If I had one chance to explain the urgent message of Easter what would I tell you?
In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live.
(From the song, “In Christ Alone”)
This past Sunday night, here at New Life Church, we watched the movie, “American Gospel: Christ Crucified.” Here is the trailer for the movie:
The week following the movie I received questions from a number of people asking me what the main point of the movie was. I could definitely sense that there was some confusion regarding the movie and this brief article is an attempt to clear things up.
THE MAIN ARGUMENT THAT THE MOVIE IS TRYING TO MAKE
The main argument that the movie is trying to make is that penal substitution is a biblical concept taught in the Word of God. Professor Jarvis J. Williams defines penal substitution like this:
“Jesus died a violent, substitutionary death to be a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of Jews and Gentiles. By this death, Jesus took upon himself God’s righteous judgment and wrath against the sins of those for whom he died. By dying as their penal substitute, Jesus paid the penalty for their sins, and he therefore both propitiated God’s wrath against their sins and expiated their sins so that the sins of Jews and Gentiles would be forgiven and so that they would be justified by faith, forgiven of their sins, reconciled to God, reconciled to each other, participate in the future resurrection, and saved from God’s wrath.”
WHAT ARE SOME PASSAGES THAT SUPPORT PENAL SUBSTITUTION?
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. -Isaiah 53:5-6
Whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. -Romans 3:25-26
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. -2 Corinthians 5:21
IS PENAL SUBSTITUTION A RECENT DEVELOPMENT WITHIN THE CHURCH?
The short answer is no. In 150 AD we find this in the writings of Diognetus:
“For what else was able to cover our sins except the righteousness of that one? In whom was it possible for us, the lawless and ungodly to be justified except in the Son of God alone? O the sweet exchange, O the inscrutable work (of God), O the unexpected benefits (of God), that the lawlessness of many might be hidden in one righteous man, while the righteousness of one might justify many lawless men.” (Diognetus. 9.3–5).
IS THERE SOME REASON WHY THIS MOVIE IS CONFUSING?
I believe that too many churches have spent a great deal of time talking about the love of God and have failed to talk about his holiness. (HERE is an article I wrote about the holy love of God.) Too often teachers and churches dodge topics about God’s judgment and wrath. The result is that we honestly don’t know what penal substitution even means or just how important it is.
YEAH, BUT WHY MAKE SUCH A BIG DEAL ABOUT IT? WHY GO TO THE TROUBLE OF MAKING OR WATCHING A MOVIE ABOUT PENAL SUBSTITUTION?
There are some people who are writing and teaching against penal substitution. Steve Chalke writes this, “…a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement: “God is love”.
One of my personal mottos is, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” But when it comes to the importance of the gospel we must be willing to take a bold stand because if we don’t get this right then we failed at the very point by which a person enters into a personal relationship with God the Father.
At New Life Church we highlight the fact that our main mission as followers of Jesus Christ is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). Our mission is to make disciples who make disciples. What would it look like in everyday life if we were seeking to make disciples of Jesus Christ? How would it impact the way we live if we took the Great Commission seriously? Here are 5 ways a disciple making attitude changes everyday life.
- When you attend Sunday morning worship (or other church events) you have your spiritual eyes open for how you can connect with other people relationally and help them grow in their faith. For example, as you gather with your church to worship you are not there just for your own spiritual good. You make it a habit to reach out to others and show them the love that Jesus Christ has shown to you. You begin going to retreats, socials, events so that you can be a blessing to others. It is more about others than it is about you. “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” -Philippians 2:3
- You no longer see the workplace as a secular environment, or something that is outside of your Christian calling. Jesus is Lord over everything and that includes where you work and go to school. It does not mean that you are walking around thumping people on the head with your Bible. Instead it means you are open to the idea that God wants to bring people into your life at work so that you can build a relationship with them and point them to Christ.
- You understand that God has called you to your neighborhood to be a disciple maker. The one thing your neighbor needs more than anything else is to know the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Do we think it is a mere coincidence that we live where we live? We are there (our home address) first and foremost as ambassadors of Jesus Christ.
- You are less bored with everyday life in general because you realize that God is calling you to follow him in the middle of it. When everyday life becomes your mission field you realize that God is always at work and he is calling you to join him in the work that he is doing.
