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Sanctity of Life Revisited

July 26, 2019
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Life hasn’t always been considered special. Set apart. Valuable. In fact, the phrase “sanctity of life” is primarily limited to a particular Sunday inside the four walls of a religious building event. For years life has been something that gets studied. And yet here we are in 2019.

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Yes, Even That. . .

April 21, 2019
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Easter Sunday is typically a day that the best threads and most compelling songs accompany the most moving sermon given. It’s even said from the stage or in closed room meetings that since today is our biggest evangelistic opportunity in our building, we need to be on our very best behavior. I wonder what the apostle Paul would’ve thought about modern day Easter celebrations?

As far as the curse is found, we seem to leave out of our monologue pitches to potential visitors. Everything is so daggum personal on Easter Sunday. It’s quite ironic considering that the atonement reached as far as the curse is found covering such a cosmic chasm of land and continents. But maybe, the Church has forgotten the width of the Fall. Just maybe the Church has subconsciously decided to commercialize (highlight only) Jesus’ death while ignoring (choosing not to highlight) the extent.

Ever since the Fall happened, every thing on the earth and in the heaven is cursed. Yes, even that! People. Animals. House yards. Sports fields. Mountains. You name it. So why mention that? Because through the death of Jesus all things were being reconciled to Him. It’s unfortunate that we only focus on human beings. Creation is currently moaning as I type this and as you read this. Jesus is making all things new – not just human beings.

So for Easter 2020, maybe the Church can recall this phrase in our zeal to be evangelistic. The death on Good Friday covered more than we can know or see. The resurrection on Easter Sunday announces the good news of renewal and faithfulness.


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The First FOMO

April 18, 2019
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Much like the urban originated term YOLO swept through the country, FOMO has done the same. A major difference is that it’s found its way into the pulpits, pews, and small groups. Some still wonder why it’s taken off like gangbusters, but the answer is easy – it’s in the definition: Fear of Missing Out.

There’s a biblical component to this term. In fact, there’s an art and science to it. A ton of ink and keyboard strokes are being used to explain it, explain it away, and fix it. The problem that many are overlooking is the permanence of FOMO. Human beings live with all sorts of fears for the entirety of life. I’m not truly sure it’s something we’re capable of getting over. Why do I say that? The Genesis 3 event has had rippling effects on humanity that all point back to what brought about the event.

The woman married to Adam had an encounter with a serpent. Well, more like a conversation. The serpent seemed intentional on bringing doubt to the man and woman’s lives. This wasn’t any ordinary doubt. This was about a question. And based on this question, the posterity of humanity’s relationship to its Creator greatly suffered as well as with one another. The serpent presented a question to the woman that made her feel like she was missing out.

It’s common nowadays to hear pulpits say that the woman thought God was keeping something from her; He was keeping his best. I used to agree with that sentiment because at that time it made sense. However, I’ve changed my mind. The serpent presented the woman with an offer she couldn’t refuse, which consisted of the desire that was already within.

This is what I’ve come to associate with all other sins. Desire is akin to that sin crouching at your door (Genesis 5). Not just any kind of desire, but the kind tied to a fear of missing out. The woman heard some pretty interesting things that sparked this desire to be like the one she knew. Once she thought she could be like God just by eating from the tree, it was like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. How could she pass this up? Missing out on this opportunity is something too great for her and Adam. So they ate and the damage was irreversibly done.

The fear of missing out has been at the core of most heinous and hidden sins ever since. Just look at Genesis 4 through 11 to see proof after proof of the very first FOMO.

 


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He’s A Pretty Big Deal

December 1, 2018
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In all of my times in Sunday morning gatherings, I can’t recall once hearing about the importance of John the Baptist. Much was made about his look and food preferences. Little was said about his place in the story of God. Make no mistake about it….John’s a pretty big deal.

The gospel of Luke gives bible readers a helpful insight into the life and times of John. More importantly, his purpose for being born. Luke 1:17 lists all the reasons he was especially born with a culminating purpose.

John’s a forerunner for the Messiah. This is no small calling. Imagine the amount of pressure placed on his life if Zacharias and Elizabeth, his parents, were able to wrap their minds around this. We all know of parents who read oodles of books about sleep training, potty training, homeschool, giving kids options over and against spanking them, and on the list goes. Zacharias was a high priest who couldn’t talk due to his unbelief and Elizabeth was a barren wife. And here’s the angel Gabriel outlining all this baby turned prophet would accomplish.

John’s coming in the spirit and power of Elijah. He’s the last old covenant prophet who is promised to be as powerful and effective as Elijah. Elijah’s ministry precedes him quite well so much that a high priest would know of it quite well and have an angelic amount of pressure placed on this son they never expected to have. John was coming to prophesy about this Messiah.

