Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Chapter 10.5 The Careless Jesus

This new chapter is written by one of my great friends Tom Broyles. He is a great man of God who has a heart to share Jesus with all. Thank you Tom for being a part of this!

I was so honored when Pastor Eddie asked me to write a chapter in his blog. I have known Eddie for several years. He was a faithful mentor and friend through many challenging seasons of my high school career. Anyone who knows the guy knows he is a genuine lover- of God and people. So I first just want to say, thank you, Pastor Eddie, for allowing God to use you as a tool to shape my walk with Him. I have a deep respect for you.

I have heard it stated by various ministers, church leaders, and brothers and sisters in Christ, “There is a call to holiness upon this generation.” And I could not agree more with this statement. We live in an evil world plagued with distractions, temptations, and sin, and our world is waiting for a model of what heaven looks like. However, this is NOT a new problem facing this specific generation. So I believe a more accurate statement would be, “There is a call to holiness upon EVERY generation.” God does not show favoritism, and His invitation for us to be like Him or “To be holy as He is holy” (Leviticus 19:2 and 1 Peter 1:16) is for everyone in the body of Christ. Father wants us to experience the joy and fullness of His holiness- His character and nature- and NO ONE is excluded from that invite! In this chapter we will be talking about the “Careless Jesus” or the Jesus who just doesn't really care how we live.. err..um.. is that right?

Over the past year of my life, but especially the last few months, I have had some of the most humbling encounters with the Lord. The more I encounter the Lord’s holiness- His character and nature- the more I find myself longing to experience more of Him. I am well aware of the fact that I have just scratched the surface of Father’s goodness, and I can’t seem to shake that desire inside for more! God says about Himself in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” I believe if there is anything we can underestimate or fail to understand as followers of Jesus, it is His goodness, His kindness, and His gentleness- all of which make up His holiness. His attributes are what separate Him from us. We aren't good like He is good. We aren't kind like He is kind. We aren't gentle like He is gentle. However, these attributes are the very thing which He has called and invited His body to live in and become.

The Lord deeply cares about how you live your life. If He didn't then He would not have called you to partake in His holiness. I enjoy reading in the New Testament how Jesus speaks to the disciples versus how He speaks to the Pharisees. I think Jesus would put anyone to shame when it comes to name-calling, and He definitely let the Pharisees have it on more than one occasion. But honestly, one of the biggest differences between the disciples and the Pharisees were that the disciples’ hearts were positioned to receive from Jesus, and the Pharisees’ hearts were not. If we are not living holy as he is holy, it is because we are not receiving from Him. And if we are not receiving from Him it is for one of two reasons- lack of seeking, or unbelief. God calls unto us, but we as His children must believe and respond to Him!

Don’t be fooled! The enemy loves to blow us around by waves of doctrine and teaching. It’s one of his favorite tactics. A common one I have seen that comes up around the topic of God’s grace and holiness is this idea- “God loves you and has abounding grace over you, but expects you to turn by your own strength from your evil behavior.” This type of teaching puts the focus back on self and back on works. It’s the mentality that as a believer, God expects me to do more. He expects me to be more. And He expects me to live up to a standard that I’m never sure I will attain. This is NOT the Gospel. The good news of Jesus is that He changes us so that we can have new life through Him!- “If the spirit who raised Christ from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His spirit living in you.” (Romans 8:11)He isn't searching for you to do more- because “apart from Him we can do nothing.” (John 15:5) He is not looking for your good works- “It’s by grace you have been saved through faith.” (Ephesians 2:8) He doesn't really care about a bowed head and closed eyes. He cares about a bowed heart- “Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 55:10). If we say that our faith is in His abounding grace, yet we try to become like Him by our own will, then how is that a testimony to the grace of God? And if He has given us his spirit to put to death our flesh (Romans 8:13), then how could we possibly, once called into His fullness, perfect ourselves by our own will- our flesh? It is impossible. Jesus came so that we might have life right now, and living in the fullness of that life doesn't mean we are perfect, it means we are satisfied in His perfection because our hearts are yielded to His character and nature.

You were designed to commune with Father. In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve had communion with God ‘s presence and were given a promise of eternal life. They were innocent like new born babies in the sense that they did not know right from wrong, all they knew was the presence of Father and His promise of life to them. It says in Genesis 3:8 that God walked beside them in the cool of the day. However, their promise of eternal life was based upon their obedience to God’s command, “You shall not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:17) And this truth of receiving eternal life through our obedience still stands today. However, our obedience is not to the first Adam who willfully disobeyed in the the Garden of Eden, but to the second who yielded His will in the Garden of Gethsemane. Likewise, the first Adam disobeyed God’s command by eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the face of much temptation, but the second obeyed God’s command by dying on a tree and yielding his will to Father in the face of much persecution. Therefore, if the children of Israel who were born under the law, “Thou shalt not..” as the first Adam was and had a communion with Father that was so intense that it split the Red Sea in Half, caused Moses’ face to shine with glory, and anyone who opposed them to fall to their knees in submission (the list could go on), how much more and greater is our communion with Father being born under the law of grace through the second Adam, Jesus Christ!

Jesus came because He cares about the way you live your life. As humans we naturally live our lives contrary to the way God intended us to live. However, through personal, intimate communion with Father we can become holy as He is holy and live a life that is pleasing to Him. All of heaven bows before His throne and shouts, “Holy!” If we obey the work he has for us we can come in and find out what they mean. He has already paid the way. Do you want to go?

“And this is the work God has for you: believe in the one he has sent.”

-Jesus in John 6:29

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Chapter 10.4 The Mean Jesus

Well now that we are done with "Materialistic Christianity" I want to talk about another kind of "Jesus" that plagues the body of Christ in America... The Mean Jesus. This "Jesus" is, in my mind at least, one of the worst versions ever! In this part of the miniseries I want to cover how we make God look bad by making His son be a mean unforgiving person. It really breaks my heart to see people turn away from God because of his followers but most of all because we make Jesus to be a bad guy who is just waiting to deny anyone access to a relationship with him.

Like always I would like to give a disclaimer right off the bat, see with most of the extremest there are spots of truth, see God does not like sin what so ever. I do believe he will judge sin and that there will be punishment for sin. I do know that Jesus did talk about hell a lot more than he did about heaven and finally that we must, as followers of Christ, become renewed in him and not live an unholy life. With all of that being said let us go into the subject at hand "The Mean Jesus".

So what is some of the characteristics of the "Mean Jesus"? Well he is full of hate and dislike toward many things. He loves his followers to spread the message of displeasure of this world. Most of all he only wants a relationship with you if you are willing to get yourself right before you come to Him. He is an all around unlikable guy. You know what is really funny about the "Mean Jesus" is that his followers think that they are safe from him but in reality if they come to find the real Jesus they are now on his hit list. See the people who believe in this kind of Jesus are not just the really loud out spoken ones they are the ones who secretly hate other people and claim it to be okay because God would too. The "Mean Jesus" people make God look bad by simply taking grace out of the equation. The reason that is a big problem is because grace is something that makes Christianity a very unique religion and without it our faith would amount to nothing.

I have brought up to separate kinds of ideas when it comes to the "Mean Jesus" now I want to talk about both of them. Now the first one we all know about cause we can see it all the time on the news. I will try and refrain from naming names but I believe most of you know what I am talking about. When ever a group of people say they are representing Christ and say things like, "God hates fags", or, "Thank God for dead soldiers", or the worst, "God hates you", those people are not speaking for God at all! If you preach a God that hates anyone you are not preaching the God of the Bible. Now I know that the old testament there was a lot of people God judged but nowhere did it say He did so because of his hate for the people. God judged them for their acts of sin. These kinds of people who preach the "Mean Jesus" can not tell the difference and just do a blanket statement of God hating everyone. This is far from the representation of the God of the Bible. God desperately wants a relationship with his people and did literally everything to make that happen so how can He hate them? The easy answer to that is, He doesn't! This kind of Jesus will not win souls nor help people come out of their sin. This "Mean Jesus", it seems like he wants them to be like that so He can judge them and send them to hell. The sad part is that when this Jesus is preached it makes no one want to hear about the real one. The last point on this part of the "Mean Jesus" is that while watching an interview with a former member of one of the churches that preach this way said, "I felt like God hated me", it gets no more sadder than that. Like I said earlier not even the people who follow the "Mean Jesus" is not safe, He rules with fear.

