Thursday, December 30, 2021

Jesus Rarely Lives Up to Expectations


Having just spent a month focused on the first coming of Jesus, I've started thinking about the second one that is yet to take place.

I wonder what kind of similarities to the first coming it will have?

The political leaders of the time were upset at the news of Jesus' arrival...not only in Bethlehem but 30 years later in Jerusalem as well.

There were a few religious experts who knew where to look for the Messiah's birthplace, but the rank and file were probably clueless. And as for 30 years later...Jesus was NOT what they were expecting. Everyone was certain the Messiah would violently get rid of the oppressing outsiders and restore the Jewish nation as dominant owners of The Promised Land. Who would have thought that the Son of God came not to condemn the world, but to save it?

And today?

  • As always, political leaders are most concerned about retaining their seats of power.
  • Religious experts delight in arguing eschatological viewpoints, each differing view being held in absolute certainty with underlined Bible verses and best-selling books.

When folks start talking about the Bible like it's some kind of clear roadmap of the future ("Well, this verse is obviously referring to..."), I am reminded of the following quote from Rich Mullins:

"The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart -- it is a book full of all the greed and glory and violence and tenderness and sex and betrayal that befits mankind. It is not the collection of pretty little anecdotes mouthed by pious little church mice -- it does not so much nibble at our shoe leather as it cuts to the heart and splits the marrow from the bone. It does not give us answers fitted to our small-minded questions, but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...I think most people will be as surprised at the second coming of Jesus as the Pharisees and Sanhedrin were at the first coming.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Prosification of "Angels from the Realms of Glory"


Heavenly angels, spread yourselves throughout the world. Once you sang about the creation, but now you're going to tell everyone about the promised Messiah being born. Here's what you should sing: "Come and worship! Come and worship! Worship Christ, the newborn king!"

Hey, you shepherds out in the pasture, watching your sheep on the night shift! God is now living with us! See the baby's holy glow over there?

Hey, you wise men! Forget all your deep thinking. There are better things for you to see if you do some traveling. You need to seek the person that all people everywhere are longing for. I mean, you've seen his special birth-star, so hop to it!

And you believers, praying and fearfully watching and hopefully waiting...the Lord is going to come down, bringing his place of worship to earth; suddenly and without warning.

So sure, we see him as a baby now, but later, he'll be rightfully sitting on God's throne, bringing together people of every nation, tribe, and tongue as they all submissively worship him.

Come and worship! Come and worship! Worship Christ, the newborn king!

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...The story of the birth of Jesus is wonderful, but the end of the tale will be beyond words.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Calvin & Hobbes Find Treasure


Today, we discover intrepid explorer Calvin on an epic adventure.

Hobbes asks for a report on his preliminary findings.

And now, the O. Henryesque twist ending...

Truth is...It doesn't matter whether the glass is half full or half empty as long as you find joy in whatever's in it.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

The Oz Is Strong in This One


The young farmboy from Tatooine got off a lucky shot at an exhaust port and now he thinks it's his destiny to become a mighty Jedi..."like [his] father".

He travels to a steamy swamp of a planet. (Why do we assume the whole planet is like the small part of it we see at any one moment of the story?) He searches for and finds the Jedi master, Yoda, and convinces the small, green creature to train him in the ways of the Force.

The farmboy, Luke Skywalker, eagerly drinks in the instruction of the...well...the puppet.

Yes, the future mighty Jedi who will bring down the evil galactic empire is getting his understanding of the "energy field created by all living things" from a piece of foam and latex.

If it weren't for Frank Oz, the Muppet performer behind Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Bert, Grover, and countless other personalities, Yoda would be nothing more than a lifeless prop.

In the same way, without the Holy Spirit empowering us to be Christ's ambassadors, we would have no spiritual vitality whatsoever. We would be of no use to anyone seeking after Truth.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! - Colossians 2:13 (The Message)

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Black Hole of Greed


One of the things I like about science fiction is its ability to make a strong, moral statement with very few words.