John’s going to restore and heal families. I know of adults who spend 4-6 years getting their degree and masters in social work to afford them the opportunity to bring restoration to families. This soon to be Nazirite baby was going to covenantally impact families for the Messiah reuniting children to fathers.

John’s going to change the disobedient, individuals spoken of as a collective, into the attitude of the righteous, another group consisting of individuals referred to as a collective. If this doesn’t strike you as strange, then maybe it’s because you never stopped to consider what this can mean. John’s ministry would accomplish this. It sounds like repentance. It sounds like a life change. It sounds like there are visible, credible ways the disobedient have become righteous. This old group becomes something new for the Messiah.

John does all this “so as to make ready a people for the Lord.” The penultimate purpose of his birth would result in him making a people ready for the Lord. In other words, all that John is said to accomplish here in Luke’s gospel, and in the other 3 accounts, was done to prepare people for the Lord even up to the point that he is imprisoned.

Let’s look further in Luke’s gospel. In chapter 3, the word of God comes to John and he faithfully speaks a message of baptism of repentance and a forgiveness of sins. Don’t forget that he’s the last Old Covenant prophet and a forerunner for the Messiah to come who will bring in the New Covenant. And here he is preaching baptism and forgiveness. This message just happens to be the same message you hear on Sunday mornings, right?

As crowds of Jewish people came out to be baptized by him clearly having given his message a good hearing, he stated that they needed to visibly show that they’ve gone from disobedient to the attitude of the righteous. He robbed them of using their ethnicity as a crutch which also served to show how his message was tied to first 39 books of the Bible – God is able to raise up children of Abraham by using these stones. The “people” John came to make ready are “the children of Abraham” that God will raise up.

So, the ministry of John the Baptist was a big deal with a lot of effectiveness. But never forget that all he was able to accomplish through baptism and repentance was to make a people ready or prepared for the Lord. It was the Lord who was the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. John always pointed to him and not himself. John took Old Covenant, circumcised, and catechized folks and introduced them to baptism and real repentance.

 


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Good for Death

November 16, 2018
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In Romans 7, Paul tells the Jews and Gentiles within the Christian church something miraculous about the law. Yes, Paul told a people group (Gentiles) how they should (along with the people group the law was given to) view and subsequently treat the Old Covenant law. Seems easy to miss but what a miss it is for all readers. And what’s said in this letter has bearing on every believer in a Christian church today.

Paul gives the law 3 particular attributes – good, holy and righteous. Normally we hear from preachers and seminary professors how the law “was” something, instead of what Paul says it is. Then those same professionals will point our attention to the intended receiver of the law, which I agree with, only to tell us that the importance of the document has passed, which I disagree with. When the New Testament book calls something good, holy and righteous, it is imperative that we see these attributes as ongoing. It must be given that the origin of the law is seen in the book of Exodus, chapter 20.

Back in Romans 7, Paul says that sin came alive and he died once the commandment (aka the law) came. Paul presents this as a good thing. Rarely do we ever consider death of any kind a good thing mainly due to our knee-jerk reaction of pointing out the effects of sin. Sin is horrible – yes. Sin causes death – yes. The law brought death – yes. And that’s a good thing.

You see….anytime we break the law of God, we can experience death of some kind. It can be spiritual as it was for Paul. It can be physical as it was Ananias and Sapphira. It can be tangible death as in death of a relationship; death of a career; death of a dream, etc. This holy and righteous document is good because it can bring death. Death brings uncertainty, hopelessness and dependence. Dependence brings us to a dependable friend.

So the law that Paul commends to the Christian church serves as a running reminder that disobedience to the law can bring a kind of death that results in less self-reliance and more admittance in God’s strength and character. The law still acts as a schoolmaster driving us to our only tutor, Christ. No matter the type of death you have and can experience, yours and mine only option is to run to Christ because we’ve come to realize that we cannot do it on our own.

The law brings a special kind of humility. The kind that can save.


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Reflection Required

August 7, 2018
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One of the most crucial things I have learned about ministry in the church is also the same thing that causes grief, discomfort, stagnation and lack of health. That may read as too strong but I would disagree.

Proverbs 3 warns everybody to not be wise in your own eyes.

Children of any age are prone to think they’ve got it handled and are able to sort things out in their favor on a daily basis. So much so that we tend to forget how Jesus told 12 Jewish men to ask God to give them their daily bread. Are we so wise to foolishly believe we’re able to give ourselves something apart from the help of the creator of this world?

