Thursday, May 13, 2021

Looking Ahead Through All the Fog...

Thursday rolled in this week rather like the fog used to roll in to the Oregon coast as I was growing up...

...meaning, way too fast, covering the landscape around me. 

There was no fog horn of warning.

I woke up and all I saw was gray vapor.

It's been a busy week, and I've had no clarity on this morning's blog, and now that Thursday is here (sure enough), I can't see the "Son" for the fog hovering around my brain...

So, I've silently waited for the Holy Spirit to "brood over the waters (see Genesis 1:1-3, TLB)" of my finite mind and bring some sort of light.

As I begin to type, there's a small sliver of it, just barely beginning to break through...

I reckon we'll see if it's brightness actually burns the fog away...or not.

In the meantime, it seems I'm typing blind...

#####

I continue to be surprised (and, not in a good way) at the new "twists and turns" within the Christian faith. 

After reading to Bay, yet one more post, from the heart of a young woman with whom I'm acquainted, we  verbally ping-ponged back and forth about what the best approach might be when we come up against this new branding in Christianity.

In Paul's letter to the Galatian churches, Paul mentions that when another "new brand" tried to influence the gospel in Antioch, Peter seemed to get sucked into the drama even though he knew better. 

The Lord had already given Peter a vision freeing him from dietary restrictions years earlier;

...nevertheless, those who wanted the Jewish law to be included in salvation, totally affected Peter's reasoning, and Paul called him out on the fact his behavior DID NOT match his convictions. 

So, to his face, and in public, Paul opposed Peter for his inconsistency. 

After all, the preservation of the gospel was at stake.

Considering other passages in this little letter, I'm certain Paul called Peter into question with affection (Gal 4:12) and with an anguished heart (4:19).

I'm convinced, he followed his own instructions (Galatians 6:1-3), attempting to restore Peter quickly, by rebuking him in a "spirit of gentleness....and, in humility," being filled with the Holy Spirit of the Lord (Gal. 5:22). 

Interesting (yes?), to think about rebuke, gentleness, and love in the same context...

But, true love often needs to use that effective tool of rebuke to garner attention.

In these days, "love" would never rebuke; because loving means agreeing. 

So, for this reason, Bay and I both decided, we can state our convictions with honesty and kindness (a "spirit of gentleness"), but not much good would come from "opposing" - at least, not in the Apostle-Paul-sense. 

Peter, by his very nature, tended toward impulsivity. 

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, he may just not have thought about the consequences of his actions - 

It probably didn't cross his mind that others might be led astray down a dangerous path....

Or that his decision to no longer eat with the Gentiles, for fear of the Jews, might send a mixed message and hurt others in the process...

I can't say the same is true in progressive circles.

Overall, those I've talked with, and asked questions of, sincerely believe they've found a better way...and, that those who still lean "evangelical" are trapped in bondage and shame. 

With both sides deeply and emotionally ingrained, it's difficult to dialogue openly; and, when said and done, any discussion would end at a frustrating impasse... 

So, if we cross off our action-list the word "oppose," then what's an evangelical, Christ-follower, supposed to do when the gospel is in jeopardy of losing its preservation? 

The answer isn't quite as foggy as my Thursday morning began. 

Instead of attempting to change minds:

We take the Word of Truth to those who are coming behind...

We look to the next-gen, bringing the simplicity of the gospel to them... 


We make course corrections, as needed, and be Jesus to those who are still listening... 

We prepare to answer questions - no matter how confusing or difficult - to those who are asking...

We walk alongside those who are hurting...

And, above all, we pray, pray, pray for the Lord to do as He's done before....to bring revival..

I've set an alarm on my phone to do exactly this.

Every day at 4:00 PM, it buzzes and a notification reads:

"Pray for the next-gen." 

What if we all did the same?


So, as I began today's random "just a thought," praying that the Spirit of the Lord would brood over my heart and mind, as He did over the waters at the beginning of time, speaking light into existence, I end somewhat the same way. 

I'm asking the Lord to break through the fog hovering over this world:

"Oh, Spirit of God, be active!

Oh, Spirit of God, breathe life!

Oh, Spirit of God, brood over the waters of our finite world,

and call into being new stories of redemption.

Oh, Spirit of God, breathe life!"*

*(Modified from Every Moment Holy, Volume 1)

Thursday, May 6, 2021

What Progressives Get Right

In spite of the many confusing points of Progressive Christianity, I'm attempting to not throw the baby out with the bathwater (that would be a big "whoops!").

As a self-proclaimed follower of the historic gospel, I know that daily examining my heart is crucial.

