Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. - Jude 1:3

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Foul. That is the one and only way to describe my current mood. I’m snappy, grumpy, annoyed, testy, short-fused, but these are only the outcome of my mood which is, in a word, foul. OK, perhaps “man cycle” could be used, as has been a recently coined phrase in my circle of friends to describe when a male exhibits symptoms reminiscent of PMS. Though there are those that would adamantly argue that men do, in fact, have a monthly cycle (I have even thought this of myself in the past and prescribed 2 “man-prin” to resolve it) I have realized a very sad and embarrassing trigger for this behavior within myself: faithlessness.

I did not intentionally set out to write a blog today. Rarely, if ever, have I set out to research a subject with the express purpose of writing here. It usually springs forth from some unfortunate muse. Be it that I heard a biblical misstatement or misrepresentation, there is an error or misunderstanding that many in the church fall in to, or there is something that I am passionate about that others do not seem to be, so I seek to light a fire or two. Something like that. There is usually a burr in my saddle, and this is my way of, constructively, working it out. Irony at its best, I am my own muse today. I am perched at my laptop with the purpose of studying for my sermon Wednesday night. My mood is foul. I was attempting to gather any semblance of “attention” for the subject matter at hand…and I was just seething.

I have been on a rampage since I was awoken this morning by my 3 year old attempting to serve her own breakfast before she should have even been out of bed. Unlike normal, the tornado-like mess of toys and clothes and shoes and crumbs scattered through the house was unbearable. I was jabbing at Hannah about things that don’t really even matter at that moment, except that I am (say it with me now…) in a disgustingly foul mood.

A dangerous practice to be sure, I took my hands off the keyboard, closed my eyes, lifted my face upward and prayed,

“Jesus, help me!”

Now, I neglected to mention what it is that I am studying. For a few weeks now I have been (while failing miserably) attempting to dive in to a series on faith, with its root found in Heb. 10-12, and the implications of it on our daily Christian life. You know, faith that if we’re lacking that God will supply, if we’re attacked that God is our protector, if God gives us a direction He will be true to His word and we will accomplish what He set us out to do. It’s the simple belief that we can have faith in God because we know who He is, what He does and how He operates in our lives because it’s clearly laid out in scripture. These examples obviously hardly scratch the surface of the wonderful truths contained in the above mentioned chapters, but I mention them just as a small point of reference to understand its importance in this story.

So, I prayed the prayer, “Jesus, help me!”, and proceeded to jump into my study with both feet.

Heb 10:36-39 -

For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
“For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him.”

But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

My process is that I take a passage, simply reflect on the contents therein and draw from it truths on which to expound and then go from there. Let the scripture create the sermon, not me having a “point” to prove and finding scripture to support it. I managed to get three points when I realized God answered my prayer.

1) Faith spurs you on, when nothing else can
2 Living in Faith is the will of God for us
3) Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6)

Here I am, my muse.

My family and I are going through an unrivaled trial that has implications in every aspect of our earthly security. Home, job, wellbeing, family and ministry. Nearly everything of importance is in limbo, and the answers escape me, in my current position, view and mindset. God, ever so gently, just revealed to me that THIS is the root of my “man cycle” foul mood (and likewise is the root of all the other times I get in this funk). Nothing the kids did, though they shouldn’t have done what they did, nothing the wife did…I am inappropriately dealing with what amounts to a lack of faith in ways that take it out on others. This is a tendency I would imagine many deal with. I am guilty of a lot of these I’m about to mention.

1) Run to the refrigerator for “comfort” when you’re frustrated after a hard day at work
2) Drop everything and shop, spending money unwisely because you “ need to do something good for yourself” when things aren’t going right
3) Turn to alcohol, smoking or drugs to “deal”, “relieve”, “de-stress”, “cope”, “manage”, “release”, “mellow”, “unwind”, etc.
4) Pick a fight with someone over something irrelevant, due to frustrations about something else
5) Seek solace in the arms of him/her when you need to feel like “everything’s OK”.

What is the root of all of this type of behavior? Faithlessness. That’s right, a lack of Faith in God has caused my foulness. “How does one follow the other” you ask?

God, knowing the heart of every man, clearly knows mine. I prayed for help in preparing a sermon for church, but God knew that’s not the help I really needed. As I’ve mentioned the last few weeks in my study through the Gospel of John, Nicodemus didn’t come asking for what he got. The Samaritan woman at the well didn’t get what she asked for from Jesus. He gave them what he knew they REALLY needed. In my case? The preacher needed a dose of what he was trying to preach about.


My actions and attitudes are a direct and blatant denial of God’s sovereignty, authority, power, provision, promise and an assortment of other “p” words that escape me right now. I am, in the flesh, facing many real and serious trials, there is no doubt of this. Yet, I am not responding to them in a way that a Christian should be doing.

I am not practicing what I’m preaching.

Out of one side of my mouth (I’ll get to the other side of my mouth in just a minute) I encourage others, “have faith in God for ____”. I don’t say that based on a fanciful whimsy or “when you wish upon a star” hope. I said it with the backing of specific scripture that promises God WOULD deliver an outcome in a specific life circumstance. Heb 11:1 says that faith is the substance of things hoped for. Faith in that passage intimates “a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God”. So, faith isn’t an “abracadabra”, “something out of nothing” type of thing. Our faith is rooted in Christ, and nothing else! EVERYTHING stems from that, you see. If your faith is in anything other than Jesus, it’s not faith, it’s blind hope. Why is this an important distinction to make? Because look at the word “hope” in that same passage. Hope, in the original language, means “something that is certain, but not yet realized”. How can you be certain of something, in “blind faith”? You cannot. So, stated another way, “There is something I have yet to see, but I am certain will happen, because my belief in its happening is founded in Christ.” The end of that verse says, “the evidence of things not seen”. The “evidence” spoken of is, again, a conviction. Something that is not a guess, but a firm belief rooted in fact. “Things”, in the Greek, is descriptive of an accomplished fact. Did you catch that? It’s ALREADY been done! It just hasn’t been seen with the physical eye! Because God spoke it, it’s already fact! We just have to put our FAITH in him that He will do what He has already said He would do.

It’s important before I draw this to a close that I offer an important warning on the application of this well known passage, and I’ll do so with a question. Is there anywhere in scripture that promises you the biggest house, millions of dollars, perfect health, the best job(in your opinion)? I can assure you there is no scripture to support this. Further, anyone that tries to convince you there is has sadly deceived themselves. Faith, being only rooted in Christ, can only expect with certainty to see the things which have been promised. In other words, you should never expect “in faith” that you will win the lottery because there is no scriptural promise to coincide with that belief. That’s the distinction between faith and “blind faith”. Again, that is the basis for our faith.

I was not putting my faith in God, resulting in a foul mood.

Here I was having all this great faith for other people, but not applying it to my own life. Truth is truth no matter what. If it’s only true part of the time, then it’s not really true. So, when I tell someone that in times of attack that God is their strength, rock, fortress and defender (Psalms 18) and instead of attacking back, leave it to God to fight the battle for you (Rom 12:19), that applies to me, too. When I admonish someone to give out of their lack and not their abundance (Luke 21:1-4), because God has promised that you will have enough for both what you want to give (2 Cor. 9:8), as well as what you need to live (Matt. 6:31-33), I need to stand on that same promise.

My attitude and thought process was rooted in faithlessness. It found its power in a lack of belief in the truth of not only God’s word, but who He is, and the reality is that those two things are inseparable (John 1:1).

The exhortation I have for everyone is this: If God has said something (and how do we know this without reading His word) you can put your faith in Him to fulfill that which He has spoken. John 14:6 doesn’t say that Jesus KNOWS truth, but rather that He IS truth. God IS truth! If it’s been spoken you can be assured it will come to be! Not because it “contains” truth, but because it IS truth. What’s more, not only SHOULD you, but you HAVE to! Heb 11:6 clearly says “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”

And with that I simply pray, “God I want to please you”.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Forever and ever amen...or Maybe Not.

“Every search for a hero must begin with something which every hero requires – a villain.”

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt as Dr. Nekhorvich – Mission Impossible II.

What a great way to start a blog for a site focused on defending the Bible: by quoting the king of Scientologists, right? But, I do it to make a point. Type “every hero needs a villain” into a Google search and you will be provided with 172 Million hits relating to the query. In my brief overview of the results I found pages relating to sports, movies, politics, comic books or advice for how to craft a spell-binding fiction novel. The results that stood out to me the most, though, were those who were simply asking the question “is this statement really true”, followed by a variety of well thought out arguments to prove their position . The conclusion I came to is this: by and large, the general populace believes that a hero requires a villain, in some form or fashion. Even when a person stated “I’m a volunteer but I don’t have a villain causing me to do what I do”, they neglect to consider that the cause for which they are volunteering is due to a villain, even if it's only an idea (illness, hunger, etc). My subsequent (non-scientific) conclusion? The majority of those involved in the conversation did not hold a Christian world-view. No one brought forth scripture to show the parallel of good vs. evil and God vs. Satan. It was all a “the world is chaos” approach.

So, what’s my point?

