Note: See previous post for introduction to this post.
1. Jesus will return...just not for you
This is a lie that has seeped into the church especially traditional, fundamental churches. This lie says that there will be a return, but you haven't done enough, aren't good enough, or are sinful enough that you won't get to enter into the promised land. There have been too many people on their death beds, calling in the preacher to assure them of their salvation, for this not to be a lie we have heard and listen to. The real unfortunate and sad reality of this lie, is that the kind of preaching I heard as a child has contributed to that lie. The Hell, Fire, and Brimstone preaching has left people scared of God. In order to motivate people to repentance we created a generation or generations of people who cannot believe that God will ever accept them. TRUTH: grace is free and gift, not a prize. Follow Jesus and He will return...for you.
2. The return of Jesus isn't all that important
I might get some pushback on this one. I think we all can say with words and as an intellectual idea that the return of Jesus is important. However, we live life between Sundays with little to no thought about His return and without any sense of urgency. When Paul wrote his letters to the churches you get a sense of urgency about Jesus' return. He is really interested in being ready for a return that will happen before he dies. Then in his last letters written, you get the sense that Paul has changed his thinking. He now sees the possibility of dying before Jesus' return. However, he still stays urgent for Jesus' return. I'm not suggesting we go out and rent a billboard and begin predicting Jesus' return. I am suggesting that the life we live is founded on the idea that Jesus will return. We plan our lives all the way to the end many times. We plan with an automatic thought that we will die before Jesus' return. I wonder how it would change how we live if we lived as if Jesus was returning any moment. Would we serve those in need with abandon? Would we save less and give more? Would we savor moments longer? Would we spend more time in community? Would we speak of Him more?
3. What we do now has nothing to do with the end
Just reading that sentence it almost sounds like we can bring about the end or stave it off. That is not what I'm suggesting. The end is coming when God decides it's time. However, we have lived life with the idea that what we should do with our time now is simply stay on track so that we won't jeopardize our place in heaven. We may also find that we have been taught that our sole job, here and now is to teach others about Jesus. We become serial teachers who have no relationship with those who come to faith. I think that teaching is part of what we do. If I didn't I wouldn't have much appreciation for my craft and I would be reading my Bible sideways. I would challenge you to read the gospels with one purpose in mind. Read the gospels and mark out what Jesus DOES while here on Earth. It is pretty remarkable what Jesus does during his 3 years of ministry. Much of what he does is teaching. As you look at his interactions between teaching moments you find someone who is with His father, the people, and mostly with the people who everyone else think are the least and worst of society. Jesus was hanging out with tax collectors, prostitutes, cheaters, the angry, those that oppressed others, drunks, demon-possessed, and those that could never give anything back. So when we look at what Jesus did, he didn't jump in a faith bunker and shy away from the world until his return to heaven. We need to get out of faith bunkers, our overwhelming ideology that "bad company corrupts good morals." We need to get out into the world and embrace them and then just like Jesus give them a new story to live. A story of restoration, life, and abundance of God. A full life. Telling that story leads people to Jesus and helps us understand the cosmic battle Jesus is in and why His return is a divine experience for us and Him.
Lies have developed in our faith and we can even justify them through scripture. remember Satan did this too when he tempted Jesus. We must seek out truth! Jesus' return isn't about us going to heaven. Jesus' return is about the finality of the cosmic battle of evil and good and the final defeat of Satan. It is about our eternal rescue. It is about the relationship of the divine and humanity becoming one, marriage of the two. It is about the restoration of all things. Listen to the truth. Look for the truth in scripture. And anticipate greatly Jesus' return!
Note: For the last six weeks I have been preaching a series titled, "Star Wars." You can listen to them here. In this series we have talked about Sin, Satan, demons, Hope, grace, salvation, and Jesus' return. This Sunday is the last of the series and is on the Holy Spirit.
As a young child in church I heard little about grace and much about Hell, sin, and the dangers of Hell. As I entered into High School it seemed that the message began to turn and the ideas of grace, mercy, and love began to take off. However, I could not get over the idea that I must be good on this Earth so that I can enter Heaven. Heaven was always the goal and this world is not my home. Living on Earth has no real benefit and is basically just a testing period. If while I'm here I learn enough, don't cross the wrong lines, and have near perfect attendance at church then I can leave this forsaken place and get to heaven once I die. As an adult I realize quickly that there must be more to this world than just a place of testing and maybe even torture. I realize that grace is a gift, not a prize. I realize that Heaven will be a restoration of this Earth I'm on now. I realize that while Heaven waits for me, that earning my spot there is not my soul (pun intended) purpose of my existence on Earth. And yet, my inner, pew-sitting child fights all of these realizations and calls me to focus on my behavior and attendance, or even worse others' behavior and attendance.