- You will have an friends who are not Christians. On another blog post I wrote this line, “I think the greatest weakness in the American church today is that we are not good at being a friend to sinners.” You can find that post HERE. It is so easy for us (I am including myself in this) to become isolated from those who are lost and need to know Christ. One way to measure how much we are motivated by the Great Commission is to think about how many friendships we have we people who do not yet know Christ.
If we took the Great Commission seriously it would have a powerful impact on the way we live everyday life. If you can think of other ways a disciple-making attitude would change a person’s life I would love to hear from you.
Our city’s newspaper, The Public Opinion, will publish the article below today (Dec 26, 2019). I thought I would go ahead and share it with you here on my blog. The newspaper has a limit, as you might imagine, regarding the length of the article. So, it’s a quick read!
One of my favorite Christmas movies is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It might surprise you to know that it was put on the official list of the greatest movies of all-time. Chances are pretty good that most of you have seen the movie, but allow me to briefly summarize the story-line. George Bailey (played by James Stewart) lives in Bedford Falls, NY. On Christmas Eve George is considering suicide. George has lived a good and moral life. He has made many sacrifices for the well-being of his family and for the city that he lives in. But he can’t help but think that he is missing out on something. He longs to travel, see the world, and to go on an adventure. He feels deeply unhappy with his family, job, and his seemingly insignificant life. God intervenes and sends an angel by the name of Clarence. Clarence shows George what life would have been like if he had never lived. Through this process George realizes all that he has to be grateful for and he becomes a truly changed man. Let me be clear about this, I love this movie. I can’t watch the movie without something getting in my eye. OK, fine, the movie makes me cry. But, each time I watch the movie I realize that something really important is missing.
When George is given the vision of what life would be like if he had never lived he becomes grateful for all that he has. The problem is that his job, family, and even his life, are all things that can be lost. If George anchors his deepest sense of hope, contentment, and satisfaction in these temporal things he will find that his joy is like a mere vapor that easily dissipates when trials and suffering enters his life. Discovering that life does not meet our expectations can lead us into some dark places, just like it did for George Bailey. Our job, family, health are huge blessings from God and we should be grateful for them. But there is only one place to turn to if we want to find true, eternal joy, and his name is Jesus Christ.
If you and I were to slow down this Christmas season, we would find beneath all of our busyness and activity that we have a heart that is desperately searching for happiness. Maybe you, even among all the holiday festivities, are realizing that what you once thought would make you happy is not delivering as you had hoped. The sobering reality is that there is nothing on this earth that can fill the hole in our heart. St. Augustine wrote these words, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” In John 14:26 Jesus says something really bold, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” My prayer for everyone who lives in Watertown, and everyone who is reading this article, is that you find the “life” that is only experienced and enjoyed by having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas! (END OF ARTICLE)
Watching the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, reminds me of the city that I live in (Watertown, SD). I dearly love this city and the people who live in it. If you want to read a few books that gives you a greater appreciation for the small city I would like to recommend the following:
“Your deepest desire,” he observes, “is the one manifested by your daily life and habits.” This is because our action—our doing—bubbles up from our loves, which, as we’ve observed, are habits we’ve acquired through the practices we’re immersed in. That means the formation of my loves and desires can be happening “under the hood” of consciousness. I might be learning to love a telos (an ultimate object or aim) that I’m not even aware of and that nonetheless governs my life in unconscious ways.” -James K.A. Smith
I don’t know what to call this particular blog post. God is in the process of surgically reshaping my greatest desires and it is painful. I wanted to just go ahead and share with you some of the things that I am currently thinking about and experiencing. Here goes…
- Our greatest desire has tremendous power to shape, direct, and influence our life. Think of your greatest desire as the current of a river that is slowly guiding you through life.
- Here is the problem many of us are facing, often times we are not aware of what our greatest desire truly is. We are busy, distracted, addicted, confused and out of touch with what is really going on in our own heart.
- Which means that we are being led in life by desires that have been unchecked or unevaluated.
Craig’s greatest desire is to be viewed as successful in ministry. His feelings go up and down based on Sunday morning attendance. He works tirelessly not out of love for God but so that others will respect and esteem him.
Jill’s greatest desire is to have a man in her life. She goes through one man right after another. She has made sexual compromises that she never imagined making.