Despite a non-Christian, non-churchy, non-light-shines-in-the-darkness, non-overcome-evil-with-good worldview, these respondents understood the basic concept that there are always going to be two sides. If there is a Hero, they have to be a Hero over an arch enemy. (Can you find anyone that thought MegaMind had a false plot?) There is up, which can’t be up except for the existence of down. I know it sounds like I’m just rambling here, but as much as you’re saying “this is all common sense, what are you getting at already”, I’ll drop the deal breaker. There is a heaven….but I sure don’t know about that Hell thing.

To quote a good friend of mine, in my best Harry Doyle from “Major League” voice….”Now playing left field…..THAT thought!!!”

It is all too often that people enjoy basking in the potential of eternity in Heaven, having a block party by their mansions, without keeping proper focus on the real potential of people around them that they love and care about NOT being in Heaven with them. It’s easier to focus on the good and forget the bad. God wouldn’t REALLY do that to us, right?

Matthew 25:46 says:
“And these (unrighteous) will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life”.

If I was a “slam dunk” writer I would just write that verse, throw up my hands and yell, “I’m out!” That verse lays it out in about as simple a fashion as it could possibly be. And, it’s not the only verse that keeps it this simple. 2 Thess. 1:9 says, “These (people who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ) shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. Matt 18 speaks of eternal fire. The book of Jude speaks also of eternal fire. John 3:16 shows that we are offered eternal life through Jesus Christ in contrast to the “perishing” we have to look forward to without Him. There are countless other verses which speak of the punishment that, sadly, is waiting for many who do not know Jesus as their savior.

Not to focus only on the negative, I need to point out the elephant in the room. Matt 25:46 discusses two opposing destinations. One person will be in “everlasting punishment”, while the other enjoys “eternal life”. Eternal is forever. There is not an expiration date. There is no, “OK, we’re done here, move along”. What’s more, the Greek word used for “everlasting” and “eternal” (aiōnios) are the exact same word. Here’s that slam dunk logic once again: if we want eternal life….we have to accept that it is in lieu of eternal punishment. Like love and marriage, “you can’t have one without the other” as the old song says.

Jesus, time and time again, stated his purpose in coming to earth was to give us life everlasting, despite the fact that we’re all living a life leading to death(Romans 6:23). Let’s get this perfectly clear and out in the open - we are NOT deserving of anything EXCEPT punishment! Yes, it’s a hard pill to swallow, but the sooner it’s digested the sooner you can move on to accepting that salvation!!! It is just simply not possible for us to deserve salvation (Eph 2:8-9). That topic is something another 10 blog posts could be dedicated to, but it’s something that has to be briefly stated here. Why? Because it shows the point/counter point of what we DO deserve. We are deserving of eternal punishment because, as we are, we are separated from a holy God due to sin (Isaiah 59:2).
For the majority of people reading this who profess to be Christians it will seem that I am arguing a point that need not be addressed because this topic is Christianity 101. Jesus came to save us so that, God having received His substitutionary punishment for our sins, we can be with Him in Heaven instead of Hell. Simple right? One would think. I understand I’m coming a day late and a dollar short to the “Love Wins” Rob Bell party, but this post really isn’t about his book. It’s not about his book mostly due to the fact that I refuse to allow my dollars to support his “ministry”. There is PLENTY of information, including Velvet Elvis which I HAVE read, that I could take Rob Bell to task on without reading Love Wins. So, again, I’m not trying to harsh on the guy without reading his book. But, I AM going to harsh on the guy for what he says outside of the book (Eph 5:11). I saw an interview with Rob Bell tonight ( from CNN) where Bell ever-so-subtly sneaks in this statement, in response to the question, “So, you DO believe in Heaven and Hell? You do believe in both?”

Bell – “Sure. And, here’s why. Because I’m a pastor, I see extraordinary pain and brokenness and hurt from the choices that people make to choose Hell …right…now. So, I begin with the choices we make and the very real consequences of those choices, right now, right here in this life.”


Shortly after this was then followed by one of the other correspondents asking specifically about her father, who is Hindu, and if, being Hindu, he can be saved, since he is from a culture that doesn’t know of or believe in Jesus.

Bell – “And, this is one of the main reasons I wrote the book, because I think this is a huge stumbling block for lots of people. Because, their committed faith in Jesus, for many people, was told to say yes to Jesus you have to condemn billions of people to Hell. But, what kind of God would send people to eternal torment for not believing in a Jesus they…never….heard of. And, actually, the first Christians, they spoke of a mystery. A grace. A love present in the very fabric of creation that people can respond to without even knowing that it’s God or that it’s the loving Grace of Christ that’s being revealed to them. So, I leave lots of room”.

Let me Cliffs Notes an already really short (He manages to pack a LOT of dangerous material into only 5:04!!!) interview. “Hell is an experience on earth resulting from our decisions, and God is not the kind of God that would punish us in a real Hell outside of Earth, but instead is going to allow us to come to Him through responding to Jesus, even though we don’t know who Jesus is or that He is who we are responding to.”

Call me harsh or inflammatory if you like, but after watching the interview you’ll know I’m not twisting facts here.

“Why am I going after this guy so hard?” you may ask. “He loves Jesus, he said so himself!” another might question. I have covered, extensively, the biblical reasons for exposing a teacher such as this, as well as the dangers involved if they are NOT exposed ( in a previous blog, which I have linked here. To quickly address the statements of, “he loves Jesus”, I am not one to judge his heart. What I DO judge are his actions and statements. Based on those two things, his actions do not corroborate his proclamation.

What’s so terrible about the whole thing is that, at the end of the day, I actually have a pain of relation with Rob Bell. What I mean by that is, I think I understand WHY he’s concocted all these wrong ideas, because I’ve done the exact same thing! During a time of extreme anger and bitterness toward God, surrounding my father’s stroke, I could not reconcile “what kind of God” would allow something like that to happen to a man who was a preacher and dedicated his whole life’s work to God! I was so upset! I shook my fist at God and blamed Him for everything, when in reality it was not His fault at all. In essence, this is what Bell has done. He has found a painful truth in scripture, he then appears to be unable or unwilling to reconcile it with his opinions and misunderstandings of God, and has in turn created a “new” way to look at things that is more palatable. I didn’t have the luxury of “creating away” my father’s stroke. I couldn’t take the post-modern train out of town to create my own version of truth.

See, here’s the thing. The opinions of man are simply that…opinions. We can twist and turn all we want, but no matter how firmly we believe what we believe because we believe it…if it started with us, it’s just an opinion. Conversely, God does not have opinions. God has fact. God has truth. Correction…God IS truth (John 14:6)! And His Word is FILLED with truth about us, our current state and our future destination. To restate the point, yes, it IS painful to think that our loved ones are going to spend an eternity away from God, from us and in a place of eternal torment if they don’t know Jesus. It IS hard to reconcile that sort of punishment with the lovey-dovey God we hear about that’s always, as I like to say, all gumdrops and lollipops. Unfortunately, for a person who HASN’T accepted Jesus, the same God that will save you when you have accepted His Son will remain angered because of your sin when you do not accept His Son’s substitutionary payment for your sin, and justly hand you the sentence which your crime demands.

“How selfish!” you may be thinking. “What a big-headed God, just sitting up there with a magnifying glass tormenting us little ants on the earth”. (for the record, these ALSO were the things I thought during the afore mentioned timeframe)

Not to over-simplify it, but let me appeal to your logic through a simple statement. God (dramatic Rob Bell-esque pause) made (pause, yet again) us. God MADE US! He created us all in His image(Gen 1:27)! He spoke LIFE into existence! We have no “rights”. We have nothing in which to claim glory for ourselves!

John 1:1-4 states:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life and the life was the light of men.”

What more reason does God need to declare that we are obligated to follow HIS plan of redemption? He made us! If you’re mad at God right now, like I was before, I know that statement doesn’t right all the wrongs in your life. I get that. It took me years to finally put me, myself and I out of the way and TRULY put my faith in God and God alone. But if you’re honest with yourself, you know what I just said is true. And, not because I said it….but because it’s what the Bible teaches! With this in mind, we HAVE to take God’s word at face value. What WE think (wisdom of man) is of little value in light of what God knows to be true (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Don’t think the plan of salvation was an “Oh man, I messed up on this whole human race thing, so I better come up with a way to fix it” scenario on the part of God. Don’t allow, even for a moment, for the thought to cross your mind that Jesus’ death on the cross was an afterthought, double or nothing gamble to save the masses. 1 Peter 1:17-21 (probably my favorite passage of scriptures) beautifully states:

“And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

My only addition to that? AMEN and AMEN!!!

Jesus redeeming work on the cross was foreordained BEFORE the foundation of the world. He planned out YOUR salvation before the world was ever made. He knew you (and I, and everybody else!) were going to fail Him miserably, yet He still created us knowing that his Son would have to die for us!!!

This leads me to ask the question to end all questions.

If your salvation has been planned since FOREVER (try to wrap your mind around that one, I dare you!), from what are we seeking salvation?

“Nothing” is not the right answer here.

