Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Discover God: God's Holiness

When we think about God we are trying to comprehend the One who goes beyond comprehension.

God. Infinite, loving and Holy. Perfect in every way.

How do we, imperfect, sinful, beings even begin to relate to the One who is absolutely Holy in every way?

This is a paradox that every Christ follower has to engage, and once you do, you will never be the same. Take for instance the prophet Isaiah. In Isaiah 6:1-4 we read:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

What an awesome sight. Think for a moment about this vision. He SAW THE LORD. Not many Old Testament prophets could boast of a vision like this. The words used to describe the Lord are "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY IS THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY" And here we are again at this word Holy. What does it mean and what does it mean for us? In this image we have descriptions of majesty and heavenly beings covering their faces in the presence of God. They say that the "whole earth is full of his glory" and at the sound of THEIR voices, not God's, the doorposts and thresholds shook. At the very least, a correct view/image of God will lead to praise and proclamation. Yet there is something more we need to look at.

What was Isaiah's response? Did he leap for joy and join the party? Did he pen the greatest Psalm of praise ever written or write a best selling book about how it led him to lead his best life now? No. Here is Isaiah's response in verse 5:

"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."

The first thing that Isaiah was aware of in himself was His own sin. As he was in the presence of God, in the presence of absolute perfection, all Isaiah could do was mourn his own imperfection, and the imperfection of His culture. Which is how it should be. Jesus said in Matthew 5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

As a person discovers God, he/she finds more and more just how Holy, perfect, good and loving God is and then, in the process, sees how imperfect, evil, and hateful he/she really is. What was once acceptable becomes repulsive. What once went unnoticed is suddenly at the forefront, and we mourn. We mourn because we realize we have rebelled, offended, and spat in the face of the God who created us and loves us. We mourn because we realize we were created to bring Glory to God and instead we have brought reproach. We mourn because we know there is nothing we can do to fix ourselves.

Then, something wonderful happens. God intervenes. Look at what happens next in Isaiah. Verses 6-7 say:

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

God ordains/creates a way for our guilt to be taken away. What we can't fix, God fixes for us. And how does he do it? By taking from His own Holiness and giving it to us. Isaiah had his lips (the source of his sin) touched by a coal from the heavenly altar. For us, we find our Holiness through Jesus Christ, who died on the Cross and took away our sin. When we believe in Him, God's Spirit comes to reside within us and we are made alive. God takes away our heart of stone (the source of our sin) and gives us a heart of flesh that will be molded to bring glory to God.

But, this only happens when we first get a true sense of God's holiness. When we sense his perfection, it brings our imperfection to light and reveals our need for a savior. Discover God and discover true Holiness. Discover Holiness and you will find a cross, the Son of God, a death and a resurrection three days later. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." When we Discover God's Holiness, we discover that which takes us far Above Reality.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Discover God: God’s Love

God is active. God is near. God is actively loving you right where you are. Right now. He Loves you as much now as He ever will and it is more than you can ever imagine. God's love is real. When we Discover God, we discover more than a powerful being who holds the answers to life. We find more than a way to live our best life now. We find more than we could ever hope or imagine. We find love. Pure, unfiltered, unobstructed, ever flowing love. And it is directed straight at you.

For most, this love is so great that it goes unanswered. God has extended his hand towards them, but they just can’t fathom that a love of this magnitude and nature is pursuing them. For many, this happens because they are confused about what love actually means. Too many regard it as happiness and unquestioning support for anything and everything in life. It has to make me feel good right now and forever.

God however, loves you too much to lie to you that way. You see, He created you. He made you who you are and knows how you have hurt yourself by walking away from Him. Now, in love, God is calling you back to Him, back to the person you were created to be. This means that God loves you enough to tell you when you are wrong, when you are hurting yourself and will even intervene in your life with pain if He has to.

God Loves You enough to do whatever it takes to open your eyes to the truth.

The truth. What is the truth? The truth is that nothing in this world, not money, not entertainment, not sex, not fame, not even trying to be a good person can ever rebuild what is broken inside of you. Only God’s amazing love can rebuild your brokenness. Each of us, when we “do our own thing” separate ourselves from God and lose part of ourselves. God’s love is calling us all back to Him and back to ourselves. God is also calling us back to ourselves.

