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Posts Tagged ‘Christian Living’

I think this is the toughest blogpost I have ever read! There are times I wish I didn’t check certain websites. Men like Alan Knox and Dave Black, women who blog about doing it makes me question am I doing enough! I know, I know, the Gospel is about believing a bunch of abstract facts that really have no real bearing on our lives, other than accumulating good Podcasts, reading great books. Living the Gospel is an oxymoron right? Well tell Dave Black that who writes this wonderful post:

 

How Are Your Verbs?

 David Alan Black  

verbs

My sabbatical officially ends today. On Monday I’ll resume my teaching duties at the seminary with my J-term Greek class.

I can honestly say that 2008 was a tremendous year in every way. I have learned more about language than ever before – the language of love in particular. I have seen how the intellect is so easily enslaved by bizarre abstractions. Education has become a Utopia for Americans, and becoming a “Christian intellectual” a god.

What is the use? Knowledge is an impotent end incapable of creating the means. Why, then, do we so easily “Christianize” it? I refuse to believe in the power of education. For truth we need a source outside ourselves – a far greater Light than our puny human candles can provide. I want to proclaim only the Word of God this year – not by words alone but by sharing in Jesus’ sufferings. I no longer want to camouflage my bondage by calling it “scholarship.” Jesus alone is Truth. He Himself says so. It is Him I want to know. No more disguises! No more pedantic, puerile obfuscations! What good is life without Truth?

In Ethiopia I taught the book of Acts for a week. Here’s my rendering of a key verse (2:42): “They spent their time learning from the apostles, taking part in the fellowship, eating meals together, and praying for each other.” Note the second element if you will: “taking part in the fellowship.” That’s how the early believers spent a good deal of their time, says Luke. They emphasized Body Life and genuine relationships. Each one of them had a gift, a talent to share with others. The same is true today. Each one of us has a contribution to make to the health of the Body. Why is that so hard to see? It is a false humility that says, “I have nothing to contribute.” Your ability may be small or large, but your gifts are vitally important to the fellowship. No talent or ability is of our own making. Peter puts it like this: “As each of us has received a gift, we are to use it for the good of one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pet. 4:10). The Bible says plainly that I have a gift, and I am being just plain lazy if I do not exercise it!

The essence of stewardship is responsibility. I have a divinely-ordained responsibility to live a life of blessing to others. How, then, can I be so responsible with my finances but not with my gifts and talents? No gift is small in the eyes of God. Every gift is a token of His grace in our lives. And the early Christians realized this. They did not shake off or shirk their responsibility to serve others. They did not reason, “I have nothing to give.” They did not bury their talents in the ground. They did not write books about the New Testament but not practice its simple teachings.

This is the question I am asking myself this year: Am I giving to the Lord what is His? Is He first in the stewardship of my time, my friendships, my possessions, my resources, my strength, my abilities? I often think, How much more I could do for my Lord is I wasn’t so lazy and self-centered! It’s as if Jesus is telling me, “Don’t neglect the gift you have!” (1 Tim. 4:14). I returned from Ethiopia with a new realization that God will reward me in heaven according to my stewardship, not my knowledge. I must seek to be a wise and trustworthy steward of all He has given me. Only by a diligent application of the truth can I prove that I am a trainee of Jesus. My faith must be proved by my actions. Otherwise I will be like that student who once told me, “My Greek is excellent, except for the verbs.” My profession to be a Jesus-follower is worthless unless it has verbs to back it up!

I can say this: I am ready this year to lay down my life for Jesus if necessary. But even more, I am ready to forfeit things so that others might find the Way of Jesus more easily. I will not evade the burden. I will not say but not do. I will not pray for prisoners – I will visit them. I will not debate the morality of capitalism – I will feed the poor. I will not discuss the Gospel – I will share it with one and all. I am done with debates about this or that. How dare I claim to know truth and display the approachability of a porcupine!

So back to school I go – after a glorious rest and a wonderful romp in Africa. On Monday I will teach my students something about the Greek language. But I don’t want to stop there. I also want to teach them, by actions and not merely by words, that nothing remains more important yet more demanding than that we reflect in our lives the unfailing, scandalous love of Jesus.

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Why is my marriage always better on Sunday?

Why are my kids the greatest on Sunday?

Why do I like everybody in my church on Sunday?

Why am I so excited about Jesus on Sunday?

How come I always find my bible on Sunday?

Why do I like the worship music on Sunday?

Why don’t I have a problem with the preaching on Sunday?

Why do I love “church” on Sunday?

Why is the job going fine on Sunday?

Why do I care about the poor on Sunday?

Why do I like giving on Sunday?

Why are missions so important on Sunday?

Why can I remember so many verses on Sunday?

Why isn’t race a problem on Sunday?

Why do I hug so many people on Sunday?

Why don’t I have a problem with her dress on Sunday?

Why come that tattoo isn’t a big deal on Sunday?

Why don’t I gossip on Sunday?

Why does my anger problems cease on Sunday?

Why don’t I struggle with sin on Sunday?

Why am I so nice on Sunday?

Why is the bible so important on Sunday?

Why is everybody a brother and sister on Sunday?

Why do I wave at my neighbor on Sunday?

Why do I love my wife soooo much on Sunday?

Why isn’t that joke funny on Sunday?