You are being saved from a very real Hell, a very real punishment and a very real torment that will last for eternity if you are not brought to peace with God. I have stated many times to my wife that, “if I knew there was an end date to Hell, a get out of jail free card, even if it was 1 million years away, I could handle it. It’s the never ending that gets me.” Earlier I showed that the Greek word for “eternal” was used to describe both punishment and reward. You can’t have your hero without your villain.

I have to stop and give the traditional “preacher quote” here….The Bible talks more about our eternal punishment, and what that entails, than it does about the place of Heaven. That seems a little, odd, right? No so much. Though the volume of discussion doesn’t always immediately equate to a level of importance, in the many instances and references it should be viewed as a stern and oft repeated warning. To answer the rhetorical question posed of “what kind of God”, THAT’S what kind of God. Our God is a God that does not desire that we spend an eternity in hell, away from Him, but that EVERYONE be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). Further, Hell wasn’t created for us (Matt 25:41) but for Satan and his Angels! He is a God that gives EVERY opportunity (consider the thief on the cross), until the very last breath of life, to confess Christ as our Savior, before a just and righteous punishment is delivered.

Phil 3: 18-19

For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things.

Destruction, in this text (apōleia) is literally defined as, “the destruction which consists of eternal misery in hell”. What brings about this destruction? A mean God that’s picking on poor, helpless people? Not at all. It’s a people who have chosen their personal pleasure, the things that make them feel good, earthly conquest and gain…and not the cross. Though Bell, and many who have trouble with “the kind of God” that would allow someone to spend an eternity in Hell, will try to use scripture to prove their views, it’s just not possible.

Once again, let me appeal to your logic. Let’s suppose, for arguments sake, that Rob Bell was right, just for a minute. Let’s suppose that you could live your life any way you wanted, worship any god(s) you wanted, never know the name of Jesus and yet, still avoid Hell, other than the one Bell suggests we are currently living in on this earth due to our decisions. Let’s consider, despite the absurdity, that it were true. How much of a slap in the face would it be to God? How much does it cheapen God’s grace when He is not actually saving us from anything other than a small earthly hangnail in comparison to eternity? Think about it! Imagine how that conversation would go when you just kind of “show up” on heaven’s door step.

“Hey God, how’s it going? Sorry I didn’t talk to you much, before I got here, I followed a pantheon of Hindu gods. Once I got here I heard that you sent Jesus to the cross to die for me, but I never really knew Him, either. That sounds like a great deal, though. Thanks for that, but it just wasn’t for me at the time. I was searching for enlightenment where I was. I probably bumped in to Him once or twice!”

Sounds pretty foolish, right? I heard a preacher once say, “everybody can be wrong, but not everybody can be right, unless they have the exact same answer”. The idea that Hell is a place that doesn’t exist outside of this earth, that how we live doesn’t matter, and that we will all make it to heaven without actually confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9) is, ultimately, as foolish as it gets. And the last person I want to slap in the face is the one who sent His only Son to die for the sins I committed.

More import than being foolish (though it is), this way of thinking is dangerous. Love Wins, Velvet Elvis and the thought processes that Rob Bell and others like him propagate, are a tool of Satan. Bell cheapens (save, outright attempts to destroy) the Gospel, he cheapens Jesus, he cheapens our eternal life in Heaven, he cheapens the consequences of Hell and last but not least, cheapens the awesome gift that is God, KEEPING us out of heaven.

At the cost that Jesus paid, with his precious shed blood, which is anything BUT cheap, I refuse to sit idly back while lambs are led to the slaughter.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Writing on the Wall

There it is. I never thought I would actually see it. I’m sure I should have expected it, but I never wanted to. The Writing on the Wall. No, seriously, it was there!!! A five stubby-fingered outline drawn right on the wall, along with a myriad of other childish hieroglyphics. This is, as it should go without mention to any parent reading this, not an un-preached sermon. “Pencils are for papers, not tables and walls”. “If you get a pencil out you MUST put it away, as the younger kids will write on EVERYTHING!” Yet, the sermon is rarely received, resulting in a police style lineup to determine the at-large suspect.

In a fit of fury the wife will resort to, “WHO WROTE ON THE WALL! I’VE TOLD YOU A MILLION TIMES NOT TO DO THAT!” Or, in a “eyes like fire”, cold, calculated “daddy voice” fashion, the lineup is faced with, “Somebody better talk, and they better talk now.” Pencil writing on the wall is not the end of the world, I realize. It’s more the repetition of the issue (pencils continue to be left out or this is the 5,395th time it’s happened today) than it is the severity of the crime that brings about the wrath. But, regardless of who is bringing judgment, or how it’s being administered…something happens. Something happens in the minds of those “sweet”, “innocent” little children. As if they were stuck in a 5 alarm fire their mind starts looking for the exits. Without any knowledge of John 3 they are praying within themselves, “What do I need to do to be born again…except to another parent???”.

Through the smoke and flame of their current situation, an escape route is spotted. “She did it.” “It wasn’t me.” “I didn’t leave those out.” I saw *child other then themselves* do it." The famed ghost, "Not Me" of Family Circus lore has, apparently, reared it's ugly head. Even if I was someone who'd lie to my wife I certainly wouldn’t do it to the knowledge of my children (what child can keep a secret, right?) and even if I did do it in front of my kids they would likely have no clue what I was doing. So, where did this amazing ability come from? Where did the handwriting Houdini come from?

Psalms 58:3 – The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.

In the “nature vs. nurture” debate I have strongly stood on the “nurture” side, and with gusto. In my guesstimation, a child that was not behaving as they should was a direct reflection of the environment in which they grew up. This is not a 100%, all of the time standard. But, by and large, if a kid was acting contrary to the way they should then something in their upbringing was missing. I do not look to absolve parents of the need and responsibility to parent, but in light of the above verse I was, at least partially, incorrect in my position. “Spare the rod/spoil the child” (Prov 13:24) exists for a reason. As a parent we are all to teach our child the way they should go (Prov. 22:6) and if the way we teach them is biblical we will reap a desired result. That being said, that kid is going to lie. When backed into a corner that lovely lad is going to do whatever it takes to prevent the “rod of correction” from falling upon the “seat of higher learning” , even to the point of it falling on their sibling. Despite our best efforts our kids are heathens! (JUST A JOKE! I mean, our kids ARE heathens, but I only use that word as a throwback to my Aunt Peggy who always talked about the “heatherns”).

In contrast to this, the world at large would have you believe we are all, “good people”. Anne Frank is quoted as saying, "I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart". You would be hard pressed to find anyone to come against Anne Frank or this logic. If you listen to the news, the blogosphere, friends and family, or nearly anyone outside of the Bible, the general consensus is that human kind is innately good. Every article written or argument posed runs on the assumption that people are born with a sense of right and wrong. “In our hearts”, they argue, “we want to do what’s best”. They fall on the “nurture” side of the argument as I once did, suggesting that it is the bad influence of those around us that have corrupted an otherwise “good” person.

As is the order of things, children grow up to become adults. For someone to hold the idea that people are generally “good” it would logically have to follow that they believe at some point in a person’s past that they started good. To think that people are not generally good would suddenly heap us into that same category. By admitting that people are bad by nature it means that everyone, including MYSELF, is bad by nature. It’s a tough pill to swallow. As painful an admission of innate evil (vs. innate good) is, it begins an amazing change in perspective. No, this does not suddenly give someone the right to snub their nose at people saying, “I’m saved, and you’re not, and you’re EVIL! EVIL, I tell you! *Evil maniacal laugh*” The perspective change looks something like this:

I cannot achieve a perfection that I never possessed in the first place.

Let me say it again. If I was never perfect, it’s not possible to achieve perfection because perfection, by definition, is never having been not perfect. It is on this premise that we must live, otherwise the idea will creep up in our minds that we can actually do something to save ourselves. If at some point in our past we were “good”, even if it was while crawling around on all fours playing with blocks, we will allow ourselves the glimmer of hope that we can re-achieve that so-called innocence.

Romans 3:23 – [F]or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Psalms 14:2-3 – The Lord looks down from Heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.

These are the painful building blocks on which we find ourselves in need of salvation. There is no one worthy of Salvation or the grace that God offers us, no not one. The truth is that from the moment of birth we are deserving of death. No one wants to think of their new bundle of joy as evil, but let me ask you a question; if, from the moment of birth, you considered your child “not good” and in need of salvation, how differently would you approach their upbringing? How much more quickly would you bring them the truth of God’s word? How much more urgent would it be that THEY understand they are not “good”? How much less important would their self esteem be versus their understanding that all their righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6)? Taking it a step further, how does this impact our overall worldview? How does the idea that not only are people not good but they love being bad (John 3:19) change our approach to spreading the Good News? How are your current evangelistic endeavors altered in light of the fact that it is not possible for an unsaved person to seek God (Romans 3:11, 8:7)?

This message hopefully speaks to two groups of people.

First, I hope it speaks to those who do not yet know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I do not judge you for your current life, the things you do, the things you think or the person that you are. The fact is, It really IS who you are. It’s who ALL of us are, until the time of salvation through Jesus. We can hope to be nothing in and of ourselves. In the 3rd chapter of John it says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Though there will come a time of final judgment it is important to realize that Adam's sin in the garden resulted in a sin nature being passed down to all humans, which means we are all guilty and judged before we even begin. The only way to be forgiven from judgment now, and final judgment in the future, is to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead(Romans 10:9). A simple “walk to the front of the church” experience is not what salvation is. The ideas of “confession” and “belief” speak to the fact that it’s more than words, but something that you commit to doing going forward. In other words, If Jesus truly is your lord, you will want to do what He says (John 14:15).