When we rebel against God and his love, it separates us from God, from ourselves and from each other. We were created “by him, through Him, and for Him.” When we rebel against God we rebel against our reason for existing and become something less than God intended and thus lose our connection to ourselves. We forget who we are and become hateful, judgmental, selfish persons. When we lose our connection to ourselves, we then lose our connection to each other. Instead of seeing one another as bearers of God’s image, we see each other’s faults and begin competing for superiority in a broken system.

God’s love is the answer for this. God’s love, as revealed through Jesus Christ, is the cure all. When Jesus came into our world, he repaired all that was broken. He repaired our connection to God by living a perfect life and offering himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sin. He repaired our connection to ourselves because he showed us what humanity is supposed to be, and he is repairing our connection to each other by sending his Spirit to His church to guide us and teach us corporately.

All of this is because of God’s love. He loves you so much that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to repair your brokenness. Will you accept this love? You see, God isn’t going to force you to Receive this love. Love cannot be forced. Love must be freely given and accepted. If you wish to Discover God, you must Receive His Love as He has offered it. John 3:16 says it all “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life.”

Discover God and Rise Above Reality.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Making Disciples

"make disciples of all nations...." These words, spoken by Jesus, are more than a rally cry for the church. It is the reason for our existence. We are to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Our job is to find people. People who are not like us and turn them into disciples of Jesus Christ. Not disciples of us, our denomination, our culture, or our nation, but of Jesus Christ. This, in itself, should lead us to question how and why we do what we do.

Not only that, we also need to think about something else. If we are to make disciples of all nations, then we will have to engage people who do not agree with us. People who do not like us. People who ARE NOT LIKE US. Yet, what I see, over and over again, is that we talk to ourselves. As the church, we typically look for people who are like us, agree with us, and like us. We will happily tell them about Jesus, even though they already know. Why? Why do we have such a hard time breaking out of our shell and sharing the message of Jesus with people, all people?

First, I think we have to look at our common modes of evangelism in this world. We ask them to come to us. We ask them to make a change in their lives, SIMPLY TO HEAR THE MESSAGE. I don't think we realize just how much we ask when we ask people to adapt to our schedule, our culture, and our world simply to hear the message. Now, please, do not hear something I am not saying. I do not believe the church should change the way it worships and functions simply because it makes unbelievers uncomfortable. Church is for the saved. Evangelism is the church reaching out to the unsaved. The problem presents itself in the way we expect unbelievers to alter their thinking simply to hear the message.

I believe our message goes unheard by many who would gladly listen and consider it simply because we ask them to act "Christian" while they hear the message. This is not a good or even a Biblical way of evangelism. Look in the book of Acts. Paul went to the people. He engaged them in their world and told them about another. He told them about a world that was different, better, and needed for everyone. But, he did not expect them to change their ways simply so they could come hear the message. Paul went to them. He did not expect them to come to him. Paul worshiped with and discipled the believers he came in contact with, but he went out to the unbelievers.

Today, we need to rethink how we are doing evangelism. Are we asking people to change their lives simply so they can hear the good news of Christ? Or are we creatively thinking of ways to build relationships with people and sharing the good news in their world? We are called to make disciples of all nations. Everyone we can. People not like us. People who disagree with us, hate us, ridicule us and who will even persecute us. These are the people Christ has told us to go get. Instead, we often huddle up in our buildings, speak only to people who agree with us, and shun those who disagree. This is not evangelism. This is not the church fulfilling its mandate.

Jesus promised power to those who would be witnesses for Him. In Acts 1:8 he said "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES..." Could it be that our churches have lost power because we have failed to be witnesses in this world to all nations? Could it be that God is withholding his blessing because we have been too busy talking to ourselves rather than witnessing to the Resurrected Christ to a hostile world?

Remember, it is God who changes people, not us. When we ask people to change simply so they can hear the message, we are playing the role of God and the unbelieving world is unimpressed with this god. Instead, we should get back to making disciples of Christ. He is first, we are last. If we will be faithful to our mandate, if we will do our job, then God will raise us all Above Reality.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Conservatism, Legalism and Those Dreaded Liberals...