Looking back allows us to look forward with wisdom. It is said that history repeats itself if a lesson is not learned. The wise crave wisdom. Why? Because their curious people. And curious people don’t believe that they have all the knowledge they will ever need in the world?

But who wants to admit that they need help? The church much like the world has hijacked the epistemology of labels, such as manhood and leadership, in order to formulate an empowering ecosystem for the sake of ego. The rubbish and milieu of damage that gets left behind serve as detractors from the new goalposts set.

In other words, new systems of thought have been constructed that cater to our ego in a mirage of wisdom. And we’ve allowed them to overshadow God’s words.

Reflection of self, motive, ego, intention, and most importantly of the Word of God is required for everyone, especially for believers. In the end, only His truth will stand and matter. Only His judgment will determine the eternal fate of every soul that He created. So let’s do ourselves a favor while we have breath left and obey the rest of that Proverbs 3 verse: fear the Lord and depart from evil.


When In Doubt, Love

May 10, 2018
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There is no higher calling in the Christian life than the call to love. That may sound easy but it is enormously difficult within perspective. The norm for the Christian life is focused around self. God made ME in his image. Jesus died for ME on that cross. The Holy Spirit lives inside of ME to strengthen me. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens ME. And yet the Bible calls us to love.

The ten commandments begin reminding Israel of the love which Yahweh has for them that is displayed. Love on display is the only real love. Love soaked in words without action is empty, shapeless, void of being real. Yahweh rescued Israel from the horror that was living in Egypt and took them across the sea in a miraculous way. Therefore, have no others before ME. In other words, God called his covenant people to love him to the highest degree, even before self-love.

Jesus was on the scene teaching disciples making miracles happen fulfilling scripture, when he was approached by some ‘wise guys’ trying to test him. He told them the greatest commandment was to love the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. In other words, Yahweh’s command still applies. It always will.

Then Jesus further clarified what the Old Testament stated in clear words and distinctive, ritualistic language: love your neighbor the way you love yourself. Here is yet another tier to the highest calling for the Christian life. It’s rather fascinating how we tend to miss this nuance.

Jesus gives us a prime example by offering a parable in Matthew 25:31-46. Those who are hungry or thirsty or homeless or naked or sick or imprisoned got treated some type of way. Those on the right will be the ones who put love on display towards image bearers in that predicament will be invited to inherit the kingdom. And those on the left will be invited to depart to the eternal fire reserved for the devil and his angels. He caps it off with these poignant words: “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it me.”

The way you treat people is the way you treat God. So when in doubt of how you’re treating people and if you get to pick and choose who to treat some exceptional way, love!


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Being F.I.C. – Double Meaning

May 3, 2018
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Depending on where you live, what you’ve heard, and which people you follow, the acronym FIC means something to you. It is possible that this acronym is completely foreign to you, and that’s a good thing for this blog writer. For those who are unfamiliar, FIC means Family Integrated Church. It carries baggage in many circles. However, I’m here to suggest a new rendering.

Allow me to give some feedback first. I’m a director of kids ministry in a church that has the goal of seeing the local church resemble the future heavenly kingdom as told in Revelation 5 and 7.

Something I’ve noticed for several years up to the present is that most churches do not have a thriving derived idea of ministry as it pertains to the family. Far too often the focus is on singles and married couples, leaving these two without biblical resources to consider for the children. And in far too many church settings, the children are to be seen and celebrated in ‘little church’ while not being considered vital to the home nor church.

The perplexing points come when churches want to boost their philosophy of ministry that impacts children’s ministry with everything else. Perplexing because the language is rich and helpful and encouraging while the actions are the complete opposite.

So to argue for the FIC, I’m aiming for the church to integrate the reality of the family into the life of the church. The narrative of the gospel depends on the community of God’s people being faithful in their families. It literally touches everything. Their witness. Their impact. Their faithfulness. Their true sign of maturity and discipleship.

But there’s more…..

I’m also arguing for the FIC that stands for fully integrated church. From the recent launch of multi-ethnic churches that use various adjectives to describe their particular church, the desire to fully integrate is part of the DNA. And thank the Lord that it is. However, the disconnect shows itself in integrating both home and church, singles and marrieds, empty nesters and families with kids. Perhaps it is implied, but somehow it comes across as an afterthought instead of an intended goal. So if the church is to promote the unity and diversity of the body ethnically (as it should), how important it ought to be to do so familial-ly.

So that we could have a Titus 2 ministry as well as Deuteronomy 6 ministry as well as Psalm 78 ministry as well as Matthew 28 ministry, and so on. The local church ought not have to pick and choose between lifting up the multi-ethnic commands from the Bible alongside lifting up the families.