When I read scripture I can see that God,Jesus, Spirit are all about truth. Satan, his demons, and those enticed by his evil are about lies. When you read the whole of scripture you are given a picture of a God who cares for other people, especially those who are in the most need. Scripture cries out for us to focus on this Earth and its creation just as much, if not more, than Heaven. I have found that completely fixated on the end allows for me to care less about the now. Fixating on the now allows for me to lose sight of the end. The now and the not yet must be in relationship.
When I preached on Jesus' return this past Sunday I spoke from studying the idea of the end, the now, and from my viewpoint given through scripture that these are both important. In the end I think there are lies that Satan is telling us about the end. Crazy enough, I don't believe Satan tells us that Jesus won't return. Maybe he tells that lie to those who don't believe in Jesus, but for those of us who believe and follow Christ that is not the lie he shares. He knows we won't give into that lie. Here are three lies (not an exhaustive list) that Satan tells about Jesus' return.
1. Jesus will return...just not for you
2. The return of Jesus isn't all that important
3. What we do now has nothing to do with the end.
Note: In my next post I unpack those three statements.
Every year since my twin boys began Kindergarten Leah and I have written a blessing for them and their school year. This past Monday they began 3rd grade. Sunday night we huddled in their room before bed and said these words of blessing over each of them as we laid on hands. There is something special about saying words of blessing from God over your children and giving them a vision for their school year.
Here are our words of blessing:
Dylan we are so proud of you and all that are as a young man. God is using you to His glory at home, at church, and will do the same at school. We hope for you to have an awesome school year full of fun, learning, and friends. We know that there will be ups and down during the year. Remember God at all times and pray to him every night. Remember that we are here for you and want to love and guide you. Our blessing for you this year is focused on three words; Strength, Mercy, and Unity. May the Lord God Almighty give you strength. Strength to face anything that comes your way and a strength to use in order to help those who are weak. May God grant you Mercy. May He give you mercy when you make mistakes and may you also extend mercy to others in His name. May the Lord bless you with unity. May you always feel connected to Him and do your best to bring others together and united to God. We long to see how your blessing is lived this year.
Brody we are so proud of you and all that are as a young man. God is using you to His glory at home, at church, and will do the same at school. We hope for you to have an awesome school year full of fun, learning, and friends. We know that there will be ups and down during the year. Remember God at all times and pray to him every night. Remember that we are here for you and want to love and guide you. Our blessing for you this year is focused on three words; Compassion, Laughter, and Justice. May God the Father give bless you with His compassion. May you look for others who need encouragement and love and may you find God’s compassion for your heart while on the journey. May God give you Laughter. May you find many times throughout each day to laugh and may you bless others around you with laughter as well. May The Father bless you with Justice. God will always look out for what is best for you and may you look to others the same. May you stand up for what is right and see God’s divine justice in your own life. We long to see how your blessing is lived this year.
Often I will ask the boys if they were able to live their blessing that day or week. I can't wait to hear how they live this blessing this school year.
In my current series I have been talking about the spiritual warfare aspect of our lives. As I prepared my sermon on Satan I quickly began compiling tons of facts and scriptures where Satan is mentioned and what it describes about his character.
Before I knew it I had more content to pour through and try to preach than I had time. As I was pouring through it all trying to edit and decide what should go (I didn't want to toss any of it), a certain phrase hit me hard. It's a phrase my professor at ACU shared with me, "If the devil can't make you bad, he'll make you busy." I wasn't really worried about being busy preparing this sermon, but when that phrase hit me, I began to realize that Satan could make my sermon about him so "busy" that anything of great merit would be missed.
I stopped with that phrase resonating in my head and prayed. Two texts came to the top of the surface that did a great job of describing Satan and his work without glorifying him. So I decided to toss everything else and preach those two texts.
I knew that being busy in life can lead you away from God, but never thought that my sermons could be made so "busy" that they lead away from the point that needs to be made.
