Friday, May 30, 2014

Modern Church. Pink Elephant. America. Repent.

   I will admit, I have at times avoided the difficult parts of scripture; the ones that the secular world would consider counter to the culture our America is cultivating.  Well, I have not avoided reading them or understanding them, but I have distanced myself from spilling the truth that will burn the ears of the non-believers. Sure, Jesus loves you, He will save you and John 3:16 is an amazing reality for those who embrace and taste the faithfulness and love and grace that is our Lord. But there remains an accountability to the truth that I feel is often disregarded in the silence that emanates from the pews and views of the modern Christian congregation in America.  The liberal indoctrination that has invaded our country has crossed over from our political system, into our belief system.  It is in the church now - this idea that Jesus was a liberal, that he was supportive of the idea of social justice, and that all men are not just created equal, but that they remain that way in the eyes of God.  The promise of a life of purpose is now the promise of a life of prosperity. These are all lies. If these ideas are being promoted from your pulpit and pastor, change them both. This is not the truth that is spoken of in the Bible. This rewriting of the Gospel that has organically changed to include all manners of morality is a lie, and a lie cannot save you.  Only the truth can do that.  Gone from many spiritual leaders among us is the voice preaching repentance. Now it is acceptance. Quiet is the sound of accountability and change that the life of a Christian should reflect.  It is fast becoming an all-inclusive club of do what you want because faith is enough, disregarding that faith motivates change and that this will be a marker and indicator of true belief.  It is not enough to believe in Christ, if this belief does not change you morally and spiritually - if it is not a rebirth and new life, it is not a saving faith. It is just empty rhetoric. It is church, but it is not The Church.  What ever happened to preaching repentance?  This is the pink elephant I speak of.

  I did some research on Christian denominations disputing on an organizational level the idea of gay marriage. I tried hard to understand what this dispute is about.  If one can imagine Jesus presiding over a gay marriage ceremony, you have found a different Jesus than I.  It is the love and grace of Christ that would draw men to God, and we are to reflect that love to all, at all times. That is what we are down here for...vessels for His purpose.   However, read and understand 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. If one would like to pick and choose scripture in order to fulfill their inclusion into the body of Christ, start right here.  If you are not willing to allow the power of the Holy Spirit through Christ Jesus, and the cold hard Bible truth to motivate and fulfill the changes in your life and lifestyle, you are seeking a custom-made Christ to suit your immoral desires, and out the door goes purity, sanctification and holiness. To include all manners of immorality as being okay, you either need to rewrite the bible, or start your own religion; it is not Christianity.  A brief look at Acts 3:19 provides a stable blueprint for the foundation of a life driven towards truth:  "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the Lord".  Just read this verse backwards; If you want seasons of refreshing from the Lord, and you want your sins wiped out, turn to God, and repent. Any dispute of what is required for a saving faith needs to be taken up personally with your Father above, and not with the faithful here below.  This extends well beyond homosexuality. Idolatry, adultery, greed, lying...there are a list of things in the flesh that will be purged in due time within the true believer, because that is what real faith does. It is cleansing and refreshing.  It is not, never, in no way believing the idea that God will accept you as you are, to keep doing what you are doing because God's love and understanding trumps his righteous requirements and perfect judgement.  The continued promotion that change is not necessary and that the Church needs to include filth and wanton sinners is a lie of our adversary.  Those who teach this watered-down approach to Christ are complicit in promoting falsehood, and this promotion is only self-promotion, and void of any real truth. Light cannot mix with darkness. They do not share the same space - and they do not reside, in the same places. This includes, the confines of your house of worship.

  When I take a step back, I understand why this side of Bible truth is less vocal than the promise of eternal life, the grace of our Lord,  and the truth that sets us free. Preaching pure repentance would not lead many to Christ.  But preaching only, that Jesus loves you and if you believe in Him, you will be saved, is akin to building a fire without bringing a match. Truth is refining.  Jesus was clear in Luke 13:3 "I tell you, no. But, unless you repent, you too will all perish." And again in Luke 24:46-47 "He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." 

