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From Promise to Prophecy to Prize

June 13, 2017
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“Build your hopes on things e-ternal
Hold to God’s unchanging hand”

This gospel song rings throughout history in Black churches compact with truth everywhere. The beauty of the covenant-keeping God is proclaimed. The grace of God is sung. The progressive prize that God gave is revealed.

Promise

Here is the historic promise that God gave to his creation from the outset:

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel (Gen 3:15)

After the first parents sinned, God promised to remedy the defacing of creation by having the seed of the woman crush the head of the serpent! This crushing entailed a putting to end of the serpent in a peculiar way. The serpent would not be able to continue doing what it had done there in the garden of Eden.

Prophecy

The way one read Genesis 3 and formulates how it will play out is not in fact how it plays out. According to Isaiah 53, God through the prophet tells of the way he will carry out Genesis 3.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him

and

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin

The covenant-keeping God who promised to crush the head of the serpent has revealed his means of doing so through the prophet Isaiah by crushing the true seed of the woman through suffering as an offering for the sins of God’s people.

Prize

Jesus, the true seed, suffered on the cross in an active and passive obedient way that pleased God, accomplished redemption, and continues to reconcile sinners to God and others. Jesus is the true prize of mankind. What he did and provided for us is the greatest gift known to man. And yet it still hasn’t all been comprehended. What amazing depths of glory.

This is something to build your hopes on. God made a promise; kept his promise; and now the image bearers of creation get the prize. To God be the glory.


Sow Wisely But Everywhere

June 12, 2017
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It wasn’t until that magic moment occurred where I absolutely had my mind on something else did I come to a grave realization: you’ve been sending mixed signals.

There are times when our actions stem from a single inspiring thought. That thought takes shape and then springs into action. That action can have rippling effects. This can most definitely be a great thing. But then there’s the other side to that coin. The thought hasn’t been tested with other thoughts and most recent actions. The thought doesn’t hold up to the vision and trajectory of life’s inertia. The thought is only prevalently seen coming from our lips and not other crevices. Yes, the action I’m referring to is simply speaking.

So we must be careful about what we say and to what depths that action matches up. For instance, if I as a dad tell my son something that does not allow him to see me do it on a repeated basis, my son may follow suit for a few times or will deduct that dad is a hypocrite, whether it be conscious or subconscious.

However, if I’ve taken the steps to practice said action with him and with others while he is watching, and while he isn’t watching to ensure that it is genuine, then I’ve now placed myself in a position to model something for my son where he is able to see that I have sown a great discipline everywhere in my life. This is the same thing we see from Jesus. All that he spoke of to the crowds he acted out. Even the things we would consider extremely difficult and disloyal, whether it be to our parents or our ethnic groups to whom we identify.

Sow sparingly and you reap sparingly is what the apostle Paul said, and rightly so. But I am saying to all of you readers that sowing in an unwise manner leaves you to reap almost nowhere. There is no return on investment, or it’s very miniscule that you question the worth of such sacrifice. There is no fruit or joy to see and experience to where you begin to doubt the sincerity of your speaking. And in Christian genre focused groups, we can do well in speaking marvelous things that no impact on our lives, and eventually someone will notice.

So let us not be wise in our own eyes as the proverb says, but let us attain wisdom so that we can sow (speak) truth and grace into hearts everywhere that impact us in all of our body areas as well as theirs. For truth is meant to be true everywhere even when we lie and deceive.


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The Importance of Abraham

April 9, 2017
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These words in chapter 3 captivated me as I prepared to teach through the book of Galatians:

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Paul is telling this mixed group of believers in the churches located in Galatia that they all are sons of Abraham. Now imagine if you will a famous Anglo preacher telling a group of Syrian refugees that proclaim to be a follower of Jesus that they are sons of Abraham right along with a group of Congolese Africans. Picture the strange looks that preacher would get. Paul here is writing a letter not speaking to them in person, and yet while it’s being read the body language of the hearers is telling a thousand stories as they shift, abruptly move, completely change, or harden.