God speaks just as loud in a whisper as He does in a shout! Simple is not a lack of preparedness, but actually a much more prepared, edited, streamlined message.
Next time you sit down for coffee with your friend start the conversation this way, "Have you noticed any demons today?" Have your camera ready to take their picture.
We don't talk about demons, demon activity, sources of evil, spiritual warfare, or Satan that much. And yet, when you do people always have a story.
My friend Richard Beck writes a great book, Reviving Old Scratch. He says really powerful things in that book and here are some of my takeaways:
1. We need to really consider this subject
2. Be careful of the extremes: Everything is demonic or Nothing is demonic and explainable
3. His words on the Scooby-Dooification of spiritual warfare is worth the price of the book
4. Two paths converge
That last takeaway is where I landed on the sermon I preached this past Sunday when talking about demon and demonic activity. There are two paths to this spiritual warfare thing: 1. physical, tangible, explainable path: where we look at social injustice, inquities, and transgressions. 2 Cosmic, unexplainable path: where we find demons entering people, taking us on in our dreams, demons vs angels, Satan vs Spirit, and Satan vs Jesus.
What I said in my sermon was while these are separate paths of spiritual warfare they do converge and "run into" one another. In other words we have gross social injustices in our world because there is a live being, Satan, that is wreaking havoc in our world and the cosmic world. And yet, there is also a God who brings peace and doesn't just win battles, but gave his son to win a Cosmic war against all evil activity.
This past Sunday I preached a sermon I didn't think I would ever preach. A sermon on Sin. I would much rather preach a word about grace. Grace has no joy without its total claim over the thing it erases...sin. The sermon is part of a new series I began that same day called "Star Wars." The idea of the series is to talk about the things on and beyond this Earth, seen and unseen to get a fuller picture of God's divine work in our lives. This past Sunday's sermon was called Episode I and deals with the menace that sin can be for us in our lives. You can listen to the full sermon here: Episode I .
In the course of the sermon I share a working definition of sin for our series. I poured over that definition last week and it was seriously burdensome and wrought with careful thought. Here is the definition I shared:
"Sin is a defiant rebellion tied to Satan’s work of evil in the world that distances and divides us from God most Holy. Sin stirs creation to act against its creator, God, causing suffering in the world and constant disruption of the ongoing divine battle. Sin is acting its wrathful outcomes on the guilty and the innocent, the just and the unjust. Sin respects no person, no being, none of creation; it invades individuals and whole communities; as its ultimate desire is to wreak unexplainable havoc upon an impenetrable Kingdom."
Those few sentences took hours upon hours to write. I know its not a perfect definition. It's a working definition. I wanted to tie into the definition the idea that sin is involved in a battle of cosmic proportions. Before I preached the sermon I shared the definition with a friend of mine and what caught his attention was, "...it invades individuals and whole communities..."
That drew his attention before the events of Dallas and my response to him was how there are so many instances in scripture where the community at large gives in to their sin. Just to name a few: The story of the flood, the Israelites worship of the golden calf, the tower of Babel, Elijah and prophets of BAAL, the Pharisees, the insurrection against Jesus, the stoning of Stephen, and the riots of Acts.
There is much to explore on the subject of sin. While I'm convicted that one should not glorify evil or Satan's work, I also am convicted that the world, especially Christians, could benefit from not jumping directly to forgiveness and grace without reflecting on what exactly it is that they need forgiveness and grace from in their life.
Jesus holds up either way, the difference becomes in the richness of our lives as we live for Him!
As I was typing my previous post, this song was playing on my pandora station. Coincidence? Spirit?
It started as a nagging whisper and ended up flooding my head where its all I could hear. In most circumstances I am a confident person. But there are moments and seasons where I allow a strange, yet familiar voice speak a word that breaks my spirit and engulfs my soul with self-doubt. It's funny that this occurs enough for me to realize what it is, but not enough for me to ward it off.
It is the voice of Satan. He whispers in my ear all of the lies that plant seeds of doubt and confusion. I listen to the first whisper, "That was a really dumb thing to say." Then the next, "Other preachers say that a lot better." Then it just seems to continue, "What is wrong with you? Are you sure you are suppose to do this? Why doesn't your church like you?!" The whisper grows into a scream that I simply cannot shake.