   Jesus preached repentance, and some are afraid to do so.  Our American culture is now on a Sodom-like level, basically anything goes now, and liberal Christianity is surpassing bible truth at an alarming rate.  And again, I understand why this is so. Change is work, and a works based salvation too, is not biblical.  But how is not doing something work?  Repentance is a changing of our minds, and the turning away from a former path. It is a 180, not a 360. The air of our nation is one that is now going beyond just disagreeing with the Christian message. It is conforming the Church itself to be just as accepting, and turning a blind eye to continued wickedness, and  then portraying this as "the truth will set you free'.  I for my part will not be silently complicit it supporting a false gospel just because it happens to tickle the ears of the hearers and it popular to broadcast. There is a steady growing trend today in the walls of our churches,  in teaching that Jesus loves you regardless of what you do. Jesus loves everyone, this is true, but He will not save everyone, because not everyone will be taught the truth, nor will all walk in the truth.  These are the facts. It is not popular, and that is why the truth of the reality of the Christian walk is a dying message in our land today. It is hard to hear, because we are being, and have been indoctrinated by the Godless media and the popular pastors to accept everyone, every time, no matter what they choose to continue to do, because this is what will lead them to Christ and eternal life. That is not how it works.  Sugar-coating what the reality of the Christian walk means for our lives will only be able to fill stadiums full of folks who have accumulated for themselves teachers who say only what the hearers can do, never allowing the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to guide one to the real fountains of waters of life.

  Repentance will not lead one to Christ.  Christ, will lead one to repentance.  What we can do is be the light of the world.  The darker this world becomes, the brighter our light will appear.  We need not dim ourselves in Christ just to conform ourselves and our message to those around us.  Truth does not change. Truth changes us.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lessons in Forgiveness

Mark 14:53

"They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together..."

   So began the journey of condemnation that Jesus endured until his death; being accused and abused by the very High Priest that he was to become for all of man. Let's take a closer look at the events that unfolded just prior to the barbaric death of our Lord as written in the gospels.  What stands out to me the most,  is not just that Jesus was handed over and beat and later crucified, but how he responded ultimately to the atrocities that were being unjustly delivered to His physical body.  In this we see, the amazing and endless, grace of our Lord.

  "...They all condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.  Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him.  They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. “Crucify him!” they shouted. Why? What crime has he committed” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”  Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days. In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him..."

"...And Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

  Note that Jesus did not say, 'Father forgive them, for they know not who they are doing this to...' In His agony and pain, after being beat and mocked and spit upon and led to a walk of certain death; while hanging there before his final moments, what was the response of our Savior?  He wanted them to be forgiven, despite their ignorance. This is the love and loving concern of our Lord.  Suffering as a criminal, dying like an animal - His offering of grace was extended to the very hands who saw to His unnatural death. This is the will of our God, that all can come to a knowledge that leads to repentance, and eternal life. Christ did not just die for you...He died for your enemies too.

   Is there someone in your life, in your past or in your present that you are finding it hard,  if not impossible to forgive?  Pray for them. Pray for their forgiveness.  Love them all the more. Even to the greatest of sinners; even to the hands that shed the innocent blood of the greatest example of love that has ever touched this Earth,  He wanted not,  for His life and death to be in vain.  Not for one single solitary soul. The intercession of Jesus is offered to the most despised person in your life. Even to those who may have taken a life, His life is offered as a sacrifice. His grace and undeserved mercy is equally offered to those who believe. (John 3:16)  It is available to all. This is, the love of our God.  "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."  (2 Peter 3:9)  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:44)

  Sometimes, we need more than our sinful, human resources to forgive and love others this way.  The demand for love and grace in our lives has no limits - but we do.  If we are to allow God to love others through us, we must also forgive others with the power and spirit and will that God will provide for us to do so.  Understand this:  An unforgiving spirit against those who do us wrong is to live our life as a victim, and not as a victor.  We are to forgive others, not just for our own good, or to fulfill a righteous requirement, but for the promised realization of eternal life for ourselves, and our enemies. Forgiving the otherwise unforgivable has led the forgiven to the feet of Christ Jesus. Though we may never forget the pain caused by those who have sinned egregiously against us, they will never forget...our forgiveness.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Orange Barrels

Philippians 1:6
"...And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns."