There’s something rather unique here in Paul’s words. Abraham is given a level of importance that he’s rarely allowed to have in Western churches. God the Father made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12. God told him that in you, Abraham, all the nations (people groups) shall be blessed. God told Abraham that because he was giving him a glimpse into the gospel message. This glimpse was small but good enough for Abraham because God knew what he was doing – he was saving gentiles by faith just like he was saving jews by faith!

This is key because of what we read Paul saying in Ephesians 1:4- even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

So God chose Jews and Gentiles in him by faith before the foundation of the world. Then he gave Abraham a glimpse of this gospel reality by telling him that the nations would be blessed in him. The Holy Spirit helped Paul make sense of this as he wrote scripture. What a blessing! To cap this off, Paul says that those who are followers of Jesus are sons of Abraham. Paul definitely seems to be raising the importance of Abraham in the New Testament and it’s nigh time we do the same.

The desire of God to take Jews and Gentiles and form one new man in Christ by faith is something that was planned before the foundation of the world. Then God makes this announcement to the world to and through the covenant he made with Abraham. This is the beauty of transculturalism.


A Believer’s Influence

March 24, 2017
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Ever considered that your presence and union (familial) carries with it a great influence? That believers have an ability to permeate things that are unholy? That the grace that’s given to you can also bless others?

Growing up in my late twenties, I encountered a few verses in Corinthians that really shook me. 1 Corinthians 7 is a chapter that talks much about marriage. A part of marriage involves both man and woman, husband and wife, as well as their children. In this passage Paul is laying out parameters for how the husband and wife are to relate to one another due to their spiritual state.

The spiritual presence of one believer is POWERFUL.

“For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.”

What’s amazing from these two verses is that Paul is saying if the unbeliever wants to stay married, regardless of the temperature and pattern of your marriage, you do not divorce. Why? Because the unbeliever has been ‘sanctified’ simply through a marital union with the believer. The unbeliever is blessed simply for being connected to the believer in the primary family. God has always been big on families, and Paul is showing us that God has not changed one bit.

Then Paul goes on to say that the children who would be unclean if the parents divorced are now in fact holy because of his or her familial connection to a believing parent. Does that not rattle your cage a bit?

The unbelieving spouse and child are now in a different spiritual category. Notice the terms: unbeliever to sanctified and unclean to holy. That’s all due to the believing spouse and parent.

It is hard for me to wrap my mind around it all but I cannot deny what the text is saying. It is clear that families with at least one believing parent are able to bless the entire family unit. The unbelieving spouse is considered sanctified though unsaved. The unbelieving child is considered holy though unsaved.

Indeed, the spiritual presence of one believer is powerful according to Paul’s inspired text.


When Roundtables Don’t Get Results

March 15, 2017
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“Be slow to speak. Quick to listen. Slow to get angry.”

There’s something to be said about maintaining an open posture with both body and mind. To listen on most occasions means there’s a meeting of the minds coming to the table together to hash things out. Both sides come to talk and come with pre-planned responses to their objector. This is considered common.

Now make the topic of this roundtable discussion about inequality, injustices, racism, classism, or theological imperialism and you’ve got an explosive package that could level any playing field.

For a few years now I’ve began a habit of sitting down with folks who normally don’t look like me that also don’t agree with me. In some cases these people are extremely unhappy with me. Cannot understand how I can be a Christian that believes the Bible and yet points to injustices and calls for unified pushes for diversity in big and small ways. Even when I know the talk won’t go anywhere or might become toxic in a matter of minutes. I’m left with the what now question like they are most likely.

Here’s what I’ve discovered – roundtables in most cases don’t get results. I’m normally the one scratching my head trying to figure out if this talk made any impact, changed one life, or will evoke change. Sadly I’m never surprised by the amount of inaction or timidity. Lions in the convo but lames outside the building.

Be slow to anger and slow to conclusion jumping.