I continue to ask the Lord to show me, "Where am I wrong?"  "What needs to change in me?"

"How can I serve You better and promote Your Kingdom in this world effectively?"

I know there's plenty of growth still needed; 

and; I'm acutely aware that if others are exiting the evangelical church for something different (and many are!), then there's a problem needing fixing. 

Or...

There's something more attractive about this new-not-really-new philosophy (I can not bring myself to say religion, for it is merely a form of godliness)

If attraction is the reason for the leaving,

something is seriously wrong!

Nothing should be more attractive than the pure gospel of the cross and resurrection of Jesus!

So, along with the questions I've already mentioned, I've added a new one:

"What, then, do the Progressives get right?"

It's a simple one word answer, but, of course, I'll expound a bit.

The answer?

People!


The followers of the progressive movement (at least the ones that I've been in dialogue with) have huge hearts for others. 

They are kind, thoughtful, compassionate, hugely sympathetic, and empathetic. 

They want to see the needs of the poor eliminated.

There's a longing for all people to feel included, accepted, valued and loved.

They strive for peace among all and justice to be meted fairly (equitably).

In fact, one of their strongest beliefs is this:

The way Christians behave toward others is the strongest and fullest expression of belief!

To be honest, I can't argue with the sentiments.

I do struggle with the underpinnings of how they want these things to be solved; but I can not argue with "loving our neighbors," "caring for the poor," "visiting the sick and imprisoned;" and holding out hope to all by sharing the GOSPEL of JESUS...

It's exactly what the early Christians did (probably why they were called, "Little Christs").

They took Jesus' words seriously; and, with His teachings sprinkled like salt throughout their lives, this message brought flavor to the followers of The Way. 

They were different.

People sat up and took notice. 

As a result, people flocked to the Church and "many were added daily."

The first great African theologian (known as the Father of Latin Theology), Tertullian, once attacked pagan beliefs as superstitious and immoral, using the actions of Christians as a morally superior way of life. He took note that as pagans looked on, they openly recognized and declared :

LOOK! Look how these Christians love one another...and, are ready to die for each other.

James, the step-brother of Jesus, expounds in his little book, 

"What good is it if someone has faith, but does not have works? Does he have a saving faith? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in food, and one of you says, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:14-17)!"

Followers of Jesus care for one another. 

When Paul traveled to Jerusalem from Antioch in Acts 15, his mission fully centered on making CERTAIN he presented the only gospel taught to him by the Lord Jesus Himself, while in Arabia, and that it was the same gospel of Jesus' disciples. 

Called "The Jerusalem Council," these men, mainly, John, Peter, and James (Jesus' step-brother), affirmed Paul:  Paul's preaching was their preaching.

There was only one gospel!

They added nothing. 

No one was saved by good works.

However, they instructed (probably at James' recommendation), "Remember - keep in mind - the poor..."

Paul's response? 

I AM EAGER TO DO JUST THIS (Galatians 2:10)!

It's time to "eager-up" Church!

How can we do a better job of sharing the gospel...and remember the poor? 

It starts within our own congregations, helping one another...brother and sister for brother and sister.

Then it spreads from within the church outside the walls, taking the gospel to others, and caring for needs, making Jesus attractive.

First, we have to get out of our self-centered-mindset, and become more like "Christians" in the true sense.

THIS IS the way of Jesus.

So, it need be the way of His followers (and, might I add, not the responsibility of the government).

And may those watching us adamantly declare:

Look, see how they love one another!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

At the End of the Day, What's the Big Deal with Progressive Christianity?

Back and forth; back and forth...

I've wrestled between a couple of random thoughts for this morning's blog.

Think I've settled and will save the other for next week (What Progressives Get Right). 

Where I've landed comes out of the Bible Study Bay and I are doing with our small group.

Right now, we are studying the book of Galatians.

Digging deep.

It's relevancy in our current world goes beyond coincidence.

So much so, I'd call it a "God-incidence..."

And, yet...because the passage comes straight from the inerrant and infallible Word of Truth, why would I doubt applicability in any fashion?

The pondering I've done follows on the heels of a question I was asked recently, "Why is Progressive Christianity such a big deal to you? After all, it's still 'Christian', and like most denominations just varies in theology." 

It's a question worthy of an answer.

Maybe you've asked the same thing.

"When all is said and done, what's the BIG DEAL?"

So, let me address it.

But, before I do, a wee bit of history.

Paul's first missionary journey took him to what is modern-day-Turkey.