Why do I smile so much on Sunday?

Why come I am never scared on Sunday?

Why is serving people so easy on Sunday?

I tell you for some reason Sunday is always the best day of the week! How about you?

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I love this quote from Greg Boyd’s The Myth of a Christian Nation

So, too the reason God now calls kingdom people to remain separate from the ways of the kingdom-of-the-world is not to isolate them from their culture but to empower them to authentically, serve their culture and ultimately win it over to allegiance to Jesus Christ. The reason we are not to be of the world is so we may be for the world

This point is especially important today, for a significant portion of evangelical Christianity has come under the influence of an escapist apocalyptic theology. Believing Jesus will soon “rapture” Christians out of the world before destroying it, they have little concern with the church being a witness on issues of social justice, global peace, the environment, and so on. To the contrary, in the name of fulfilling biblical prophecy, many are actively supporting stances that directly or indirectly encourage violence, possibly on a global scale (of instance, extremist Christian Zionism). Since the world is doomed for soon destruction, the thinking goes, the only thing that matters is getting individuals ready for the rapture.

Whatever else one thinks about the New Testament’s eschatology, it certainly does not encourage this sort of irresponsible escapism. The hope offered to believers is not that we will be a peculiar elite group of people who will escape out of the world, leaving others behind to experience the wrath of God. The hope is rather that by our sacrificial participation in the ever-expanding kingdom, the whole creation will be redeemed (Rom. 8:20-23; Col 1:18-20)

I believe Mr. Boyd to be correct in his assessment. It is much easier to let the world go to hell in a hand basket then engaging it with Calvary type love. It is much easier to look at homosexuals with AIDS and say “this is God’s judgment” than to put our arms around them and love them. It is much easier to ignore the rapid decline of our environment than it is to march hand in hand with “tree lovers”. It is much easier to say “we will be raptured away from it all, so prepare yourself for the next kingdom” while ignoring the world around us. Why care about child slavery? Why care about Darfur? Why care about world hunger? It is funny that Jesus came to reverse the curse of the fall while we not only avoid assisting Him, we actually applaud such destruction and pain in the name of God’s judgment!

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Here are the verses:

20 Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. 23 Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. 24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him,

Maybe this is an over allegorization but I am going to go for it anyway and then let you guys rebuke me. When I used to read this, I had no clue what it was about. I thought to my self big deal! Dude got a little tipsy, okay he got bonafide wasted but “we all sin and fall short of the glory of God” right? I am pretty sure there are many Christians who struggle with alcoholism or has a bit too much to drink or has a celebration at their home and has a bit too much to drink. And just in case you ask, no smoking cigarettes and drinking are not sins regardless of what many of my <clears throat> Baptist brethren tell you.

So after reading this I thought to myself man the punishment for telling your brothers “dudes, daddy got tore up” seemed to be a bit odd to me. Noah literally cursed his son. For saying “daddy got drunk and is naked”?!!! Man that seems cruel and unusual. That is like cutting off your kids arms because he took the cookie out of the cookie jar and he is only 2! But again I knew there was something going on, but I just went in the same ol’ Christian fashion which is “I don’t understand, and it isn’t a big deal”. Whew! Tell Ham and Canaan that!

But after reading something over at Smulo Space, I believe the Holy Spirit gave me an aha moment. So again this will be in usual fashion for me during the last few weeks and that is confession for you so that you don’t make the mistakes I made! Okay here we go. Ted Haggard was one of the most popular evangelical leaders in the U.S. He was James Dobson’s poster boy for evangelicalism! He had one of the biggest churches in the United States of America and was an adviser for President Bush. He stood arm in arm with Focus on the Family, and was well on his way to being on front of many Christian Magazines. He was sort of like Olsteen with a mean streak! For the most part I liked the dude’s ministry. Charismatic yet Conservative, Sort of Fundamental but yet fun! But then out of the sky BAAAAAMMMMMM! He was caught in a scandal! A huge scandal one that involved homosexuality (that he was against vocally) and adultery (didn’t I tell you he was down with FOTF) and it hit national news (listen to me carefully never covet the national spotlight and never ever let it define you, if so they will crush you like the planet Mars hitting a grape!). His stock fell faster than Enron’s, no it was more like Milli Vanilli after the “Blame it on the, blame it on it, blame it on it <record skips>” fiasco!

And guess what the community of grace! Paaaauuusssee! We are a community of grace aren’t we! If anyone is to be the most gracious for the whole world to see, shouldn’t it be us? Like, our foundation is Grace isn’t it (Ephesians 2)?! Wait, wait, “God so loved that He gave”, has anything been more gracious than that? Okay let me try this “you were dead in trespasses and sins BUT God made you alive”, oh, oh, I know, how about this one “while we were yet enemies Christ died”! I have at least 500 more but I will digress for time and space sake! Dude the only reason I am alive, you are alive, you are a Christian, you have eyesight, you can breath, you don’t have Downs, you weren’t born a crack baby, you don’t have AIDS is because of GRACE! Okay I am done with that one.

So what did the church do for Mr. Haggard! We joined in the public scorning with the media is what we did. We became “Rearview Mirror Prophets”! You know the ones who knew everything about everything but didn’t decide to express it until it already happened! Get outta of here! We joined the media in exposing him, oh yeah back the verses, exposing his nakedness!