The second group I hope this speaks to are the people who are already in Christ. Because it “feels good” it is too easy to subscribe to the worldly idea that we are “all good”. This, in turn, impacts the way we go about our duty as Christians. As I mentioned earlier, we are not to be judgmental against people who do not yet know Christ as their savior. Why? Without Christ we are no better than they! This does not mean that we close our eyes and pretend that sin doesn't exist. Further, it doesn't mean that we stand by mum on the sins that ARE present. We are charged to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Without allowing ourselves to step onto a pedestal of self-righteousness, we need to lovingly speak the truth of God's Word, which is the means God has provided for the Holy Spirit to lead the sinner to repentance. So, to answer the questions I posed earlier, we can no longer think it is what we do that saves people. Don’t get me wrong, we are, without question, called to preach the word (Mark 16:15) and, as I just said, speak the truth in love. What we often overlook is that it is not our persuasive argument or crafty language that brings people to Christ. Yes, we are to preach the word but it is the work of God, drawing someone to Christ, that does the final work in the lives of the unsaved (John 6:44). When we put the focus on us and what we can do to “save” people it becomes glaringly obvious why the seeker sensitive movement has taken root in our churches. It becomes clear why we water down the message of the Bible which states simply that we are sinners in need of a Savior (Romans 5:19). I understand why many have reservations about being as bold about Christ as a sinner is about their exploits. We are too fearful that if we simply present the truth of scripture it might hurt people’s feelings and they won’t “believe” us. The root of this feeling? We think their salvation depends on our talented transmission of the gospel. We put too much stock in what we do and not enough in what God, through his Holy Spirit, will do. To put it another way, our faith is in ourselves and not in God. Our words are a part of the process, in that we speak the truth of God’s Word. But the end result of a person’s salvation comes by God’s spirit, using His words spoken in Scripture and transmitted through us, to draw the unsaved person to Him.

While there is great pain felt when we hear who we really are without Christ, and the plight we are facing, we must immediately be reminded of our available salvation from this destination. As much as it is true that from birth we are evil it is also equally and more importantly true that before the foundation of the world our salvation was planned and paid for (Eph 1:3-6, 1 Peter 1:19-21).

Friday, March 4, 2011

And the _____ shall set you free

And the ____ shall set you free
John 8.

Truth is truth no matter what.

It unfortunately should come as no small shock that this is not the way things play out. “Truth” is, sadly, a concept or, better yet, a “false reality” in most cases, that people bend to the point of breaking so that it will cover whatever situation it is needed for at that moment. The impacts and reality of moldable truth is as far reaching as your imagination will take you, and it will, quite simply, corrupt everything it comes into contact with. Family relationships, friendships, work, politics, and, more and more frequently, infiltrating the Bride of Christ, His church.

...And the prevailing wisdom shall set you free

...And the common sense shall set you free

...And the public opinion shall set you free

...And what makes sense to me shall set you free

...And what feels good to me shall set you free

“Truth is truth”. “Well, what’s true to you is not necessarily true for me.” Stark contrast, right? I hate to pull the “well, Webster’s says” card, but;

Truth – a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle.

Left is left, right is right. Gravity is a very real force to be reckoned with on planet Earth. Arthur Bryant’s has the best beef and fry (I lost half of you now...I know….but I do assert they TRULY have the best beef and fry). Facts! Somehow, the post-modernistic fancy of public and personal opinion has trumped “verified” and “indisputable”, which is what the Bible provides. To restate the point, this way of thinking corrupts EVERYTHING.

Let’s use “Love” as an example of how the postmodern treatment of the word has changed it into something that it’s not.

Love, in family and friend relationships, has been completely redefined. It is no longer “selfless love of one person for another”…which is the TRUTH of what love is as defined and exemplified in the Bible. Now it has become, “what have you done for me lately”. “Are you meeting MY needs”. When the object of our “love” affections no longer fits the bill…they’re out on the next train.

In the “churchy” realm of things, “love” is defined something like this;

“To truly love someone I must accept them ‘as they are’ and GOD FORBID that I would EVER say anything contrary to their current line of thought/feeling/opinion/trajectorytowardacliff even though it would certainly help them to be a better person”.

Don’t mistake that statement for being judgmental. I’m not saying we should insist that people be perfect, or anything other than what and who they currently are, before they come to Christ or church. If that were the standard NONE of us would be there. What that statement shows is the mentality that many Christians have of what “love” is to another Christian. This, of course, is despite clear instruction in the Bible to the contrary...a point which you will see clarified in greater detail as this progresses.

So, what about the church as a whole, not just the issue of love? I’m sure it’s gone on far longer than I want to consider or even realized, but post-modernism in the church, and the households of God-fearing people, is becoming as common as it is on Capitol Hill.

The word “truth”, found in John 8:32 is defined as:

“what is true in any matter under consideration”

Truth is something to be grasped. It is not an ever-elusive shape-shifting idea that is impossible to obtain or comprehend. That’s the tagline for postmodernism, though.

“Truth isn’t truth…is it?”

The questioning fashion of the statement apparently makes it OK. Truth cannot be obtained, or doesn’t even exist, so I will create a “truth” that works for me. So, again I state, THIS is why it’s so frightening that postmodernism has become the norm in many churches! The Bible deals In absolutes, despite the emergent church’s supposition to the contrary. The Bible is clear. The Bible is complete. How can I make such bold assertions? Because they are not my opinions. They are Truth, as found within the pages of scripture inspired by God’s Holy Spirit.

So, how does this “truth” thing flesh out? If it’s not just some abstract self-defined “thing”...what does it look like?

If God says, “Go” there is never an idea, agenda, circumstance, obstacle…anything…that will change the course of truth that God has said and put in to place. To point it out, notice I correlated “truth” to “God said”. It should always be the assumption that what God says is truth. He is the AUTHOR of truth. He cannot lie. So, in this example, “Go” is what you NEED to do. No debate. When God commanded Jonah to Go….there was no changing God’s mind. And again, the simple fact that God said it made it truth...period, end of story.

From a completely fleshly standpoint there were MANY obstacles, of course. Time, distance and not to mention the terrible and dangerous people he was to go minister to. Common sense (we’ll call this the postmodern interpretation of “truth”) would have stated, “well, I’m SURE there are places that are closer you could do a GREAT work of God in.”. Someone else would have suggested, “God surely wouldn’t have called you to THAT place! It’s TERRIBLE there. How will you provide for yourself on that Journey?” Yet another might say, “Who are you to say what they’re doing is wrong. It’s not OUR place to judge.”

Let me make this perfectly clear. The hypothetical statements I just made were made by “Christians”. Made by people that claim to be committed followers of Christ. When Truth (as originated by God) has been spoken, these well meaning (or are they?) “Christians” apply their world view, opinions, convictions, “wisdom”, etc, in place of God’s truth. It’s far too often that the opinions of yourself or others on a matter are weighted heavier than God’s Truth.

God also challenges us with many clear cut “don’ts” in His Word. For instance, there’s the “don’t do”, “don’t believe”, “don’t listen”, “don’t associate” or the “don’t think about”, just to name a few.

I have to make a parenthetical aside prior to developing the thoughts on the “don’t” list. Before you throw the “it’s always what you’re against, never what you’re for” card, please understand that biblical instruction is not for the non-Christian. Instruction found in the Bible is for those that have truly confessed Jesus as Lord of their life. There are opposites for all of the “don’ts” that were listed (i.e. DO believe, listen, etc). For the non-Christian, though, there is only one thing you need to hear, which is that “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son and whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”, and other supporting verses that will clearly explain what you must do to obtain forgiveness from God. So, I’ll just throw it out there….you can keep doing what you’re doing. I don’t WANT you to, mind you. But, without the leading, guiding and assistance of the Holy Spirit, which is received upon salvation, you truly CAN’T stop. WE ALL have a sin nature, so when someone says, “it’s natural to _____” they are probably right. This is really outside the scope of this posting, so I sadly digress at this point. The point to draw from this, though, is that the don’t list is for Christians.

So...the don’t list. It doesn’t feel good, does it? In fact, most if not ALL of it hurts. As I just finished stating, we are born with a sin nature, so, the things of God are contrary to our fleshly desires and tendencies even AFTER we’ve accepted Christ as Lord. God’s Biblical Instructions will rub us the wrong way, bristle our neck hair, cause us to dig our heels into the ground and go kicking and screaming all the way. They SHOULDN’T, but they often do. Why is this? Why the extreme resistance to the instructions of a God we CLAIM is the “Lord” and “Master” of our life? I’ll be the first to admit: I am often tempted to do the same thing, even though I don’t want to, and I don’t know why I do it. I guess I could suggest a few possible reasons. One being that it is offensive, even when we WANT to serve God. Having your beliefs challenged, even justly, is just simply offensive. Another reason being that if we WERE to accept and speak TRUTH that was contrary to popular belief, or opinions that are easy to deal with, that we would suddenly be labeled a “hater” or “not a lover” or “judgmental” or something of that nature. This, of course, is never fun or a comfortable position to be in.

