Thursday, March 25, 2021

Loud, Not Mean

 I've posted before, how years ago, Bay and I spoke in a church up in Denver where we were introduced to a young woman recently rescued from a cult. 

For years her parents had no idea where she lived, after she had wandered off with this very persuasive, influential cult leader...

But, finally, with the services of a private detective, she was found living in an abandoned warehouse in New York City, where this cult based, and they brought her home. 

After listening to her chilling story of how long it took to recover from the trauma she'd been under, and get her feet on the right path once more, I asked her what she would tell other young men and women, like herself, raised in a solid historically Christian home, a two-parent family, and, with a well-rounded education?

Her response struck me deeply, and I tucked it away for my own parenting knowledge:

"I always knew what I believed," she said, "I just didn't know WHY I believed it. We have to know why we believe what we believe!"

In these days, I'm reminded that I KNOW THE WHAT, but when it comes to new and subtle shifts in thinking that is Post-Christian, my WHY is lacking still.

I became vividly aware of it a little over a week ago, as I was researching one thing, and bumped into another on the internet: an article in the Huffington Post, written by a "Christian," to other "Christians." 

The writer had a lot to get off of his chest. 

As he closed his article, he declared, "Whew! I feel better.... Thanks!"

The title of his op-ed: 

6 Things Christians Should Just Stop Saying

Out of curiosity, I read said article, with my mouth open, jaw hanging (this seems to be a norm of late).

I honestly can't seem to stop being a bit shocked by the new mandates, the new definitions on old words, and, in fact, the new gospel...

What used to be considered "normal," and agreed upon from the get-go, by all followers of Jesus is no longer so. 

The explanations of the author's "6 things" lacked substance.

He spewed opinion, with no solid backing, but brought it with high emotion and passion (mean-spirited, but passionate).

He WANTED these things to be true. He LONGED to stop hearing these truths...

If he didn't hear them, the tension he felt would disappear - (it's the only reason I can think of)...

The voices like that of the young man who wrote the Huff-Post article (well, I'm assuming young, I don't know that for a fact...but, regardless, he's probably younger than I am) are getting louder and louder and LOUDER

Meanwhile, I can't seem to get my mouth in place and my jaw moving and my head to stop shaking in a back and forth motion long enough to speak a coherent sentence out loud. 

However, my fingers can still type; and, after contemplating for days, presenting snippets of this article to our life group on Sunday evening, and praying over it the last few days, I am here to say...

JESUS-FOLLOWERS, KEEP SAYING THESE 7 THINGS!

(see below...)

Every one of these are Easter-Truths, worthy of reflecting during this next week, as we bring a close to Lent and celebrate the most significant event in all of history. But, oh my, we better know WHY WE BELIEVE THEM... 

There's no way to expound on these 7. Some of them overlap with the article, others are truths losing strength over time as we've stopped speaking them.

My hope is this whets your appetite, as it has mine, to dig in. 

Know what you believe and why you believe it.

Let's learn to defend our faith well - yes, let's be smarter than those who are loud.

Not only smarter, but let's ramp up our voices, too. 

Where the author of the "6 things" spoke critically and harshly, let's speak love and compassion.

Where he spoke ignorantly, let's be wise.

Where he grabbed the "sword" from our hands to stab and murder Jesus-followers with it, let's take the sword back, let it cut through, not the individual, but the heresy, and love those outside the fold with the sacrificial love of Jesus.

Let's let the Gospel do the work, and just simply be a mouthpiece. 

That said:

Keep saying these 7 things!!!

1. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible WORD OF GOD!

2. All of us are sinners and, as a result, separated from the Creator who made us. 


3. God, the Father, loved us so deeply, He sent Jesus to be our Deliverer.  Jesus is the only way to salvation, the only one able to free us from our sins, and the only way to Heaven! He was spotless, sinless, blameless, the perfect final sacrifice...

4. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ ALONE! Salvation is not Jesus + ANYTHING...  Good works do nothing for our salvation...

5. As we received Christ, so we are to live in Him, through the fulness of the indwelling Spirit of the Living, Risen LORD. If we are walking by the Spirit, those good works will be a natural outflow...  If we are walking by the Spirit, that natural outflow will produce love for our neighbor, care for the poor, help for the down-trodden, encouragement for those who have been treated unfairly, and hope for the depressed - all  in tangible, touchable, practical ways... LOVE will be our guide, because He is LOVE living inside of us. 

6. There is a hell...and those who do not receive Christ as their Savior will end up there... The most loving thing we can do is remind people of the BEST GOOD NEWS EVER! 