Part of me has to fully fall on my sword in order to trust in the Holy Spirit to work on these lives like he did with me. Other part of me has to wake up from the numbness ‘been there done that’ attitude that has been developed over time. There’s movable parts here at play. There’s noticeable but not easily admitted godly sorrow of idolatry going on. There’s unrighteous anger. There’s facts. There’s personal and preferred allegiances cloaked in the flag of the United States verbally decorated as Christianity. So many movable variables present at every roundtable.

And yet nothing seems to happen. Maybe another conversation. Perhaps some texting or social media interplay. Rarely is there action because these topics are so touchy and in your face. So although there’s no results, I vow to honor the commands of James above.


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Free Will Problem Solved

March 15, 2017
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Titles can be so gripping that it attracts different types of people to come forward to read what comes after the title in order to disagree, agree, or simply say “I figured it wasn’t gonna be worth much.” And yet here you are for whatever your reason may be. So allow me to be straight forward with this gripping title.

I believe I have solved the free will problem in this world as it’s found in the Bible. I say this because I’ve studied this subject much and have read the so-called leading minds in this debate. Often the discussion begins with philosophy, weaves in bible doctrine, and ends with a bang. For many years I’ve followed suit, and until recently, I began to question my approach.

Genesis 1 and 2 layout for us two things: what God created and for what purpose. It was that second thing that I tended to overlook. God created the sun and moon and stars to do their created functions. Do you see? God created the plants to grow, be beautiful, develop, and be food. Do you see? God created Adam and Eve to bear his image, have children, take care of the garden they inherited, and obey God. That was their function. Do you see?

Free will means freedom. Freedom to do what you were created to do. Adam and Eve had free will. Once they sinned, they lost their free will. They were no longer living in liberation. They were enslaved. Bearing children only left them enslaved. Cain and Abel actually lived out their lives being enslaved. Do you see?

All of the talk about having free will often goes undefined and detached to what God created the first humans to do. The new creation state of believers is a wrinkle that doesn’t get put into the equation, and that’s a problem too.


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Justification: A New Look

January 2, 2017
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I merely want to introduce an idea I’ve stumbled upon in the last few days that has a great present-day impact on our lives. Ironically, this idea isn’t an old one but hopefully a helpful one.

When Christians think of the doctrine of justification, often the reality of something negative happening is on the forefront of theological minds. What I mean is that justification centers around the fact that God the Father punished God the Son, Jesus, on the cross for the sins of those who would believe to the point that Jesus cries out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me” while experiencing the separation and excruciating pain.

I would like to introduce the something positive happening that has massive implications for the Christian life.

The doctrine of justification also tells of God the Son, Jesus, stepping in the place of those who would believe in order to secure justice for God the Father and redemption for those he stood in for. This is the new look on justification that isn’t highlighted nearly enough. And here’s why – it seems most Protestant churches joyously prefer to take the lowly position of forever being unworthy, unable to please God (though they have faith and the indwelling Spirit), a love for the tradition set before them by their heroes that did not highlight it, and others I’m sure.

Here are the implications of highlighting the positive: standing in the gap for others who need help achieving justice. This is where things get hairy and we’ll deal with this in the next blog, but I will say this: a justified people are also a justice people.


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When Transcultural Becomes Normalized

November 24, 2016
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In the pages of the New Testament we see starting from Acts through the epistles that Paul wrote one simple thing – a church without an identifier. We read of churches in Athens, Antioch, Berea, Corinth, Crete, Ephesus, Galatia, Jerusalem, Rome, Thessalonica and others. Re-read that last sentence please. Those areas were ultra diverse and yet the Spirit of God never inspired the writer of a inspired letter to pin any particular word that would serve as a label to the church. No identifier to tack onto the local churches.

Why?

I submit to you this truth – God cares less about the eye-catching, innovative sounding, and immovable stance than we do.