Let me explain. It wasn’t about Noah’s nakedness, it was about Ham’s wickedness! What was his wickedness? The fact that he saw his father, vulnerable, in a shameful predicament, full of sin, he had fallen! The great Noah who God used to save humanity was now in a cave drunk and naked (after seeing that many people drown I probably would have needed a drink or two also, pregnant women, elderly, little babies, they all drowned, I probably would have tried to find some soil on the boat to plant something)! And instead of covering his father, he runs to expose his sin! To expose his shame, to make a public announcement (don’t forget they are the only ones around) about this old drunk fool! So that is why I believe he was cursed! Not because of what he did but why he did it! He didn’t go ask for help from Shem to cover his father, he wanted to show everyone the folly of his dad! A man God just used as a picture of the redemption of Jesus Christ!

You know what though? Ham does not have the living God indwelling him in the person of the Holy Spirit. The third person in the living Trinity taking up residence in his life! The problem with that is that we do! But just like Ham, we expose the shame, the embarrassment, we make a public announcement of others failures! The problem is I can’t understand for the life of me why! Why do we do that. Why are we so quick to run and tell others about the brother caught in sin, instead of doing what Paul commands the Galatians in chapter 6 of the epistle with the same name:

6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

You see we as believers have an opportunity to be Shems and Japheths in the Christian Community. It is a proven fact that many will fall, many will engage in gross sins, but when that arises what should we do? We should be a place of refuge and safety. We should cover our brothers and sisters short comings! Why? Because this is the nature of Christ. “Blessed is the man, who’s sin is not counted against him”. But not only that we love to have our sins covered. We love for Jesus to not expose us, for Him to give us an opportunity to get it right! It is evident by the fact we don’t confess all of our faults.

I close with this. The Church should look like Shem and Japheht, when the opportunity arose for them to feel good about themselves and laugh at their fathers nakedness, like their brother (who just so happened to be extended grace by allowing to escape the wrath of God) they did not. They were like God who covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness (remember Paul says “be imitators of God”). They were the Old Testament example of a grace and covering sin! Yes many Christians are in the spotlight, many of them are weak and immature. Some of them become Christians after living publicly lewd lifestyles and yes many of them are on TBN and Daystar! But they are our brothers and sisters, when the opportunity arises let us be like Shem and Japheth and let us rebuke all who have the wicked intentions of Ham!

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“You aren’t sharing the Gospel? How can you say you love Jesus”? “What you studying in the scriptures? Nothing!? Man you ain’t going to ever grow like that”! “Relational witnessing? What is that? I can’t find that in my bible!”. “You go to who’s church? Man, don’t you know that your pastor and Jakes, Dollar, Hinn, Warren ________ (fill in the blank) are friends”? “What’s your pastor’s name? Don’t you know that he was at a conference with heretic”!? “You don’t know what justification means? Man, do you even understand the Gospel”?! “Have you discipled anyone since you have been saved; that person does what, there is no way they are saved; you believe what; you don’t know that wow; you don’t do that dude; you haven’t read this, you aren’t interested in theology; you can’t tell the difference…………?????!!!!!!!

This was my Christianity, arrogant, cocky, self-righteous, judgmental, all head and about as much heart as when the Tin Man meets Dorothy! To sum it up I was not a pleasant Christian to be around. Always handing out unsolicited books, always telling people what I thought about false teachers, always showing people how smart I was, what books I had read, what I believed, proud to show people I knew the difference between Biblical and Systematic Theology and I always wondered why 8 out of 10 people didn’t want to spend much time with me, like the kid who doesn’t discover deodorant until he is 18!

Why am I telling you this? Because those things above defined me and I don’t want them to define you. If we are to error lets do it on the side of grace. Let’s be over-gracious instead of overly critical. I lived my Christian life looking for rotten apples on a pretty well off tree. So I overlooked bushels and bushels of ripe sweet apples and only found the ones that have some damage and would say of that tree “look, you see this tree is no good”. Not finding areas of God’s grace in a persons life is a critical flaw! Yeah a lot of people are jacked up. Some of that is due to being under bad teaching, some of it due to having bad experiences and bringing in a lot of baggage. But man, if you were to check my luggage you may find some things that would cause you to treat me differently you may not even want to travel this journey with me anymore. If you look for the bad in individuals you will find it that is a promise.

I also write this to tell you not to be as pushy as I was. I was aggressive (well maybe still am) and for some reason that never drew people in and I always pointed the finger at them. I could never see that I was critical, that I was judgmental (I would always say “Jesus calls us to be fruit inspectors, uh, not really) I could never see that Jesus ate, talked and loved on people and met them exactly as they were and went where they were. Jesus didn’t say “go, clean up your life and theology then come back and see me”. He simply extends them grace and love and because of that the religious elite called Him all type of unsavory names. Jesus doesn’t tell the woman who is crying at His feet “hey go get your theology right before you interact with me, dont’ you know who I am”. Actually there is a lovely post found here about this.  Nope, He actually rebukes the leader whose house he is at because of that.

I am going to be honest. Most of us with really good theology have really bad hearts. We can be very critical of others and we can be so unloving. We live by the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law. We are zealous for truth more than we are people and yes Jesus is the truth but He values people so much more. I don’t want you to travel the road I was on and if you are on it I want you off of it immediately. We aren’t helping people we are hurting them and wounding them and many times those relationships are very difficult to repair. Sometimes Jesus just wants us to listen, love and serve, not give a bunch of deep biblical answers while over looking the experiences that has shaped the individual.