John’s greatest desire is to go hunting with his friends. John’s kids, and wife, know what his great passion in life is.
Kelly’s greatest desire is to look like the celebrities on Instagram. She has never been happy with the way that she looks. Food, exercise, and dieting have become evil tyrants in her life.
Mike’s greatest desire is to be appreciated and respected at work. He goes from happiness when he is recognized to anger and despair when he is overlooked.
Lori’s greatest desire is to spend time with her family. She is making a god out of her kids and she is not even aware of it. Her family quietly senses that there is a hole in her heart but they know better than to say anything.
Dylan’s greatest desire is to save enough money so that he can live a comfortable retired life. The few precious days that God has given him on earth will be wasted.
Lisa’s greatest desire is having a nice home. She finds herself obsessing about upgrades and renovations. The buzz from something new or better never lasts very long.
Brandon’s greatest desire is the satisfaction that he gets while he is on his phone. He has no idea that that he spends more time checking his phone than doing anything else.
Each of the above people, if asked, would probably say that their greatest desire is God.
- If our greatest desire is not God we will become angry, depressed, cynical, bitter, toxic, addicted, etc. The reason is simple, nothing else has ability to satisfy us. For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. -Jeremiah 2:13
- Once we realize that we are not being made happy by our greatest desire you might think we would wake up and change. Unfortunately, what we do is keep the craziness alive by escaping or numbing ourselves from our pain and refuse to change. This is where addiction begins to tighten its noose around our neck.
- In order to name our greatest desire we must slow down. We must be quiet. We must come to the realization that our activity and busyness can be our greatest enemy. We need to create space where we can listen to our heart. We must pay attention to our thought life. We must ask God to reveal to us what it is that we care about the most. Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that most of us will go though life and refuse to do this hard work of naming our greatest desire.
- But if we travel down this lonely path then we need to be ready for heavy doses of pain. This desire that we treasure above all others will not leave our life without kicking and screaming. We must be ready for spiritual warfare and it can not be entered into lightly. Recently there has been research that has shown that our addictions actually change the way that our brain works. Leaving these false lovers will be one of the hardest things we ever do.
I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas as you think about what your greatest desire truly is.
I began a six week sermon series on the book of Hosea this past Sunday. I will be sharing thoughts on the book of Hosea with six different blog posts. Here is Part 1: The Covenant Love of God.
1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. 2 When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” 3 So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
4 And the LORD said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”
6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, j“Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. 7 But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”
8 When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. 9 And the LORD said, “Call his name Not My People,2 for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”
10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And sin the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
- Author: Hosea (perhaps had a scribe help him)
- Date: Approximately 750 BC
- State of affairs for Israel at the time of Hosea:
- Hosea ministered about 200 years after the division of Israel. The divide took place approximately 930 BC and it was a division between north and south Israel. The ten northern tribes made up Israel or sometimes called Ephraim. The two southern tribes were Judah and Benjamin and they formed the nation of Judah.
- Hosea’s ministry took place when the northern kingdom of Israel was once again prospering and doing very well economically. The problem was that they were far from God. The people were focused on their money, their comforts, and they became very immoral. Does it sound like another country that you know of?
- In order to understand the book of Hosea it is important to understand that Israel was in a covenant relationship with God. In Exodus 19:5 we read this, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine.”
We are in grave danger of forgetting that we are part of a divine love story
There is a danger that we face today. We can study and jump from bible study to bible study and actually forget that our Christian faith is all about a love story. God has gone to great lengths to be in a personal, intimate relationship with us. He wants much more than for us to be learning about him, he wants us to grow when it comes to experiencing and loving him.
Did God really tell Hosea, a prophet, to marry an immoral woman?
In verse 2 God makes it really clear, Hosea is to marry a whore to be his wife. It is meant to be shocking! It is meant to make us sit up and wonder ‘what in the world is going on?’ There is no doubt that Gomer was a sexually immoral woman before she married Hosea. She might have even served as a temple prostitute in a local cult religion. So the answer is, yes, God did command his prophet, Hosea, to marry an immoral woman.
What was the point of telling Hosea to marry Gomer?
Hosea 1:2 gives us the reason God tells Hosea to marry Gomer. “…for the land commits whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” God is using the marriage between Hosea and Gomer to reveal that Israel had committed spiritual adultery against him. God’s people were being unfaithful regarding their covenant relationship with God. What do we learn from this?