All of this, though, boils down to the idea that if we do something, or believe something, it could be inferred that we must think it’s ok (otherwise we wouldn’t be doing/believing it, right?), therefore, anything contrary to our current actions/beliefs/convictions are, as a reflex, viewed as wrong.

Wait a minute…I said wrong. Hold on, that’s not allowed.

But, that’s the underlying issue, isn’t it? If someone is to allow, in a particular issue, that there is an absolute truth it, by default, proves that there is also absolute falsehood. It’s simple cause and effect. I heard a preacher say once that, “It’s possible for everybody to be wrong but not possible for everybody to be right”. When we’re not specifically talking about some hot-button issue, and you allow yourself to think about it in a logical fashion it makes perfect sense. Unless everybody has the answer “ 4” to the question of “2+2” then, no, not everybody can be right though they may fervently argue the point and have high profile supporters claiming that 6 is, in fact, actually the answer.

So, let’s throw in a specific hot button issue. Homosexuality is about as hot button as they come. Biblically, homosexuality is clearly, decisively and indisputably sin. Notice the change in your attitude? Suddenly you may not want it to be so black and white. You may be looking for a way around it. Suddenly you’re afraid of being pegged as a “homophobe” and don’t want to hurt the feelings of others. But remember: truth is truth is truth. It is the TRUTH that will set you free. It’s not open to debate. Scripture is clear, in more places than an Old Testament reference, that those who are living a homosexual lifestyle will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Yet even those in the “Christian” (term used loosely) community are ordaining openly gay people into ministry!

So, what is the unstated belief behind refusing to accept the totality of God’s truth? What are our hearts speaking through the actions of refusing to submit to His authority in all things, regardless of our opinions ? Understand this, and you’ll understand why this epidemic is so dangerous. To refuse to accept God’s truth, as laid out in the Bible, is to say you are right and God is wrong. Granted, you normally project “I’m right and you’re wrong” on a person that has stated something you disagree with. But understand that a person speaking a Biblical truth, which in turn is God’s truth, is not speaking their opinion…but fact. See where this goes? Yes, you are attacking the “unloving” or “hater” preacher who says “Rob Bell is teaching a false gospel”…but who are you REALLY attacking? The statement of the “hater” preacher is not theirs, but Gods.

“But who are YOU to say what GOD’S opinions are”, you may be asking? Allow me to address this.

2 Peter 1:20-21 states, “[K]nowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man (what we want or think is right…), but by holy men of God, spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

In summation, “you don’t get to decide what “don’t be a homosexual”, “don’t have sexual intercourse outside of marriage”, “if someone comes, bringing another Christ (Rob Bell, Eugene Peterson, etc) they are to be accursed”, etc, means. It’s clearly laid out in scripture. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to hear. No we don’t WANT to change because, again, we do what we do because WE think it’s right. But, what WE think doesn’t matter.

Isaiah 55:8-9: For My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways My ways”, says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Believe it or not, there is a BEAUTIFUL comfort in this! God’s ways are higher than ours…so we don’t need to try and figure it out! Read, implement and repeat! And, think about this: Hebrews 11 tells us that without faith it is not possible to please God. So, even when we don't understand, or agree with, some biblical instruction, we are to have faith that God knows what’s best for us. Again, to not do so is a direct slap in God’s face, claiming that we, the created, know more than He, the creator.

Let me try to wrap this whole thing in a simple little package.

John 14:15-17 – If you love Me(Jesus), keep my commandments. And, I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you”.

There it is. Don’t want to follow what the bible says? Don’t want to subject yourself to the Truth of Scripture? If that’s the case you don’t love Jesus. The world cannot receive the spirit of Truth. So, if you refuse truth, as the Bible and Bible alone portrays it (not some pop-psychology interpretation), your salvation is called in to question. Bold statement, I know, but we are known by the fruits we produce. I can’t judge your heart, but I can judge your actions. Well, let me rephrase that. “I” can’t judge your actions, because who am I but another sinner saved by the Grace of God. What I am charged to do is speak God’s truth, in love, to other true believers, which brings us full circle.

It is the TRUTH that will set you free.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Letter to Village West regarding The Message

Dear Village West Family
In the time since my family and I left Village West I have received a considerable amount of questions from people expressing concern over the use of Eugene Peterson’s The Message (in that they were concerned about it being used all along but never said anything previously) and others who are unfamiliar with it, questioning why it was something I saw as important enough to resign from leadership and leave the church over. With everyone I’ve spoken with, interest was expressed in what information I have and why based on it I believe The Message should be completely avoided. So, it is to provide all of the facts and details to everyone that I write this.

I feel it is important to briefly clarify a few things before proceeding any further. First, I seek no credit, personal gain or glorification through this correspondence. I don’t feel as though I was slighted, spoken ill of or “pushed out” of ministry such that I need to write a letter of vindication to the church body. In fact, I challenge you to ignore the fact of WHO this comes from and instead subjectively review the material presented, filter it through a true Bible, and based on that proceed according to the instruction of the Word. Second, this letter is not intended to belittle or berate Village West, Pastor Ken or his family, the board or anyone associated with the church. I am not speaking out against anyone in particular, except that I point out what is being used in ministry. In shortest form, my intentions in writing this, and God knows my heart, are pure and only driven by a desire to see the body of Village West alerted to an imminent danger.

The immediate thought of many may be that by sending this I am causing division in the church, as mentioned in 1 Cor. 1:10. It’s important to note that what was being spoken of in that passage was a church who had members pledging allegiance to the LEADERS of their church (I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, etc”) and to their specific teachings. They were ignoring the most important thing, laid out in v. 17-18 of the same chapter, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” This is why it was important for me to stress to you that I do not seek followers by this communication. Instead, I desire to see God’s word spoken and not be mired by the teaching of someone, in this case, Eugene Peterson, who clouds this simple and perfect message.

So, if not division, what basis do I have to write this letter? Simply this; the Bible is very clear on how we as the body of the Church are to address teaching and exhortation in the church. We are directly responsible for ensuring that the teaching provided to us is 100% in line with what the Bible says. Acts 17:11 shows the Berean Church “searching the Scriptures daily” to find out if the teaching provided to them was accurate. 1 Thes. 5:21 give admonition to “test all things; hold fast to what is good” in relation to words that are given to the Body. 1 John 4:1 gives instruction to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” In Gal 2:11 we are shown Paul directly confronting Peter “to his face” because of actions that brought confusion to weaker believers and was contrary to the truth that was taught. In short, it is OUR responsibility to ensure the teaching in our churches is Biblically based and Biblically sound.

It is because of the above instruction that my wife and I first ever researched The Message. For those unfamiliar, The Message is a “paraphrase bible” written by a man named Eugene Peterson. With no consideration for the original Hebrew or Greek Peterson has simply reinterpreted and rewritten scripture through his own lens and placed it in the form of a Bible. Unlike a Bible Commentary It removes the ability for you to read what the Bible actually says and have the Holy Spirit reveal to you the truths of God’s Word. You instead are presented with his man-focused approach and nothing more.

It is also of note that though it has been referred to as a “faith-based resource” it is marketed by places like as being “The Bible in contemporary language” where the word “paraphrase” is never used by the publisher or in any description. In Christian bookstores it is sold with every other respected Bible translation (NIV, KJV, etc). Why is this important? To someone with no Biblical knowledge or discernment (see Heb 5:12-14 which shows that discernment is not something we simply, “have”, but something that is gained through “reason of use”) this book will unfortunately be seen as a viable Bible that is “simply easy to understand”. What they don’t realize is they are buying in to a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

To put it quite bluntly, there is never a circumstance where “The Message” should be used. Period. Not as a personal devotional, not as a parallel study bible, not as a supplement to other translations, not as an accent to help drive home a point in a sermon, not from the pulpit, not with the children or youth. Nowhere at all should it ever be consulted, in public or private. So that I don’t come off as unnecessarily irrational or harsh about it, let me say that I know there are some verses that are relatively close to what God intended them to say in comparison to literal Bible translations. And, I’ve heard the argument of “it’s only a paraphrase, not a real Bible, so as long as people are informed of that it will be OK to use”. The issue at hand is that there are many verses in The Message that are NOT what God intended, in fact go so far as to completely TWIST scripture to the point that it is nowhere close to the original text (as an example, review the Beatitudes). As such, the entire work masquerading as a Bible needs to be done away with and certainly not used within the four walls of a Bible believing church. I will address the Biblical standard and basis for this belief at the close of my letter.

Psalms 138:2 says, “I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for your loving-kindness and Your truth; for you have magnified Your word above all your name”. Above every other attribute of God’s character, he magnifies his Word. At this time the entirety of the Bible had, of course, not been fully composed. But God is not a changing God. If He held in high regard His Word spoken then, He would continue to hold high His Word recorded later.

Consider the depths of implication that verse holds.