(Galatia)

(Modern Day Turkey)

There, he planted several churches among the "Gauls" - men and women from France, who'd re-settled into this area. They were known as "impetuous people." Historians wrote at length about their "fickleness; fondness for change; and, the inability to trust them (Caesar)." The historian, Josephus, records how the nations surrounding identified Gauls as "eminently intelligent and fond of show - quick to change their minds." 

No doubt they jumped on Paul's precious gospel message. However, as soon as he left, and "the circumcision party" arrived, accusing Paul of having no credibility, offering the Galatians an incomplete salvation message (and, above all, a people-pleaser) their fickleness and fondness of change moved them a new direction. 

When Paul received word, astonishing sadness filled his soul - and, reading Galatians you feel the high emotion of his writing.

He's frustrated.

Questioning.

Concerned.

Passionate. 

Commentators agree, "This is Paul's fighting epistle. Paul has on his war paint."

I get it.

Sometimes I feel exactly the same.

This letter of Paul's is very different from His other epistles: he doesn't commend the church; he doesn't offer up praise on their behalf; he doesn't pray for them; there is no mention of where they stand in Christ Jesus; and, there are no "instructions." 

This is purely a letter on soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) and the gospel.

One more thing is different in this book.

Paul doesn't end Galatians (as he does other epistles) with a doxology.

Instead, it immediately shows-up  in verse 5 and, he writes regarding the Lord:

"...to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen."

This passage fully answers the "big deal" question. 

Biblical authorities (much smarter than I) agree Paul purposely placed this verse early on in the epistle. Where it is placed says to the newly planted churches that they are forgetting the most important truth of all - that God is worthy of all glory!

They, like us, are forgetful people.

How easily we slide toward Glory-Amnesia. 

Similarly, we begin Glory-collecting. For ourselves. Smile.

The Galatians, by virtue of leaning into a distorted gospel, are guilty of robbing God of His "kabod."

(Kabod: Hebrew word for "glory." When weighed on a measuring scale, the heavy worth of God is immeasurable.)

Anytime, we fall prey to a different gospel, we steal God's "doxa."

(Doxa: Greek word for "glory." We fail to give a correct opinion of the character of God to others watching.)

When God is robbed of His glory, for which we were created (Is 43:7), the Good News of Jesus is no longer Good News, but Bad News. 

God is jealous (in a good way) for His glory (Exodus 20:3-7) and He will not stand for His character, or His Word, to be maligned.

In fact, this is such a big deal, Paul says, anyone who robs God of His glory is in DANGER of being "accursed." 

(Accursed. Greek: Anathema. "To be cut off from Christ; a thing devoted to God without hope of redemption. The most dire of woes pronounced on another.")

Herein lies the problem with Progressivism - the gospel identified in their website (https://progressivechristianity.org) is not the gospel, but another...the very redemption of their followers is at stake.God’s grace is minimized. His character maligned. His truth discarded. And His glory robbed.

(NOTE! THERE IS NOT ANOTHER GOSPEL! Only one. Forever, just one! Galatians 1:7)

Yes, Progressivism is a BIG DEAL!

It's a scary big deal!


Thursday, April 22, 2021

What Can Evangelicals Do Now...The Attraction Factor of Jesus

Bay and I just returned from 12 days in Indiana speaking and serving Jesus at different venues.

The Lord's faithfulness traveled before us, and we certainly felt His hand anointing us for each event and conversation. 

We arrived home two nights ago, a little weary, but extremely grateful.

Several times I ended up in conversations about the rise of progressivism, as the leaders in historically Christian churches (even in the heartland of America) suffer the effects (the recent statistics showing the decline in evangelical churches, which paint a dismal picture overall).

Even while touring The Ark Encounter, we stopped to listen to an informative live session with Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis, and his first three slides touched on the very same stats I am seeing. 

Around the table one evening, we were asked this question, "So, what can evangelicals do? Will opposing those we see slipping toward progressivism be at all helpful?"

Great questions, which I've pondered.

I've begun jotting down some thoughts, and while too many for one blog, I have one Biblical passage worthy of consideration (though you already know how important I think digging deep in the study of God's Word is!)...

In every letter to the churches Paul founded, he wrote the same greeting:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ....

It's more than just a lengthy way to say "Hello," or "Dear So-and-So, I hope you are doing well..." 

To the Apostle Paul, as God breathes on the words he writes, EVERY WORD MATTERS!

He writes with intention. 

What he says he means.

What he puts before the readers, in essence, bubbles up in prayer from his heart.

He's not just saying, "hey there," He is offering up a whispered supplication from the depths of his soul for those to whom he is writing.

Since this prayerful greeting is in every epistle, it's important. 