   If road repair and construction projects are one of your pet peeves, I would strongly advise you to avoid the Cincinnati area at all costs. Especially the East side.  It is just plain ridiculous.  I catch myself at times in heartfelt and desperate prayer along orange barrels and cones, begging for the patience of Job that so eludes me when I am driving along with every other commuter in this area, seemingly to the very same parking spot and parking lot, at a round a top speed of maybe 20 mph.  The worst part for me is knowing that these projects take what seems like years to complete.  There is a stretch of road here, US 32, that has been under some kind of ongoing improvement or construction since the late 1990's.  I wish I was making that up. I also wish that I did not live about 2 miles from its most congested and bottle-necked area. I know that these projects will eventually lead to a smoother and quicker drive, but in the meantime, orange barrels are all I see.

   On the path to sanctification and purity in Christ, we are going to find our own areas of congestion and construction. We will always be to some extent, a work in progress.  However, the battle for control of our lives in this flesh is a struggle that we will not need to face alone. The very God who saw within us the life that would be His own, will see us through our struggles and trials in change, regardless of what they are. I dwell upon the reality of what Philippians 2:13 means for us all: "...for it is God who works in you the will to act in order to fulfill His good purpose."   When we stop and meditate on what this means for our walk, it is inspiring and encouraging to know that God is not just on my side, He is working on me from the inside, continually.  Our faith in the promise that God, through Christ Jesus,  will see us through the process of holiness and purity should empower us to forge ahead in confidence, knowing that the work he saw and began within us all, will be completed.  It is by His very will that He will finish perfectly, what He began. This does not mean that we do not need to be obedient to His voice, or that He will do all the work for us. Change is work. Very hard work sometimes. But we are never to assume that this is to be accomplished under our own power and strength. Trusting that God will resolve the things that are counter to what He desires within us is the beginning of wisdom, and a marker of our faith.  Our strong desire to do what is pleasing to God is parallel to our being willing to accept His divine intervention in our lives.  He may choose to change us, rather than to change our circumstances.  God may allow us to undergo some pretty uncomfortable situations for our own good.  We may take detours and roads that are so foreign to what we are familiar with, that we may seem lost. Please remember:  Our implicit trust in relying on the power of God rather than our own is the only clear path to victory. Philippians 4:13 gives us this promised assurance:  "I can do all things through him who strengthens me".  Paul did not here say, I can do this - he was saying, I can do this, with help.

  Enter now, our Helper, the Holy Spirit. The bible tells us this in John 16:13,14 "But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.  He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you."  The power of what the Holy Spirit reveals in our lives is from Christ Jesus.  This is what the bible says. It is for the glory of Christ Jesus. All things come back to Christ. Always. The changes in our walk bring glory to God through Him.  It is what our God wants in our lives.  He wants our reliance and trust, because it allows Him to love others through us.  What does this all mean?  Like I said, it always comes back to Christ Jesus...let us take a look at the last verse in this Chapter of John.  It is the summary of the Gospel in three short sentences:  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  

  Friends, the heavy lifting has been done already.  The hard part of redemption has been accomplished.  Our struggles, really now, are opportunities to exercise our faith and rely on the power that is necessary for us to make it through the constantly improving areas that we call our weaknesses. Praise be to our God and Father who has found a way to call us to His own, despite ourselves. While it is true that we may always be, under construction, it remains the most beautiful work in progress that is for our peace and eternal life, and His glorious name. Amen.



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What His love does...

Funny how a man like me, could spend his life in misery
So glad the way things are ain't like they was
Cause looking back now,  All I see; How I became a better me
I'm living proof of what,  His love does. 