7. Jesus is coming again...

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Need some resources for study? Here are links to some excellent books. Don't just know the what, know the why, and SPEAK UP! Yep, let's get louder....but, remember, 

LOUD DOESN'T MEAN MEAN

Another Gospel (Alisa Childers)

Mama Bear Apologetics (Hilary Ferrer)

Cold Case Christianity (J. Warner Wallace)

Tactics (Gregory Koukl)

I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Norm Geisler and Frank Turek)

More Than a Carpenter (Sean McDowel and Josh McDowel)


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

A Call to all "Christian" Soldiers from Jesus During Lent -

BLAMELESS.

That word has jumped out of Scripture and into my heart several times this past week.

I've read it over and over in the current collection of books in which I find myself progressing...

I noted it in several conversations, one in particular. 

Our soldier-son spent the last week or more in a mandated pre-command course before his next ensuing assignment. 

(I love that he's not so busy "commanding" that he won't take time for tea with bat-girl.)

In the midst of the class, several discussions centered around some of the new ways the military must adapt their methods of delivery, as well as, conduct from the top down, particularly seeing a need to adjust due to the present sensitive political issues of today. 

The operating general summarized this conversation with one word: BLAMELESS.

It was used in this context:

No matter what, no matter the emotions (which may be tense, tight, and high, due to varying opinions), the RESPONSES (as opposed to the REACTIONS) of all commanding officers MUST BE BLAMELESS in their approach.

To succeed in one's endeavors, BLAMELESS must be branded into the brain. 

It's interesting, because the Lord, in HIS WORD, asks His followers to do the same: Be BLAMELESS.

As soldiers in His army - we are to:

Be like Noah, who was righteous and BLAMELESS in his generation - He walked with God.

Be like Abraham who was instructed to live BLAMELESS "under the Covenant he had with the Almighty - his very great reward."

As a new generation moved into the promised land, the Lord pleaded with them to be "BLAMELESS before the Lord - to stand out as separated unto Him." We are, as well...

Of course, Daniel was so BLAMELESS, his contemporaries could find no fault with him, and had to change the Law just to trap him into doing something that would finally award him the lion's den (thinking they could surely be rid of him for good - what a backfire!). 

Now, the Lord reminds us, as Jesus-Followers, through the pen of the Apostle Paul to BE BLAMELESS

Why? 

Because we live in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation...

Because He wants us to be lights in the midst of the darkness of this world...

So that we can approve what is excellent and trustworthy...

So that our conduct looks "different" (and, by different, he means "appealing...")

Why are so many turning their backs and walking away from the designated Army of Jesus (the evangelical church)?

They see Jesus' soldiers struggling to be BLAMELESS

Collectively:

Jesus' army is in disarray.

The soldiers' armor is a mess or non-existent.

His men and women are not battle ready, but doing "what is right in their own eyes."

In fact, they look and act like something out of Hollywood's Walking Dead. 

And, their attitudes are far worse. 

When Jesus' personnel speak, the responses are often harsh, hurtful, legalistic, unloving, unkind, and mixed with self-centered pride. 

Nothing about these soldiers looks like the Army Christ died to save...

Why wouldn't a "new gospel" sound better? and, be more attractive? Especially a gospel that is all inclusive...that softens and presents a totally different view of Jesus and what "Christian" really looks like?   A gospel that gives all the good "feels" and seems less demanding.... A gospel that is, in the eyes of men, more appealing...

But this is NOT THE GOSPEL that snuffs out our sin; AND, sadly, it minimizes the cross and the resurrection...

During these final days of Lent leading up to Easter, this is where we need to be while on our knees:

Looking deep.

Looking hard.

Asking the Lord to shine a spotlight into the hidden corners of our hearts - to show us what kind of soldier in the Lord's army we might be?

Then, turn, repenting, correcting, and renewing our commitment to be a well-disciplined soldier: prepared, cleansed, set-apart for service, immaculately dressed in the proper armor, and walking BLAMELESS as we wait for the arrival of our Heavenly General!

BLAMELESS HAS BEEN SPOKEN OVER ME. 

And, you!

It is not a word to ignore...

It is not a word to take lightly...

It is a command from above passed down below...

It is not a word to read and pass over, as we think of someone else who needs to hear these particular words from the Lord...

Jesus never meant for that to be so.

From the cross to the tomb to the Resurrection and Ascension, He still pleads: BE BLAMELESS

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Jude 24-25.



Wednesday, March 10, 2021

59+ Seconds That I Can Never Retrieve and Probably Shouldn't if I Could


I've been sitting this morning with my mouth hanging open and my jaw on the floor. 

I've been trying to pick that jaw up, put it in place, and begin writing this blog; oh, for a few hours now. 

The best of my intentions fell by the wayside, until I dug out an old Bible where the following statement is written. Kay Arthur (Precept Ministries) originally penned it in one of her Bible Studies I participated in back in the early 1990's while still serving in Kenya:


I found it again in her 2008 book, "Lord Teach Me to Study the Bible." Arthur bases this statement from Peter's letter to the persecuted church, when he reminds them that there are some things (teachings from the Lord) that are hard to understand...things the ignorant and the unstable twist to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).