Philippians 2:5-11 gives an account of how much the “Name” of God matters. It is BY that name that every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. Proverbs 18:10 says that the righteous will run to it and be saved. Romans 10:13 says that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. John 20:31 says that we have life “through His name”. God’s Name is not something He takes lightly. So, for anything to be elevated above it is to assign it great significance. It is, then, of utmost importance, that God’s Word be defended at every turn. Further, that it not be misrepresented to be something that it’s not.

Allow me an opportunity to show you some specific examples of the issues contained in The Message. A logical place to start would be one of the most recognized and oft recited passages of scripture, The Lord’s Prayer. Going forward I will always post the actual Bible and then parallel it to The Message, followed by an explanation of differences between the two.

In this manner, therefore, pray:

9 Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what's best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You're in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You're ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes

1) Hallowed be Your name vs. Reveal who you are – Matthew Henry’s commentary states, “We fix our end, and it is the right end to be aimed at, and ought to be our chief and ultimate end in all our petitions, that God may be glorified; all our other requests must be in subordination to this, and in pursuance of it.” This goes a great length to show Peterson’s propensity to change verses from being about God to being about us. It changes the whole focus. Instead of “God you’re great” it changes to “give me something”. It changes a blessing and proclamation sent toward God to yet another petition asked of him. Not only that, but why would Jesus, who IS the revelation of God, instruct the listeners, as a model of prayer going forward, to ask God to reveal Himself? (Heb 1:1-3)

2) Your kingdom come, your will be done vs. Set the world right, do what’s best – “Your will be done” speaks of a reverential acceptance of authority, from son to father. “Do what’s best” is what I would tell a friend when they are embarking on a path I don’t fully agree with, or when I have an opinion that I choose to withhold. Also, there is nothing in the actual scripture that discusses “setting the world right”. In fact, this could potentially provide an insight into a “Kingdom Now” theology.

3) On earth as it is in heaven vs. As above, so below”. This notes one of the most frightening aspects of Peterson’s The Message, and that is the pervasive use of New Age terminology and ideals. I will deal with this later in the letter but wanted to ensure I drew attention to it here.

4) Forgive us our debts vs. keep us forgiven – the idea of debt speaks to the price we should be paying for the sins we have committed. Removing such an integral word in this passage dumbs it down, potentially confusing the reader who might not understand this point or from what “forgiveness” is requested and offered. “Keep us forgiven” also speaks of something that is ongoing or incomplete. Jesus came to, once and for all, provide the ability to be “forgiven”. Once we have salvation we
ARE forgiven. This isn’t a process.

5) Lead us not into temptation vs. “keep us safe”. The reality of it is, Satan will consistently be on the offensive when we have accepted Christ as our savior. As such, temptation is his primary tool, because he cannot FORCE us to sin. Ignoring the concept, again, dilutes the passage. “keep us safe” could be from a mugger in an alley, which is certainly not a good thing and from which we wish to remain safe. “Keep us safe” could be safe passage through a place, from bad food, persecutors of Christians.…the point is, nowhere does The Message clarify what we are seeking protection from, and in fact, will mislead the reader to think that protection is available from things where it actually isn’t or that this verse doesn’t intend.

6) For Yours is the kingdom and power and glory forever. Amen vs. You’re in charge! You can do anything You want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. – I have a hard time comparing the merits of the two, because they are very different. But I would state that ignoring words like, “Glory” is more than a simple omission. God does everything for His glory. He seeks to glorify His name in all the earth. And to try to replace that line with a nonsense phrase like “You’re ablaze in beauty” is such a strong depiction of Peterson’s desire to simply tell a story, not relay the truth found in Scripture.

An error that many churches and people fall into is that “mostly right” is acceptable when it comes to the things of God. This sadly can’t be further from the truth. An example of this would be the account in John 10:22-30. I won’t post the entire account, because until it gets to vs. 28 it is relatively correct. Starting at vs. 28 Peterson begins adding things that were never included in the original text. He blurs the lines of relationship between Jesus and God, thereby calling into question the deity of Jesus Christ. What is “the deity of Christ”? It is the Biblical belief that Jesus was and is God. That alone is reason enough to separate ourselves from The Message. Consider the following;

28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”

I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand. The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from him. I and the Father are one heart and mind.

1) And I give them eternal life vs. I give them real and eternal life – The Word was inspired to say what God wanted it to say. There is a difference between grasping for words that don’t translate from the Greek and inserting something we think should be there. Setting “real” apart from “eternal” gives the impression that there is something greater than eternal life! If the implication is to discuss the life we have before we enter into “eternal life” (life more abundant?) in heaven I would point out that not one other respected translation gives this implication, it was simply an addition by Peterson that detracts from the original intent.

2) They shall never perish vs. They are protected from the Destroyer – “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life”. In being given eternal life, we are saved from death! To be “protected from the Destroyer”, which of course is something we ARE, strips the verse of eternal life! It replaces our promise of heaven with a temporal protection from Satan, not at all the crux of this verse.

3) My Father who has given them to me vs. The Father who put them under my care – The idea of God “giving” the people that Jesus came to save is not a one-time mention in the Bible, neither is it simply a “choice of words”. It speaks of God’s ownership to give them, followed by Jesus’ ownership in having them. 1 Peter 2:9 in the NASB speaks of us as “A people for God’s own possession.” Jesus did not come to “care” for us. He came to SAVE us! John 6:36-39 and the prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17 goes to show this isn’t a passing thought, but something that runs deep throughout the theology of how we are saved. Though a portion of a pastor’s job is to exposit the scripture it’s important that in doing so they don’t re-write it to suit their particular ideals especially to the end of changing “salvation” to glorified baby-sitting.

4) …is greater than all vs. …so much greater than the Destroyer – When “all” needs to be reinterpreted to “clarify and make easier to understand” I can’t help but question “what was the point of this change”? When the scripture says, “greater than all” there is no question that the one being described has no equal and is superior to all that come before or after. “So much greater” speaks to a scale of greatness, the top of which has not been achieved by the subject being described. To be “so much greater” and then speak of something that they are greater than leaves to question what else there is they may NOT be greater than. And as true as it is that God is greater than Satan, He is more importantly greater than ALL things, which The Message chooses to leave out.

5) I and My Father are one vs. I and the Father are one heart and mind – Of all that is wrong with this particular passage, this is the pinnacle. A huge tenet of our faith is the trinity of God in three persons. Are we to dumb down God’s divine nature in the context of “helping to understand”? The Message implies that they “think and feel” the same way about things. Though Jesus IS of one heart and mind, that doesn’t relay the truth of His being, which is Jesus being one with His Heavenly Father, God.

The previous passage, showing Peterson blurring lines of a spiritual nature, leads to a perfect opportunity to discuss what I mentioned earlier, which was the New Age influence inserted into The Message. I am not alone in the opinion that there is a very apparent thrust of New Age terminology, theology and diversion from things of a spiritual and demonic nature in the light that the Bible portrays it. In the example I gave earlier;

On earth as it is in Heaven vs. as above, so below

This was the hardest part of my study of Eugene Peterson and The Message for me to accept. “It has to be a coincidence” I would tell myself. Or, “that’s just conspiracy theory trying to create something that isn’t there.” I have no personal experience in the new age or occult, so as odd as many of the terms Peterson uses in The Message sounded to me, I didn’t know why. As I researched though, I realized that “As above, so below” is something that can be found in abundance throughout New Age writings. In addition to that specific phrase, many almost exactly like it with the same ideas and connotations can easily be found. Sadly, that phrase only begins to scratch the surface. “God of green hope”, “God-Colors”, “Light-bearer”, “Light-Path”, “invisible moving the visible”, “life-light, “The golden seven-lights circle” (specifically the idea of the circle, which is mentioned more than just here), “invisible spirit”, “divine guardians” (New Age term ascribed to their “masters” which I will address shortly) all are easily traced to New Age ideals. Ignorance would be to use a term with no knowledge of its implication, and likely to place it only once. But to change Song of Solomon 2:1 from “I am the Rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys” to “I’m just a wildflower picked from the plains of Sharon, a lotus blossom from the valley pools” was the final straw for me. Lotus Blossoms are, without question, a symbol of New Age and Eastern Mystical religions. A quote from a website I found states the following, “The ‘Dictionary of Symbolism’ states that the Lotus Blossom originated from ‘primordial ooze’ and arose to become ‘the divine creator of the world’. The Lotus is one of the most sacred symbols in the occult, whether in the New Age, Eastern Mysticism, Buddhism, etc”.