I've met so many, just like me,  They have become my family
we come together, always;   just because.
We bow are heads and praise His name, no longer living in our shame
we're living proof of what, His love does.

I found it hard to keep inside,  that kind of truth is hard to hide
so many out there, Don't know how much theyre loved
His light shines, His Spirit speaks, and tells the lost,  but now through me
He's living proof of what, His love does.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The waters.

In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, And his children will have refuge. - See more at:
In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, And his children will have refuge. - See more at:
In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, And his children will have refuge. - See more at:
Psalm 78:16-16
 "He split the rocks in the wilderness and gave them water as abundant as the seas; he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers."

The other day, I drove down by the river in my old hometown,  New Richmond, Ohio.  There has always been something about rivers that have felt like a Linus blanket to my soul. Like my mothers arms.  I am drawn to rivers.  I have always been.  Many years and seasons would find me along them; The Poudre River in Northern Colorado, The Red River Gorge in Kentucky, or along the banks of The Ohio.  The quiet and subdued times in the valleys of my life have been spent on these waters, letting them speak to me. I think most of us have a place like that. I think there is something in us all, about waters like this;  ones that quench our souls. We are all drawn to places where we can be honest with ourselves. It took me a while to realize that truth, is the best therapy.

In retrospect,  I know God knew I would see Him in the quiet places of my yesterdays. Perhaps then, it was the closest I could get to Him and His love.  He has become my rivers now.  He was always there; guiding me through the years I remained adrift on the waters I now seek to walk upon.  He has always been there.  I have embraced this thought.  It leads me to believe,  I was never really lost. 

The Poudre River flowing through Bellevue, Colorado
I still find solitude on the water.  I was there yesterday, accidentally fishing again. In the stillness of the night, as the fog danced on the water, I thought all of the times I sought refuge and retreat on the rivers in my life.  I still do, but nowadays, for different reasons.  I went to these places then, hoping I would find Him. I go to these places now, to listen.  Truth, is the best therapy.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Thoughts on a Sunday morning

Psalm 19:1
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

 I went fishing last night.  While waiting on a big ole catfish, and telling exaggerated stories of the ones that got away - I noticed the stars above me, and just started thinking.  I seemed so small in that moment, wondering about life and why and how - but mostly, who did all of this. I thought of this picture here to the right.  I  felt much smaller. 

 Let me put this in perspective,  if possible.  This photo is of galaxies (not stars) taken by the Hubble Ultra Deep Field Project. Scientist estimate the number to be around 10,000 in this field alone. To take a 360 view, that would equate to 120,913,983,000 galaxies. Now think on this. It is theorized that one could travel to the edge of what is the farthest galaxy in this photo and repeat this process a million million times. Google this sometime - it is staggering how much creation is around us in this universe.  It is infinite. Our God is infinite. And in all of this space and time that I will never be able to wrap my head around, I have come to know that He wants me to know Him. Personally. That is something I want to wrap my life around. This is what Christ, and being a Christian, mean for me. He is equally concerned about us, and knows us individually. All of those galaxies with endless order and all I can see from my folding chair on the lake while fishing is a small snapshot of just the stars around me within the Milky Way galaxy, making me so infinitesimally small that I just have to stop dwelling upon it, and just praise Him and His awesomeness. I will never be able to understand that kind of love and will and purpose and power, but I will choose to live within it. He wants me to know him, and that sometimes just blows me away.

   My experience and relationship with our Father and creator will always trump the opinion of someone else who believes He does not exist. My reality proves otherwise to me. I have concrete evidence within my heart that will not allow me an option, but to believe, and lead a life that aligns with my faith in Him.  Why are all not compelled to believe that we are not a chance in time and space is something I cannot really understand. It is not for me to think upon the hearts of men, but to let others see his love through my life.  It is the strength of my faith and belief in his will and purpose for me individually that wants me to share this kind of love and hope with others. In my failures and victories in life, my darkest and my brightest day, He is there, every step. Every moment, Infinitely.