And in this words at all.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth may have seen the ending coming from a mile away. We're good at that when it comes to other people. Lord, help us to monitor ourselves with as much foresight.

Thursday, November 25, 2021


Giving thanks today to our friends at Coffee with Jesus for calling out the following all-too-common scenario.

Maybe you've been in a small group of Christians and someone has "felt led" to share something:

Of course, another believer needs to bear witness to the validity of the first statement:

Then, in an effort to redeem the conversation, you hear:

If only the comic strip's final panel would come true:

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Gossip is gossip and prayer is prayer and never the twain shall meet.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Overwhelming Fury of God's Love


Rich Mullins sang about the love of God being a "reckless, raging fury"; an ocean of both joy and sorrow. That is so much more than an encouraging thought. It is meant to be a transforming truth.

Brennan Manning makes the point in powerful prose from his book The Furious Longing of God.

Jesus cried from His heart, nails in His hands, and poured out His blood that we might believe His love for us. Significantly, Jesus chose the giving tree, His cross, as the demonstrative sign of His absolutely furious love for men and women. In the words of one early church father: "the mightiest act of love ever to arise from a human soul."

How is it then that we've come to imagine that Christianity consists primarily in what we do for God? How has this come to be the good news of Jesus? Is the kingdom that He proclaimed to be nothing more than a community of men and women who go to church on Sunday, take an annual spiritual retreat, read their Bibles every now and then, vigorously oppose abortion, don't watch x-rated movies, never use vulgar language, smile a lot, hold doors open for people, root for the favorite team, and get along with everybody? Is that why Jesus went through the bleak and bloody horror of Calvary? Is that why He emerged in shattering glory from the tomb? Is that why He poured out His Holy Spirit on the church? To make nicer men and women with better morals?

The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creations. Not to make people with better morals, but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friends, is what it really means to be a Christian. Our religion never begins with what we do for God. It always starts with what God has done for us, the great and wondrous things that God dreamed of and achieved for us in Christ Jesus.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...It's easier to type this than to live it, but if God's love is an ocean, I long to drown in its reckless, raging fury.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Marty Feldman Speaks Truth


I'm pretty sure most folks over a certain age will recognize the name and face of Marty Feldman. He's the actor who co-starred as Igor in Mel Brooks' film, Young Frankenstein.

I learned something about Feldman that most folks probably aren't aware of, though.  According to the administrator of the Classic Monsters Facebook page, "Feldman suffered from thyroid disease and developed Graves' ophthalmopathy, causing his eyes to protrude and become misaligned. A childhood injury, a car crash, a boating accident, and reconstructive eye surgery may also have contributed to his appearance.

"He later described his appearance as a factor in his career success: 'If I aspired to be Robert Redford, I'd have my eyes straightened and my nose fixed and end up like every other lousy actor, with two lines on Kojak. But this way I'm a novelty.'"

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

In a world full of folks who consider themselves more important than anyone else and snub their noses at not only their fellow humans but also the creator of all things, I am so glad there are millions who have decided to stand apart from the crowd and gladly bear the title "special" as in First Peter 2:9, "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

Truth is...In the King James version, the word used instead of "special" is "peculiar". I think that serves to more fully emphasize the thought that being normal isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Is Jesus In Me Or Am I In Him?


A couple of things are swirling around in my head and creating this week's post.

Thing 1: I once heard Juan Carlos Ortiz comically express exasperation at the cognitive dissonance inherent in some times of musical worship. Translation: Ortiz made me laugh once when he joked about how the songs we sing sometimes don't make any sense being sung together.

A rough paraphrase: I hear these people all happy and bouncing around singing "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart," and just so excited. And then two songs later, they're all somber and pleading, "Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart Lord Jesus." Well? Is he in your heart or isn't he?!!? Do you have his joy in your heart, or do you need to plead with him to be there?

Thing 2: On a recent Sunday morning, as part of an excellent message, Pastor Brad asked this pointed question: "How audacious is it to expect a king to fit into my life instead of me diving headfirst into his?"