1- God is revealing that there are consequences for our sin. This is not a popular teaching in our enlightened, progressive culture today. Hosea and Gomer have three children and they are given very strange names (Jezreel=judgment, Lo-Ruhamah=no mercy and Lo-Ammi=not my people). What God is doing through the naming of these three children is telling the nation of Israel, telling you and me, that to continue in sin will bring pain and suffering. God was warning his people but they would not repent. 30 years after these three children were born God raised up the violent nation of Assyria to bring absolute devastation to the people of Israel.
2- Certainly we learn that God’s heart is absolutely broken over the fact that his people pursue other lovers. Think for a moment how you would feel if your spouse was continually unfaithful to you?
3- We also learn that God’s love knows no boundaries. Hosea in many ways reminds me of the story of the prodigal son in the gospels. The younger son has left his father and lives a blatantly rebellious, immoral life. Yet at the end of the story we find that the father is running towards his son because his great grace and love. This gives us sinners great hope to know that we are loved like this. Plus, it motivates us to love people like Gomer in our everyday life. We love the misfits and sinners in our culture because we too have received God’s amazing grace.
We are Gomer
We might be tempted to shake our head at Gomer and secretly wonder how she could be so immoral. If that is as far as we get when it comes to thinking about Gomer we have missed the point of the story. In this story Hosea represents Jesus and Gomer represents the church (you and me). Go ahead and say it, ‘I am Gomer’. I know it is true in my life. In a million different ways I pursue other priorities, passions, and make God second in my life. Spiritual adultery is something we are all guilty of. Spiritual adultery is not just something we do or an act that we commit. First and foremost spiritual adultery happens when we love something, or someone, more than we love Christ.
- What are you passionate about?
- What do you talk about?
- What do you think about the most?
- What are you known for by the people that know you best?
- What worries you or makes you anxious?
The answers to these questions may go a long way revealing false loves (idols) in our life.
A better love is available to us
This chapter ends with good news. In verse 11 we read this, “And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.”
Hosea is prophesying that there will be ‘one head’ in the future. This is a reference to the fact that Jesus Christ will one day, approximately 750 years later, arrive on earth. Jesus, our Messiah, was prophesied of old and one of his many names was Immanuel (God is with us). Jesus is the fulfillment of these two verses, and Jesus is the one to whom you and I can have a deep, intimate, loving relationship.
*The video and sermon outline came from Irving Bible Church. The sermon(s) I preach are mine!
As I slowly crawled out of the car I realized that it was upside down, the top had been pushed dangerously close to my head, the windows had all been busted out and I was in serious trouble. I clearly needed to redirect my pursuit of pleasure.
Let’s go back in time for a moment. I was nine years old and was living in Needles, California. I believe it was a Sunday night and my dad was preaching a sermon and it included descriptive information about the realities of hell. We were Baptist after-all. Even at the age of nine I knew that spending eternity with God sounded like a much better deal than an eternity in hell. So, I gave my life to the Lord and was soon baptized. But, like many PKs, my spiritual life during the days of my youth were a bit of a roller-coaster. Things changed dramatically when I turned 18. I developed a friendship with a guy who owned a Camaro and who liked to drink…a lot. (I googled this old friend a few months ago and discovered that there is currently a warrant out for his arrest. Not kidding.)
What I quickly learned about myself is that I loved to party but with 3 times the energy and enthusiasm as everyone else. The picture above is an actual photo of what I did to my parent’s car after a night of “hanging out with friends”, which is code for having way too much to drink.
After leaving the party I vaguely recall driving on I-17 in Phoenix, I think I was falling asleep (passing out) and began to sense that I was about to run into the back of a car in front of me. I pulled the steering wheel sharply to the left, rolled the car off of the interstate and down an embankment. When I eventually stumbled out of the upside down car there were already several police officers waiting for me.
The whole thing leaves me with four thoughts…
The Oldsmobile is a vivid picture of what the evil one wants to do through our pursuit of pleasure. The devil, I believe, wanted me dead. Isn’t this what sin always does? Kill? I think, we think, that the next drink, job, house, purchase, achievement, relationship, touchdown that our kid scores, vacation will satisfy us but it never does. Is there anything you are pursuing these days that, if you were honest, is slowly killing your soul and leaving you feeling less alive?
