Thursday, June 18, 2009

Your Biblical Microscope

Wow, it's been so long so I have posted on my blog. I mean it's been a whole two weeks and more. I apologize. I have let you all down and I feel awful about it. I promise I will try to do better next time. Deal?

Well, now that is out of the way, let's get straight to the point. I'm not messing around this time. We're getting right into it. Deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. Good. Ok, here we go. In 1 Thessalonians 5:21, Pauls says this: "Test everything. Hold on to the good." Test EVERYTHING! If you haven't read Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis, you need to. He talks about this a little. Now, the Bible is God's holy, divine, perfect Word, right? We all know that. Simple. And that means that the rest is just commentary. All of the commentaries about the Bible. All of the Christian living books. All of the sermons about the Bible. This blog even. All of it is just commentary, which means it is NOT God' holy, divine, perfect Word. You with me so far? Because all of this commentary is not perfect or holy or divine, we should question it. Right? All of this commentary is trying to make sense of the Bible or articulate a biblical worldview. And in case you haven't figured it out by now, this commentary is written by humans, not God. So that means that this commentary is not perfect and thus should be tested to see if it fits the Bible and our beliefs. As responsible Christians, we should do as Paul says and test EVERYTHING under a biblical microscope to see if it holds up. And if we find some truth or good, we should hold onto it because we never know when or where we will find it again. It's precious!

I hope all of that was clear. My question to you and myself is"How strong is your biblical microscope?" I ask that because in order to test something, you need to know something first. I have been really challenged the past couple of weeks to really seek knowledge. I think it is Romans 12 that says "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." That's where it has to start. I believe the more you discover and know, the more you will fall in love with Jesus Christ. God has revealed Himself in a big way through the Scriptures and yet some of us take that for granted. You want to know Jesus and actually be COMMITTED to him, go read about Him in the Bible. And when you do, your Biblical microscope will get stronger. Instead of looking at things in 10x zoom, you can look at them in 20x magnification. You will not only be able to figure out what you believe, but you will be able to find what is truth and what is not.

It all starts with the Bible though. Especially in this world, we need to TEST EVERYTHING! There is so much garbage and bogus ideas out there that try to lead us astray. But if you have a powerful biblical microscope, you won't be easily shaken or led off course. Put everything under your microscope and find out for yourself what is biblical and what is not. I'm telling you though, these days you have to have a powerful biblical microscope. So, read your Bible. Use your biblical microscope. Test everything!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Evil Curtains

Who is man? That's the question that was asked at our Bible study tonight. Who is Man? We are going through a series from Focus on the Family called the Truth Project. Before you judge though, please know that I'm not a Focus on the Family supporter but this looked interesting so I thought I'd try it. And tonight's lesson was all about man and evil. Del Tuckett, at least I think that is his name, is the guy in the hour long videos we watch each week and tonight he explained his interpretation of man and evil, with biblical support of course. And he had a ton of great stuff in there, but I did not agree with a lot of it either. So I'll lay out my beef with him and then you can decide which view to take. And I do not claim my view is correct or completely sound either. Read this and then decide for yourself.

To preface this, the following is all my opinion and my take on what Del said. I acknowledge that I could have missed something. I know that I am biased to what I believe, who isn't? But I think, at least, and hope that I can briefly present his arguement fairly in a paragraph or so. Ready?

Del tried to argue that what the Bible claims as truth in this matter is far from what the world is telling us. True. I'm with ya there Del. Often the Truth and the world contradict each other. It's just the way it goes. A fallen world is naturally contradictory in many cases to its Creator, who is coincidentally not fallen. So Del argues, and this is only a piece of his argument that I am going to look at right now, that according to the Truth man's heart is "desperately wicked" because he is fallen. Another way to say desperately wicked is evil. Man's heart is evil. That's what he's saying. Do you believe that? Look at your own heart, now do you really believe that?

And the correct answer would be...HECK YES!! Absolutely man's heart is evil. I mean are you kidding me? Have you seen the destruction and violence that runs rampant in our cultures and throughout our world today? Man sucks. Man can do some pretty disgusting things to not only himself but the creation as well. Man. Is. Evil. Period. No doubt about it. Well done Del. And I am being serious here. Del's right on with this one, I believe.

