WARNING - Work in Progress

WARNING - Work in Progress
WARNING - Work in Progress

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Do You Realize? - 10/30/2016


16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate [helper] to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 

(John 14:16-20)

I’ve heard people say that they were not sure if the Holy Spirit is in them or not.  I always answer that it like is wondering if your right arm just got chopped off.  In both cases: if you have to ask…

Part of our identity as Christians is that Jesus has not left us on our own to figure things out, but we have “another helper” -- the Spirit of Truth who lives in us.  Verse 20 tells us that on that day we will realize that the Father and Jesus and ourselves are intertwined as God is in us.

21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

(Exodus 13:21-22)

When God redeemed the Israelite slaves from their bondage in Egypt, he led them out into the desert.  He did not redeem them and then send them out on their own without direction, but he led them by a pillar of cloud by day and one by fire at night.  In this way he led them so that they were not alone.

Just as God redeemed the Israelite people from their enslavement to Egypt, so also God has redeemed us from our own to sin and death.  And he has not left us on our own.  Remember Jesus’ Promise that God would send another helper from John 14?  50 days after the resurrection of Jesus, on the Jewish Day of Pentecost, we realize another pillar of fire.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 

(Acts 2:1-4)

If you are a Christian today, have you realized that the father and Jesus are One, and they are presently in you?  Your identity is not just one that is proclaimed by a certificate of baptism or a magic prayer, but rather your identity is much more spiritual than that, and you should know it without question.

If you have question then I encourage you to do some serious soul searching.  Shoot me an email, I'd like to help.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

My Words - 10/23/2016


I have a problem; I often open my mouth and insert my foot.  While many people are good at thinking before they speak my brain requires that I speak in order to process my thoughts.  Is this an excuse for my unkind words?  Not at all, I am perfectly aware that I need to control my tongue despite how my brain processes and disseminates information. 

Then there are phrases of speech that just sound wrong, I say them simply because I learned them that way.  One in particular is when I am talking about eternal life and the sinner’s lot.  I tend to say that we sinners deserve hell.  I’ll admit, I hate the sound of it.  I just don’t like the word deserve in the context of eternal life; I understand what the idea is getting at, but I think it is an ugly phrase.

When I was a brand new Christian, I struggled with the idea of my origins.  I was never asked if I wanted to be born and neither was I asked if I wanted to exist in the first place, but yet, I was born and I did exist so I was forced to make a choice between heaven and hell.  I didn’t like the choice and I struggled with the unfairness of the situation that I was presented with.  (Heh, heh, sort of like the present choices for President this year.)

In Christian circles it is popular to express that we sinners are deserving of hell because hell is our default option.  But I wonder if the word deserve is the best choice here.  Deserve is defined as someone who has done something or has a quality that is worthy of the result, and therefore while the word deserve may be proper, I think the common use of the word weighs it heavily on the side of the doing something rather than just having a quality of.

As a sinner, was I deserving of hell as the default for Eternal Judgment?  Yes; because the quality of my very existence showed this to be true.  However, did I do anything that made me worthy of the default eternity?  No; because my worthiness of hell stemmed from my very creation, not from what I did.  Follow me hear, many times it is easy to believe that we become sinners who are worthy of hell because we have broken one of the 10 Commandments  (i.e. we lied, killed, or stole), but the reality is that we break the Commandments because we are already sinners.  The act of breaking the Commandment is the result, not the cause.  Sort of like how a sneeze is the result of having a cold and not the cause of the cold.  Why then are men worthy of hell just because of being created?  Because men are born the children of Adam and Eve; let me explain with the following example.

My last name is Rock simply because my dad’s last name was Rock.  I did nothing to earn that name but I deserved it because I possessed the quality of it (i.e. my bloodline was Rock).  So when I say that sinners deserve hell, it’s not a statement of judgment but one of recognition of the human situation. 

Romans 7:24-25
24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

And so, while it is bad news that we possess the quality of humanity that makes us deserving of hell, the good news is that in the same way we become deserving of life, because when we are in faith in Jesus He gives us grace and we possess the quality of His Righteousness.  Through no effort of our own we are given the quality of Christ by His finished work on the Cross.

 When I started writing this piece, my goal was to debunk the phraseology of ‘deserving hell’, but now that I worked through it I don’t think I want it debunked at all, now I am hoping that I will simply hear it differently.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The New You - 10/16/2016


Have you ever read Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper?  It’s a wonderful story of a prince and a pauper boy who happen to look identical and they decide to trade places.  What happens is that when they swap, both boys learn that they are out of their elements and don’t really fit their new roles.  The prince was not prepared to have a drunken father who beat him and the pauper was not able to produce the attitude of the privileged child of royalty.  In both instances, the prince and the pauper had been told, from their births, a narrative of who they were.  The prince’s narrative made him stately and confident while the pauper’s made him live life as a commoner fighting for survival each day. 