I close with this, a gentle knock is much more receptive than a battle ram. Think about it, if the police comes to your door and knocks it down with a battle ram, when they just could have knocked gently while you and your family was eating dinner, what would you think? Would that not be excessive force? We don’t burn down the house to get rid of a mouse do we? Paul commands us to correct with “gentleness and patience”. Jesus says “be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves”. Peter says “give a defense with gentleness”. I believe gentleness, patience, kindness, respect, man just plain ol’ common sense love is the way to go. Man I still have been trying to repair relationships from such mistakes and I don’t want you to have to experience what I experienced. I once heard someone say “experience is the wisdom of fools”. I think especially when you have evidence!

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sermon-piper

No this is not about Piper per se! This is more about my journey as a Christian and some pitfalls or better yet crutches I used along the way. Back in 2004 I was handed a MacArthur CD and immediately the Spirit began to take my previous (?) 10 years of Christianity and bring me up to speed on it. What I mean is that I may have become a Christian at 16 but then again it could have been 11. Either the way Satan wanted to destroy me becausein each instance I got worse. 11 to 16 I was a devilish young adult and from 16 to say 17 I was just as devilish but with a little more conscience. I made professions of faith at 11 and 16 but for some reason I just got worse. The only thing that prevented me from wilding out from 17 to 25 was the military and then getting married, it was more due to the social consequences than the spiritual I promise.

But anyway at 25 I was handed a MacArthur CD and I was hooked. I don’t know if any of you can track with me, but because of MacArthur I was opened to Piper (someone thought if I liked MacArthur I would like Piper). This opened the door and paved the road to the journey I am currently on. I became hooked instantly. I purchased a bunch of MacArthurs books and began to devour them I also listened to many, many of his sermons. That only increased my appetite to learn. Then comes Piper. He was preaching through Romans, okay that may be an understatement. I think Piper wrote Romans in a different life he was in that joker for so long. And I listened to him every hour of the day.

I work on spreadsheets and databases and I rarely had to interact with people so I would sit at my desk with headphones, going through Romans with Dr. Piper. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even have to read my bible, because Piper was an audio commentary on it. And that is when the dependency came.

Okay lets rewind a bit. From 16 to 25 I did read my bible whenever I was saved. You have to understand that I was rebaptized like 3 or 4 times due to sinning and leaving the church (I was in a Oneness Pentecostal church and also a Oneness Pentecostal Seventh Day Adventist Church). Everytime that I would fall I would have to be resaved. Not rededication either. But one things was clear. I spent a lot of time in my bible. We couldn’t watch movies, go to parties, go swimming (bathing suits caused us to sin), listen to R&B, they didn’t want me hanging out with my old friends, girlfriends were out of the question, and I was a 18 year old with hormones at the ready to explode rate. So I promise after running like 10 miles and doing all the push ups I could the bible and I were intimate.

Actually it was this time in the bible that helped me see what I was in as false. This was before a class on hermeneutics. I began to challenge my pastors and was told that it was Satan tricking me. I wouldn’t give in, I left due to some foul things that went on got married came back and Charity (my wife) was having nothing of the sort. I am so glad that she didn’t submit. I studied some more challenged them some more (I thought I could change them if they just saw the word, but traditions are hard to break) and I later left again and this time they didn’t want me back.

But again I would read the bible for hours. This is how I figured out that tongues wasn’t the evidence of salvation, that baptism wasn’t essential for salvation, that believers were not under the law of Moses and so forth. There was much I didn’t know but one thing is I could quote scriptures and knew my bible as well as I could without any outside help (unless you count the Spirit). All that changed in 2004. I got hooked on sermons. I would have withdrawals if I couldn’t listen to a sermon. I would even find myself mad when my wife would call on the way home from work (I worked in Downtown about 30-35 miles from my home). She would want to talk but I would want to listen.

My bible became dusty, a little foreign. Yeah I knew the scriptures, but I knew them Sproul’s, MacArthur’s, Begg’s, Swindoll’s, Piper’s, Evan’s, Duncan’s, Mahaney’s, Harris’, Dever’s, Chandler’s, Driscoll’s way! But not my way. I had very little confidence in my ability to handle the scriptures. I was suffering from Expository Sermonitis! It is nearly incurable for those of the Reformed way. Then it got worst. I found Sermon Audio and MLJ’s site. I began to listen to Ken Jones, White Horse Inn, read more books, started to listen to Spurgeon sermons, I was in Sermon heaven. My bible was lonely, it had become an attaraction on my coffee table, close to my bed but nowhere near my hands.

But something happen to me one day. After reading something and hearing something, what I heard disagreed with what I read. I became inquisitive. Started to investigate this distant but familiar inspired book a little more. And slowly but surely the bible became mine again. I picked up resources (not commentaries) that would help me with the text. And I began to challenge more.