Now the other "Mean Jesus" is sorta of a secret agent. See he does not wave banners or protest He just sits in the hearts of people who claim to follow the real Jesus. This kind of "Mean Jesus" shows His ugly head when His followers are confronted with people they just dislike for one reason or another. This "Mean Jesus" shows up in racism, sexist, bigoted, class wars, and all around selfishness. The reason this "Mean Jesus" is hard to see is because he only comes out when the person who has Him in their heart is confronted with one of the people they dislike. I have a little of a personal story with this kind of "Mean Jesus". I used to go to church, very rarely, when I was a kid. I will leave the church nameless and the people involved that way too. I will just tell you that it was a white church and the other person involved was black. Now this black guy, who is a very close family friend, came to see my dad one day and found out he was at church so he decided to come see him there. Once my fathers friend got into the church he was asked to leave, my dad's friend did not make it any further than the front door. When he asked why he had to leave he was told, "this is not your kinds church and we do not want you here", and right then the "Mean Jesus" shows his ugly face. I do want to say that I do not believe that this was the feelings of the whole church but it was said by one of the ushers. My dad's friend did leave with out a fuss but even so that was very much unacceptable. This is not the Jesus who loved everyone and wanted everyone to come hear what he had to say about the Father. This is not the Jesus who freed a promiscuous woman from being stoned. No this is the "Mean Jesus" who says that if you do not fit in with us you must leave. There really is not to many other things that makes God look bad than making a relationship with him limited to certain people.

We must not stand for any of this in the body of Christ. We know that our God loves and wants people to love also. We can not simply watch people be turned away from the love of God because of this "Mean Jesus". We must teach the gospel and His love to all. We can not and will not back down from these kinds of people who love to share hate to everyone. This "Mean Jesus" does not really exist, except in peoples mind, and we should have no problem showing everyone this. We all are saved by grace through faith because of the love of God and we need to make sure everyone knows of this. He does not want you to have to clean yourself up before coming to Him, no He wants you just as you are so he can change you. God loves all of us and desires for us to come to Him as children asking for our fathers love and help. To sum it all up the "Mean Jesus" is a made up monster and has no power what so ever.

Then what can we do to solve this problem? Just stand up against all of this. So let me ask you, are you standing up? Can you tell when someone crosses the line into "Mean Jesus" preaching? Is there a little bit of "Mean Jesus" in your theology? Are we willing to be the louder voice for the real Jesus or just let these people have the platform to continue making God look bad?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Chapter 10.3 The Magic Genie Jesus

So coming off the heels of the last chapter, thank you Kris for the truth you so eloquently said, I plan to keep the to idea of "Materialistic Christianity". We have talked about one side of this type of Christianity, "Prosperity Gospel", now we will be talking about the "Name it and claim it Gospel". Unlike the "Prosperity Gospel" the "Name it and claim it Gospel" is less about reaping and sowing, even though that is Biblical it is twisted and mainly preached in the "Prosperity Gospel", this teaching is about speaking your blessings into your hands. I do want to give a disclaimer with this because I do believe we have life and death in our tongues but when that is twisted to be about getting worldly goods it just crosses the line.

Let me start with saying that I do believe that we should speak life into situations and people. I will stand by the idea of praying and speaking life over ministries, people, bad situations, marriages, children, etc. I just believe that when we cross the line into trying to say that something will be ours and not pray for the will of God first it tries to put us on the thrown and take God off. We must not be wrapped up in things of this world and our wants above what God wants us to have. The "Materialistic Gospel" goes beyond just being healthy and wealthy it tries to hold a knife to God's throat by using his principles in an improper way. There are many principles in the word of God that when used properly will bring wholeness to ones life but when we make it more about what we want on earth than what God wants we twist His words to fit our desires.

I want to do the rest of this chapter a little different. I want to do a small list of why this makes God look bad instead of just paragraph after paragraph about this subject. So lets just look at this subject.

1) We are not entitled to anything at all. Everything we get from God is because of grace through Christ.

Yes we do have a new life in Christ but that does not mean getting stuff. Yes we can speak things into life for us but we should also first seek the Kingdom of God. We are not entitled to everything we want instead we are meant to live a life sold out for God. He does want us to have life and life more abundant but that does not equal stuff it equals a life that is in the fullness of God.

2) Are the gifts more important than the gift giver?

Why have we made this Christian life more about what God can give to us than what we can give to God? The reason this bothers me is because if we are only in this relationship with God is to get stuff than we are in it for the wrong reason.

3) How does any of that stuff bring glory to God?

I know that our God is the God with cattle on a thousand hills but if he put you in charge of it how would that bring him glory? I do believe that he does put people in charge of things and also blesses people but if all of his people are rich how exactly will that bring Him glory? Some may argue that if his people are rich than it would draw more people to Him but I remember a scripture that says that if we lift Him up, not if he lifts us up, that he will draw all men to him.

4) Faithful with little?

So you are naming stuff for God to give you huh? Well are you faithful with what you have now? How dare us treat what God has already given us as not enough. Was his son's death on the cross not enough? Was that open invitation to salvation just not enough? What more do we need for it to be enough? We sound like spoiled brats to God when we make His gifts already in our lives so trivial. He has blessed us more than we already deserve by sending His son to die for our sins.

5) A promise is a promise?

Yes he has promised us many things, some of them I have cover in earlier chapters, but why do we simply hold on to the promises we like? He not only promised us good times but also hard times. He said He would give us what we asked for but He also said that if we asked it out of selfish desires we would not receive those things.

6) Principles put in proper use.

Just because a principle is in the Bible does not mean we can just go use it how ever we want, and if we did we look no better than how the world treats the Bible. God's principles are in the Bible to help make us better not to give us things that we want. If we misuse His principles it is like telling our parents we want something and they have to give it to us simply because they are our parents. Yes God is Abba Father but would you look at your parents and tell them that they have to give you things just because they care about you. When we do that we sound like that teenage boy who tries to tell a girl that she will sleep with him if she loves him. When we hear that we all think that is sick but in a way are we not doing that to God?

7) As in Heaven?

What would look wonderful is if people would say, "Let my life on this earth look like what God sees my life look like in heaven". We should be more worried about what God wants us to have and not so much what we want to have. Christ prayed that the will of the Father be done on earth as it is in heaven but are we as concerned about this matter as we should be? Instead of us naming things here on earth for the "glory of God" shouldn't we be speaking the will of God, as it is done in heaven, over everything.

Those are just a few things that come to mind when I think about "Materialistic Christianity". We can not and must not be driven by worldly desires in any way. We are meant to be followers of Christ and lay our lives down for the glory of the Gospel. Some people may be rich followers of Christ and some may not but over all we must be followers. I will leave you with a quote from John Piper that I believe sums up the thought of following Christ rightly and not driven by worldly desires. John Piper said, "God is most glorified when I am most satisfied in Him". He must be what satisfies us and nothing else. He is our goal and should be the only thing that drives our lives and how we live. He should be everything to us and anything else He chooses to give us is literally just icing on the cake. 

I have no questions to ask because I believe I have posed enough of them to you throughout this chapter so go back and read them. Answer them honestly and see if you are being a "Biblical Christian" or a "Materialistic Christian".

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Chapter 10.2 The Lottery Ticket Jesus

Materialistic Christianity a.k.a “The Prosperity Gospel” 

As I was asked by a very good friend, Eddie Barnes, to write a chapter for his blog on what is known as the “Prosperity” gospel, I thought long and hard about how to go about it. There are so many writings about this very subject, both in argument for and against it, so I wanted to go about it a little bit differently. Instead of doing a point-by-point, verse-by-verse, breakdown of this way of thinking, I actually want to talk about the danger of this belief, not from a theological level, but a philosophical one.

Why, you might ask? Well, at it’s core, the so-called “prosperity gospel” finds its deepest flaws in its philosophy of what God’s ultimate goal in a person’s life is, as well as how He measures
success. If you are looking for a Biblical breakdown on this matter, there are many articles you can read, either online or in book form. Now that the methodology of this treatise has been set, let us get started!