Does anyone else get tired of the all the name calling? I find it funny and tragic that in the world of religious politics one has to "prove" his conservative credentials in order to be taken seriously. In the Southern Baptist Convention one must sign the "Baptist Faith & Message" in order to serve as a professor or missionary. Now, the SBC has every right to make sure that their representatives aren't teaching heresy. But come on. Baptists have historically prided themselves on being a "non-creedal" group. And yet, here they are, forcing people to bow at the Baptist altar. It isn't enough that people pledge their lives to spread the word of God to unreached people groups halfway across the world, leaving friends and family behind. No. They also have to sign a document created by men. I know some Baptist "elites" who refer more to the Baptist Faith and Message than they do scripture. I know more Baptists who think it is more important to give money to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering than it is to witness to lost friends and neighbors. When things like this happens, something is wrong.

Jesus told us, the church, to be salt and light in the world. We have a mandate from our King to make disciples who follow HIM, not a denomination. Yet, our seminary's and churches are often more concerned with turning out good Baptists than they are committed Christians. They claim their Christianity is expressed in their conservative principles, and yet their conservatism have turned into Pharaseeism. That's right.

In the late 70's and early 80's there was a "conservative resurgence" that happened in the SBC. It started out as a worthy cause and movement that sought to restore Biblical principles and practices to a denomination that was losing its bearing. Now, 30 years later, that same movement is destroying the convention because people do not know when to quit. Now, people must prove they are conservative. When this happens, legalism becomes the order of the day. We will provide a set of rules (Baptist Faith and Message) and you must adhere strictly to these rules and if you disagree at any point, we will call you a LIBERAL. In Jesus' day, those rules were called the "tradition of the elders." And guess what? Jesus broke them. He despised them and he led others to break them. The Pharisees hated him. The people loved him. God the Father, approved of Him.

You see, what I believe is happening today is akin to Jesus' day. God is starting to move in many churches in America today, but it doesn't look like the same stale, dead, lifeless, boring, pew warming, plastic relationship of the past 40 years. People are tired of legalism. People are tired of rules that make no sense, don't bring them any closer to God, and lead people to compare righteousness as though it is something any of us posses. God is moving and the results are real. People are connecting with God and with people, but they are shedding the legalism and the establishment is not happy with it.

Instead of celebrating that God is opening hearts and leading people to himself, they are actually fighting it. They are angry that pastors aren't wearing suits every week. They are angry that we aren't treating the hymn book as a sacred object. They are angry that the church is talking about issues like sex. They are angry that young pastors would rather spend their energy planting new churches than fighting the legalists in dying churches. They are angry that young adults would rather meet in small groups than in Sunday School. They are angry that allegiances are to the Bible to Christ himself and not to denominations. They are angry that we are not playing by their rules anymore.

It seems that the traditional crowd always has a problem with new movements of God because they never quite take us back to the old days. In the 1970's, again, there was a great movement of God. It was the called the "Jesus Movement." Thousands of hippies came to know Christ and they were indeed transformed. They were rejected by the establishment because they didn't cut their hair, smash their guitars, or put on a suit. So, instead of being an influx of new life into the Baptist church, they were rejected and went elsewhere to serve Jesus.

Here is a question I would pose to our friends that are trapped in tradition. If your traditionalism was successful and people were converted and all was right in the world, then where is the fruit today? Why are Baptist churches reporting fewer and fewer baptisms every year? Why, if your traditions were so good, are most "traditional" churches today dying? Why didn't you pass on the legacy of faith? The truth is that man's traditions never accomplish what we think they do.

So, what is the point of this rant? Lets stop for a moment and see if maybe it is time for a serious overhaul. I find it ironic that there is currently a document circulating through the SBC that is calling for a "Great Commission Resurgence." Many are happily signing it not realizing that it means they agree that the SBC failed to fulfill the great commission for at least a generation. I find it sad that there are still people fighting the battles of the late 1970's, not realizing that the world has changed. The culture has changed. If we continue to wonder where the good ole days went, maybe we should stop and ask if they were ever really that good to begin with? If it failed to produce and reproduce disciples of Jesus Christ, then it failed in its mission. Maybe it is time to get back to SCRIPTURE ALONE, FAITH ALONE, AND GRACE ALONE.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rising Above the Dead Weight of Culture

This is an excellent article on conviction and tolerance. In order to practice Biblical faith, there will come a point that demands a choice between accepting what is forcefed or going against the grain of pop culture to a place above reality.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sin and Death

Sin. Three little letters that are at the heart of so much trouble in the world. Some Christian teachers can't seem to teach on it enough while others act like saying the word will cause people to leave their churches. Yet, if there is one Christian doctrine that is being most overlooked and even lost in the American church today, it is the doctrine of Sin.