So what are you saying Lionel you might ask. What I am saying is that you can trust the Spirit, I am not saying that you can’t listen to sermons, but if you spend more time listening to sermons and reading books about the bible and little time in the bible you have become dependent on another man and are grieving the Spirit. You are sort of like the guy who sat in the bed so long that his legs no longer work or the guy who was locked in a dark room for years and when finally brought out, his eyes barely work. You my friend are in deep trouble. Today in many Reformed circles you are more “spiritual” if you have read certain books or listen to sermons of other men. You are more spiritual if your Ipod has Martyn Lloyd Jones than you are if you have no clue who he is but can handle your bible faithfully.

Shame on us. That we have punted the Spirit and given over the hard work of bible study and prayer and an ear for the Spirit to other men and not only do we enjoy allowing them to do it, we frown on others for not knowing them or have read their books. Listen to me today if you don’t hear anything else. The bible is readeable and you can get way more from it than you can someone else’s sermon and book about it. If you spend more time listening to others than reading your bible and praying for clarification from the Lord, today is the day to stop. The Spirit is still alive and the word is still a lively word. You can come to the bible with confidence that you can comprehend it and apply it to your heart. You can come to the bible with joy and a pure dependency on the Spirit to teach you what it means. How do I know this? Because the guys you listen to, do it all the time!

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By Guest Blogger Brother Lawrence D!

Back in 1987 a movie was released called RoboCop. RoboCop is set in a crime-ridden Detroit, Michigan, in the near future. RoboCop centers on a police officer who is brutally murdered and subsequently re-created as a super-human cyborg, otherwise known as “RoboCop”. RoboCop is designed to be a robot police officer that is governed by what is called in the movie “The Three Laws”. Certain scenes were no doubt placed in the movie to show the conflict between actual life events and those three laws. 
 
In some way, this is a description of what we call Christianity in America. Like it or not, admit it or not, we Christians like the static approach to our faith. We want uniformity. We want to have a trademarked brand that excludes any form of individuality. We don’t want anyone “doing his own thing”. We want to think alike, sound alike and look alike. We want to be easily identified in a crowd of sinners. “There’s the Christian!” we want people to say. We want to have a three-by-five index card type of faith that is easily retrievable whenever we may need it. A card that tells us exactly what we should do in every situation. We want a faith where we can be confident that we all fit into the same whole.    
 
We can find echoes of this thinking all over the spectrum of our Theology but it is most reflective in our Ecclesiology. Let’s face the truth, we love to be sectarian. We love to proclaim that we’re the ones doing it “right”. By “right” some of us mean biblically, some historically and others just mean like our favorite theologian says we should. We marginalize, slander, rebuke and exclude all those who refuse to conform. We want people to walk in lock step with us on everything from their personal devotion to the way they do ministry outreach. From our style of preaching to our choice of praise song material, like RoboCop, we too believe ourselves to be governed by static laws. We believe that they work in every situation. Whether it is ten, three, or just one (whatever My Pastor says), we yet believe ourselves to be faithful followers of Christ and proclaim ourselves to be doing it the “Christian” way. But does the scripture comport to this way of thinking? Let’s look at a few examples:
 
Jesus said to Nicodemus:”The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
 
Do you get the feeling that Jesus was expressing an unpredictable effect that the Spirit would have in a regenerate individual? Can regeneration be compared to an assembly line where every believer comes off exactly the same? Sure I believe that we have a common salvation (Jude 3) as believers but how it may appear in our lives may not be so similar. Even Jesus expressed the fickle nature in which God’s servants are identified by the “religious”. He said:
 
“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinner!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:18-19)
 
John the Baptist and Jesus. Two men. Two intertwined missions. Two different approaches. Both approved by God. And what about Paul?
 
“But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me;”
 
Why didn’t Paul need to be catechized by the ones who came before him? Didn’t he need to know the uniform and liturgy? Or what about this:
 
“If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)- in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.” (Colossians 2:20-23) 
 
Why didn’t Paul think that this “structure” was necessary to prevent Christians from sinning? Didn’t he want them to be held accountable or have “church” discipline? And let’s not forget:
 
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
 
Does Paul believe that a foundational teaching is enough for Christians to thrive on? Surely he sees it necessary to do a “Marriage”, “Spiritual Leadership in the Home”, “Raising the Next Generation”, and “Spousal Submission” series, right? Was he that confident in the work of God in the life of His children?
 
Look friends, when Jesus commissioned His disciples to go out and make disciples, He intended for them to make disciples of Him and not them. How about you? Do you want men to follow you or Christ? Men have fantasized about making robots that look, talk and even think, just like them. They may appear alive but they are not. Jesus Christ, through His gospel and by His Spirit, makes men alive. Sure, at times they may appear dead but they are more alive than can be imagined. Maybe we should trust Him with how men’s lives are lived and just concentrate on introducing them to Him. The last thing we need are RoboChristians.
 
 

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I remember a few months back, I don’t know maybe 7 or 8 I wanted to get a bible study going at my church, really a man’s study. I was talking with a brother of mine and he said “Lionel you dudes don’t need to study the bible more, man go out and help somebody fix their car”. I thought to myself, “this brother doesn’t have a high view of the bible”. But then as time went on a month or so, I figured something out. He was right.

Let me explain if I can. As one who may be more wired to study the scriptures and read theological books and spend time thinking through and writing this stuff I realized something. I realized that I would rather read The Death of Death in the Death of Christ then help my friend paint. Let me take it a step further. I would rather read a good book then go around the corner and hang out at a neighbors watching a football game. I would rather spend my time memorizing scripture then hanging out at the neighborhood block party establishing relationships and putting what I had read into practice.