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

I'm pretty sure that when Jesus says that he is the vine and we are the branches (John 15), he's not alluding to any kind of horticultural miracle where the branches exist on their own and are gracious enough to allow the vine to connect to them.

Yes, there is that bit in Revelation 3 where Jesus is asking to be invited in, but balance that out with "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved" (John 10:9). Metaphors can only be taken so far.

Truth is...Jesus made it abundantly clear in Matthew 16:24 and Mark 8:34: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Do I Amaze Jesus?


In the sixth chapter of Mark's gospel, there are two uses of the word amazed that caught my attention.

The first is in verse two and doesn't come as a surprise at all:

When the Sabbath came, [Jesus] began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing?"

Well, who wouldn't be amazed at the things Jesus said and the things Jesus did? The Scriptures were being brought to life and personally applied in ways never heard before. Cripples were walking; the blind could see; the deaf could hear!

True, the source of their amazement was that they couldn't fathom how all this wisdom and all these miracles they had heard about could be springing forth from a local boy they had known simply as "the carpenter's son."

Honestly, that might be connected just a little to the surprising second usage of amazed, found in verse six:

[Jesus] was amazed at their lack of faith.

Wait...what? Jesus was amazed?!!?

Well, who wouldn't be amazed at anyone who had heard what they heard and seen what they had seen and yet didn't believe?

But the story isn't over. In Mark's very next paragraph, he tells us how Jesus gave the twelve disciples an opportunity to put their faith into practice. Because you see, it's one thing to say you believe something and another thing to actually take action in alignment with that faith:

Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff — no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Truth is...The story still isn't over. I say I believe in Jesus, but do I really have the faith to think the Holy Spirit could work through me the way the Spirit worked through him?

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Only Jesus


I know one can't believe everything that gets posted on social media, but I have no reason to believe my son would lie about the results of a recent poll.

We don't know who was polled or what the exact questions were, but the published findings state that 60% of self-proclaimed, born-again American Christians between the ages of 18 and 39 believe that Buddha, Muhammed, and Jesus are all valid paths to salvation.

I liked Curtis' translation of that statistic. Saying that 60% of self-proclaimed, born-again American Christians between the ages of 18 and 39 believe that Buddha, Muhammed, and Jesus are all valid paths to salvation actually means that 60% of self-proclaimed, born-again American Christians between the ages of 18 and 39 are NOT Christians.

Make no mistake, all religions do not teach the same thing, being sincere is not the same thing as being right, and all paths do not lead to the same place.

Acts 4:10-12  -  Know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. [Jesus] is 'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

That's what Peter said and that's what all true Christians must say.

Buddha did not sacrifice his body on a Roman cross.

Muhammed did not shed his blood to purify us from our sin.

Philosophers and philanthropists cannot transform us into representatives of righteousness.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...this kind of non-pluralistic message sounds narrow-minded and exclusive to the modern ear. But it is actually as expansive and all-inclusive as "whosoever will may come."

Thursday, October 14, 2021

How I Learned that Forgiveness Benefits the Forgiver


I was fired from my first youth ministry position.

Now, if you were a member of that church and you just read that sentence and you thought, "I thought you resigned," you would not be alone. Back in those days, when the leadership wanted a pastor to be gone, they allowed the pastor to tender a resignation. This allowed the departing pastor to avoid the stigma of Being Fired.

I survived the trauma, obviously, and went on to serve at three other churches before putting lock-ins permanently in my past.

The thing is, the one elder who was most responsible for my departure from that first ministry position stuck in my mind. Any time I heard a sermon or lesson about our need to forgive one another, my thoughts turned to him. It even got to the point where I couldn't enjoy the sitcom, Head of the Class, because one of the actors looked a lot like that one elder.

I finally realized that I was harboring a grudge against him and that I needed to heed the words of Jesus in Mark 11:25, "When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

I needed to forgive the man or I would be carrying around a burden of bitterness the rest of my life.