God’s grace is written all over my life. How did I get out of that wreck with one small scratch? Without wearing a seat belt? I can only attribute it to the grace and mercy of God. I frequently think back to the accident in the Oldsmobile and thank God for sparing my life. Whatever your struggle might be, God’s grace is always available to you.
I am still a pleasure junky but God is the only One who truly satisfies. Prone to wander, prone to leave the God I love. I would like to say that because of the car accident I have safely concluded that this world and it’s temptations are dead to me. I would like to say it but it would be an enormous lie. All of us are hedonists who end up wasting precious time looking for happiness in the wrong places.
Finding true pleasure is a matter of life or death because the spiritual well-being of our soul is at stake. One sign that we are growing as Christians is that we are living and obeying God based more out of a sense of delight then duty. Which describes your reasons for obedience these days? Delight or duty? This battle of finding pleasure in Christ is going on in my soul every moment of every day. But this I do believe to be true, and this is what I cling to; Jesus is the only One who brings true, lasting pleasure that never disappoints.
Finding pleasure in the things of this world is not wrong in itself. In fact, God has made this world for us to enjoy. “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving…” -1 Timothy 4:4. The problem is when we seek ultimate satisfaction from the world and fail to remember that God, and not his gifts, are to be worshipped.
You may wonder, why share any of this in the first place? I deeply wrestle with that question. Motives are always a murky thing to sort out. I guess this is my best explanation. I don’t think we help our family, church, friends, or the world when we pretend as if we are not sinners saved by the grace of God. I know for certain that everyone I encounter on a day-to-day basis is fighting a spiritual battle and instead of putting up a false image of “having it all together” one of the best things I can do is to say, “yep, me too.” Perhaps if I, if we all, take down the veneer of super-spirituality it will free others to do likewise. I believe God is honored when we openly admit our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 11:30) and boast in His righteousness, grace and goodness.
Although the pursuit of pleasure is a daily, slug it out, spiritual battle I am glad to know that our God not only wants us to be good and moral but also to be as joyful as possible. A joy that is only possible as we go deeper in our relationship with Jesus Christ.
You can read more HERE about what I am up to these days.
It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. -CS Lewis
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! -Psalm 34:8
One of the primary arguments that I want to make in this brief article is that Christians in America have relied too much on politics to change the world when in fact our focus should be on the good news of Jesus Christ. How did we get to this point?
Brief history of the Moral Majority
The Moral Majority was started in 1979 by Jerry Falwell, a Southern Baptist pastor, who worked to unite other conservative evangelicals to address what they saw as the problems in American society.
There were lots of things going on in American culture in the 70s and 80s that led to the formation of the Moral Majority. Abortion, gay rights, sexual immorality, humanism in the public schools, liberal Supreme Court rulings, etc.
But could there be more behind what really got the Moral Majority started in the first place? You can go HERE to read some other theories as to what inspired the Moral Majority to move into action in the first place.
Getting involved in politics is a good thing
On a personal note, I want to say that I strongly believe that it is good for Christians to be very involved in the political world. One of my heroes is William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was a British politician who worked zealously to end the slave trade that was prominent in his day. In order for Christians to live as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) they must engage the world they live in rather than retreat or withdraw.
So what was the problem with the Moral Majority?
Paul Michael Weyrich, co-founder of the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell, wrote these words, “When political power is achieved, the moral majority will have the opportunity to re-create this great nation.” Re-create the nation? Really? Does anyone today really think that our nation has been “re-created”? Ed Dobson who co-authored the book, “Blinded By Might: Can The Religious Right Save America?” wrote these words as he pondered the impact his time working for the Moral Majority had in American culture:
Did the Moral Majority really make a difference? During the height of the Moral Majority, we were taking in millions of dollars a year. We published a magazine, organized state chapters, lobbied Congress, aired a radio program, and more. Did it work? Is the moral condition of America better because of our efforts? Even a casual observation of the current moral climate suggests that despite all the time, money and energy-despite the political power-we failed. Things have not gotten better; they have gotten worse.
What are the unintended consequences of making an idol of politics?