Typically, even though it takes me a while, I realize this for what it is...lies from the evil one! Many of those time the realization comes from Leah speaking directly to me the truth from God. When I hear the truth, I battle again for the ground I lost to the evil one. I remind him he has no presence in me because I belong to God! God has paid the price!
I wasn't put on this earth to be the best preacher ever made. I wasn't put here to fix all of the problems of the people or organization either. Simply, I am here to glorify God by using the gifts He has given me to bring his message to the world. I'm reminded of 2 Corinthians 4:7 "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."
There are good things happening all around me. God is the author of these things. I think we all need this reminder.
The truth is that there are terrible things in the world and sometimes we are not who we should be or do what we should. However, we must remember that God works through us...weakness and all.
God is working through you too! Choose to believe that His power is working even through your weakness and if you hear the whispers of the evil one, find a truth-teller who will speak the Spirit back into your life.
Well, physically I'm 39 and that was back in February. But today is my 30 year old spiritual rebirthday. I have been walking with Christ my entire life. I was born on a Friday and at church on Sunday. I patted the Bible as a baby, terrorized the nursery as a toddler, was a "pew packer" and "Bible Hour" attender in elementary grades, I hardly missed a youth group devo or camp, preached my first sermon at 12, lead singing at my church in High school, and then chose to give my career life to ministry as I entered college.
On June 11, 1986 I made a significant decision. I decided that I wanted to continue my spiritual walk by making a lasting commitment through baptism. In my tradition we follow a "believers baptism" and immerse the entire body in a body of water. Typically we must be able to intellectually and verbally adhere to the fact that Jesus is the son of God and that we believe that his sacrifice on the cross and resurrection was real. Then we are baptized into that death, burial, and resurrection for the remission of our sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
It is amazing that after following the Christian path from infancy that you can understand all of those things at 9 years of age and some would say that maybe you can't. That 9 may be too young. However, I'm not sure we ever fully understand all of those things. I'm not sure I understand to the fullest at 39 years of age. I know that I understand more today than I did that day and actually my prayer is that I understand and faithfully follow Jesus more each day. I know that I understood more than some others who had lived different lives and less than some others for the same reason.
Here is what I knew. I was intoxicated with this Jesus thing and didn't want to ever be away from Him and His promises. I had sin in my life, although what was "big sin" to me then seems less like sin at all to me now. I believed in Christ and had for a long time already. Belief in the reality of a divine savior made into man, left to us in Spirit never was difficult for me. (Now I understand that there aren't modes of God, but rather a full presence of all three of these things at the same time. I cannot explain it, yet I believe it.) I wanted to be sin free and knew that Jesus was the path for grace. And one of the more harsher realities of life was that I had seen sin break into my family and tear it apart. I had seen disease come over my brother's body and almost kill him. I had seen my mom rise like a phoenix out of the ashes of her own brokenness. And I had seen the body of Christ surround my family even though we had no power, no wealth, and now no voice.
Baptism made sense to dedicate my life to God because I had seen the glory of God through the church, through redemption, and through divine provision. Jesus saves us from our sin, but in our baptism we acknowledge His divine power in us through His Holy Spirit. We become connected with a spiritual hardwire to one another. Sin will encroach our lives post-baptism, but we become a grace-filled being where it is as if God has given us a teflon coating where sin can no longer stick.
But more than sinlessness and grace and even gifting of the Holy Spirit, baptism allows us the opportunity to deepen our relationship with God. When we believe in Jesus and call on his name and become immersed in the waters of baptism we buy into the reality that Jesus through the cross and God through Jesus' resurrection has once and for all defeated not only our physical dominion of the world's brokenness, but has crushed underfoot the spiritual dominion that Satan and his demons wield over humanity. Satan has been defeated by God, Jesus, Spirit on the earth and in the divine spaces we cannot see.
Baptism should be chosen. Not manipulated. Not pressured. Not chosen for you. Baptism should be chosen, not because God cannot work through other means, but because when we choose our baptism we are given a deeper faith and understanding that God rules this world and beyond. When we choose God and He wins, well...we win too!
I like to explore different things about theology and the life of the church. You might also find things here about me and my family.
God Is... -God is... is a book that takes a look at Genesis and portrays six true images of God. There are many ways we think about God that are unhealthy and even destructive. These six images help turn our attention to who God really is and how we might follow him more closely. Click the Lulu button below to download your copy!