I would implore you readers to consider ways to pray for this new FIC implementation that Bible calls believers and church leaders to do.


Costly Courage: The How

October 11, 2017
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Reconciliation is a required responsibility. A promising privilege. A graceful given.

Normally the talk of reconciliation is centered around the truth that God is making all things new, both creatures and creation. But there’s a crucial piece that comes beforehand that deserves our attention. “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others” is what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:11 to a congregation that was reeling. Here on earth, we are physically home in these bodies and yet away from the Lord. We are walking by faith, not by sight, and full of confidence.

But what is our motivation as believers in the new covenant working of God’s grace?

Paul says “we make it our aim to please him” (v9). Realizing that the Lord still has you here on earth as His made new representative, you make it your goal to please him. That’s your personal life goal. As it relates to the goal of others, you fear the Lord and try to convince them.

Why?
Paul says “the love of God urges us on” to consider bringing others to belong with us.

How are we to see the others?

Paul says “we [are to] regard no one from a human point of view” as we once did Christ. Assuming the others are of no eternal value. Assuming that God doesn’t place a great value upon their heads. Assuming that we are superior to them. They are now on the same level plane as us. They are made in the image of God. All of them. Even the ones who you may look away from or care to not acknowledge. And they will face eternity when they die. For God created every single person to live eternally – heaven or hell.

What’s so incumbently wrapped up into this way of thinking is this truth that John Calvin spoke to – if we can see mankind and not see ourselves in the mirror, we have erred. In other words, if you don’t see men and women just as valuable, dignified, and significant as you, you won’t care if they go to heaven or hell. You won’t care about persuading them. You won’t care about the love of God prompting you. You simply won’t care.

But God in his grace still allows us to please him even when our aim is off a bit. This is where costly courage comes into play. Society is always changing. Opinions are just as diverse as the weather and winds in every time zone of the world. Truth has never not been absolute regardless of what others may say. The gospel is just as alive today as it was many centuries ago. The courage to make truth known in these trying times has everything to do with our fear of the Lord and our fear of being accepted by people we deem superior.

So we choose to believe that it is from God that people are made new in many types of way. We believe this because Jesus is God and is faithful.


Costly Courage: The What Pt 3

September 27, 2017
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Normally when you hear the phrase ‘corporate confession’ you have a distinct idea in mind. Well, that’s not what this is. When it comes to reconciliation, the first steps are not to confess sin. Rather it is to confess truth. Herein lies the rub in most reconciliation talks.

Who was this man in the garden of Eden? Why was he important?

All reconciliation talks find their way back to Genesis 1, and rightly so. Adam was made in the image of God. I think all Christians believe this to be true. The imago dei is alluded to often and placed on high. Why won’t folks acknowledge that the imago dei is important?

I happen to think folks are missing the target with that question. The doctrine of sin in the Church is traced back to Adam. This is an orthodox position. Adam is the forefather of every human being to ever live. However easy or difficult it may be to trace our heritage, everybody can agree that it all began with Adam. But are we giving Adam the same importance that God gave him?

Not really.

Because all humanity descended from Adam, we share the same imago dei that he had. This truth tends to be accepted in ethnic tribes alone and across cultural lines in personal friendships. Therein lies the crux of the matter. Adam being made in the image of God means he has value, dignity, and significance. Feel free to re-read that sentence again. After Adam sinned, his image of God remained although his relationship with God was strained to the point that Adam was unable to fix it himself. He needed a substitute.

Ever since the beginning of this country, the Christians who escaped Britain to come establish their own land with its own rules did so with theology that is not orthodox. They did not believe Blacks or Native Americans were made in the image of God. They did not believe Blacks or Native Americans had a God-given value, dignity, or significance. Further proof of this is found in the founding documents of this country. That position they took was then taught and put into practice through slavery, rape of the black women, dividing up of the family, and training up of their children. In other words, they shaped the next generation to devalue Blacks and Native Americans. That spread to subsequent generations which included devaluing more ethnic groups. This cycle turned on them as the groups being devalued began to devalue the white Christians and each other. Tyranny ensued in no time and honestly hasn’t stopped.

What’s all this got to do with reconciliation? We need a corporate confession that all ethnic groups are seen and treated as image bearers that have value, dignity, and significance. Until we, the Christian church, are able to practice that which we say we believe, reconciliation will never take the necessary first step needed to believe that Jesus purchased by tearing down that wall of hostility actually means.

May we begin now to corporately confess that every human being from any and all ethnic group have been given by God an image that has value, dignity, and significance. Amen


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