So, what is it? What exactly is sin? According to one very popular TV preacher today, sin is simply not living up to your full potential. It is settling for less than "Your Best Life Now". According to Mr. Osteen, sin is simply bad choices I make that keep me from realizing my dreams and fulfilling my potential.

That sounds great, until I hold it up to the teaching of scripture. According to the Bible, you know, the book that Christian believe to be the source of teaching for our faith, the lens through which we are to look at life and learn about God. You know it, the best selling, least read book of all time. You know, THE BIBLE. (If only people would do the same thing with "Your Best Life Now" and "Become a Better You." But, unfortunately, people are actually reading those books.)

When I look at Scripture's definition of sin it is right before me as plain and easy to understand as anything. Sin is FALLING SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD. Therefore, sin is not about my dreams, hopes and potential, it is about God's Glory. It is about His desires, His goodness, and His nature being on display in my life. It is about me, as a human being, reflecting the glory of God back to him. That means that anything I do that is contrary to the nature of God, contrary to his perfection, or contrary to his Holiness is sin, regardless of how I feel about it. And, since God never changes, neither do his desires. So sin is an objective, not subjective, reality. Sin is sin and will always be sinful in any culture. Some cultures just tolerate more than others. Those who tolerate it too much, ultimately fail.

Yet, today, the church seems too afraid to teach about sin or preach against it for fear of being offensive, perceived as negative, or accused of being intolerant or judgmental. This is unfortunate, because while sin is bad, there is good news to the answer of sin. But, for the good news to be good, there must be bad news first. The bad news? We are all sinners. We are all offensive to God. We are all the problem. I am the problem. God is repulsed by the sin in my life and the bigger problem is that once I have sinned, I create a condition in my heart that enjoys sin and longs for more. You see, I like sin. I like it too much and therefore cannot get away from it on my own power. Sure I may disguise it and keep it under wraps, but it is always there. If I don't follow through on the action, I at least think the thought and to a holy, perfect, God, both are equally offensive. So, repeat after me - "I am offensive to God because I like to sin." Go ahead, say it. You know its true.

You see, the problem is that we have become convinced in this country that somehow people are basically good when we aren't. Sure we may look good compared to other people, but we weren't created to be compared to others, we were created for GOD'S GLORY. And that is the problem. Sure, we might achieve some glory for ourselves, our country or even our church, but God's glory is so much bigger. It demands complete perfection in thought and deed because that is who God is and we were create to show it.

So, look deep down inside yourself and realize one thing, apart from Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for you sin, you are offensive to God. It isn't that God doesn't love you, He does, he just cannot take who you have become. Sin has destroyed everything in you that was good. Everything that was God honoring and acceptable to him is now stained and repulsive to him.

So, lets try to come back to center and understand that Jesus came to be mediator between us and God because God is holy and we are sinful. Because we needed someone to stand in the gap. He did not come simply so you could "Become a Better You" and achieve the American Dream. He came because we were all hopelessly lost in sin and needed someone to help. And that friends is the good news that will carry us Above Reality.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Two ways...

I recently read a story about a NY Cab driver who decided to take away every possible negative and leave his customers with only positives. This required him to spend extra time each day cleaning and polishing his cab. He purchased drinks, other refreshments, and reading material for his customers and decided he would treat every one of his riders as a first class VIP. The result? This man basically runs a limousine service out of his yellow cab. He rarely picks up random people anymore because most of his customers call him personally to get a ride. Rather than complaining like those around him he decided to do the best job he could do and let the chips fall. The key is that he created favorable conditions for those chips.

This story made me think. How many times do we fail to achieve success or get noticed in our given industry simply because we refuse to separate from the pack and rise above? With this in mind, I decided one something that I believe to be true.

There are two ways to be noticed in this world: Excellence or Incompetence. Only one happens by accident.

