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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.

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Costly Courage: The What

September 3, 2017
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Here’s what I came to know: to believe and champion the gospel of reconciliation requires a costly courage = call to conviction + show compassion + corporate confession.

Reconciliation is a relentless work. It requires lots of reading, studying, praying, listening, and meditation. A posture of humility comes with the package. What’s not mentioned in this work is the subtle onslaught of arrogance and one’s inability to consider the interests of others.

Yet there is a mandatory call to conviction. This call comes with a great sense of freedom and fear. Sometimes the two are intertwined. How so? Freedom can often feel like a fear of collateral damage. It’s one of the main things that scare folks in Christian circles. Just consider the history of the Western church. However, freedom is also a grace thing where believers can obey 2 Timothy 3:16. Fear springs out of the unknown part of obeying that verse.

Ever since Genesis 12, God has made it known that Abraham’s family was gonna bless all the other families and all the nations. So because God called a pagan from Ur to be a leader, the plan of reconciliation was made known to Abraham and the world as Paul wrote that “the gospel was preached beforehand to Abraham” in Galatians 3. What’s ironic is that everyone loves the story of Abraham and how he was promised offspring, land, and to be a blessing, but few realize that God gave Abraham a call to conviction through his covenant.

This same call to conviction is reiterated to Isaac and Jacob, in the Mosaic covenant, and in the Great Commission passages from Matthew 28 and Acts 1 and 15. Somewhere between the isle of Patmos and the reformation running throughout Europe, the plan of reconciliation got sidelined and altogether forgotten in lieu of doctrinal fidelity and tradition. But who’s going to issue a reformation of reconciliation? I submit it began with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, although it was clearly not done in the ‘right’ way with the ‘right’ language as shown by the lack of involvement by Western evangelical leaders.

Reconciliation is an historical call to conviction dating all the way back to Abraham. While George Whitefield turned reconciliation into a one-way path followed closely by Charles Finney’s long lasting stamp, the ministry of reconciliation we’ve been given has for the longest time been ultra-individualized that one’s familial family has hijacked their devotion to the body of Christ.

Does anyone have the courage to call others to a multi-directional reconciliation plan of the gospel that God set in motion?


Newmanity and Gospel Balance

September 3, 2016
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In the Orthodox tradition, the gospel that’s been proclaimed consist of a personal salvation and reconciliation with God. This personal relationship language has hovered over the waters of Western Christianity for 2 centuries at least. Some could argue longer and I just might agree. The logic goes like this – sinners can have a personal relationship with God because Jesus died for your sins.

It sounds great and fair and honest and biblical. But that really depends on who you’re reading and listening to. Nowadays in the orthodox protestant lineage, the starting point seems to be Martin Luther and his 95 theses. Usually that’s an okay starting point depending on the subject. But what has gone unnoticed from the traditional gospel message is the lone ranger problem in the church that either resides inside the community on Sundays or inside their homes.

Paul gives a great description of the gospel he preached in 1 Corinthians 15. But that’s not the only place he describes the gospel he was faithful to give. He tells the other side in Galatians 2, Ephesians 2:1-22, and Ephesians 3:6. These passages help to give us a gospel balance. Atonement and reconciliation make up the gospel message. Yes the Son of God died for the sins of the world and yes the Son of Man reconciled the creatures and earth to God.

This is a big change from those who call for us to always go back to the Protestant Reformation where supposedly everything that was wrong was made right. Not so. Sorry reformation friends. Many things were wrong then and remained wrong after the movement swept through Europe. In my humble estimation the biggest wrong that remained was the fact that reconciliation happened vertically and horizontally due the substitutionary atonement.

Why is this a big deal now? As long as folks are getting saved by this traditional message, why try to fix what doesn’t appear to be broken? To that I say this, sinners who became saints at an honest confession and repentance have failed to live out the biblical reality the Bible speaks to about their entire lives. I truly believe that this imbalanced gospel has led to churches dividing over age, ethnicity, and culture. But knowing that we’re all reconciled to each other makes us see other believers as insiders of the same family instead of disconnected members of some other family of God solely because they attend a different church.

It’s time for the newmanity gospel folks to act like Jesus atoned and reconciled more than just us and our preferences.