One of the unintended consequences for being so involved in the world of politics, and losing sight of the power of the gospel, is that Christians have become known more for their political ideology than they are for mercy, compassion and love. Thomas Kidd puts it like this, “In short, evangelicals have gone from being known as born again Christians, to being known as religious Republicans.”
But there are other consequences as well. By engaging in a culture war we have alienated the very people that need to hear the gospel story. Our angry rhetoric pushes people away from us because we have been treating them like our enemy and not the lost sheep that Jesus came to die for (Luke 15:1-7).
Is there a better way?
As Christians we should long to see the world changed and actively work towards that end. Of course what we should strive to do is evaluate the way we are living and contrast it with what we read in Scripture. What do we learn from observing the life of Jesus and the apostle Paul?
Jesus emphasized serving
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” -Matthew 20:25-28
Jesus’ disciples completely misunderstood that it meant to be a part of the kingdom of God. In Matthew 20 we see James and John come to Jesus seeking power and glory and Jesus has to redirect them and tell them that they way that the kingdom of God flourishes is when Christians seek to put others first and serve them.
Question: How are you, and your church, serving others in your neighborhood and city?
Jesus emphasized making disciples
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus spent the bulk of his ministry years making disciples who would go on and make disciples. This was Jesus’ plan for changing the world, spending time with people, helping them to become more like him, and then releasing them so that they could go and do likewise. What is our plan for changing the world? Does it look like the method that Jesus employed?
Question: Who are you discipling?
Jesus and Paul emphasized love
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. -1 Corinthians 13:1-3
The apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear in 1 Corinthians 13 that if there is anything that Christians should be known for it is love.
What does this love look like? Love is not winning an argument. Love is not an insulting meme that belittles our political rivals. Love has a heart filled with compassion that longs to see the lost sons and daughters of God come to know the grace of Jesus Christ.
Question: Are you known on social media, and in everyday life, for being a person of compassion and love?
The spirit of the moral majority lives on today
There is no doubt that some of the negative aspects of the Moral Majority, and the Religious Right, are alive and well today. The problem is that it is such a part of the air that we breath that we have a hard time seeing the error of our ways. The key will be for Christians today to refocus on the words, and the life, of Jesus Christ and how he worked to transform this fallen world.
Tomorow is World Suicide Prevention Day and I wanted to stop and share a few thoughts with you. From most of the reading I do it seems that depression and suicide are on the rise here in America.
So here are a few articles, links, resources that can help you, or someone you love, know how to deal with the sensitive topic of suicide and depression.
HERE is an article I wrote about a year ago after Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.
THIS link has five steps you can take to help a friend who is contemplating suicide. #BeThe1To
HERE is a book that does a great job of talking about the fact that Christians can get depressed and what we can do about it.
One of the things that we need to keep in mind is that many times people who are hurting the most keep up a facade in public of being OK. So my suggestion would be that if you begin to wonder if someone is struggling ask them out for coffee. Ask questions. Genuinely listen. Show compassion. You could be the one that God uses to save a life.
If you need immediate help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 800-273-8255, or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
The world, and the wretched sin nature that we carry around with us 24 hours a day, are hell-bent on getting us to turn our eyes off of the beauty of Jesus Christ and to become intoxicated, or distracted, with a million other things. And when we do this we feel the impact almost immediately. We can run the gamut, from apathy, boredom, irritability, anger, falling into sinful habits, out of control thought life, worry, anxiety, etc.
I think the single best thing thing we can do in the middle of this spiritual battle is to worship God. Not just on Sunday morning, but during the busyness of everyday life. What is it that gives you life and draws you closer to God? Worship music? Bible study? Alone time? Getting outdoors?
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” -Luke 10: 38-42
I find for me one of the most powerful things I can do during the week is listen to worship music. As I listen to the gospel through the medium of music I find that my heart is softened and I can sense and experience the presence of God once again.
There is a spiritual battle going on and our heart is ground zero. Make no mistake about it, we will worship something or someone. If what we are worshipping is not Christ then it will rob us of the joy that we so desperately need to live a vibrant Christian life. The best thing we can do is in the middle of everyday life find time to worship, praise, and enjoy being in the presence of our God.
Over the past week I have listened to the song below many times. The audio tape in my brain tells me that I am a failure and self-loathing is not far behind. I find that I need to be reminded that God passionately loves me. Few things feed my soul like reveling in the undeserved love of God.