You may (or may not) have noticed that I have given the term “Materialistic Christianity” first billing in the title instead of it’s more common moniker, “The Prosperity Gospel”. This is for a few
reasons. First of all, I believe it is a more accurate name for the actual belief itself and what it produces. Secondly, to attach the term “gospel” to this belief is to give it a weighty legitimacy that it does not deserve, so “Materialistic Christianity” it is.

At the center of this belief is the use of the Greek term, εὐοδόω (yoo-od-o’-o), in the New Testament in verses such as 3 John 1:2. The term is actually the product of two words, εὖ (yoo), which means, “well done or to fare well,” and ὁδός (ho-dos), which means, literally, “the road or journey,” or metaphorically, “the way of thinking; the course of conduct.” εὐοδόω to the believer essentially meant that success or prosperity in life was measured by how well you accomplished your journey of life - Did you accomplish or fulfill all that you were called to be in this life?

For Paul, prospering meant that he had run his race fully (2 Tim. 4:7,8), with no bearing on how materially blessed he was. In fact, it was his belief that he was to be content whether he was poor or rich, full or hungry (Phil. 4:12). εὐοδόω can be summed up in this one phrase Jesus Himself used to end one of His parables: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Why is this distinction in the definition of this term so important? It simply comes down to this: the difference in philosophy between relief and freedom.

The danger of materialistic Christianity is that it makes the goal of Christ’s life in you to make your life better on this earth. It puts all of its eggs in the basket of THIS life - the temporal, flawed, corruptible one. It says that all of God’s promises are not just mine, they are mine RIGHT NOW. It is not God’s will for me to go through any adversity or material lack. So much of what you see from the proponents of such beliefs is not much different from the prodigal son, who demanded the fullness of his father’s inheritance and tried to make it his before it was his time. Materialistic Christianity is the church’s contribution to the development of the Entitlement Generation that exists today, the one that says, “It’s mine, and I want it right now!”

In the end, the flaw of Materialistic Christianity is that it puts the emphasis of Christ’s work as a means of relief instead of the power of freedom. We want Him to provide relief for us; when I don’t have money, He HAS TO give it to me. When I am sick, He HAS TO make me well. We become that child who begs his mother of father for the toy he wants, saying, “I NEED IT,” then breaking down into a fit in the middle of the store when he doesn't get it.

Materialistic Christianity breeds weak believers, ones who are embolden in their faith when things are well, but fall apart and cry out, “Why have you forsaken me!” when God should dare have the audacity to have them walk through the fire of adversity or tribulation for our own growth. Even worse, we will make immature, pleasure-based decisions, then “claim” our "inheritance” when we are forced to face the consequences!

God’s aim is not to give you relief; He wants you to be free! Materialistic Christianity teaches you that joy & peace comes when God removes all adversity from your life and blesses with money, wealth, and health in every area, but the true gospel teaches that joy & peace comes when those things no longer have mastery over you.

So what is real? Is true life about this temporal existence or the eternal one? Which is more real? Isn't it time we stop attempting to hold God hostage to an idea of “prosperity” that isn't actually prosperous?

Prosperity, εὐοδόω, in a believer’s life is not measured by what you can gain materially, but by how well you complete your journey. That is the TRUE philosophy of Biblical prosperity. THAT is the real Prosperity Gospel.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Chapter 10.1: The American Jesus

So who is the "American Jesus"? Well that is a broad question. See, on this subject we will be looking at Jesus as a cultural figure and how we have tried to make him something he is not here in America. There are many subcultures within the idea of the "American Jesus" and we will be touching on many of them throughout this miniseries. The first part I will be talking about is how we have tried to fit Jesus into our culture instead of making our culture conform to Jesus.

Now, there are many people who say that at the birth of America our forefathers tried to make our country a Christian nation with God, Jesus, and the Bible being our bedrock of morals. I really do not plan to make an argument other wise I am just going to point out that just as much as we are a very different country from what we once were, we also have a very different culture than what our forefathers had dreamed for us. Even if we at one time were a "Christian nation" we are most definitely not one now. So here is my big problem with that, we can not simply say that what we do as a culture is anywhere close to lining up with the Bible let alone claim that Jesus is cool with this culture.

I do want to move on because I do not want to simply point out that as a whole country we are not Christian. What I do want to talk about is how we as Christians have tried to fit Jesus into our view point and call it Godly. I have a personal term for what goes on in American Christianity, someone else may have called it this too I just have not heard, but I call it "cultural Christianity". So what is "cultural Christianity"? Well to be honest, as a whole, it is religiosity, legalism, and at worst very much like the pharisees in the times of Jesus. We have made Jesus and the Bible simply a rule book to live by and not the Gospel and the truth. The flip side to this, in "cultural Christianity", is that if Jesus and the Bible are not the rule book, Jesus and the Bible are too harsh and we should take everything that was said as just a suggestion at best. So in this chapter I will be looking at both of them briefly and trying to shed some light on how both of these view points are making God look bad.

On the rougher side of the "American Jesus" people will be like, "If we do not like this or that than Jesus wouldn't either, so we are right". Now do not get me wrong there are things that the "world" is trying to say is right when it most definitely is not but I am not talking about that I am talking about things inside of the Body of Christ. "Cultural Christianity" has made God, Jesus, and the Bible something that it was never meant to be, a list of don'ts. Now again do not get me wrong there are a lot of things that we should not do but when we make it just about that we are really missing the message. See in "cultural Christianity" if you simply don't do a certain list of things, and that list will vary depending on who you follow, then praise the "American Jesus" you are a Christian. That could not be further from the truth though. Jesus did not die and raise again simply for you to not be able to do things. Jesus came so we could have life and life more abundant. When we make Christianity simply a list of don'ts and leave out what is desired for us to do than we make impotent and ignorant followers of Christ. I like how Jesus himself put it, "a form of Godliness with no power". If you follow the "American Jesus" then you will become someone who might not do bad things but also has no works to show that your faith even exists. It would be like telling someone if they simply eat right they will be healthy. That is not true either because if someone eats right but just lays around all day then they are really no more healthy than the person who may eat wrong but still goes to the gym to work out, neither person is truly healthy. Not only does this teaching raise up powerless Christians but it also raises up people who "know" what God does not want so much so that they will rally behind something that is not even Biblical. What I mean by that is twenty years ago there where people who would protest against biracial marriage, sadly there are still people who think that it is wrong, and what is worst is that these people thought they were doing the will of God. This kind of "cultural Christianity" will bring about people who do not know how to show the love and grace of Christ while at the same time thinking that they are justified by being that way. This kind of "American Jesus" will raise up radical, not in the good way, kind of followers that will be loud and think that they are talking for God all at the same time causing people to turn away from the true Jesus.

The other kind of "American Jesus" is the one who allows all kinds of sin in the name of love and peace. The people who follow this kind of Jesus are the ones who will change what the Bible says to fit it into the culture today. "American Jesus" will be okay with what ever is the hot topic subject that is at hand no matter if it is something that can be perfectly spelled out in the Bible as wrong. In this "cultural Christianity" Jesus changes his mind as much as we do. It is okay for whatever as long as the majority, sometimes the minority, says it is. This "American Jesus" has no back bone and all his words are either suggestions or at worst just not literal at all. This other part of "cultural Christianity" will say that everything is okay just to say that Jesus is love and would not have a problem with anything cause he loves everyone so much. Where this may be true to people coming to know Christ it is not true once someone has become a new creation in Him. The culture of this Jesus is that if it offends anyone it can not be God. God to this "cultural Christianity" has no hell or judgement. He is just a loving "sky daddy" who even if you have done wrong your punishment will only be for a little bit then you get to be with him forever. This contradicts what the Bible says about God being the perfect judge and that his judgement is final. This "cultural Christianity" will also not hold back on throwing stones at the other side and call them intolerant because they do not show love well enough to people.