You may say “so what Lionel whats the big deal?”. Let me see if I can convey this. Jesus has called us to be His hands and feet but we spend more time in our bibles than really being who the bible calls us to be. Let me put it this way. We spend less time building relationships and serving one another and more time treating Christianity as a one day a week deal. Okay we do have small groups so lets make that 2 days a week.

I believe that Jesus calls us to sacrificial love for each other then those outside of the Church. The basis of such love is relationships. I will only give personal examples. I remember going to family engagements. Especially around the holidays. So me being the Spiritual dude that I am (I am double anointed, with insight into the prophetic) or the biblical scholar that I am (though I would be my son compared to Michael Jordan to real scholars) I would show everyone just how righteous I was by bringing along my bible and my books.

People would want to talk about the latest trades, or how the kids were doing. They would want to talk about the latest movies, or what was going in world affairs. But oh no, not Mr. Spiritual. I would want to talk about Jesus. I believe this is proselytizing but I ain’t sure. Who cares how well the Patriots are doing, I just want to talk about Jesus. When everyone would get together to play games and have fun, I would retreat to the room, because I didn’t want to be around all of the drinking, cursing and joking. I wanted to be about Jesus! When people wanted to go see a movie. Un, unh! Not Apostle Lionel, he wanted to read his bible, I wanted to show them just how serious I was about Jesus.

But something funny happened and is happening. I am starting to see that Jesus spends much more time with people. Touching them, healing them, encouraging them, forgiving them (I can’t forgive but I can issue the Gospel of forgiveness). Jesus’ very presence of love, grace, forgiveness and acceptance commanded a response. They either hated Him or loved Him and if you have spent anytime reading the bible correctly (I haven’t) you will see that the religious hated Him and the others loved Him.

Jesus is God’s Word! He is the Logos, the full revelation of God in bodily form. God’s fullness clothed in humanity, Both man and divinity! And for some reason His heart was for relationship, it was for people, not mere education. I believe our bible study should point our feet outward to share this message, both verbally and nonverbally. Sometimes our presence should be salt and light enough. A loving gracious presence, not condoning of sin, but optimistic for reconciliation. We can do both I promise. We don’t have to remind people so much about the bible if we just be the bible.

Jesus Christ was really more about mercy than theological astuteness! Why, because if we “love the Lord our God with all of heart minds and souls (radical dependence and prayer) and love our neighbor as ourselves (radical self-sacrifice, we sacrifice everything for ourselves and our own well-being and this is what Jesus was really calling us to) theological astuteness will come. Most of out theological astuteness I don’t believe Jesus cares much about. The Pharisees would “strain out a gnat and swallow a camel”. I have been guilty of the same charges.

As I mature and become more confident in all of who Jesus is and wants to do through me, I think I will be able to serve people more and more. I believe I would bring my bible out of fear. Fear that sin would stain me. Fear that I would fall back into my old ways. That is why avoided the non-believers. That is why I didn’t want to explore deep relationships with those who didn’t trust in my God. I am still a bit nervous. Last night I was invited to a watch party and the first thing that came to mind is that man this would be a good chance to share Jesus. I could carry my bible with me and hopefully spark a movement for Jesus. I initially didn’t want to go to have a good time and meet new people but to evangelize.

Finally my last paragraph is about believers. I would do the same to believers. My work schedule can be rough so my devotional time can get bad and can become sporadic. So I would spend a great deal of my time on the weekends studying my bible and reading. Soaking up a bunch of great information that became like the manna that spoiled. It was life giving information that made me combative with other Christians. I would say “how can you not believe the 5 Points”, or “the baptism of the Holy Spirit, man there is no way any good Christian can believe that”. I became sectarian, schismatic, divisive, all of this came by spending more time with the bible than people. I am not saying not to study, but I believe we are to do it with the community in mind. So instead of asking “how can I serve you today” I would say “how can I correct your theology today”. How can I make someone else’s theology line up with God’s?!  All the while having no real concern with them as a human being and as a redeemed individual of God.

I close with this, study the bible, but also do what it says. Community is synonymous with service. We are to pray for opportunities to put the tough sayings and practices of Jesus to work. Our bible study should effect our hands and feet or it is worthless, just like the extra manna Israel collected in opposition to God’s command to just have enough for that day. We are fat on information and the only way to slim down is to burn off some of those biblical calories by serving. I will begin to adopt the starfish mentality. No I maybe can’t build a huge orphanage like George Muller, or start a huge food bank like some other Christians. I maybe can reach 100’s but I can reach one. I can’t help every single mom get a car but I can help one. I can’t visit every nursing home but I can visit one, I can’t heal as many as Jesus did, but maybe I can heal one. Just like we can’t save every starfish that washes ashore but we can toss the one back that we just walked past. So the next time you see a neighbor moving in, or laying grass, or fixing on his car, ask him “hey can I help” I think God will understand that you didn’t make devotion time today.

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If the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a Muslim is the above picture and you treat all those who profess to be Muslims with fear and prejudice this post is for you. I will add some comments after this:

“Islam is a cancer to the world. Sadly, it will, eventually, come down to either them or us. I just hope it comes to a head before they can destroy the US from the inside-out.”