Under the Kay Arthur quote, I had written another by William Tyndale (spoken in early 1520's). His heart was that ALL PEOPLE, not just the clergy could study the Scriptures for themselves. Keep in mind, Tyndale believed this so deeply, the Catholic Church executed him in 1536...


With these two quotes as a backdrop, allow me to share the thing weighing on me this morning.

I just spent 59-seconds watching a TikTok presentation from a young man who identifies himself as a Progressive Christian author, activist, pastor and organizer. He graduated from Moody Bible Institute (credible) and holds two masters degrees (one in theological ministries and political science). His resumΓ©  boasts authoring twelve books (one an INDIES book of the year award winner), speaking at the White House, Oxford University, and the Parliament of World's Religions (not excluding numerous television talk-show appearances), as well as, organizing an advisory committee for the DNC. Well known individuals say kind things about this fellow: "He's an outstanding voice among his generation." "His work is highly instructive - and a TRUE inspiration." "He's really intelligent and has a huge heart, but he's also fearless...it's that alchemy that makes him such a compelling voice for the new thing Jesus is up to in the world..."

Sounds fairly legit, right?  

Hands down, his accomplishments far outweigh mine. 

So what's the problem? 

In 59-seconds, this fellow wrecked historic Christianity (far more than I can possibly imagine). 


Looking directly into the camera, with authority in his voice, he gave an approximate 150-word-commentary on one of those difficult to understand teachings of Jesus that Peter mentioned. 

In 59-seconds, he:

πŸ’¬ informed his audience that Jesus was a biased racist...
πŸ’¬ assured us that Jesus sinned while on earth, but, lest that bother you, Jesus repented of his sins...
πŸ’¬ acknowledged that the mind of Jesus changed any time "truth confronted His authority..."  
πŸ’¬ minimized Jesus, by saying He is an excellent role model, but nothing about Him being a Savior... 
πŸ’¬ worst of all, the atoning blood of Jesus does not mean what we think it means (no explanation)...

Today's post is a cautious warning.

More and more I'm vividly aware of the wolves in sheep's clothing...

Their voices cry out oh-so-loudly.

They speak with authority.

We need to know God's Word...

WE MUST NOT TAKE SOMEONE ELSE'S WORD ON THE WORD AS GOSPEL TRUTH!!!

To know the WORD doesn't just mean to read it...

To know it means being willing to do the work to study it...

To know it means we let Scripture inform other passages of Scripture...look at culture...understand meanings of words...get a picture of the context, the history, the setting...

To know the WORD, we utilize the amazing tools available to us on the internet, in books, and from others who have gone before (reliable commentaries)... and to learn how to use these resources!

About the Word (author unknown):


AND...MOST OF ALL...

It is imperative that we all take off the lenses of past experience, which color the way we see the Word of God, and look at TRUTH with clarity, through the clear glass of strong systematic "lego-building." (see last week's blog)

Otherwise, we see the Bible as this vs. that:



A lot of lies and heresy sprout roots in 59-seconds. 

This little video left me in shock - and, it was blatant, in-your-face apostasy.

Some off-track-teachings are much more subtle, but if this is what we are fed week after week, on a consistent basis, from people who are charismatic and inspirational...then, as Peter warned, we are on our way to destruction...

Jesus-followers, let us all be alert...Jude, the half-brother of Jesus instructed: "Let us contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3)"...and, "build ourselves up in the most holy faith (Jude 20)."


I cannot urge this enough...
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PS. I'm prayerfully considering a virtual "how to" Bible Study - simple and practical - once a week over a few weeks in May that would cover some basics that have helped me in my own study of Scripture. If you think you might be interested, shoot me a message via FB Messenger, and I'll get back with you... 
 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

When Faith Has Questions....Lessons from Paul (and, Elisabeth Elliot)

 


I've been reading the book, "Becoming Elisabeth Elliot (authored by Ellen Vaughn)." 

What a woman of faith! There are few like her in our world today! 


Inspired by God's Word (above all), godly women the Lord placed in her life as mentors, and her voracious love of books, especially biographies (and, in particular the written words of Amy Carmichael), Elisabeth desired to live life with one single focus: service to her Lord. 

Her ventures for Jesus took her to unlikely and difficult places before landing in Ecuador to do language translation.

She married Jim Elliot after a lengthy courtship, both putting their mission first, while seeking God's timing...or, whether, or not, marriage truly was God's heart for them.  

Together, their dreams meshed to eventually take the gospel to the most violent and murderous of the unreached tribes - the Waodani (also known as the Huaorani, or, better known, Auca Indians). 