So, I wrote him a letter that explained how I felt he had personally undermined my work with the youth and manipulated the board of elders into getting rid of me. But I also said that I believed he thought he was doing what was best for the church and that I was no longer going to harbor any ill will toward him.

His response acknowledged that he had received my letter and that he had heard I was doing well at my new church. There were no words of apology or regret...and that was just fine with me.

Truth is...once you've forgiven someone, they no longer hold any power over your personal peace or sense of worth.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Pray Where You Are


Have you ever listened to someone talk about something going on in their life, or read a particularly personal post on social media, and told the person you would pray for them?

Probably a pretty high percentage of people who read this blog can answer "Yes" to that.

Well...have you ever done that and then totally forgotten to ever know...pray for the person?

That would be one of my two definitions of "amenesia." (The other being when you pray for someone and then promptly forget about them or their need.)

In order to avoid promising to pray but then breaking that promise, I will usually stop whatever I'm doing and pray right then INSTEAD of promising to pray. In the context of a social media request for prayer, any comment I leave will be an actual prayer; not the words "I'm praying for you," but something that usually begins with "Father God...".

Truth is...while having a particular place and time set aside to talk with Yahweh is a good thing, let's not think that's the only time we can pray. I'm grateful for the following song by Lost Dogs, "Pray Where You Are." Make it so!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

No...Really...What Do You Mean By "Following Jesus"?


A follow-up to last week's post.

You may or may not recall that last week's "Truth Is..." pointed out how following Jesus involves more than just agreeing with certain points of doctrine or philosophical falderal.

Since then, I came across a meme that skewers popular culture's version of expressing care and concern that illustrates my point perfectly.

Truth is...if Legolas and friends followed the example that most of us today are laying out to the world, the Ring of Power would never have been destroyed and Middle Earth would have succumbed to the forces of Sauron long ago. Let us be men and women who put our prayers into action.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

What Do You Mean By "Following Jesus"?


Probably because of the terminal mass of assumptions that have been attached to the term "Christian", it has become popular to identify oneself as a Jesus Follower. It's an attempt to differentiate oneself from merely attending church or from adhering to a particular set of mostly-radically-right-wing political positions.

In essence, I applaud the effort. But last Wednesday night's Bible study at my home congregation made me take a closer look at the concept of following Jesus.

We were looking at the first chapter of Mark's gospel, and I was particularly impacted by Francis Chan's comments about Mark 1:16-20, which reads:

 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay, he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Chan's passionate comments about those verses focused on how different following Jesus was for those fishermen compared to what most of us mean when we use the term.

James and John didn't just agree with what Jesus was teaching. Simon and Andrew went beyond meeting weekly at the local synagogue. When they became Jesus Followers, they off their duffs and followed Jesus.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...If I'm going to call myself a Jesus follower, it involves more than an intellectual assent. It requires action. I need to pay attention to where Jesus is going and what Jesus is doing and I need to go there and do that.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Whose Side Are You On and Does It Make a Difference?


Today we find our hero (Calvin of Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes) making a grave mistake.

Sadly, an attempt to remedy the situation doesn't mitigate his teammates' wrath.

There are two ways to go with this:

       1. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Just as Calvin felt proud of his accomplishment in getting the out, there are times when a person thinks they're doing a good thing when it's really a score for "the other side." Case in point: thinking you're taking a stand for righteousness when what you're really accomplishing is the continuation of a people-hating, Bible-thumping stereotype that has never drawn anyone into the Kingdom.

       2. What kind of army kills its wounded? Calvin's teammates could have turned this into a teachable moment and help mold Calvin into a productive member of the team. Instead, they condemned and rejected him. Kind of like blogging about Bible-thumpers.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...We've all stood on both sides of this equation and are equally dependent on the grace of God.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Disproportional Legend of the Pony Express


Think about all you've ever heard, seen, or read about the Pony Express.

Between movies, television, and books, we've been entertained by stories of those 400 horses, 180 riders, and 1900 miles of the Immigrant Trail our whole lives.

