can experience many malfunctions in our physical lives.

Follow me here.

If all my life I am told by people that I am ugly, worthless, and good for nothing, does that make it so?  If my parents withheld love from me (which was not the case) does that mean I am unlovable?  If the devil whispers in my ear that I am no good and that God is angry at me because I have broken all of the 10 Commandments (twice), does that mean that I am no good and that God desires my destruction?  No, whether we believe something to be true or not does not make it so.  The only thing that matters is what is true, and our faith in that.

The Truth will set you free.

30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.  31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  (John 8:30-32)

The Jews were held captive by the Law.  They believed that if they followed the 10 Commandments, and the religious duties of the Jewish religious system, that God would be happy with them.  All of their lives they were taught the Jewish religious system, and when Jesus came on the scene, proclaiming a grace that came from God alone, many would not hear of it.  Unfortunately, the Jewish story is actually so often the reality of us all.  Too many of us are held hostage by the wrong narratives in our own heads brought about by often well intentioned people who were dead wrong.

Your Identity.

So who are you?

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Here is the truth of who YOU ARE.  You have been died for, forgiven, and redeemed.  This is the truth, if you will believe it.  You are not all those other things that this world has convinced you of, but you are loved by the resurrected Jesus.  And so I leave you with these parting words of Him who looked upon a woman accused of the great sin of adultery in Israel.

10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:10-11)

And so you see my friends, I don’t know what lies are running in your heads, but if you do not know that you are a redeemed child of the living God, you are living in a lie and being robbed while suffering in your flesh for lack of the truth.  You may indeed have had a thousand lying words that was stuck into your soul over the years, but I want to tell you just one simple and powerful truth -   you are redeemed and loved by our Holy and magnificent Savior Jesus Christ.  

And if you will believe it, you will be free indeed.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

[1] Thanks to my friend Bill for helping me to think this through a bit.