Thanksgiving Thoughts Pt 1

November 26, 2015
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Why honesty must accompany thanksgiving.


A Good Salt Rub

January 1, 2014
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There’s this understanding of holiness that’s ever-present in Protestantism that is very one-sided. Be holy and avoid immorality at all costs. That seems to be the battle cry of the church. But you can’t do battle in a bubble, can you?

The bubble I speak of is the one where Christians strive hard after being like Christ just as long as we get to avoid any uncomfortable, dark, wicked, sinfully displayed environment where our holiness is tested. In other words, we don’t like getting rubbed the wrong way. We’ll do all we can to avoid it. So when Jesus told his followers, and preachers tell believers now, that you are the salt of the earth and light of the world, perhaps we need to re-evaluate exactly why the earth needs salt and the world needs light.

Jesus, in John’s gospel, describes the world in general and the ones whom hate God and Jesus as darkness. In fact, anyone who hates biblical truth lives in darkness. Indeed there are some who vacation in darkness to get a break from doing the right thing, but they too are only fooling themselves. This is the very world and people we encounter at family functions, our daily jobs, our churches, our hangouts, our stores, our gas stations…basically this darkness is everywhere. So in reality we only have two options: ignore the darkness and find ways to suffer through the darkness, or invade that darkness with your salty light. This earth needs to be changed and transformed to make much of God’s glory, but that can’t happen if God’s people aren’t faithful to give it a good salt rub while walking around in it as lights of reconciliation and hope.

Imagine this – you were called by God in sanctification to be consecrated to him and walk out the good works he prepared for you, and one of the good works is being salt and light. So as Jesus ascended having given his followers a mandate to make disciples and transform this world through his power and presence, he did so harkening back to our salt and light effectiveness that we were gifted with at the moment of our salvation.

So as this new year dawns upon us, I pray that we, the church, wrap our minds around the fact that we’re consecrated to God (holy), are called salt and light (by no basis of our own), placed into this realm of darkness to be lights of reconciliation and hope (gospel), and that this world needs a good salt rub.


Watch Out For Da Hook

October 15, 2013
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Times are a-changing. What was once factual is no longer so. What was once something we could count on is no longer the case. Foundations are shaking and founding documents (and arguments) are being replaced with today’s wisdom. Everything is up for grabs, people. Depending on your age, what you learned in grade school and up could possibly be considered wrong, old, and out-of-date.

This change is what our world has been asking for quite some time now. And now here comes that inevitable hook for the Church! I refer to it as the postmodern pressure hook punch. Truth is now becoming whatever you make it. We get to decide what’s true, or when it needs to be changed to fit the temperature of the culture. The culture changes all the time and the always evolving position changes month to month. Frankly it’s hard to keep up. One month the need to help the disenfranchised is front and center; next it’s the immigration issue; then it’s gay marriage.

All of these issues are presented in the media and social media as things the Church doesn’t have an answer to. And sometimes we prove them right. We’re answering questions truthfully without love. We’re answering questions with the hypocritical judgement we’re called to be concerned about before giving a response. We’re answering questions with rules and to-do lists instead of offering the grace of God through Jesus in the gospel.

Do you see it coming? Here comes da hook. We, the church, deserve this gut busting blow. We’ve got to put an end to these knee-jerk attitudes and answers. It’s nigh time we embody what Peter was getting at when he called us to “in [our] hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

Christ calls us to check our behavior through a filter that is grace found in the gospel. Until we get that, and share it with the brethren, watch out for da hook!


God, Gays, Gospel

October 1, 2013
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This is a subject that has been covered backwards and forwards by all sorts of smarter deep thinkers than I am. However, I do feel the need to throw my 2 cents into the overran pile.

So what’s the big deal with how God feels about gays, and feels about the treatment God’s people give to gays, and how the gospel factors into all of this?

In an effort to be short and sweet, allow me to be frank.

Gays are boastful. Gays are proud. Gays like to push the limits of their ability to flaunt their lifestyle in your face while daring you to judge or discriminate. Gays hold to the double standard. I know some gays are extremely personable and easy to get along with on a regular basis. Bottom line is gays are unashamed of their lifestyle and expect God and God’s people to be accepting of it. But God is the creator of the living and the dead, and Psalm 5:5 clearly says God hates all evildoers. Therefore, God hates gays.

