Sunday, May 10, 2015

New Beginnings, New Horizons

Of all the blogs that I've begun, this one has remained most dear to me, even though it's been long neglected. But today, I believe the time has come to resurrect it. In fact, I think today is the beginning of resurrection for me.

Earlier this morning, I had a moment with Jesus where I came to myself. I decided to return to my Father; and so, the journey home has begun. It began with a small flicker of light but now has become as bright as noon day. And in this brightness, I see the gift of opportunity that God has laid before me. And I choose to follow.

I'm coming home.

Thanks be to God!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Matthew 4:23-25 What Is The Gospel?


Most of my Christian life, I've been taught that the gospel, the good news from God to us, is that our sins are forgiven on the basis of what God did through Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. I was taught that it's a free gift and that we can know it and possess it experientially simply by faith. And that's all true - and it certainly is good news to the likes of me, a sinner. However, this scripture passage reveals that that is only a narrow slice of a much bigger pie! And the question that every Christian must face up to is this: Is the gospel that I possess and profess the same gospel that Jesus possessed and professed? So, let's have a look.

What was the specific message of Christ's gospel? The Kingdom of God. When we hear the word "kingdom", we usually picture something like Camelot with castles sitting atop green hills with spires rising high into the sky and banners unfurled, waving in the wind. But the word here for kingdom means the rule and realm of a king that is being advanced and enforced. The idea behind is less about a physical realm and more about the King being the king, enforcing His authority and kingship over every circumstance within His kingdom, His realm. This is the specific message of Jesus: God is King over all and is now enforcing His kingship against all false kings and rulers, natural and supernatural.

What did the gospel "lived out" look like in the life of Jesus? Healing. Now, in Scripture, healing applies to physical, emotional, and mental sickness. But it also covers deliverance from habits, hurts and hang-ups; wounds from the past and even demonic oppression and harassment. John Wimber used to say that Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God AND demonstrated the kingdom of God. It's my belief that we are called to the very same. Our lives as followers of Christ should display God's healing in our own lives AND cause us to be instruments of God's healing in the lives of others.

In closing, one of my spiritual fathers, Major W. Ian Thomas used to say, "The Christian life is simply this: the life He lived then lived by Him now in and through us." Therefore, the gospel He proclaimed and demonstrated then will be the same gospel proclaimed and demonstrated now by Him in and through us. And wherever the King is, there also is the kingdom, so that we can boldly say, in any and every circumstance and situation, "The Kingdom of God is here! Now!"

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Book Review: "Love & War" by John and Stasi Eldredge

This is, by far, the best book I've ever read on Christian marriage. John and Stasi Eldredge both have an incredible gift for writing with such vulnerability and transparency that it's like listening to life-long trusted friends sharing their hearts with you at your dinner table. The book is refreshing and practical, but more importantly, the wisdom on its pages doesn't flow from the latest statistics, recent surveys, or psychological journals. Instead, it flows from the personal journals and stories from the raw experience of learning how to love on the front lines. It's wisdom flows from the heart of God Himself, the Creator of marriage, spoken to both of them over their 25 years together. 


I usually don't like to use a highlighter in books. But with this one, I could not help myself. Even now, as I peruse the pages again, I see portions of bright yellow on nearly every page and I can not help but read it again. And as I do, I'm refreshed again...and again.


My wife and I have been married for nearly twelve years. We have a good marriage. But as I read this book, I realized that we can have a great marriage. And that's the other great thing about this book: it nurtures and inspires hope. I have come away from this book with a renewed belief that a good marriage isn't God's best; a great marriage is. But with that renewed belief, I have also been given insights from the heart of God - not principles to apply - that breathe life and courage (an important virtue in marriage) into my own heart.
And I will read this book again...soon.


It's easy to settle for being "comfortably numb" in any relationship, but it can not be permitted in Christian marriage. John and Stasi, as always, faithfully remind us that we are part of a bigger story and that our marriage, the success of our marriage, is instrumental in winning the war within the story. A vibrant, healthy Christian marriage advances the Kingdom of Heaven in the earth as much as (if not more than) casting out demons and moving in spiritual gifts. As God spoke to me one time, "What good is being able to cast out a demon if you act like one at home?" We are part of a great and epic story. And without a healthy marriage, we will break ranks and become spiritual POWs or casualties of the war.


I highly recommend this book to any Christian couples, thriving or surviving. You don't need someone to tell you what you need to do, what principles to apply, or where you screwed up. You need someone to come alongside you and to encourage you with wisdom from God, hope from His heart, and the promise of healing and resurrection. You need this book, because John and Stasi do just that. It's what they do best, I think.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

On Being Radical...Really.

"Nothing perpetuates ignorance worse than unenlightened enthusiasm," said Major Ian Thomas, one of my major influences in the Christian life. When Christians (or anyone, really) run around talking about things they have no real understanding of, this creates misunderstandings of the truth and perpetuates ignorance, the lack of real knowledge. 


C.S. Lewis, another major influence, warned about the dangers of words that are misused, meaning words applied in a way that isn't in agreement with their true definition. Thus, the misuse of the word alters the definition in the public mind. An example of this would be the word, "gay", which once meant light-hearted, carefree, cheerful, happy. But, due to misuse and misapplication, the primary definition has changed in public understanding to mean "homosexual". Whereas the word at one time meant only one idea, now it has been truncated from its original definition and is rarely ever (and maybe, can never be) used in that way. "Gay", in its original sense, has been lost, by and large. 