So over all who is the "American Jesus"? Well he is a bipolar guy who either hates the culture today or is completely fine with it. He is either all judgement or all love. He either will send everyone, except the ones who stand up and shout about his "laws", to hell or everyone to heaven. Both of these "American Jesuses" are sold to people all over America and it makes me shutter to my core. Nether side has the fullness of the Gospel in mind when they try and paint Jesus in this way. As I have said before God is perfect love and perfect justice. Even though it may hurt peoples feelings hell is real and awaits people who do not call on the name of Jesus for salvation. On the flip side he does not take pleasure in doing this. Jesus is waiting, arms wide open, to bring anyone who calls on Him into relationship with Him. Yes there are rules to following Jesus but those are things that by the guiding of the Holy Spirit and the Bible we will find out are truth. There may be some gray areas in there but to become a new creation is to lay aside your culture and take hold of the culture of the Kingdom of God. We really make God look bad when we try to superimpose our own culture or world view on him instead of being transformed in our mind to the way He wants things done and the view He has for this world.

We as true followers of Christ can no longer sit on the fence when it comes to this subject. The "American Jesus" is not the one of the Bible. We can not just be silent when it comes to either side of this subject. We must stand up with boldness and love to these kinds of things while at the same time trying to reveal the truth of who Jesus really is. If you are wondering who the real Jesus is then like always go and study it for yourself. We have not "cornered the market" on Jesus or the Gospel. We must change our culture, first inside the body of Christ and then the world, to conform to what God says it should look like. We can only do this by preaching the fullness of the Gospel and not just with the parts that we like.

Like always let me ask you some questions. In what way have you tried to make Jesus American? Do you believe that Jesus would be pleased with the way the "Church of America" looks right now? In what way can we stand up against these things to hopefully bring about change?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Chapter 10: Lets Look At Jesus

Okay so we have covered many things on a wide verity of subjects but now it is time to talk about the most important subject of all, JESUS CHRIST!!! This is a subject my brothers and I have touched on in many ways but now it is time to take a closer look at just Jesus. This chapter will not be broken down in to just two parts, oh no this chapter will be a ten part miniseries. Now I know that it can be much longer but I really just want to cover the many misconceptions of our Lord and savoir Jesus Christ. In this miniseries I will have help from many people all leading up to a super chapter with thoughts on Jesus from every coauthor that has written so far. So strap in, listen up, enjoy, and hopefully we all learn something during the next ten weeks.

This first part is not going to be like any of my other chapters because I plan to lay some ground work for the subjects we are going to touch on and that is all. I will let everyone know what the next ten weeks will hold and will try to give brief explanations of what will be talked about and why I feel lead to talk about these subjects. To be completely honest I am very excited to go into this subject matter and have been waiting on this from the start, if you do not already know I have planned out this blog all the way to the end of the year. God has laid on my heart everything from the start and there has been many nights that I have been woken up or not been able to sleep due to what God was telling me He wanted me to talk about. So with out further ado lets look at Jesus.

I will start by covering the idea of the "American Jesus". In that part we will look at how we as Americans have twisted Jesus into our culture. I am not talking about the early founders and their beliefs but instead how American cultural Christianity have made Jesus something he is not to fit our world view. The next part of this series will be "The Lottery Ticket Jesus". I have been promising to talk about the problems with the "prosperity gospel" for a while and now I will finally do it. I do not really have a problem with believing that God wants to take care of his children but when you cross the line into the idea of God being some kind of money pyramid scheme that is when I have to say something. I personally believe that we should want to know the gift giver more than the gifts that can be given and when it comes to this subject we look a lot like the practical son than anything else. The next part, "The Magic Genie Jesus", will tie into the same matter because along with the "prosperity gospel" there is the "name it and claim it" kind of people that make it seem that God is just some kind of magic genie that we can appeal to and then we can get what we want. If we scratch God's back he will have to scratch ours and well plainly that is not really how it works.

After the first three parts we will go back to the normal format of two sides of the same idea, just like all the chapters that have been posted so far. We will look at the "Mean Jesus" and the "Careless Jesus". We will be going over things like the Westboro Baptist and people who try to use Jesus as some kind of person who loves but also hates people if they do not agree with their theology. Then we will look at the idea of the "hyper-grace gospel" and how this teaching makes Jesus look like someone who is okay with sin somehow. The next two parts are going to be the "Non-charismatic Jesus" and the "Charismatic Jesus". We will be looking at a feud inside the church that has been going on since the start of the 1900's. We will look at both sides and see why fighting over this is Making God look bad.

The final two part split up of this series will be a little more controversial because we will be dealing with race. We will be looking at the "White Jesus" and the "Black Jesus". Now some people may think that this is bad but as a follower of Christ I think it is time to air out some of our problems with this. We will be looking at how we as people try to make Jesus fit into our own little personal ideas. We will look at the culture of these two things and how we try to call what we see as our own is right. Just as a side note Jesus was not white nor black but a Jew who was born and raised in the middle east. I am very much against racism. I think that the church being broken up due to race or culture because of race is something that really makes God look bad.

The last part, as I said in the start of this chapter, will be a mash up of everyone who has helped write so far. We will be taking a look at the "Real Jesus". We will be taking a paragraph or two to look at what the Bible says about Jesus. There may be some overlap but that would be great because then you will be able to see that when we focus on what the Bible has to say about Jesus we should be seeing the same things. This miniseries will be a challenging one but also hopefully fun and eye opening to all. Please be praying for all the authors that have agreed to help me and me also that we will seek God for what he wants to say on these matters. We only want to bring truth and not opinions when it comes to the matter of our Lord.

There everything is in a nutshell and I really hope everyone will check it out. Tell others about what is about to happen and give us your feed back. The only reason everyone and myself are doing this is to try to shed some light on the most important matter, Jesus Christ. I am not promising you any great revelation nor some truth that you might not already know but what I am promising is people willing to seek out the truth and bring it to you. I look forward to what is to come and hope you do to. Let me ask you just one thing.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Chapter 9.5: Spirit and Truth: Spirit

       My brother Arthur Criste, who is a worship leader for God's House Maui, has helped me author the last part of this chapter. In this chapter we have covered worshiping God in the truth and now we will look at what it means to worship in spirit.

       John 4:23, Gal 5:13-22, Romans 8:1, and 12:1. These are the first few verses we will be looking at when it comes to what it means to worship God in the spirit. First thing we must be is filled with the spirit but what does that mean? Well, being filled with spirit means having the fruit of the spirit manifest. Which are all connected to pleasing and honoring our Father through worship and praise. This is powerful because being filled with His spirit will allow the truth to operate the way God intended it. The truth of course is the word of God. His truth is the breath which brings forth life and life more abundantly. The Bible says the truth shall set you free!!! The only way you can truly be set free is through Jesus Christ and His spirit. Which is why I believe Jesus, the son of God, is the only way to please the father. God desires to be worshiped by His spirit and truth. We can't please God just by our earthly desires because it will always be tainted and misguided by our own desires but we can do this through the Holy Spirit. That is why it says in John 4:24: God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

John 14:6 truth John 6:63: Spirit

       The Bible says the He is the way the Truth and it also says that He is the light. The Bible goes on to say God is spirit which is why I believe God desires us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. One of the ways His spirit is described is a movement of air or in other words a gentle blast of the wind. Simply put He is a breath of fresh air. We need the spirit of God like we need the very air we breathe. Just one breath of God that is all it takes. The Spirit of God will bring life, comfort, peace, power to break any chain, it brings love, it brings hope, and takes us into that place of pureness where you are stripped down to nothing but yet feel so much more fulfilled because of His spirit. These two things cannot be separated because it is a unit He didn't want us to separate. We can not have one without the other because to have the fullness of worship you will need to have both. When you try to separate the two and only operate in one or hold one above the other you are not tapping into the fullness of what God has in store for you. It is like if you took the peanut butter away from a peanut butter jelly sandwich, it is stills good when it is on its own but they are best when they are put together.
       So, if we desire to give God our best worship we should have the desire to worship Him the way he would liked to be worshiped. A way of looking at is like this: I'm happily married to a wonderful beautiful wife and she has a certain way that she would like to be loved. She desires that I do some house work like wash the dishes, fold the laundry, throw out the trash, and etc. She also desires that I communicate with her better, like having conversations about our day, what is coming up, and etc. So these are just a couple examples of the way my wife feels loved. If I would just ignore some of these things and hardly ever did them, would she feel like I do not truly love her? No, but she would probably think that I am not listening to her and therefore do not really truly care about the way she would like to be loved. When you are in a relationship you are not trying to get what you want from them. Instead think of how you can best please the other person, which is what really makes for successful relationships, if you are only thinking about yourself and what you can get out of the relationship it will not flourish into all what that relationship can be. I believe this is the same way with God. When it comes to worship and loving our Father He makes it very clear on how He would like to be loved and worshiped. He is such a loving father He designed worship in the easiest most fulfilling way possible. You won't only please Him but you will learn to draw closer and closer to Him. The more you do this naturally your whole life will reflect the fruit of the spirit and you will have more love, joy peace, kindness, gentleness, meekness, and self control. Then through the spirit God's truth will be able to function the way He intended it to function with no ulterior motives just purity and truth.
       So I propose this as we end, how are you worshiping our father? As I expressed early, is it what our Father Desires? Lets really dig deep into His word and dive into the depths of His heart to find what He desires. All He wants is your yes, but lets really give Him our all by studying His word, spending time with Him in prayer, filling yourself with His songs, and most of all living this life as a worshiper of Him. As Eddie mentioned in the last chapter, lets serve others be it at work, at school, at home, with our family, and our friends as if we were serving Jesus himself. How much more would we respect one another, how much more would we give the shirt off of our own back, and how much more would we spend time with people we feel we can't stand. Lets make a difference in this world by living a life of services to our God by being that servant to all as we would serve Him. Let us all die to our selfish desires and look to Him.
       I love you all my brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us all link arms and represent Christ the way He intended us too. Lets not regard ourselves by race, culture, social status, denomination, church, or anything else society says instead lets be a people of who are lovers of God and His ways!!!! Being the most loving and encouraging people on this earth. We can only do all these things if we submit to the Holy Spirit which is the kind of worship the Father really desires.