But he shouldn't have stopped there. Because although we are disgusting, and I believe it is Isaiah that calls our sins dirty tampons, which is gross from what I hear, we have some good in us. We do. And I wish Del would have acknowledged that. But he didn't. So I will. We are pathetic. We are desperate. We are lost. But we are not too far gone. Del also said that because of man's innate, desperate, complete wickedness we are led or drawn to the grace of God. To which I say Amen! But he still missed something. And I think it starte with his low view of man. Maybe this is my idealism coming out too, but I cannot believe we are desperately, completely wicked. I just can't. I need to have at least some hope in man. Here's what I'm thinking.

We all know in Genesis that man was made in God's image. And every scholar on the planet has probably hypothesized and theorized as to what that means. I am not going to do that right now. But fom what you know about what it means to be God's image-bearers, think about what I'm about to say. I have to believe that although we are fallen creatures, the authority and power that comes with being God's image-bearers hasn't completely been pushed out of us to the point where we are absolutely wicked. No way! The innate goodness and perfection and potential that comes with being made in the image of God can't just disappear in one fell swoop. I refuse to believe that. Rather, I see it like this. Since the Fall, sin has been pushing back and holding back this potential we havee inside of us for perfection as God's image-bearers. Think of it as a curtain or window blinds or a veil. What's the purpose of a curtain or blinds or a veil? To cover something up or to keep something hidden, right? But the thing is, from my experience, there is no perfect cutrain, blinds, or veil. Blinds keep most of the sunlight out in the morning but there is still some sunlight that can get through. The same geos with curtains and veils.

With me so far? Ok, good. Now remember sin is the curtain or the blinds or the veil. Sin is holding us back. Sin is disguising our true selves. And let me tell you something, and I want to make this very clear, sin, this curtain, blinds, or veil, is unbreakable by human standards. We cannot rip this curtain or this veil or break these blinds. We can't. It's impossible. For us, that is. And yet I still believe that shades of goodness shine through every now and then without Jesus. Although humans are evil, there is still some good in us. There are millions of good people who aren't Christians. We all know this. There is good that does not come from the church believe it or not. And I think those are the times when, like the blinds, a thin shade of light gets through the sin that so easily entangles to the world. Humans do have the propensity to do good without Jesus even though it may be few and far between.

However, here's the really sweet part. JESUS, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS GOD, CAME TO EARTH. Eventually, He died on a cross to appease God's wrath and forgive our sins and then rose on the third day to be with the Father. And what He accomplished on the cross, for our purposes in this argument, was this: He tore the veil, both in the temple and in our hearts, that held us back. He unleashed our potential as God's image-bearers. But the things is, it all hinges upon Him. If we want to unleash our potential, Jesus needs to be with us. And only then can the kingdom attributes, otherwise known as fruit of the Spirit, be developed and matured in us to CHANGE THE WORLD. But again, it all depends on Jesus. Until we seek Him, our propensity for good is dismal.

Humans are evil. No questions asked there. That fact alone should lead us to the cross of forgiveness and grace. But what I'm saying is that all of creation is waiting and yearning to be liberated. Wait, or was that Paul who said that? Man has so much potential. And some of it seeps through the cracks of sin not by chance, absolutely not actually, but by this simple fact: Not even the gates of hell can hold us back. Sin cannot hold us down. It tries and does a really good job most of the time but there is something deep down in all of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, that can't be put down or held back. So naturally you see glimpses of good in the world. Oh how I wish there were more glimpses. May we Christians be the frontrunners to bring the kingdom here on earth as much as possible!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dead or Alive: Part 2

I'm really tired for some reason so I'll make this short 'n sweet. I wanted to continue thinking about whether the Jesus I worship is dead or alive. And I think how you answer that question has a huge impact on your life, not only your relationship with Him. Allow me to briefly look at both answers to that question and the implications.

Dead. Most people will not answer that question this way. Most people will probably say that they most certainly worship a resurrected Savior. But if they do, their lives should reflect it. Amen? I have a hunch however that many people may believe that Jesus has risen and probably believe that they love a resurrected Savior but don't live like they do. Because if Christians really lived out what they believe, I believe that would change the world. But if your Jesus is dead you probably live a very safe and controlled life. Why? Because although you believe in Jesus, you don't really believe that He can take care of you NO MATTER WHAT. I mean if you really had the faith of even a mustard seed you might listen to what God puts on your heart more often. Since your Jesus is dead, you don't really believe that "Nothing is impossible with God" because quite frankly you have put Jesus into a box. Jesus is confined to a little round blue ball, also known as the earth, and therefore the only things you believe possible are those things you can observed or have experienced. And although you might believe Jesus really did create the universe like the Bible says, it is much more comfortable for you to think that the earth is the end of his creation, when in fact its just the beginning! Observation and experience define your faith, not hope or trust. If you can't touch it, taste it, hear it, feel it, smell it, or see it, chances are its not reality.