Subsequently, as strong as the New Age influence appears to be based on specific words Peterson chooses, there is also a concern with how he addresses Jesus throughout the New Testament. This raises the concern to an entirely different level. Peterson has chosen to refer to Jesus not as “Lord” but as “Master”. “Lord Jesus” or “Lord Jesus Christ” appears over 200 times in the KJV, but not once in The Message. He is referred to instead as, “Master Jesus”. This is done over 400 times. Now, I understand that “Master” is mentioned in respected Bible translations and is addressed at Jesus, but often there is a very obvious implication in its use. As an example, look at Matt 19 & John 11. In respected translations, “Master” is used as the title that the young wealthy man addressed Jesus as. The Greek word is, “didaskalos”, meaning a teacher or, “one who is fitted to teach, or thinks himself so”. Master, in this instance, does not signify Jesus’ position over the young man, only His role as an instructor. Compare this to “kyrios” used when Martha addressed Jesus in John 11. Peterson chooses to term both of these Master, where the reference in John 11, in standard translations, is termed as, “Lord” and defined in the Greek as “the title given to God or The Messiah”. I find it interesting to note that Master is what Judas consistently referred to Jesus as, not as Lord. Matt 26:25 shows Judas, apart from all the disciples, referring to Jesus as “Master” (Rabbi in the Greek) or simply teacher whereas the rest of the disciples used the exact same word that Martha did, signifying his Lordship. Where does this tie in to New Age theology? This shows a frightening link to “The Ascended Masters”. An Ascended Master is defined as, “a being who has become Self-Realized (Self-Realized being defined as “the awareness of our complete and indivisible union with God, which we are) and serves humanity; a being who has raised his/her vibration to a sustained frequency of light. He/She can come and go at will from the earth plane without the Birth/Death cycle.” Jesus is viewed, in New Age circles, to be the greatest “Ascended Master”. He is seen as a great teacher, or a great prophet. Jesus is seen as a person that has been an integral part of humankind’s history, taught us good things, and has now gone to be with others who fit the same bill. He is not viewed as who he is, God’s only begotten Son. A quote from the book, “The Externalization of the Hierarchy” by Alice Bailey (a highly regarded author in the New Age movement, known to be fed her writings through a demon) is, “There is a growing and developing belief that Christ IS in us, as He was in the Master Jesus”. “A Time of Departing” by Ray Yungen says, “A basic tenet of the New Age thinking is that of the Master Jesus”. Peterson even chooses to do this to “Master God” as well! To those uneducated, “Master” appears harmless. But in light of the depth of new age terminology Peterson has interjected aside from this into his version of scripture, “Master”, and the omission of “Lord Jesus” and “Lord God” has to be seen as something more than a simple choice of words.

Though I have no place to judge the heart or intent of Eugene Peterson I am charged with reviewing his work in comparison with the Bible and revealing when it is not gospel being preached and in these instances, the Bible is not being correctly represented. Though I cannot claim with certainty that Peterson holds New Age or Occultist beliefs he has clearly interlaced God’s Word with ideals, terms and influences from it which begs the question; where did he get all these terms from? These are not “pulled out of a hat” type phrases that a person would use, nor the “language of the day” Peterson claims to be speaking from, but they come from outside influences.

Even aside from the flagrant use of New Age terminology, let me step back a few verses in the chapter from where I did a comparison earlier. This will show where Peterson even shies away from addressing Satan, or demonic forces which we know DO exist!

John 10:19-21
19 Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. 20 And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?”
21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?

19-21This kind of talk caused another split in the Jewish ranks. A lot of them were saying, "He's crazy, a maniac—out of his head completely. Why bother listening to him?" But others weren't so sure: "These aren't the words of a crazy man. Can a 'maniac' open blind eyes?"

He has a demon and is mad & can a demon open the eyes of the blind vs. He’s crazy, a maniac & Can a ‘maniac’ open blind eyes – To downgrade demonic influence or possession by demons to that of mental illness at the very least drastically changes what the verse actually says but at the most takes away the need for a savior because we’re no longer being saved from our sins, or given victory over Satan or his minions, but from a mental illness.

It goes deeper than just this one verse. With a lot of published bibles they have “chapter headings” that describe the story that is to be told. Though this isn’t an actual part of scripture, it denotes the story that follows, it’s something that Peterson had direct control over, and in The Message it gives light to the mentality of the author that pens what follows. In every other translation of the bible where headings are provided it terms the account of Luke 8:26-39 as “A demon possessed man healed” or a similar variation, never leaving out “demon” vs. The Message, which terms it , “The madman and the pigs”. Though later in the story Peterson is forced to refer to them as demons he first identifies the man as “a madman” (there are no actual verse numbers, so it appears it’s vs. 27 where he does this) in comparison to “a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time” in the NKJV. It’s true that those who are possessed by a demon would possibly act out in ways that appear to be “mad”, and the man in the story did in fact exhibit those behaviors, the issue is not the manifestations of the possession (being a madman) but instead the possession which in turn RESULTS in being a mad man. There is also 1 Tim 4:1 where “doctrines of demons” is replaced with “professional liars” which again attributes the focus of concern to the outcome, not the cause. To support a spirit realm contrary to God’s Word by using New Age ideals and then ignore the spirit realm that God has described for us through His word once again begs the question: why? What purpose would there be to hide what is real and promote what isn’t?

Jesus’ death on the cross is payment, in our place, for all of the sins we have committed or ever will commit. We don’t get a free pass from our lives of sin when we ask forgiveness, God requires that we change. Upon forgiveness, “old things have passed away, behold all things have become new”. We are to turn from our wicked ways! I know this isn’t something I need to inform you of, but I state the point for a purpose. To say the least, God’s instructions for “newness” are uncomfortable to a nonbeliever and, often times, even to believers. When a person hasn’t given their life to Christ they see the Bible as a big list of “you can’t do this” preaching. For a person who is saved, the scripture is the most impactful tool that the Holy Spirit uses to enact change in our lives which is often a very uncomfortable process. Does this mean we should then ignore the clear instructions set forth in it because It’s uncomfortable? Do we simply skip over the parts that make us feel uncomfortable? Do we change the Word of God to be palatable to those who are not in Christ? Of course not. Yet, this is what Eugene Peterson has chosen to do with The Message.

1 Cor 6:9-11
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,[a] nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

9-11Don't you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don't care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don't qualify as citizens in God's kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I'm talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you've been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.

1) …the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God vs. …unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom – Although “unjust” is a fair comparison based on the Greek, Peterson quickly takes a left turn with “who don’t care about God”. There is a huge difference between unrighteous or unjust people and those who don’t care about God. “Even the demons believe – and tremble!”. Being righteous speaks to our standing with God where “not caring about God” is simply an emotional status. Being righteous speaks to having no unforgiven sin, where “not caring” does not. Also interesting is changing “inherit” to “join”. I join with people at work, the store, at friend’s houses, every day. That doesn’t speak to the son-ship offered to us through Salvation in Jesus. We aren’t just heirs we are JOINT heirs. We are equal heirs with Jesus!! Granted, this idea is not immediately apparent to a person unfamiliar with scripture, but it’s a concept that runs throughout the new testament. And, just because someone may be unfamiliar with the full meaning of the passage doesn’t mean it should be omitted or watered down to something less than it is.

2) Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the Kingdom of God, vs Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. – When there is a specific list of things to instruct us on, it would seem important to keep it complete and accurate, lest we fall into sin by an omission. For Peterson to transliterate this into “today’s language” he had to ignore God’s specific commands and instead add things that were never there. In the true scripture there was a clear admonition against multiple types of sexual sins, one specifically against homosexuality….not found in The Message. There were four non-sexual sins instructed against…not found in The Message. The idea of “use and abuse” instead delivers to the reader an opportunity to determine what “use and abuse” constitutes to them. What they determine will, likely, be something completely different from the “use and abuse” determined by another reader. What better way for Satan to cripple the church than to bring confusion as to what does and does not constitute sin, when previously it had been clearly laid out? In a post-modern society this unfortunately isn’t a shocking concept, except that now it’s housed in the pages of a so-called “bible”. What Peterson instead DID feel was important enough to add was a politically correct, environmentalistic awareness that we don’t “use and abuse the earth”. This same type of approach is found in Matt 5:5 where Peterson says, “You are truly blessed when you are content with just who you are – no more, no less.” As opposed to, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” found in the NKJV. By way of The Message, I no longer need to concern myself with striving to be like Christ. Instead, I need to be who I am, “no more, no less”. I can assure you, if not for the working of the Holy Spirit in my life I would be happy as a drunk or drug addict, many would continue in their life as a homosexual, fornicator, etc, content to be who they are, “no more, no less”. Being comfortable is not what Christianity is about, and certainly isn’t what the Bible portrays, so why would Peterson choose to strip the Bible of its direction and instructions?

I stated earlier that there is never an instance where the Message should be used, despite admitting that there are some verses that are close to being correct. After providing the examples that I have, showing where God’s Word has been distorted, misrepresented and even questioned the Lordship of Jesus, I want to step away from my opinions and show you what the Bible says should be done.

Gal 1:6-9 - I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed

James 3:10-12 - Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

Eph 5:11 - And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.

1 John 1:9-11 - Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

“Let him be accursed”, “these things ought not be so”, “have no fellowship” & “do not receive him into your house” because you will be “participating in his evil deeds”. When I stated that The Message should never be used it may have seemed like a bold statement until you realize that it’s what the Bible commands, not simply my opinion. False teaching is nothing to toy around with. It’s not a resource or tool to be used whereby we “eat the meat and throw out the bones”, as has been done by only using verses that are partially or mostly correct and ignoring the ones that are clearly wrong. We are strictly commanded to expose false teaching (as is contained in The Message), stay away from it (not to be used as a personal devotional or “daily reading addition”) and have no part in it (not to allow it to be used in any facet of ministry). This is why it was necessary that I resigned from leadership at Village West. I was informed, when I requested that The Message not be used at all at Village West, that it was, “a hill they weren’t prepared to charge and ‘fall on their sword for’” meaning there was no willingness to take a stand over it and they intended to continue using it. I would ask you, as I did them, what greater “hill to charge” is there than the defense of the very Word of God?