Where you and I frequently gloss over it as we read, the churches understood the deeper meaning of those two words:

Grace

&

Peace

And that is exactly where I've landed in answering the question: "what can evangelicals do now?" 

Just as in the churches to whom Paul wrote, the Church today needs to exude the same "grace and peace..."

It should seep out of pores to the world around us.

William Barclay says in his commentary to Galatians: 

"When Paul prays for grace on his friends, it is as if he is saying, 'may the beauty of the wonderment of the underserved love of God be on you, so it will make your life lovely, too.'" 

More than anything, the evangelical church needs to be in wonder and awe at the grace that has been extended to us.

When it becomes "ordinary," we lose our sense of worship, and when we lose our sense of worship, the Lord Himself loses His mystery, and He becomes ordinary, too.

When Jesus becomes ordinary, He fails to attract the lost.

BUT, when we fully grasp the meaning of GRACE, we can't help but extend that same GRACE to others.

When we become consumed with the actions of Jesus on the cross on our behalf, we live a different lifestyle, one "worthy of His calling."  --- NEVER! NEVER! NEVER! out of a have-to (legalism), but out of a want-to (love)! ---

And, when we are swept up in the GRACE OF GOD for us, there is an unmistakable PEACE that reigns in our hearts.

Peace is the fruit of grace.

It's a complete absence of worry, of unrest, of hostility toward others, of contentment, and acceptance to the Sovereignty of God...

When GRACE is gained, PEACE follows - it is simply a logical order.

What can the evangelical church do right now? 

From heaven this prayer of Paul's still rises like incense to the Throne of Grace on our behalf...

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ....

Grace and peace are the two greatest indistinguishable marks of a Jesus-Follower. 

When we sit in awe and wonder, peace reigns...and we help others see just how attractive Jesus is. 


Let's raise His attraction-factor followers of Jesus!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Is the Gospel Really Being Perverted Today?

Easter Sunday, I found myself stumbling over my lower lip once again, as my jaw dropped upon reading a Twitter message by the senior pastor at the church where Martin Luther King, Jr. served years ago.  

I believe MLK possibly rolled over in his grave (it's obvious from below that he believed in the Gospel).

Here's the quote I read on Easter Sunday:

"The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves."


A couple days later, I read this statement on another social media platform, written by a young woman who describes herself as a "recovering evangelical" (this is a very common term for many in the progressive Christian movement):

"I found (speaking of her evangelical upbringing) the whole repentance (of sin) process to be a mechanism for guilt and shame, and instead of finding freedom, I found self-hatred and a proclivity for making the same "mistakes"... Now that I no longer try to meet some sort of expectation created by Christian culture, I can learn from my decisions and try to do better. No shame necessary - just learning and constant improvement." 

XXXXX

Why do I share these statements?

Jesus-followers, WE MUST BE AWARE of the new gospel that is invading our current religious culture.

On the extreme side of progressivism:

  • There is no need for the substitutionary atonement of sin.
  • Jesus did not need to die on our behalf.
  • The cross is a non-value...
  • The resurrection...UNNECESSARY!

We simply:
1) commit to helping others (and find salvation)

2) learn from our mistakes and do better

3) eliminate any concept of shame-based-godly-sorrow, rejecting it simply as a mechanism for entrapment 

4) find freedom from self-hatred by ridding oneself of any cultural expectations (you do you)...

XXXXX

Please ponder these things deeply -

Do you understand what is being said, really comprehend it?

We don't need Jesus.

God's love for the world revealed through the giving of His Son is obsolete.


I am my own Savior.

I can work my way to heaven (or Nirvana, or...).

I am the master of my own destiny.

I simply jump through the right hoops.

I only have to improve enough to be "good enough." 

BUT - how good is good enough?

If salvation is left in my hands, I am doomed.

So are you - no matter how good you are; no matter how well you learn from your past; no matter how well you dispense of cultural expectations; no matter how much you serve the poor...

These ideas may sound better than the pure gospel for a season...

They may even seem more loving...

But, there are a lot of holes left to be filled...

Right here is where my own testimony began.

As a kid I thought I had to be good enough to achieve heaven. 

I lived in fear I couldn't come close to being good enough...

Finally, I gave up trying entirely and landed in that pit I talked about last week. 

Fortunately, there to rescue me: Jesus! 

No matter how hard we will try, we can not save ourselves. 

In everything: Give me Jesus!

XXXXX

The great need of our time is to tune our ears to the (metaphoric) music and the songs being sung by those who would promote a perverted gospel!