You are also much more comfortable with the idea of a dead Savior still lying in the tomb than a risen One even if the Christian world around you screams the opposite. Because in your mind, if Jesus really did rise from the dead, well, that changes everything. That changes how you have to live your life. That changes your experience of the world. That changes your capacity for experience. That changes your worldview and philosophy. You would much rather keep Jesus in the tomb because if He did rise then there is something/Someone bigger going on here than meets the eye. And the something/Someone that you can't see is also extremely, if not ridiculously, hard to put your faith in. Especially since this risen Savior proclaims the most radical, obnoxious, crazy, dangerous ideas and actions you have ever heard. Some of those things He said He can't possibly expect humans to do because you have seen the limitations of humanity and there is no way we could do it alone. But then He says His Spirit is going to be poured out for all to kind of take His place. But the crazy thing is that He also says that with this Spirit, we can do even greater things than Him, the miracle worker who walked on water and raised the dead. Ha. That is simply too much for you to believe. Instead, it makes you feel better to just leave Him in the tomb. A cage is a much better place for such a Radical Revolutionary.

Does that resonate with any of you? Sometimes I see myself falling into that very mindset that I very briefly outlined. But I will say this and then I'm done: buying into this mindset of caging Jesus and making excuses for inactivity and faithlessness throws Jesus right back into the tomb. When we plan our lives around safety and control, we are once again rolling that stone back in front of the tomb. And every time we refuse to follow this Radical Revolutionary to the depths of hell on earth, we are denying the resurrection. Because of the resurrection, nothing is impossible with God. We have victory over death and are grafted back into a direct connection to our Father through our Savior who preached the most dangerous gospel (good news) the world has ever heard. He preached that salvation has COME TO ALL WHO BELIEVE. Everyone has a shot. But once we have received this salvation and decided to follow this Savior, I believe we must do it with reckless abandon and not with a lukewarm, independent heart. To close for the night, check out a few of the things Jesus has to say:

Matthew 11:12: "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it."

Matthew 16:18-19: "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this roc I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven..."

Monday, May 25, 2009


As I read over my post from last night I noticed a lot of spelling errors and words left out. Pathetic. It was late but that's still no excuse. I will do better this time. I promise. But before I continue on with the line of thought from my last post, I want to clarify a few things.

Like I said, I love talking about Jesus and my discussion with my friend last night was really good. It was just what I needed in fact. But again as I read my previous post I feel like I may have sounded a little tough on the church. Let me clarify. Do I believe that there are problems in the church? Absolutely. The church has issues and problems and downfalls. I believe that in some aspects the church has been misguided and become lost. However, I also believe and know that the church is the bride of Christ. Jesus even says so. And that title or distinction demands respect, love, and even admiration. Think about it. What does it mean to be the bride of Christ? It is a precious, beloved position to be in to be certain. So, I don't want to come down hard on the bride of Jesus. I don't, really. But I do think that there are things that the church can work on. I have a vision of what I believe the church can and should look like and all I want to do is gently nudge her in that direction. To do that, I realize that I need to be careful. There are many things that I love about the church. Don't get me wrong. There are several churches and pastors that I believe are truly following Christ. But I desire and long for the bride of Christ to reach her full potential as she races after Christ, her Groom.

Make sense? I hope so.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Friends: Dead or Alive?

Ok, I'm pretty tired but I wanted to finish off this prayer week with another entry in this thing. Now there is certainly much more I can and want to say about prayer. However, I'm going to try to refrain because it's 2:00 in the morning and I would not possibly have enough space to cover it all. With that said, I wanted to share a pretty cool story that just happened and was happening these past few hours.