The aforementioned paragraph applies to lots of groups, not just gays. You could swap out the word unrepentant, pedophiles, hypocrites, etc. God hates all evildoers.

God’s people are followers of God. They are hearers and doers of God and his Word. With that being said, they are to maintain that God hates evildoers and sin without a wince. They are also to maintain the beauty of the gospel in conjunction with telling gays where they stand with God. The gospel is the good news brought to dark, wicked places where dark, wicked people live. That’s Romans 1:16.

The gospel tells gays that how they are living isn’t consistent with what God planned for them, nor will it be tolerated forever. The gospel tells gays that at this moment the wrath of God lies on them, but there has been a substitute given by this same God to embody all the punishment of sins for those who put their repentant faith in Jesus.

The gospel should humble God’s people as they are having conversations with gays, bottom line. The gospel is about what God did for the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus, which ultimately means humility and grace ought to shower the voice and demeanor of God’s people.

So to wrap this up – gays are boastful and expecting something God will never grant them; God hates all evildoers which includes gays; God’s people ought to be graceful with gays while maintaining the character of God hating them and extending the call to believe the gospel to them.


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The Sermon On The Mount Is Gospel

August 4, 2013
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Wonder what you’ve ever heard about the sermon on the mount? I’m sure the array of answers stem from Jesus explaining the law to some good and needed things the first century Jews needed to hear, and everything in between. And I’d affirm those responses with a hearty Amen because that could help describe Matthew 5-7.

But there’s a better way.

The text is our best identifier to understanding what’s being said and how the divine text defines it. In Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew bookends chapters 5-9 with the same phrase: “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” This phrase is found in 4:23 and 9:35! Why should this excite you? Because the text helps you understand what it’s saying with its own divine outline.

Matthew is laying out for us the two things Jesus is doing within chapters 5-9: teaching the gospel and healing the people. And if you turn to chapter 8, you see Jesus beginning his healing ministry starting with the leper being cleansed (which has OT implications by the way). Therefore, chapters 5-7 pertain to Jesus teaching the gospel. Matthew 4:23 is the first time the word “gospel” is used which means Matthew defines the gospel as the sermon on the mount. Are you following me? Your definition of the gospel may be clean and nicely polished, which is fine, but ask yourself this, would the sermon on the mount be able to fit into your definition?

Oh by the way, the sermon on the mount is all about Jesus defining the terms of his kingdom reign and who gets in.

May we be willing to reshape our understanding and definition of common church terms by the way those terms are used by the biblical writers.


What The Church Can Take Away From State vs Zimmerman

July 17, 2013
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July 13th is a day that race relations stock plummeted. Why? Because a court case released their verdict on a Saturday night that set social media ablaze. Everybody had something to say, both in favor of the court’s ruling and in opposition. But here is what I believe the Church can extrapolate from the case.

Why Do We Buy What Media Sells?

The media outlets sold America a bridge in Idaho, and the majority of its viewers bought it. It took so well that no one would even dare to think up a return policy. Here stood this (more…)


Kingdom Caveat

June 3, 2013
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Does the kingdom of God ever cross our minds? As believers, do we recognize that we are now in the kingdom and that the final coming of the kingdom has yet to come?

This is more than some trivial mind game or slight recognition. This is monumental because it has everything to do with the gospel.

Because Jesus obeyed the Father, came down to earth, lived a righteous life preaching repentance and judgment to Jews and Gentiles, died on the cross to create one new man uniting both Jews and Gentiles, resurrected 3 days later, fulfilled the Law, taught of the already-not yet kingdom, and ascended to the right hand of the Father leaving believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit, that we need a kingdom mindset.

The kingdom of God was preached by John the Baptist and Jesus, right? Believers were put into this sphere at Calvary, and still are being added today. This is a glorious reality.

We are called out because of the gospel by God, justified because of the gospel by Jesus, being sanctified because of the gospel by the Spirit, so that we can be glorified because of the gospel in the kingdom of God. This should blow your minds!

Let’s be readily mindful of the kingdom we believers find ourselves in as we’re called to be holy, righteous, and blameless. And let us press on looking forward to that coming kingdom where we’re completely sinless spending the rest of our lives with the Savior.

This kingdom caveat can indeed impact the lives in our local churches.


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