       Thank you very much brother. We must not get side tracked by tradition, which we love to call the spirit, but instead submit to what God has said in His word and is saying now to our hearts. To worship God in the way He desires is simple; being lead by the spirit and submitting to the truth. When we do this we make God look good. When we do not and say that we are, we are making God look bad. Let us no longer take for granted the freedom given to us through the death and resurrection of Christ but rather take that freedom to worship God the way He intended us to.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Chapter 9: Spirit and Truth: Truth

       Okay let us calm down a little from the last chapter, I know I sorta got on my soap box a bit, and lets look at something most of us have heard preached a lot. So, from the title you probably know what I am going to talk about. John 24:4, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." I have pondered on this scripture for a very long time and I am not saying I have figured it all out but plan to give my thoughts on it so far. Like always I plan to tackle this in two parts but I plan to tackle this in reverse of what is said in the scripture. I feel like before we can really worship God in spirit we must know who he is and if we are truthfully worshiping him. So let us first look at the truth of the matter.
       I want to tackle the truth part of this chapter in two parts. First the truth of who we are worshiping and second if we are truthfully worshiping him. So lets look at who we are worshiping. Many of us say that we are worshiping the Lord but are we really? Let me put it this way. Let say you are dating someone for a while, how long does not really matter, and you say that you love that person. Then after a while that person starts showing you who they really are and you break up with them. Then, after all of that, someone asks you, "did you really love that person?" You respond with, "well the person that I fell in love with was not really who they were." Now, that may seem like a really odd analogy but let me ask a very serious question, are you worshiping the God of the Bible or a version of God that you have made up? I have heard of a lot of people who are now atheist say that they were raised in church but fell away when they got older. Why? you may ask. Well, they say because they were told about God but really did not know Him and when they did their own research it was not what they were raised with. So they just figured that it was all just false. See, many of us have a God in our mind that we have been taught about but is He the full version of God revealed to us in the Bible. We can not worship God in truth unless we truly know Him, just like we can not truly love someone if we only know one side of them. So lets go back to the basics of studying the word of God so we can truly worship Him in all of his glory because of who He is wholly.

       Now in an earlier chapter I gave a handful of attributes of God that we should be like as His followers. (Chapter 2 What's In A Name) These are the same attributes that we all normally praise Him for but I want to add that I have heard God called perfect love and perfect justice. Now my question is do we just worship Him for His perfect love? I am a parent and at times I have to spank my kids and to be honest it is heartbreaking every time. After I spank my kids and they have calmed down I always tell them that I love them. I will hold them and wipe away their tears and wait for them to tell me that they love me back. (Some people may disagree with spanking and that is fine but I find it biblical just as long as it is a spanking not beating). With all of that, if God is perfect justice do we tell Him we love Him when He has to "spank" us? It says in Hebrews 12:5-6, "and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, "MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES." See the one we worship has to not only be the loving father but also the one who will call us out even if it hurts. On the flip side I want to add that at a Bible study I had once I asked people to describe God in one word. The over all answer was "smiter", I know that is not a word but you get the idea, and when asked to describe Jesus it was "love". The funny thing is that God the Father and Jesus are all part of the God head but we have polar opposite ideas of who they are. It is funny to me because God the Father, the smiter, sent Jesus, the one who loves us, to die for us because God the Father loved us so much. On top of all of that Jesus is the one who talked about hell and punishment more than He did about heaven. What gets me the most is that we have made this idea of God up in our minds that is either uneducated or we choose to overlook the hard things to swallow. I am completely okay with idea of God being full of mercy, love and grace but am also completely okay with the God who pours out wrath. If we are going to worship God we must do it knowing the truth about Him and the truth is that He is love but He is also jealous for our love so much that He will be hard on us to make sure He receives our love.
       Now, on to if we are truly worshiping God. Let me show another scenario: Lets say that there are a group of people worshiping from morning till noon. They dance and they shout. They sing praises the whole time. They do what their traditions are but get no answer. What went wrong? Well some may say that they were not really praising or maybe their heart was not in the worship but if you know the story then you might realize that I am talking about the prophets of Baal. What is really sad is it sounds like most churches today. See, somewhere we have lost what true worship looks like. We have made it a song or a service but to be honest that is not really what worship is all about. We are told what true worship is in Romans 12: 1-2, " And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice--the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." True worship to God is a heart that is given over to Him totally. See, a heart given over to God can bring songs about like in psalms but it is not the song that is the worship. We get so mixed up with the culture of worship now a days we forget what God has called worship in the Bible. That is why I did not end with verse 1. We must not just follow the way the world does things all the way to the way the world worships, be it to people or otherwise. There are many love songs out there to people and to be honest our worship at times can seem to be just like those songs. We must get back to a lifestyle of worship to God starting with our heart. The songs we sing is not the kind of worship that God wants it is the lifestyle of a person. Everything we do is worship to God. I always say this to people, "I can find out what kind of follower of Christ you are by simply asking your boss." That may sound weird but think about it. If I asked someones boss what kind of worker they are and I am told that they are lazy, undependable, and all around not a good employee then it is reasonable to believe that that same person would more than likely have a lukewarm relationship with God. Some people may disagree with me about this but are we not told to do everything as unto the Lord? The Bible goes as far as to tell slaves to obey their masters even if they are harsh ones so that they can show them the gospel. True worship to God is a lifestyle that brings Him glory all the time. It can not just be a song or service it must be something that comes from the heart that ultimately brings a change of lifestyle.
       So the truth is are we truly worshiping the true God of the Bible? We make God look bad when we do not worship Him in the way His word tells us to. We make him look powerless when the world sees us worship and nothing happens or when we talk about only a part of who He really is. We make him look bad when our worship looks no different than idol worship that the world does all the time. We make him look even worse when our worship for idols, be it sports, movies, or anything else that is worldly far surpasses our worship for God. I am not saying any of those things are blatantly bad but what I am saying is that when we can quote stats, movie lines, words from a song, or whatever else better than the word of God we might want to really look at what is important. Who is it that we are really worshiping and what is it that gets our highest worship? We can no longer just hobble by with this half hearted half given life to God and call it worship. We must get back to studying the Bible to find out who this God is that we claim to love and what kind of worship He really desires out of us. If we want to really worship Him in spirit and truth than maybe we need to start finding out what the truth of the matter is. 

       I think the main problem is that we love to say we worship with our heart but really never worship with our head. We must stop making worship just an emotional thing and learn to also worship him with our understanding also. Someone's personal style of worship does not bother me. What I am mainly trying to point out is that when worshiping God do we really worship Him in total truth. Truth through repentance, truth through forgiveness, truth through submission, truth through humbleness, and most of all truth through the grace given to us through Christ Jesus our Lord. I only have one question: Are we truly worshiping God?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chapter 8.5 That Is In The Bible?!