I went over to my friend's house tonight to catch up. We had not seen each other for quite some time and really haven't spoken all last semester. Which is weird for us because we are pretty good friends, actually we are really good friends. But we both live separate lives at college and things get busy. Understandable. But tonight we finally got a chance to catch up. And we did for a few hours tonight. But my story begins as I was driving over to his house. You see we are church friends. We became friends in and through the church. It was great. Really. But today especially I just really wanted a time where I could talk to someone about Jesus. I mean I don't get to talk about Him enough with others. Which is my fault. But I love Jesus with all that I am. And I love talking to Him and about Him, especially with others. So that's what I prayed in the car on the way over to my friend's house. I asked God for the courage and for an opportunity to talk about Jesus. And knowing our incredibly amazing God, guess what we talked about tonight. Yep. We talked about Jesus. We talked about the church and preaching and Scripture and passion and Love. It was really good. In fact, it was just what I needed. An answered prayer. What a Savior we have!

But that short short story is only the beginning. This conversation I had with my friend got me thinking, which sometimes is a bad idea, but this time I think it was good. As we were talking about Jesus and preaching and the church and pastors and about how I see some pastors who have lost the passion and the excitement of their ministry. We talked about how some pastors simply don't have an alive relationship with God. And that got me thinking. And I just want to share this idea and then maybe expound upon it in a later entry. But let me ask the question, where is your relationship with Jesus right now? Is it alive or is it dead? Is it thriving or is it becoming routine? Has your relationship with Jesus sparked a passion and excitement within you for His Word and Bread of Life or has it slowly been withered down into a set of meaningless feelings and rules that govern the way you live?

How bout another series of questions: What kind of Jesus do you worship? Do you worship a risen, living Savior or do you worship a dead Savior? Do you worship a Savior that is living and breathing inside of you and all around you in such a way that simply gives you a courage you may not otherwise know without Him because He has risen and claimed victory of death? Because of physical and spiritual resurrection of Jesus, nothing is impossible with God meaning you can do things you could never imagine if you're in it with Jesus. Or is your Savior dead and still lying in the tomb unable to ignite both power and passion in your life?

The Bible calls us friends of God. Which is a crazy idea in itself. But we are His friends nonetheless and I wonder in our churches and pastors if Jesus has died. I mean this identity as being friends of God carries some weight. But what if our greatest Friend has been killed all over again by routine and complacency and fluff?

I have thoughts but I don't have the answers. Jesus does though. Go to Him and talk it out with Him. May He come alive in our churches and in ourselves and in me. Release Him from your cages and routines and safety and let Him be the God He is. It may be scary. It may be uncomfortable and it may cause your heartache. But let me tell you, I guarantee if will be worth it. You will have such a more fulfilling, satisfying relationship with Jesus because instead of worshiping a dead guy, you are worshiping a living, breathing God. Amen. More to come later on this.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The What, Why, How, Purpose,and Meaning of Prayer: Part 4

Matthew 7:7-11: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!"

If this were a sermon it would be entitled "Spoiled Children.." But I'm not going to explain that statement just yet. So, prayer. I was thinking today about my freshman year of college because I am now a SENIOR IN COLLEGE. Which is nuts. I'm going to be graduating in one year. Just one. It's crazy. But anyways, I was thinking back to my freshman year when my mom, who missed her first born son very very very very much, would do anything for me. I mean she missed me so much that every time I even attempted to make contact with her through e-mail or a phone call, it would be the highlight of her day. And when I came home to visit, I'm pretty sure her heart melted. I could get anything when I was home. My mom and dad always had my favorite dessert waiting for me as well as every meal planned out according to my food preferences. And when I left, yes, there were tears and much, probably too much, hugging. But that's the way my mom was. I could ask her for anything and she would give it to me. You name it, I could get it. She loved to spoil me.

And I think that our Heavenly Father is the same way. I want to be careful though to not diminish the majesty, splendor, and bigness of God but I really think that God loves to spoil His children. In fact, it even says so in the Bible! Raw, I know. Jesus says in His famous Sermon on the Mount, which by the way is revered by most to be one of the most insightful, divine compilation of words and ideas ever conceived, that those who ask will receive and a door will be opened for those who knock. And the crazy part about this teaching is that our Abba Father delights in giving us gifts. Think about that. The Creator of the Universe who created the galaxies that burn brighter, spin faster, and declare His glory more than we can even begin to comprehend loves and becomes joyful when He answers our simple little prayers.