The Apostle Paul makes it clear how he feels about those who do:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8)


"Let them be accursed": it's a strong word! It means "doomed to destruction." Even saying that, Paul's heart was breaking, later he says to them, I "labored" over you like a mother in child-birth, and now I am laboring again... 

And, it is for this reason, this "doubling over in emotional pain," that Paul dropped often to his knees, weeping prayers over the churches to fully comprehend the height, depth, width, and scope of God's love.


The Gospel REALLY IS being perverted today.

It's an AGE OLD problem.

The enemy is using the same tactics with a different twist.

Paul's pain and his starting place need be ours, as well:

On our knees before the Father, praying for Him, to change the narrative of the gospel in the hearts of the sheep that are wandering astray. 


Thursday, April 8, 2021

When I Don't Know What to Say; What Do I Say?

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of introducing myself, and my Jesus-story, to some of the Christian women in Dulce, NM.

Dulce is a small community on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation, only 40 minutes from our home. 

Since early last summer, Bay and I have been praying for Dulce, for the pastors, for the gospel to spread, for revival to occur, and leaders to rise up in the community to live Jesus.

We recognize the great mission field that sits so near to us! 

We've been attending the different churches there, alternating each week we are in town, just to let them know we want to be a come-alongside-presence. 

When the ladies at New Life asked if I'd be interested in sharing at a women's gathering right before Easter, my heart leaped! 

Yes!

I never turn down an occasion to share my testimony...

...and, as I prepared, I recognized, for the first time (I've always been a bit slow), mine is totally a RESURRECTION STORY, applicable for Easter.

In 1970, I found myself lost and in a pit from which I couldn't escape, "dead in my trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1)."

Without the cross and the resurrection of Jesus, there'd be NO SAVIOR to incline Himself to my cries and pull me from that pit and raise me to new life, planting my feet on a ROCK (that Rock, of course, was Jesus - 1 Corinthians 10:4)!

Psalm 40:1-3 encapsulates my testimony clearly:

I waited patiently for the LORD;

he inclined to me and heard my cry.

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,

out of the miry bog,

and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

and put their trust in the LORD.

Each of us who are Jesus-followers have our own RESURRECTION STORY, and the Lord, as He did with the Apostle Paul, set us apart and called us to speak it when opportunities arise.

We never know who will put their trust in Him, because of a ready-willingness to share our stories.

This leads me to my point of pondering this week.

As the Apostle Paul scolds the Galatian church for being so easily led astray by another gospel, which isn't the real good news that brings LIFE, he spills a lot of ink convincing them of the truth of salvation through grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone.

These "Judaizers" plaguing the Galatian church say salvation is faith in Jesus + following the laws of the Torah...

The folks in the Galatian church argue that Paul isn't a real apostle.

They criticize him for being a pleaser of men.

They question his authority.

What's Paul's comeback?

He simply starts by telling them his own RESURRECTION STORY. 

For Paul, that is proof enough.

It should be for us, as well...

Paul shows them the "old Paul" - exhibit A.

The persecutor who wanted to see the church of God ravaged. 

He turns and presents the new Paul - exhibit B.

The preacher of faith in Jesus propagating the church everywhere he traveled.

As William Barclay says in his commentary on Galatians:

Every effect must have an adequate cause!

In other words, for there to be such a drastic change there has to be a drastic explanation;

and, the only explanation for such a transformation is the intervention of God!

In this day and age with progressive Christianity on the rise, there is another gospel being proclaimed (more specifics next week), just like it was in Paul's day.

Today, shaking his head in sorrow, Paul's response would be similar, "I'm perplexed by you so quickly deserting him who called you, turning to a different gospel (ESV)..."

With tears, he'd do exactly what he did in 50 AD! He'd tell his story.

Here's what I'm more aware of than ever: I don't need to be able to debate apologetics to talk with a progressive Christian adequately.

(and, while it is important to study "why you believe what you believe," you don't either...)

When I don't know what to say, I simply share my Resurrection Story. 

Show them exhibit A.

Present exhibit B. 

Recount that drastic transformation that comes with an equally drastic explanation:

How -

He inclined Himself toward me.

He heard my cries.

He lifted me from the pit of my destruction...

He set my feet upon a ROCK...

And, I have NEVER BEEN THE SAME!

There's no other explanation for my story...

Simply Jesus.

Speak Life! Share Your Story!

XXXXXX

The Pastor of New Life and his wife, Esther, are temporarily caring for one month old, Grace. Someone needed to hold her for about an hour after the Saturday event (at least she told me so). It was difficult, but I managed... What a joy to rock her, cuddle her, kiss her, and pray Jesus' love consume her as she grows. Join me in praying for little Gracie.