The other day I heard a sermon where the preacher made reference to the fact that he is just a sinner saved by grace.  While his words are common lingo among Christians who understand that they were human sinners that had been captivated by the extreme grace of Jesus and his Cross, I cannot not help but recognize deception in his words that inadvertently takes the promise of the Christian identity right out of the new life in Christ.

Romans 8:11

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. 

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Please forgive me if I am splitting semantical hairs here, but it seems important that new Christians understand their new identities.  In The Prince and the Pauper, the two boys eventually went back to their respective positions in life and all was well again.  But in the Christian life, when you and I become Christians, we must understand that we have abandoned our positions as sinners when we took up positions as the Righteousness of Christ.  We no longer are what we were.  Paul teaches that we died to ourselves and were raised again in new life in Christ.  This is our current identity and our present narrative.  I was, at one time, a sinner but now I AM no longer – and neither are you

You my friend, if you have died to yourself in order to follow Jesus, then live your life in that reality.  You are, in all actuality, a prince and a child of the King.  You have been adopted as a son of God and your life is not at all what it was, but rather it is new and it is a privileged position of authority.  No longer think back and embrace the defeat of what you once were, but move forward and victoriously live in the reality that you now are.  You are NOT a sinner saved by grace, you ARE a Child of the Living God, a co heir with Christ our Resurrected Lord.
And I encourage you to reject anyone who would suggest to you otherwise.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

An Indignant Jesus - 10/09/2016


There are many ways that Jesus is endearing to us, but the way that stands out to me is one of his first real one-on-one & face-to-face events with another human where he shows compassion.  Mathew 8, Mark 1, and Luke 5 all tell of one event when a man with leprosy came to Jesus for healing.  I guess my discovery of the event was in my reading through Mark 1 so that’s the text that I work from.

Mark 1:40-42
40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  41 Jesus was indignant.  He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

In Mark’s telling of this event, he is the only one who wrote “Jesus was indignant.” in verse 41.  This single word changes everything for me, because I see in it part of the heart of our savior.  

Was Jesus indignant at this leprous man for kneeling before him?  He could have been.  A person with leprosy was required by the Law to live outside the camp.  When they saw someone from town getting too close they were supposed to shout the warning of “Unclean!”  Doing this warned those who did not have the disease to keep their distance so they would not catch it too.  So the very fact that that this man appeared, seemingly out of no place, and was kneeling before him makes it seem like someone was not doing their job and keeping Jesus safe.  (Isn’t that what the disciples did when the children came to him and shooed them away?)  Jesus could have been indignant because of this but I don’t really think so.

Was he indignant because of the Law, without compassion, required the man to be separated from the community in the first place?  I have very real questions about this “mandate” of the Law and wonder if the Scribes that penned the Old Testament didn’t create and add a statute that wasn’t what God intended in the first place.  But, with nothing more than conjecture, on my part, I tend to hold that the people were just being led by a regulation that dealt with a very bad situation in the best way they could think of, considering the time and the lack of medical understanding.  So no, I don’t think Jesus was indignant because of the Law at this point.

But what I do think is that Jesus was just simply indignant at the situation that was before him.  On the ground before him was a man who used to have a family, a job, a responsibility to his community and who now knelt before our Lord groveling because he was nothing now.  He existed, but he existed without love, without dignity, without any real significance of life, he occupied a place in the world, but he was not really part of the world; not anymore.  And the situation that knelt before Jesus at that moment is quite the same as the situation that is before us today.

When Adam and Eve sinned, the world was plagued with sin and death, and from that point in time man was separated from the Heavenly Father.  Mankind, like the leprous man, had become unclean and cast out of the city.  Because of sin, mankind was alone and simply existed in the world until the time that he would die.  And so when Jesus looked upon the man, I think he looked at the leprous man and saw the theater of the world.  And I believe it is quite possible that this is what made him indignant; the sin that created the situation in the first place.

Then our Lord did something that men never did to a leper, he reached out his hand and touched him and he became well again.

While I may be mistaken in my understanding of the biblical interpretation and situation in this passage, I don’t think it is very hard to see that Jesus reaches out his hand to touch our own situations to make us well, just as he did the leprous man.  But this time we know that Jesus is willing,so the only question now is if we are going to posture ourselves before Jesus.

This morning, I’m going before Jesus to beg him to make me clean.  I’m pretty sure there is a spot open next to me if you want to join me.