Crazy huh? Our God actually enjoys answering our prayers and giving us good gifts. And if you think you've gotten a some good Christmas gifts, they're nothing compared to the gifts God gives us as His children. And believe me, God does answer prayers but the thing is, the answer is sometimes "No" or "Maybe later" or "Not right now." But those times when you actually pray for something legitimate and with the right motives and something that falls within the will of God, oh man, God loves it. Again not diminish His majesty, but I could just picture God sitting on His throne smiling, nodding His head, maybe doing a subtle fist pump while saying "Atta boy or Atta girl, I would absolutely love to give you that gift." God loves to spoil His children. As much joy as we may feel when we receive a good gift from God, I can imagine He gets more.

That was really brief but chew on that for a little while. What a God we have! What a Savior we have been given! WOW!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The What, Why, How, Purpose,and Meaning of Prayer: Part 3

Matthew 6:9-13: "This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

More on prayer. Are you excited? I certainly am. However, I have a big task in front of me. The Lord's Prayer. There is absolutely no way I can get all the way through this in the space I have so this will be a brief overview. For starters though, like my teacher Faye Chechowich said once, can you believe that 2,000 years after this prayer was first spoken, thousands, even millions, of people around the world recite this at least weekly if not daily. One little simple prayer has that impact and renown. Crazy isn't it? Yes, but we have a crazy God so it makes sense. But let's get into it shall we?

First thing I want to point out is this: Jesus did not say or command us to pray these exact words every Sunday at church. He just didn't. Read the text. He tells His disciples and the crowd listening that this is HOW they should pray. Jesus did not say, "Now, I command you all to pray this prayer at all your gatherings and services because this is the greatest of all prayers." Jesus doesn't say that. Not even close actually. I mean, I may get into trouble for saying this, but when you look at this prayer at first glance, it's really nothing special. When Jesus prays for Himself, His disciples, and all believers in John 17, THAT prayer is eloquent. That prayer tugs at the heart and probably got an enthusiastic "Oh yea," or "Amen brother," or "Yes Jesus." Read John 17 and I think you'll get what I'm talking about. So why have churches for two centuries now recited this prayer each and every Sunday? It is most certainly simple, eloquent, and straight to the point. It's easy. It's understandable. But maybe Jesus wanted us to look at the form over the content. I'm not discounting the power of this prayer at all, don't get me wrong. But I think that this prayer was supposed to be contemplated and studied for its form rather much more than its content.

Stay with me. What I'm saying is that Jesus presented this prayer to teach us HOW to pray rather than WHAT to pray. Consider the following formula I pulled out from this prayer. And no, this is not original, I stole or borrowed is probably a better term for it from my youth pastor. Perhaps, the how of prayer should be God, others, self.

This prayer starts out with Jesus' recognition and yearning desire for God's name to be renown and revered throughout the earth. He was simply throwing up praises to His Abba Father who He loved beyond our human comprehension. He wants us to think of our Abba Father first, not ourselves. Amen? And then Jesus goes on to say that He wants the Father's kingdom, the kingdom of God, to come where His will will be done on earth as it is heaven. Let me paraphrase if I can have that liberty. Jesus wanted the kingdom of God to reign on earth as it is in heaven, but He also wanted it to become a reality. Jesus wanted the Father's will to become a reality on earth as well because He knew that would be the best possible place for His people to be in. That's what I like to call the outward-ness of prayer. Jesus showed us that an outward mentality for others is as important as an inward mentality for yourselves in prayer. And finally Jesus wraps this prayer up asking, begging the Father to provide, forgive, and guide. Jesus was modeling for us that it is perfectly fine to ask God for the essentials for yourself. It's ok to come before your Heavenly Father in prayer and ask for food, forgiveness, and protection. But, it can't be the first priority during prayer. Again, God, others self.

Remember, prayer should be outward as well as inward. This, I believe, is what Jesus was getting at when He recited this prayer. He wasn't telling us to say these beautiful words in this exact order every Sunday. He was, however, showing us a formula for prayer. Why? Because prayer is one of the most confusing, mysterious gifts and tool God have given us. In a very crude sense, Jesus was dumbing it down for us so we can have a simple formula for prayer.

Think about what I've said. I will too. Read the text again. See if the Holy Spirit will awake in you a deeper understanding of this passage. I will too. Thank you Jesus. Grace and Peace.