God sent Jesus to die on the cross for a particular people that would come from every tribe, tongue, language, and nation. Now depending on who you are and the limitations of your verbal comfort, you’ll be okay with the words transcultural or multicultural or multi-ethnic. But I wonder would Jesus hear those terms proudly shouted from pulpits to separate us from other redeemed groups and shake his head in disbelief. Surely he didn’t die and rise so that we’d not be unified. And I really do think these labels tend to further division than they do unity. Let’s go back to first paragraph.

All of those areas had various sized churches meeting with various styled preachers and members and gifts and music and liturgy and tradition. Jesus died for them all and prayed for them all to be one. I happen to believe the same about these 21st century churches – unity through substitution. My hopes are that one day the term transcultural meant to signify what God sent Jesus to do would become normalized. It would actually point to the gospel and not the style of church. That the body would be thought of and not someone’s preference over another’s.

The gospel of God seen in and through Jesus Christ’s actions demands the church understand the height, width, and depth of the particular people he redeemed to be a treasured possession. Oh that this becomes normalized….


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Proverbial Profundity

November 24, 2016
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On this thanksgiving day, I have recollections of past moments with family and close friends. I have the present gathering to look forward to as we eat and enjoy each other’s company. And I have the ongoing Dakota pipeline issue running through my mind that never lets me be at complete ease. All three consume me and led me to this proverb.

“To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice” (21:3).

Thanksgiving tends to consist of our menu desires to usually make it past the chopping block. Television has been so kind as to not present scheduling conflicts that force us to choose between football games. The dessert platter is arrayed with so many options it’s hard to be picky. And usually there’s space for movies, games, small talk, and napping to be had. These are all the things we, humanity, desires. And like I said we usually get what we want.

But what about what the creator of humanity desires? Does his list ever get reviewed, passed out to all, discussed, and then done? Or does such a day exclude the created from obeying the creator?

On days like today, we can (and should) list out all the things we’re thankful for as it goes with the tradition. But I beg to insert something that America and Christians in America have never made a tradition – go do righteousness and go do justice more than you go do sacrifice.

Sacrifice isn’t easy. Please don’t hear me say that is. We always all the time want things to go our way on our timing. So to give a little or not push so hard for your way is a form of sacrifice. But the Lord desires righteousness and justice more than that. Can you fathom what that could mean? Quite possibly it could mean being aware audibly and being visibly and mentally available to hear of needs and go meet them. Those needs can require both the righteousness of God and the justice of the law.

Far too hard to pin down one exact thing we could do. That’s why this proverb is profound. It’s calling for servants of God to go serve in the areas of righteousness and justice for all. I hope this is something we can learn to be thankful for as we take every opportunity to go do it.


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One Issue Voting and Christianity

November 14, 2016
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At one time in my life, I was the one issue voter. I sat under preaching that advocated that approach to the political voting season. I listened to particular preachers that suggested the Christian thing to do was to vote on one issue and only one.

Growing up in the bible belt it’s considered the single most important thing to do. Vote one issue in favor of the Republican platform. Abortion, as I was told, is and will always be the single most influential issue to believers. But then the tide began to shift both in our culture and in my life.

The New Testament gospels tell a story of Jesus caring about all different types of people. And though there was no voting system or infrastructure in Jerusalem, Jesus gravitated towards political zealots and political hustlers, namely Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector. Not only did he spend time with them, he called them to be his early disciples who would later become his apostles. Marinate on that.

Jesus never landed on or pushed or preached just one issue. I’m sure the pushback would be that Jesus only talked about repentance, but that would be wrong. He talked about the kingdom of God and heaven, money, hell, righteousness, and the mission of God. This is critical because followers of Christ shouldn’t go around pushing just one issue.

So where are we left? I’m glad you asked. That question is best answered by this popular verse in the book of Philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Here’s how Christians are commanded to live and act every day, every year, every 2 years, and every 4 years. Consider others more important than yourself! With your prayers, time, patience, love, giving, money, food, and votes.

Be encouraged fam.


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