       You are right "this too shall pass" is not in the Bible but when times are rough bro remember what it says in Jeremiah 29:11 "for I know the plans I have for you". Wait, what? That's not what that scripture is talking about. You can not just pull scriptures out of context and apply them to what you are going through. Another thing that really bothers me is when we, as followers of Christ, pull scriptures out of context. In the second part of this chapter, like always read the first one to get CONTEXT (lol), I plan to show how we take scriptures out of context and make them something that they are not. There are a lot of scriptures that get pulled out of context that people make a whole theology off of. Again I do not plan to tackle the prosperity gospel or the "hyper grace" gospel in this chapter and trust me there are many scriptures pulled out of context to make up those theologies.
       Context is the key to understanding the word of God properly. Just like anything else, when something is taken out of context it can mean something totally different. Lets say you told somebody something like, "I do not like to hang out with my brother/sister when they are acting stupid", but when quoted back to your brother/sister someone says that you said, "I really do not like to hang out with my brother/sister". At that time you would say, "Hold on, that is not all that I said, you are taking that out of context". No one likes to be taken out of context so why do we so readily and easily take the Bible out of context? Well the answer is easy, we do it because either it makes us feel better somehow or we do not know the whole context. This goes back to simply studying the Bible for ourselves and not just being hearers of the word. Like the earlier part of this chapter I am only going to cover three scriptures (the list is a lot longer than that, I promise) that are taken out of context by a lot of people.
       Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope". Now this is one of those scriptures that brings a lot of people hope and I really hope that it does not hurt to many feelings but I do plan to talk about it. I want to say first that I am not against quoting promises from the Bible for us and I think that there are many promises for us but not this one. Let us look at this scripture in its context.
First, we must look at who is saying this and then who it is being said to. The book of Jeremiah is Prophetic Oracle and Narrative History, although not completely in chronological order. The prophet Jeremiah wrote it sometime during his ministry about 626-586 B.C. Key personalities are the many kings Judah, Baruch, Ebdemelech, King Nebuchadnezzar, and the Rechabites. Its purpose was to warn of the destruction that they were about to face and to urge Judah to return and submit to God. Jeremiah was a priest who God calls to be His prophet. Jeremiah identifies their sins and treachery, as he wants them to realize the serious condition of their sinful ways. He then gives prophecies of the coming king and the New Covenant that would be made. Now more specifically whom is Jeremiah writing to in chapter 29? Well let us look at the first verse: "Jeremiah wrote a letter from Jerusalem to the elders, priests, prophets, and all the people who had been exiled to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar". So now in context we see that what is written is for a specific group. Who is this group? Well, the exiles of Jerusalem. See, even though I do believe that God does know the plans He has for us I also see that we can not just assume that those plans are for us to prosper but at times go through hard times. If we just simply take this scripture  out of context then we have to contend with many o
ther verses (that Christ himself said) that tell us otherwise. Christ tells us that we will be hated and even killed because we are His followers. This is in stark contrast to the idea of prospering, having good, and not having evil happen to us. This scripture is a hard one for me to talk on because I know many people will say that I might be saying that God only wants us to suffer but that is not at all what I am saying. What I am saying is that we can not simply quote scriptures out of context to give ourselves false hope. We must always rest in the strength of God and know that even if His plan for us is hard times we must be content with that. Paul on many occasions tells us exactly that. The last thing with Jeremiah chapter 29 is that later in that chapter there is another promise God makes that I never hear anyone quote. In verse 17 it says: "This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: “I will send war, famine, and disease upon them and make them like bad figs, too rotten to eat". Now I never hear this quoted but it is in the same chapter. Many will say, "well there is a direct group he is talking to", exactly my point. Context, context, context, we must read the Bible in context and not pull out things and say that one promise is for us and the other bad stuff isn't.
       On to the next one; Matthew 7:1, "Do not judge others, and you will not be judged". Oh this one really gets me. I have heard this from believers and nonbelievers alike. This scripture seems to be almost as well known as John 3:16. The funny thing is that the reason this one bothers me is because it does not take much research, not as much as the last one at least, to see how it is taken out of context. In context it would look like this: "Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, 'Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye". (Matthew 7:1-5) Lets look at it like this: If one person is on drugs and tells another person on drugs that they should stop doing drugs then they are in the wrong for judging but if the first person gets off drugs and goes to the second person and says, "hey I use to be on drugs too but I have found a better way, you should try it", then the first person is well within his/her rights, biblicaly, to say that. We do not like to see that scripture like this because we think it is a get out of jail free card to any rebuke brought to us. Well it isn't. If someone comes to you to rebuke you in a subject that they have went through and overcame it through the power of Christ then they have all right to lovingly call you out. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 5: 12, "It isn't my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning". It is simple. If someone is inside the church and sinning then we have a right to openly and lovingly rebuke them for that sin. We need to stop taking scriptures out of context to make ourselves look like we are being attacked when we get rebuked and realize that, at times, an open rebuke is just what we need.
       This last scripture will get a little hairy because it is an issue that is very big for our time. I want to give a disclaimer before I go on. I whole heartily believe that homosexuality is a sin and that in no way does the Bible say otherwise. I believe the word of God is very clear on this subject and that we should always stand in line with the Bible. With all of that, one of the scriptures that gets quoted on this subject, out of context of course, is Leviticus 20:13-"If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense". Now, before you go off the deep end on me with this one let me explain. See, first the book of Leviticus is the of laws for the tribes of Israel, more specifically the Levites hence the name Leviticus. Second, in this book there are a lot of things that we do today that it calls unholy yet we do them and say that it is okay. Finally, there are better scriptures to use that are in the new testament that we should use to make our point. Let me show you why I say this. So yes Leviticus 20:13 said that but right before that verse it says in 20:9, "Anyone who dishonors father or mother must be put to death. Such a person is guilty of a capital offense". I do not hear a lot of people quote this one, why? Well because it is common place for disrespect from child to parent, we just call it teenage years, and even though it is wrong we still do not think that they should be put to death. How about 20:10, "If a man commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, both the man and the woman who have committed adultery must be put to death". This happens a lot in our day in age, sadly probably more in the church then we like to admit, but again we do not quote this scripture at them. We must make sure what scripture we use to stand for or against things can not be simply dismissed by just looking at surrounding verses. So if you are going to stand against homosexuality, as I believe we should as believers, then how about use this verse instead: "That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved." (Romans 1:26,27)
       Like I said in the first part of this chapter there is nothing that gets to me more than the misuse of scriptures. We must study to show ourselves approved just like the Bible tells us to. We can no longer hear scriptures from the stage, TV, or anywhere else and just take that at face value. We must hear the word, read the word, and most of all study the word. I would like to say after all that I have just written I may still be wrong on some of these scriptures so please go and do your own homework and see if what I have said is in context of the Bible. I am just a man and I can make mistakes but I will say that not only do I study before I write any chapter I also study any time I read the word of God. We must get back to making sure what we believe what the word says is really what the word is saying. We can not just rip things out of context and plug it in to our lives like it really is the whole truth of the word of God. We must be diligent with our studies so when faced with things we do not just look stupid or give ourselves a false sense of reality. Please, can we stop making God look bad, or at worst bipolar, by taking things out of context to suit our lifestyles. Instead we should be changing our lifestyles to fit in to the word of God.
       Finally I will ask some questions. What have you believed was in the word of God that really was just out of context? Do you study enough to be able to tell when something is misquoted? Are you making God look bad by twisting the Bible to suit how you live? Are you making God look bad by simply not knowing what is in the Bible?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Chapter 8: That's Not In The Bible?!