I found this on a discussion board that I like to frequent. Sadly, this is just one of many quotes I have begun to see in increasing frequency. In my free time, I like to peruse different blogs and discussion boards in search of insight from many different perspectives. Maybe it’s a microcosm of my raising. I was raised in a family where my blood comes from two faiths. Although I am very proud to call myself a Muslim, I have also dedicated myself to learning and understanding the ways of other religions. I think growing up, my religion was always sort of a novelty to others. Here I was, regular Joe Schmo. No accent, no exotic wardrobe, no excessive body hair… well OK, maybe that one. I was definitely not the guy you saw walking down the street and instantly in your mind labeled “Muslim” or “Arab.” Then the towers fell. Two beacons of our nation’s prosperity, rising towards the heavens themselves, felled in one swoop. Along with those towers fell the lives of countless fellow Americans, just trying to work another day to put another meal on the table. Then came the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Regardless of your stance on the war itself, many brave men, good men, have laid down their lives fighting for OUR nation. As of late, we have seen Israel and Iran going back and forth with threats of nuclear weapons and retribution. Not a good combination.

 

One of the groups who have faced much tribulation in these times is the Muslim American. I tend to avoid using terms like Muslim American, African American, etc. as I believe they pack us all into neat little packages, and take ways from the unique qualities of individuals. As time has passed however, the hijab atop your head, or the dark skin or even just walking out of a mosque has brought forth labels nobody should ever be given without proof. Muslims in America are no longer a novelty. They come from the same place all these terrorists come from. If it looks like a terrorist, smells like a terrorist, then it’s gotta be a terrorist, right? We scare people, for reasons not of our own doing. Well I’m sorry, did I scare you? Let me tell you about me, so that maybe I won’t frighten you so much.

 

I shop at your grocery store. Hell, I go to the same convenience store because I know they’ve always got the freshest Copenhagen. I’m married to a Catholic woman. My kids will go to school with your kids. We interact with one another in our community. Personally, I might be the guy doing your taxes next year. We sit next to each other at Aggie football games, yellin our *beep* off. Maybe I don’t eat pork at the tailgate, but I’m there, and I probably know just as much or more about the goings on in Aggie football than most.

 

But I’m a Muslim. Everything I do in life is to glorify God(Allah)swf. I’ll take my kids to the mosque and they learn the same things I was taught as a youngster, which is probably a whole lot different than what you think it is. I am personally against abortion, I think kids should be able to pray in school if they want to, and I think the moral climate of our nation isn’t where it should be. I believe in God, Family, and Country. I pay my taxes, vote, go to jury duty, and celebrate OUR nation just like you do. Did you know that on May 1, 1776, a Syrian immigrant was killed fighting for his adopted nation’s independence? Did you know that Muslim and Arab Americans have fought in every major U.S. conflict since? You can believe what you want to believe about the religion I follow. This is America, it’s your right. But when you say you’re an American, it doesn’t mean any more than when I or any other American who also happens to be Muslim says it.

 

Alot of Muslim Americans are afraid of folks who say things like this. You scare them just as much as they apparently scare you. They don’t want you to give them trouble. When you say things like this, it frightens them. “We’re first generation Americans, we don’t want any trouble. We don’t want to rock the boat.” Well, more Muslims need to come out and say ignorant statements like this don’t scare me. You can’t control whom I pray to just like I can’t control what you think of my religion. But I will say this. Folks who judge others by labels such as religion, race, or creed don’t get very far in this country. Never have, never will. That’s why intolerant backwards and ignorant “Muslims” who resort to tyranny and terror will never get anywhere on these shores. Because we don’t let people treat others like that in this nation, at least not for long.

So in short, think what you will. But before you tell me that that the faith that I hold so dear is a “cancer,” get to know me first. Meet me at our grocery store, or at our kid’s baseball game. Come see me at your local mosque if you can’t find me anywhere else. Know me and what Islam has made me, and then make your judgment.

 

This was a post from my neighbor on our neighborhood discussion board. I won’t post my entire reply but I do want to express what I think. He allowed me to post this and I great appreciate you for that! I think this needs to be circulated in magazines on news stations and read during a Sunday morning service before expositing Luke 10:25-37. So here are my thoughts…..

  1. We are to love all humans regardless of their religion, race, creed, or nationality, because all humans are created in the image of God.
  2. Even if we feel that Muslims are our enemies (though you shouldn’t because our enemy is a spirit and must be engaged spiritually) Jesus COMMANDS US to love our enemies, even bringing them food, cold water, and rendering aid.
  3. Christians are to go out of their way and even risk their lives for our Muslim neighbors. If we believe democracy, freedom and liberty are the Christian way, then we must also want this for all of our neighbors Muslim or not. Shame on us for contributing to the idiotic sensationalism that has led to pockets of prejudice, stereotypes and gross misrepresentation
  4. We are to pray for the safety of our Muslim neighbors, not mention the health and success of them to flourish in America
  5. We are to disarm all prejudicial language against them. No prejudicial jokes, terrorism references, and definitely not belittling their faith. Though we as Christians believe that Islam is incompatible with our faith, we are to allow them to worship with the same freedom and have the same chance to spread their faith as we do.
  6. We are to fight that they have the same seat in the marketplace of public policy as we do. America is not a Christian Nation, it may have had Christians involved, but Jesus did say “this is my nation” any more than he says Iraq is His nation. All things were created by Him, for Him and through Him. Even the cattle on a thousands hills are His. This means that Muslims, Wiccans, Mormons and any other religion should have the right to set public policy and we should invite and even encourage them to do so.
  7. Finally we are to ensure that we are not perpetuating the foolishness that I see everyday in reference to Muslims. Much of what this brother talks about. Lets stop superimposing the American experience on the scriptures. Lets stop quoting “if this nation”. Lets love all, share the Gospel when the Spirit opens the door for us and treat everyone as we would like to be treated.