Think about it. When you watch the news, it is either a story about someone who did something incredibly stupid or they did something incredibly innovative or brilliant. This, I believe, speaks volumes for the church today. Are we going to follow the paths of the masses and decry the decline of Christianity in our world with the strongest possible language and then stand aside in our Holy Huddles and hope someone shows up or are we going to take what we have been given, do the best we can with it and pray that God will help us create favorable conditions for the chips to fall?

How scary would this world be if the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards or Abraham Lincoln had decided that the world was simply too broken and should be left alone? I shudder to think what the church would be like had Luther not decided to stand up against corrupt leadership and reform the church.

The point in all of this is that we have a choice to make everyday. Do we do the best with what God has given us or do we complain and look elsewhere, wondering why nothing good ever happens to us? We may not change the world, but we can certainly change our attitudes and rise above reality.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Innie or Outie?

I live in a part of the world where there is a Baptist Church just about every 4 or five blocks. More churches than you can shake a stick at, so the saying goes. A few big, some medium sized, but most of them very, very small. Most of them have plateaued or are in decline. A few are growing.

What is the difference?

What makes one church grow and another stagnate? Is it location? Many in this city believe that to be answer so they have up and moved to the wealthy side of town that is growing. I have to ask them: "What about the neighborhood you just left? Don't they need God too?" Does the size of your bank account determine your importance in the church? Does having a six figure income mean that you are more worthy to hear the good news that Jesus died so that we could have a right relationship with God?


So again, I ask, what makes some churches grow and others not grow? I think it has to do with a willingness to do the work God calls churches to do. When a church experiences hardship or decline, it is common for that church to start focusing only on themselves. This, however, is completely against God's design for the church. We do not exist for ourselves, but to serve God in this world. The church is to take up the cause of the orphan and widow.

The church is to make disciples.

If a church stops performing these tasks, they have effectively turned off their light. When this happens, people will stop coming. Churches must be outwardly focused, ministry minded, and great commission driven. If they are not, God will not bless them. This is the great challenge for many churches. A challenge many cannot get over. When giving goes down and attendance drops, rather than redoubling and refocusing their efforts to get the message out and minister to people, they start dropping ministry programs and start focusing inwardly.

I ask you. Is your church an innie or an outie? Does it focus on itself and what it needs, or does it focus on what the community needs? Does it focus on making sure its members are comfortable and happy or does it make disciples that are willing to get out of their comfort zones, get their hands dirty and serve as ministers?

It is a simple difference, but it is significant in effect. When a church is more focused on the happiness and comfort of its own members than it is on fulfilling its God given purpose of making disciples, God will remove his blessing from that Church. When that starts to happen, rather than waking up, many churches dig in and the long march to irrelevance begins.

I pray that never happens to my church or to yours. I have seen it. I have lived it in the past and I never want to be there again.

Friday, January 2, 2009


A verse that has been coming to mind more and more recently is Acts 1:8 - "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Jesus promised his disciples power. Isn't that attractive? Power. This is a concept that many false teachers have jumped on to tell people that faith in God is about being empowered to be a "better you" or to "live your best life now". They make the Gospel into something that is self serving, materialistic, and short sighted, to say the least.

However, lets look a little closer at what Jesus actually said. The "power" they are to receive is to serve a purpose. It is the power to be a witness for Jesus Christ. It is the power to live the Christian life. It is the power to believe what Jesus believed, which, consequently means that as a Christian you believe that anger=murder, lust=adultery, love=love even for enemies, and that God is to be glorified in everything. It is the power to be a part of the Gospel story, not the power to gain a six or seven figure income, drive the nicest car or have the biggest house.

Jesus said specifically that his disciples would receive power to be his witnesses. So I ask you, have you been a witness for Christ? Do you believe what Christ believed? Do you know what Christ believed? The church in America must wake up and realize that this whole Christianity, church thing isn't about getting my needs filled, it is about doing what God "empowered" us to do. Is your spiritual life falling short? Do you feel spiritually disconnected and weak? Maybe it is because you aren't fulfilling your purpose of being a witness for Christ. God is not going to bless a life that is not fulfilling its God given mission. A church will not be blessed if it refuses to reach its neighborhood or moves so it can "follow the money" as a city transitions.

We who are Christians are a part of the continuing story of Acts. The promise of Acts 1:8 applies to us. We have a job to do. We have been given the tools and the mission. Now, it is time that we spread his message "to the ends of the earth." This video pretty much sums the first half of what I am talking about.