       Hey bro I know that times are rough right now but like it says in the Bible, "this too shall pass." Well actually no that is not in the Bible! WHAT? IT'S NOT??? So, one way that we really make God look bad is not knowing what is said by God. Now I am not saying I know everything that is written in the Bible but I do know that we, as the body of Christ, misquote or even say things that are not in the Bible. We must make sure what we say God has said is really something that God said. There are many things that are said that people believe that is in the Bible but in reality it is not. In this chapter we are going to cover not only things not in the Bible but also things that are in the Bible that we forget.
       Before we get into the meat of this chapter I want to say that before we start quoting anything it is good to go and make sure we are quoting it correctly. How upset would you be if someone put words in your mouth, even if those words might be good. One of my favorite memes on the internet is the one that says, "you can not trust everything you see on the internet"- Abraham Lincoln. Now I know this is very funny but it highlights what I am saying perfectly. I do not plan to tackle all the things said by people that are not in the Bible, that would take to long, just three that I think are interesting. I will not be dealing with stuff like the misuses of scripture in the prosperity gospel, I plan to talk about that in a chapter all by itself later.
       So back to "this too shall pass". Now as much as this sounds like it may very well be in the Bible; it is not. This quote, like many others, can be found in a round about way. What I mean by this is even though it may not say those words exactly there is some scriptural things that can mean basically the same thing. Okay so first where did the saying come from? This saying is believed to come from an old Persian poem. This story, Attar of Nishapur, records one fable of a powerful king who asks assembled wise men to create a ring that will make him happy when he is sad, and vice versa. After debating, the sages hand him a simple ring with the words “This too will pass” etched on it, which has the desired effect. So how about what the Bible says? Well we know that the Bible says, "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today." (Matthew 6:34) Also the Bible says, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever. So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4: 17-18). This is one of the quotes I do not personally mind so much but do not like people saying that it is plainly in the Bible when it is not.

 Next one is "God will not put on you more than you can handle". I will admit that I may have said this one in my youth, when I did not know the Bible as well, but none the less it is not in the Bible. This quote, like the last one, is one of those quotes meant to help people in hard times. I am not against using the Bible, properly of course, to help people when times are tough but we first must make sure we are quoting the Bible and second not give people false hope. This quote does not have a cool back story like the other one it is simply a misquote form the Bible. The verse that people are using is 1 Corinthians 10:13 and it is actually referring to dealing with temptation, not problems in life. The verse says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” I will say that I can sorta see, if I tilt my head a bit and squint real hard, how this scripture can be used improperly. My main point is when using the Bible make sure you use verses in context and do not try to twist them so you can simply ease someone's troubled mind.
       Now on to one of my favorite ones. "Love the sinner, not the sin." I will once again admit that I have said this, A LOT and not more than a year ago, but this quote is not in the Bible either. This one, unlike the others, I have heard people even give credit to Jesus. Not only is this one not in the Bible it is definitely no where in red letters. This quote sounds so good that it is easy for almost any believer to think that it comes straight out of the Bible but it actually comes from St. Augustine’s letters, which contains the phrase “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum,” translated to “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” Now an argument can be made that in a round about way the Bible actually says this. Things like, "love your neighbor as yourself", and "God does not delight in wickedness" are just two scriptures that we could use to make such an argument. The best scripture that could be used is Romans 12:9 "Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good." I am not saying that we should not love people and hate sin but what I am saying is before saying that the Bible says that directly we should make sure it does.
       The whole reason I started this blog was to bring to light things that we as followers of Christ do to make God look bad. I have spent the last four months going through many things that either has been done or is currently happening that does exactly that. I have talked on many different things in a wide variety of subjects and plan to continue. The reason I am saying all of this is because I hold very dear the Bible and the things said in it. Many others and myself have talked about subject from the Bible that we can do better at but the thing that bothers me the most is the simple fact that the "average Christian" just does not study let alone even read the Bible. I have heard the Bible referred to as "the handbook for life" but it is so much more than that. The Bible is the very life blood of our life. The Bible contains the very Gospel that saves us. It contains the truth about life, death, and everything in between. We can not just simple treat it like a book with good ideas or great proverbs for life. The Bible is more than just powerful words it is the power in word form. This is the reason that when we, as believers, misquote or even say that the Bible says something it does not I get very upset. The Bible should be treated with great respect and never just used flippantly. Worshiping God, learning about God, and understanding God can all be found in that book. So as believers we must get back to not just reading it but, instead, studying it. We must stop hearing things and going along with them. Instead, we should study what we hear so that we will not fall in to the trap of repeating something that may not be true.
       I normally end with a series of questions that would go something like this: What quotes have you heard that you think are in the Bible? or When is the last time you really studied the Bible? Both good questions but instead I will ask just one question. Do you treat the Bible with the importance it deserves? In your reading, when you hear it talked about, and in your life.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Chapter 7.5 Why Are You Still Sitting There?

My Brother in Christ, Pastor Dwayne Dunning, has put together another great chapter. Here is the second part of this chapter, like always please read the first one to get the full understanding of what is being said.

Pastors preach and the congregation just needs to sit there and listen. Don’t do anything with what is being said, just sit back and enjoy the nice speaker and his beautiful voice. Please just be entertained by all of it. Isn't that what it is all about anyway? Isn't this what Jesus wanted from His “followers”, a bunch of “hearers” not listeners or doers? Let me ask you, does this sound at all correct? Of course not.

While thinking about this dilemma, the problem of obesity came to mind. “Why obesity?” you may ask. Well, let me explain. I can remember many Sundays when I was young, leaving the church and my dad saying, “I am so tired of all of the overweight Christians in the world”. As a boy I thought he meant this literally. I mean obesity is a major problem in America, isn't it? People are dying more often of complications from being overweight. Kids are bigger now than they ever have been. We get lazier and lazier. So I just thought he meant it literally. I mean, I saw Mr. So and So that could barely stand up to pray without almost killing over. I saw large people at the church every time we went. But he was saying nothing about the physical weight or size of the people’s bodies. He was speaking about their spiritual condition. My dad was upset because of the lack of willingness to be a true follower of Christ. My dad saw their lack of concern and desire to get off their rear ends and do something for the Kingdom.

This intrigued me, so I sat down one day and asked my dad more about this thought. After the conversation I saw his correlation. Too many people come in to services on Sunday, partake of the word, and then just let it sit there. They do nothing with it. It is no different than sitting down at the dinner table every night, consuming everything that is in front of you, and then going straight to bed. We all know what happens then. It goes straight to our hips and we get fat! If we never exercise, we will just get fat and be out of shape.

The word that is given by pastors is like the meat and milk for our spiritual lives, it is the food that we need so badly for our health. It is part of our spiritual nourishment. Just like our meals are our physical nourishment. But there has to be a time of working it off. We can’t just sit back and take it all in or we are just fat, sloppy, lazy Christians.

Most of us are like babies, we have to be spoon fed. We aren't responsible enough to feed ourselves. We don’t dig into the meat of our word enough on our own and we need that person to feed us. Not saying this is the way it should be. We should get into the word on our own, but God has given us pastors to also feed us the word. Ephesians 4:11- It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers. We need what God is feeding us through them. But we have to get out and work it off or we will get fat and useless.

Pastors get the word, study it, and put time into the message, just as a mother that cares for her family spends time in the kitchen preparing a great meal for her family. This message or meal is not for you to just hear but to apply it and actually begin to use it in life. As pastors, they want legs put to the words and they want healthy energetic Christians.

After a meal has been eaten and we are full, we need to then take the time to exercise and work off the weight. We need to take the nourishment we have been given and work it off and make it count. When God has given a word to the pastor that leads you, you need to partake of it and then exercise it in your life. By doing this, it helps lead you to a healthy spiritual life. It causes you to begin to do and be what God wants.

Pastors take what they have been called to do very seriously, at least they better. I know that there are those men that pull off a Saturday night special and just get up in the pulpit and spout off whatever they have thrown together, but most seek God and put all that they are into every message that is spoken. Why? Because they want us to live it out. They don’t just want people that sit in the pew and hear the words, but people that will listen to the words of God and then become doers of that word.

In his book The Lost Art of Listening, Michael Nichols writes, "Listening is so basic that we take it for granted. Unfortunately, most of us think of ourselves as better listeners than we really are." In other words, most people are no more than “hearers”. They aren't really paying much attention to what is being said. They are taking it in, but it really isn't doing much. Sort of like a child sitting down and just inhaling the plate of food that is in front them. We have to listen, really listen to the words that have been given by God to the pastors that are over our lives. If not, there is failure.

Why do many marriages thrive, while others fail to survive? Why do many families flourish, while others seem to falter? Why do many sermons inspire, while others lack fire? It often depends on how well people listen. For those of you that are pastors, consider your own pulpit ministry. As you actively listen and learn from God's Word and from God's people, your preaching becomes all the more vibrant and vital. Consider your congregation. As members actively listen to God's Word, as they hear and heed Christ's call, as they prayerfully respond to the Spirit's leading, they become all the more fruitful in fulfilling the mission that has been set before them.