Most Christians know the often told story of Jim Elliot, who along with four other missionary men, strategically began making inroads into the Waodani by systematically dropping gifts into their village from the missionary plane that frequently took supplies to other missionaries working in the jungle.

Just after the new year of 1956, after multiple gift-drops, the five men flew into a location on the Curaray River. 

There they set up a camp, slept in makeshift hammocks in the trees, and waited for contact with the Waodani. 

When two women and a warrior crossed the river to their camp, they were ecstatic! 

(actual photo from first meeting)

The reports back to their wives via radio were full of excitement and possibility...these three, in spite of language differences, shared a meal together with the men, and left on very friendly terms. 

Of course, there's a back story, told many years later, for what transpired in the village following this first meet up; but, the end result is that the next contact Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, and the pilot, Nate Saint had with the Waodani came in the form of a warring party. 

With one thing and one thing only on the minds of these Waodani (to kill the "cowodi" - outsiders), all five missionaries were speared to death on the little strip of land these men affectionately named "Palm Beach."

Widowed before the age of 30, with a ten month old daughter, Elisabeth's journals unwrap the questions that rose following the martyrdom of her husband and co-missionaries. 

Yet, her faith never failed....and her questions rose before the Lord as she prayed and sought God's responses through His Word. 

Not six months post Jim's death, this is Elisabeth's journal entry: 

"I am possessed as never before with a consuming desire for the Waodani. Can hardly think of anything else when I am not concentrating on translation or something. O Lord -- wilt Thou let me go?"

Elisabeth's heart never waned, and her dream never died, she longed for the Waodani to know the Savior who loved them and gave His life for them...

Indeed, back she went, as the Lord granted permission, along with the sister (Rachel) of pilot, Nate Saint, and her, now 20 month old daughter, to live among the very people who murdered her husband!

One thing she knew, Jim died already loving the Waodani...and, miraculously, she did, too!

As Elisabeth is quoted to have said:

Faith knows where to take questions for answers!

And, answer, the Lord did!

It is a most unusual story...

XXXXX

In these days many have questions that are leading to a deconstruction of faith.

Instead of reconstructing it on sound biblical principles, the outcome is what I refer to as "sheep-gone-missing." 

I feel a pull to know more, discern better, and, respond biblically out of a compassionate heart.

My "Waodani" aren't the unreached...mine are the "over-reached."

We live in a world with so many influencers, so many voices, and, so much opinion.

But, how adept are we at getting to the RIGHT PLACE to hear the RIGHT VOICE for finding the RIGHT ANSWERS?

If you read last week's blog post, you know I'm passionate for TRUTH - TRUTH in the form of God's Word. 

XXXXX

My study in the book of Galatians taught me a very random lesson this week.

In Galatians 2, Paul opposes Peter (I mentioned this a couple weeks ago). 

Peter is "off base."

His "conduct is not in step with the TRUTH of the gospel of Jesus."

Peter's reverting to his Cephas-days...and playing the hypocrite.

Paul is NOT SHY about addressing this issue.

Paul's letter hinges on one key word found in vs. 14. 

It reads, "But when I saw that (his) conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I ________ ..."

What's the word?

“Lego” (seriously, it's Greek!)

Paul said to Cephas before them all...

Paul "lego-ed..."

He systematically confronted Peter, building his case step by step, in order to move Peter in a certain direction....

Ever put a Lego set together? 

You can't do it from this mess alone:

You might do better if you saw the end-picture:

But, what makes all the difference (for constructing a firm, stable, structure that will hold and be more lasting) is having the instruction manual open, showing us how to put it all together one building block at a time! 

Gotta have this πŸ‘†!!!

There are pieces you will never see in the finished product, but without them, the thing crumbles (I may, or may not, know this from experience, and had to "deconstruct" to correct)...

(THIS is THAT pile of pieces above at step #68 - still 20 more steps to go...)

Here's the point of all of this...

Questions will arise in our lives - deep, hard questions - because life can be excruciatingly painful and confusing.

We will desperately search for answers.

But, unless we seek them FIRST and FOREMOST from a well-understood and clearly defined accurate source, our faith won't stand. It will crumble. It cannot endure hardships and will not give us direction for our tomorrows. 

It's essential that Jesus-followers know how to systematically dig deep in God's Word and find TRUTH.

Like Paul, we 'gotta' understand the basics of Lego-building! In fact,


Me? I don't want to "become Elisabeth Elliot," but I certainly want to lean into a faith like hers.

I'm eager to stand the test of trials and time WELL...

The only way is to learn how to build my faith from the foundation up - constructing step by step in Lego-fashion.

Elisabeth Elliot looks on, now, with the crowd of Hebrews 12:1!

I believe she's cheering for us to take our QUESTIONS by FAITH to the right PLACE for the right ANSWERS...and,

 Lego-up!