Lewis foresaw the dangers of misusing words and warned that once we begin to use words outside of their true definition, the result would be confusion and a communication breakdown, creating multiple definitions which could be used to fit one's own tastes or group agenda. In other words, there would be no absolute definitions; words would mean what one wanted them to mean. As a result, truth and understanding would become relative and muddied with no clear meaning at all.


I believe this has happened with the word "radical". Most Christians, upon hearing the word, think of ideas like extreme, "on fire", extraordinary, unfettered, maybe even "revolutionary". But the original meaning of the word means something completely different from all of these. Radical means "rooted". It's where we get the word "radish" from. So, to be radical means to be "rooted". Not quite as glorious and exciting as "extreme" or "on fire", is it? But the true meaning of the word teaches us some important truths about living a vital and real Christian life, truths that we need to seriously consider.


Radical means "rooted; i.e., to be like a root". A root is buried in its source of life. "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him..." (Col. 2:7). If a root is ever pulled up from the life-source, it dries up - and so does everything that depends upon it.


Another characteristic of a root is that it's stationary. A root doesn't "unplug" itself and go somewhere when it wants. A root is "put" - it's where it's at because someone (really, Someone) wanted it there. Roots that get uprooted too often usually do not thrive. Roots are satisfied with where they stay put. 


That being said, the sign of a good, healthy root is that it will produce life and ultimately fruit wherever it's planted. A healthy root will "bloom where it's planted". One of its secrets is this: when things get tough, they don't uproot themselves and go somewhere else. They quietly go deeper into their source of life. When it's dry up top, they reach even deeper; they become even more "rooted" in their surroundings.


A radical Christian is a "rooted" Christian. This doesn't mean they won't be sent out from time to time. But that's the key: roots never move themselves; the gardener moves them - or they won't move at all. 


Now that we know what the word "radical" really means and implies...


Be radical!













Saturday, April 24, 2010

Civil War?

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:1-3, italics mine).

In reading these verses before, I've never noticed, until this morning, that St. Paul is addressing two different aspects of our humanity.  He addresses two distinct parts of our inner selves; two parts that, to some degree, govern and influence our ability to have meaningful relationships with God and with others. I'm speaking of the heart and the mind.

Aren't these really one and the same thing, just being described with different words? I don't think so. Paul makes the distinction elsewhere, like in Romans 7. He mentions therein that he delights in God's will (v. 22), that he desires to do what is good (v. 18); both are workings of the heart. But he also speaks of the law of sin at work in his members, waging war against his mind (vs. 23, 25). If both are speaking of one and the same thing, then why did Paul use two different words so closely together?  I believe the two are different parts, but both are intimately and closely related to the proper function of the other. And to our ability to love and relate to others.

The heart and the mind must be united on their goal or destination. My heart may sincerely desire to be a better husband, but if my mind is not set in agreement with the heart and is allowed to lust or fantasize about other women, then I am experiencing an internal civil war. My heart may want to help the poor, but my mind may only think on why I should not. Scripture calls this state "double-minded" and says that a person living in this state is "unstable in all he does" (James 1:7). 

I believe that the heart and the mind should be in harmony and in union with one another, if we are to love properly. And I further believe that the mind should be brought into subjection to the heart.  I do not believe that our minds should be ignored; they should be listened to thoroughly. But, in the end, the heart should be followed and the mind engaged. This is called "integrated"; from the word "integrity". A house divided against itself cannot stand.

Lord, set my heart and my mind on the same object of affection; namely, yourself and your will. Amen.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How To Make Jesus Visible

John 12:24-25


I think it's significant that these words were spoken by Jesus in response to a request to see him. At first glance, it seems that Jesus is ignoring the request and begins to ramble on about grain of wheat and death. But, in reality, he was giving a direct response to the stated request. "If you want to see me - in other words, if you want me to be seen in your life - here's how: die," says Jesus. "Let me bury you - your will, your plans, your ways, your agendas - so that you may truly bear fruit and bring forth new life. Then, I will be seen by others in you."

Amen. Let it be.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Flesh or Spirit?

"What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6).


Recently, I've noticed a growing shift in emphasis among Christians. There is beginning to be a reawakening to the social aspect of Christ's teachings; i.e., caring for the poor, the needy, the homeless, etc.. Personally, this appeals to me and I'm glad to see this taking on renewed importance. Leaders have arisen in the ranks (Shane Claiborne, Tony Campolo) whom I think are doing a good job of living this out and teaching others to do the same. There are others who have come up from the ranks that I'm not real sure of. God is their judge, not I. But, their presence on the scene has reminded me of an important truth, which is this: The nature of an activity does not determine whether it's holy or not; the holiness (or godliness, meaning "god-like-ness") of any activity is determined by the source of the activity. Is it produced and performed by the Holy Spirit through me? Or is it produced and performed by my flesh (my own independent will, abilities, and resources)?


Any activity done in the name of Christ - preaching, caring for the poor, serving, teaching, whatever - that has as its source my own strength and resources. In other words, anything done independently of Christ's own initiative and sustaining power is worthless. Only those actions and deeds that have their origin in Christ and are performed and sustained by Christ's activity in and through me have any eternal value. Therefore, if my Christianity is lived in my strength, my wisdom, my resources, my abilities and my talents, who should get the credit? Myself! But if my Christianity is Christ living His life through me by His power, His abilities, His gifts, His resources, then who gets the credit? Christ Himself! Who, then, is glorified? Christ Himself!


Anything done in the name of Christ, that's done independently from Christ, no matter how "good" it may seem, is merely a monument to myself. Only Jesus can produce and perform anything that's worthy of His name. Only Jesus.


"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever" (Romans 11:36).