Charles Swindoll suggests that Christians who study Scripture, hear the words of a pastor, but seldom put God's Word into practice are not followers at all. Rick Warren speaks of this kind of inactive listening among believers. Warren observes, "The Dead Sea is dead because it takes in water but doesn't give any out. When any Christian's schedule consists completely of receiving biblical input but has no planned outflow of ministry or evangelism, his spiritual growth will be limited. Study without service leads to stagnation.”

This is exactly what I am trying to get us to understand. All of us need to listen to the words that are spoken to us by our pastors, apply them to our lives and do something with them. If not, we become stagnant and fat. This in turn makes us useless to the Kingdom.

Look at what the writer of Hebrews sad about this. Hebrews 13:17- “Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

According to what was written, we are called to submit to the words and authority of our pastors, those who lead us. The only biblical authority a pastor has comes from the Word of God and the Holy Spirit working through his teaching in the lives of his flock. In effect, he’s not a source of authority himself, but a vessel of it from the Lord to His people. That’s the authority God’s people need to submit to—the work of the Spirit through the faithful, consistent teaching of God’s Word through the pastor.

And how should believers respond to that kind of authority? It says to obey it and submit to it. Don’t just hear it but listen to it and begin to apply it to your life. Do something with the nourishment that is being fed to you. Listen to it and use it. According to the scripture, if you do not, “it would be unprofitable to you.” It would be worthless and pointless.

Think right now about your pastors and what they are asked to do. It’s a tremendous grief to try to shepherd a rebellious flock. Watching over the people of God is no easy task to begin with. Pastors are called to train, disciple, support, and serve you. They are called to guard your purity, and to lend insight and exercise oversight with you. They are also called to exhort, warn, admonish, reprove, rebuke, and discipline in the application of God’s Word in your lives—all for the sake of your spiritual growth. They are called to feed you.

That’s hard enough with believers who are eager, engaged, and hungry. It’s almost impossible with people who won’t be faithful and put legs to the words that have been fed to them. If you have a faithful pastor or church leader who exemplifies the qualities of a shepherd, let him know how much you appreciate his labor on your behalf (1 Thessalonians 5:12). It will be a great encouragement to him to know he’s making a spiritual difference in your life. Let them know that you appreciate the meal that is fed to you each week. Don’t do this through empty words. “Great message today pastor!”. Show your appreciation by getting up and exercising and working off the meal that was given. Put legs to the words of your pastor. Be doers and not just fat, overweight, stagnant, “Christians”.

And just to be brutally honest here in the end. If you’re a believer who rejects the biblical authority of the pastor and won’t submit to his leadership, you need to do a careful, thorough examination of your heart. What’s behind your rebellious spirit? What sin are you harboring that’s keeping you from submitting to godly authority? What’s keeping you from listening to the word God has given through your pastor and then doing something with that word? Why are you too stubborn to listen and do?

Let’s all begin today with a brand new work out plan. It will consist of daily listening to the word of the pastor, consuming it, and then going out and putting it to work. Let’s all try and stop the obesity problem in our churches. God bless.

Thank you again Pastor Dwayne and like always I am going to leave you with some questions. Are you an overweight christian? Do you put actions behind what you hear preached? Are you making God look bad by not obeying the words your authority is speaking to you?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chapter 7: Preachers Preach And We should Just Listen. . . Right?

      Have you ever been in a service and was blown away by what was being said? The preaching was so great that we felt like it was just for us. Then we leave and nothing really changed. So the preacher should just preach and we just listen, right? Well, as always, I plan to break this subject up into two parts. In this first part I want to focus on the importance of how we treat the authority over us and the second will be on how we should respond. 
       The first thing I want to do is dispel a common thought toward pastors. Most people think that pastors only really work on Wednesday and Sunday. If you are one of the people who think like this I greatly encourage you to do one of two things. 1) Go take a week and follow your pastor around or 2) sit down with your pastor and ask him/her everything he/she does. See what most people do not understand that along with the many jobs a pastor has he/she still takes time to listen to the voice of God for the people that he/she is over. So a pastor does not just preach, if they are good at their job, they study and prepare to make sure every word spoken from stage is the words of God for their people. My main point here is that preachers do not just preach.
       Now that we know that there is a lot of work put into every message given on Sundays, possibly Wednesdays too, then how should we respond to our leaders? Well with respect, a thankful attitude, and a proper response. Like I said in the beginning, all of my chapters are in two parts so I will not be talking on the response part but more over the respect and thankful attitude. If you attended a church regularly you have chosen to allow the pastor to speak into your life and to be somewhat of your authority in spiritual matters. So by choosing this, you should treat your pastor and his/her words in a different way than most any other person. Most people will enjoy a sermon but simply enjoying what is being said is not the goal of a preacher. A good pastor works hard making sure his/her sermon is the word of God and that it is relevant to all the different groups of people in his congregation. So, we should not just sit and listen like it is some kind of entertainment.

       Respect! Well, the first thing we need to talk about is how to respect our pastors properly. It always amazes me how pastors, at times, get little to no respect from his/her congregation. This goes from when they preach all the way to how, at times, people talk to or about their pastor. I do know that not all pastors are respectable people but I am not talking about those kinds of pastors. The pastors I am talking about are the ones that do their position justice. So, let us tackle the first easy one, calling your pastor (be it youth, music, children, ect.) by pastor. If someone holds the position of pastor, and does the position justice, then we should, out of respect, call him/her pastor. Most people are probably saying duh but you would be surprised that there are people who do not do that, I see this a lot in the generation coming up now. Respect of that person in that position is not just proper but also biblical. How you perceive people is how you will ultimately receive people. With the story of the woman at the well, at first she sees Jesus as some Jewish guy until He began calling out her sins. At that time she says, "I see you are a prophet", then begins to treat him as such until she realizes that He is the Christ. If you do not call your pastor, pastor then this is how you see him/her. If he/she is just some person to you, you are not receiving him/her in the right light nor are you respecting him/her in the position that he/she holds in your life. Jesus was called rabbi by His followers because they respected Him as a teacher, so they called Him such. Next, respect your pastor as he/she speaks from the stage. You would not like someone talking, sending texts, or checking social media when you talk so we should not do it while the pastor is speaking either. Finally, how we talk to and about our pastor. We should always be respectful of our pastors and also build them up and support them when we talk to or about them. Do not even allow anyone to talk bad about your leadership; guard them and support them. If you disagree with your pastor go and talk to the pastor.  Do not be one of those people who gossip or talk behind the pastor's back.
       Thank your pastor! He/she works hard, we have already covered that, and just like how you like to hear "thank you" so do they. Pastor appreciation should not just be one day; it should always happen. Just as much as we should we respect our pastors, we should also thank them. You could drop them a note, send an email, or simply shake their hands and tell them how they are doing a good job. If your pastor has spoken a word to help change your life let them know it. I can promise you that pastors, at times, wonder if what they are saying is actually helping people. Go and tell them that it is. Telling them something as simple as, "Pastor what you have been speaking on is helping me so much", can bring so much encouragement. Simply appreciate your pastor! They are not doing this job to make their bank accounts big, at least not all of them. They do this job because they love God and want to help people. So, just let them know that they are helping you.
       So what does this have to do with making God look bad? Well, simply put, if we do not respect the people God has put in authority over us do we really respect God? We make God look bad by how we treat His leaders. If you went into a place of business and saw an employ disrespecting their boss you would either think that they do not like their job or they do not respect their boss at all. So, if we disrespect our leaders what kind of view are we giving the world? Respect is something we should give to everyone but respect for our leaders should be even more obvious. We need to stop making God look bad because we simply do not respect our leaders.
       Preachers do not just preach and we should not just simply listen. Next chapter will be co-authored again and will touch on our response to words spoken from the stage because pastors are not on stage just saying nice things, they are trying to help us grow in the Lord. Let me end, like I always do, with some questions. Do you REALLY respect your pastor? When is the last time you thanked your pastor? What are some things you can do to show your pastors you appreciate them? What message are your sending by how you treat your pastors, to their face or behind their back?