I don’t expect better from those who do not have the life giving Spirit indwelling them. But when those who name the name of our Lord are involved in what this fella is talking about then we don’t have the mind of the Lord Jesus Christ. You have lost your footing and have disqualified yourself from being God’s ambassador. Repentance is necessary and reconciliation is the key. If anyone should love Muslims recklessly it should be us Christians. If anyone should be void of stereotypes, prejudices, misrepresentations and blatant disrespect, it should be we Christians. If anyone should want to see a Muslim prosper it should be us. I once heard a lovely brother say “I am praying for the opportunity to wash Bin Ladin’s feet”, maybe we should say the same for our Muslim neighbors also.

 

 

 

 

 

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I am reading “Paul’s Idea of Community” by Robert Banks on page 53. He quotes 1 Corinthians 1:4-8:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

He then say:

This description has to do with the fundamental attitudes: patience, humility, tolerance, kindness, resilience, generosity, confidence, perseverance, optimism. Both here and elsewhere these attitudes detail not so much individual’s relationship to God as the interaction between Christian brothers and sisters. These attitudes should accompany their communication with one another and should also lead them into a real depth of relationship with one another.

If we can be honest. We live in an ever growing autonomous culture. America has an “I” and a “me” not to mention it starts with an “a”. I believe this is an ever growing mindset in the church as well. People would rather read the bible by themselves, pray by themselves, be accountable to themselves, and then go to “church” together. This has effected my greatly.

I think I would be a really good Christian if it were not for other Christians getting in my way all the time. They are like an obstacle course. Needy, impatient, critical, judgmental, gossipy, selfish, worrisome, they complain, they mistreat one another, they ignore one another needs, they would rather point a finger than carry a burden. Oh did I mention “they” is really me. The fundamental issue is one of love. I love Jesus more than I love Christians and I am starting to figure out that this is a false dichotomy. I can get along with Jesus just fine and I would rather spend more time with Him than with others. Me and Jesus understand each other. He doesn’t gossip about me, He doesn’t mistreat me, He doesn’t take my grace for granted. He meets my need, He asks for little in return, He is judgmental, He doesn’t ignore me I can go to Him anytime of the day, when I sin He doesn’t point the finger. When I have a burden He helps me carry it. Shoot! Why waste my time with Christians when I can just spend more time with Christ. He is a great bible study partner, because He knows all the answers, He is a great prayer partner, He says all the right things and never stumbles over His words, He knows exactly what I am thinking. Me and Jesus get along just fine! Just not so much with Christians.

There is only one problem. He elected the “Church”, redeemed the “Church”, and seals the “Church” made up of individuals. So we are His body and the way I love His body is the way I love Him. Christians and Christ are not mutually exclusive! I thought think I was taught this enough, or I just ignored it. Yeah I read it, but that was by myself and anyway Jesus understands that I would rather spend more time with Him anyway right? Again love is the issue. Christianity is a corporate work that can never be isolated.  How we relate to other believers is a direct reflection of what we think about God. Our blatant disregard for other Christians and the “one anothers” we are to fulfill as imperatives is a direct reflection of what we really think about what Jesus accomplished on the cross.

If other Christians are in our way, it is because we don’t understand the work of the Cross and what exactly Jesus accomplished and who exactly Jesus redeemed. He redeemed an us just as much as He redeemed an I if not more. Jesus had the church on His heart which is a collection of individuals. God foreknew the “Church”, the Spirit seals the “Church”. We can’t understand our relationship with Jesus without understanding our relationship, and the obligations that come with this relationship, with other redeemed individuals.

So once we understand that God not only reconciles us to Himself by Christ but in like manner He reconciles us to other Christians JUST AS MUCH. Our hearts, motives, and actions toward other believers is heightened. And the way we talk serve, and commit to one another is illuminated. I believe this is key. So now when I gossip I am gossiping about Christ, when I am unkind I am unkind to Christ, when I am impatient, unloving, non-gentle, rude, and unforgiving I am doing the same to Christ. Christ and the Christian is inseparable. This is a package deal. When I serve another Christian I am serving Christ, when I am loving, sacrificial, I refuse to gossip, I refuse to ignore, I am patient, gentle, kind and forgiving, I am doing the same to Christ.

I really want us to think about this. Whatever we do to another believer we do to Christ. We can’t say we love Christ and dislike a brother. The two are joined at the hip. That is why love is the “perfect bond of unity” as Colossians says. When we put on Christ (which is another imperative) as believers we have obligations to fulfill. So the next time you think a Christian is in the way and you want to push him/her aside, you best realize that you pushing Christ to the side. Whatever you do to His bride or say of His bride you do and say of Him!

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