I will close with a few thoughts. If after reading this you have concern over the use of The Message don’t simply leave Village West. Due to my capacity in leadership it was necessary for me to leave but, through this, I hope you can see my intention wasn’t to simply abandon the church. Further, I am not attempting to incite a riot of people attacking the leadership of Village West. What I hope to happen through this is that everyone who reads THESE words will be driven to GOD'S Word. Everything that is spoken to you, be it from the pulpit, in conversation and not only including but especially what is contained in this letter, needs to be compared to God’s Word. If it doesn’t line up, even something that some will attempt to mark as “insignificant”, immediately confront them, in love, with God's Word.

If you see someone using The Message, be it in a formal ministry capacity, in private study or considering purchasing it, please give them this letter. Encourage them to ignore who the author of this particular letter is and instead look subjectively at the content compared to what The Bible says. Ask them to cease “participating in the evil deeds” of an author who has chosen to rewrite the Bible to be something that it isn’t. To restate a previous point, this is not causing division in the church. In fact, it will ultimately be preventing it! Division comes when someone comes bringing a teaching other than that which was originally taught, and based on the information I have provided it should be clear that Eugene Peterson’s The Message certainly fits that description.

God bless all who read these words! If after reading this you have any questions or comments, please direct them to me in a private message and I will respond promptly.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I dreamed I went to Heaven

For those waiting with bated breath, Part II of my previous post is still on the way, but I started writing it and didn’t like the way it was going so I’m scrapping it and starting over. In the meantime I had something else to share….so it’ll just have to wait.

Today I got to witness a little bit of what Heaven could be like. No, I’m not saying Kingman, KS is Heaven. Kingman is FAR from Heaven, actually. Don’t get me wrong, I have a special place in my heart for the place, as it’s the location I entered the world, but that’s about it. What I experienced today was a much smaller earthly version of what we might expect to happen to us when we get to Heaven. Let me explain.

Roughly 9 months before I was born, in the beginning of 1979, my dad officially entered into the ministry. He accepted a position as Sr. Pastor of Kingman Assembly of God, his first church ever, and it had a congregation of approximately 12 people. He had a big job in front of him: grow a dying church. This was to be accomplished while he was just some “young kid” (he was roughly 26 at the time they went there, 4 years younger than I am now) in a city where he knew no one. He had no friends to call in a favor on (hey, come to my new church!) and no easy targets that he’s been “living the Christian witness” for that he can FINALLY pop the question on. Nope, he had to step completely out of his comfort zone and….are you ready for this….TALK TO PEOPLE! He went door knocking. He went out into his new community, took some of the people from the church, and started telling people how to be saved from their sins.

I am as guilty as anyone of saying that Dad had an advantage that I’m not afforded, and that would be his title. It’s easier to say, “Hi, I’m pastor So and So and I want to talk to you about Jesus” than it is if you’re NOT Pastor So and So. The recipient of that conversation might not like what’s said, could possibly not even listen to what’s being said and likely won’t make an immediate change in their lifestyle….but they expect it because of the title which makes it easier to start that conversation. How many people have I not talked to because I thought they might not like what I have to say? How many people have I let slip by because I wasn’t willing to take that first uncomfortable step and approach someone with the Good News that I had? John 4 shows where Jesus talked to the woman at the well. You may have heard the story hundreds of times, but the discomfort that is present here is never really brought to full life. First, this woman is a Samaritan, who Jesus is not allowed to speak with in the first place. He then proceeds to tell her, she has ”…been married 5 times before and the man you are living with now is not your husband”. He is CALLING HER OUT in her adultery. He JUST MET THIS WOMAN! Can you imagine walking up to a stranger when all of a sudden God reveals to you, “this woman is living in sin with her boyfriend” and he then requires you speak against her sin? THAT, my friends, is uncomfortable. But what was more uncomfortable to Jesus was the thought that he didn’t tell her about his LIVING WATER and let her go back to the life she was living before that encounter. Paul went so far as to write in Philippians 1:20 that he wants Christ to be glorified in either his Life or his death. In other words he said, “God, kill me or keep me here, either way I’m good with it….just make sure it glorifies you!” THAT’S UNCOMFORTABLE!!!

What I experienced today was a group of people that had their lives touched roughly 30 years ago. It was the dedication ceremony of the new sanctuary at what is now called “Covenant Assembly.” All of the previous pastors of the church were invited to be there, as they played a part in the church’s history and helped bring it one step closer to where they are today. A lot of stories were told, a ton of hugs were given and a nice little fried chicken dinner was served. The most impactful thing though, the thing that made the whole trip worthwhile, was to see a group of people who loved my Dad for more than just being a great guy….they loved him because he was the one that told them about Jesus. “Thank you for giving to the Lord. I am a life that was changed” are a few of the lyrics from Ray Boltz’s song “Thank you”. I sang that song a million times growing up, but never fully got it. It paints a picture of what your first day in heaven could be like. Based on your works here on earth there could be throngs of Christians gone before you who have their eternal salvation due to Jesus and you, the person who told them about Jesus. I got a little taste of that today, living vicariously through my dad. People well into their 70s and 80s that were telling the younger people in the church, “I remember the first time Tommy came and talked to me….” And proceeded to tell about the first time Dad talked to them about Jesus. After all these years and after all the other pastors, that 26 year old newbie preacher impacted the rest of their life, literally from then to eternity.

What we do on this earth should not be for the pride and recognition. The Bible says in Matthew 6 that if you get your rewards here on earth that you shouldn’t expect them in heaven. I would also say that as much as you WILL receive reward in heaven for your earthly works that it also shouldn’t be your only motivation, though it is a nice bonus. What should drive you to uncontrollable action is that if you are a born again believer in Christ you have the answer that the world is looking for. Everyone. Not just some of them, but everyone. There is not one exception. The Agnostic, the Catholic, the Muslim, the Buddhist, the person who CLAIMS to be a Christian…EVERYONE! It’s likely you don’t have “the title”, but you DO have the answer. Comedian/Magician Penn Jillette of “Penn & Teller” fame, a self proclaimed atheist, is quoted as saying,

"How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

Did I mention that answer you have is for EVERYONE! Look at the Disciples. They didn’t have a “title” of pastor or doctor or theologian. In fact, the only titles they had, which basically amount to being known as having been “with” Jesus, would actually get them thrown in Jail and KILLED! Yet they had a compulsion to give, at the cost of their own life, the answer that everybody needed.

You could be the link, and quite possibly the ONLY link, that some people have to eternal salvation. Have you stopped to think about that? There may not be one other interaction that a person has with a born again Christian except for the one they’re about to have with you. We are not promised tomorrow, both in life and opportunity. If we don’t take the opportunities God gives us today it’s never possible to assume we will have them tomorrow. When I wasn’t willing to endure the discomfort of beginning an awkward conversation about my salvation through Jesus with a friend or even a family member I was willfully ignoring my DUTY to share the ANSWER that is available to them. It’s so much more than the earthly benefits such as healing or the peace they will have when going through a difficult circumstance. The answer is the entire reason Jesus came to earth, and that is to save a people who could not save themselves. Now is not the time to simply, “live a good life”. The pope lives a “good life”, as do any assortment of non Christian people. Simply living a good life will not bring someone to a knowledge of Christ. Is it a component of your witness? Absolutely! It’s a good example that will show those around you that the salvation you’re speaking of is more than just a moniker you’ve given yourself, but a true life changing ordeal. Again, you can’t simply let your “Christian witness” hang out there all alone. Look at every account of witness in the Bible. For instance, look at the beggar asking for money from Peter and John in Acts 3:6. All he could see was his need for financial provision, yet they responded, “silver and gold have I none, but SUCH AS I HAVE, GIVE I THEE!!" Refer back to the woman at the well. She was asking for physical water and Jesus HAD THE POWER AND ABILITY to provide for that physical need. Instead, he pushed on to the deeper need, which was his Salvation. If you don’t want to look at illustrations of this, there is a clear instruction given in Romans 10, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” Living a good life is exactly that…good. But you have to back it up by saying, “it is only through Christ that I can live this way because I don’t have the power within me to save myself and to not sin and it’s the saving Grace of Jesus and help of His Holy Spirit that I was first saved from sin and can now live this way.”
Consider this my call to action. Let today be the day you throw away your excuse for not reaching out to that person you’ve been “living your witness” around for years. Don’t just invite them to church, either. I’m toying with an entirely separate topic, but the church is supposed to be used to build up those who are ALREADY saved and then the saved are to go OUTSIDE the church and spread the word. Now is the time to lay it all on the line. You don’t need a title, or a person WITH a title, to tell that friend or co-worker about Jesus. You can do that on lunch. You can talk to them before or after work. You can share it with them in between classes in the hallway. You can send them a private message on Facebook. However it is that you tell them about Jesus…just tell them.

Now is the time to start building up your Heavenly receiving line.