Now think about this. The Pony Express closed its operations just two days after the first cross-continental telegraph message: an assurance of support from the chief justice of California to President Lincoln.

The Pony Express casts a pretty long shadow for a business venture that only lasted nineteen months.

But still, those legends and tall tales are practically nothing when compared to the real-life impact made by a rag-tag group of fishermen, civil servants, and would-be political activists led by a backwater carpenter-turned-rabbi.

Truth is... The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.(Matthew 13:31-32 NLT)

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

How to Be a True Alpha


I hope you will appreciate the following excerpt from The Wisdom of Wolves by Jim and Jamie Dutcher as much as I do.

"The wolves of the Sawtooth Pack … had spent the last three days working through the carcass of a 600-pound bull elk and were enjoying the resulting food stupor, resting at the edge of the forest on a crisp October afternoon. During our years at wolf camp, we did our best to re-create the way wolves live in the wild, mimicking the success or failure of a hunt, bringing in road-killed elk and deer at irregular intervals. After such a big meal, they wouldn't need to eat again for several days.

"It was a picture of pure contentment. Motomo and Amani basked in a patch of sunshine. Snarling and growling in mock battle, Wahots and Wyakin played tug-of-war with a leftover piece of elk hide. Matsi and Lakota snoozed side by side. Chemukh, always the loner, gnawed on the end of an antler a few yards away. Kamots sat and calmly watched his pack.

"Suddenly he lifted his head to full attention and his body became tense. The forest was quiet save for the occasional croaking of ravens, but his ears pivoted forward and he turned to point his nose toward something distant and unseen. With sudden purpose he rose to his feet and trotted away with that cool, determined gait that wolves have. Motomo and Amani lifted their heads to watch him go, and then settled back down. They knew Kamots. Whatever it was, he had it covered.

"Fifteen minutes later he reappeared at the same confi­dent trot, rejoined the others, and lay back down. It must have been a false alarm, possibly an elk moving through the nearby forest or the distant falling of a long-dead tree. His body language told all that there was no cause for concern. Whatever was going on, he dealt with it. That's just who he was.

"For the better part of nine years Kamots was the undis­puted leader of the Sawtooth Pack. Under his protection, the pack thrived. From a filmmaker's perspective, he was beautiful to behold. His looks were classic-gray with a charcoal saddle, a dark face mask above a light muzzle. He wasn't the biggest wolf in the pack, but the way he stood often made him appear so. He held his head and tail high and kept his ears up and alert. When he moved, it was with an unhurried confidence and certainty. His eyes were his most expressive feature. They were light amber, almost yellow, and in an instant they could flash from serious to mischievous, to concerned, to disarm­ingly sweet. The joys and the burdens of his role seemed to play across his face constantly, making him one of the most engaging wolves to film, photograph, or just watch. In looks, in bearing, and in behavior he was the embod­iment of an alpha wolf.

"We've noticed lately that the word 'alpha' is falling out of favor among some biologists. They would rather use the dry observational term 'breeding adult.' Unfortu­nately, the word 'alpha' has also come to be used to describe aggressive, hypercompetitive human males, which further conveys the wrong impression. Yes, alphas are the breeding male and female -- but they are so much more than the dominant individuals of the pack. After spending years in Kamots's company, we have concluded that being an alpha has almost nothing to do with aggres­sion and everything to do with responsibility. Alphas are driven from within to shoulder the well-being of the entire pack. They patrol the boundaries of their territory, looking for danger. They are keepers of pack knowledge where to find prey and how best to hunt it. Alphas are assured, alert, and compassionate. A true alpha is a leader in the very best sense."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...leading with assurance, alertness, and compassion has self-interest and aggression beat all to pieces.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?


Thanks to Michael Spencer's insightful book, Mere Churchianity, for the following outline of the different kinds of Jesus different kinds of believers believe in.

Jesus on the cross
This is where Jesus begins and ends for many Christians. Despite believing that Jesus arrived on earth as a newborn and came back to life after being executed, the only thing Jesus did that makes any real difference for most people was that he died for the sins of the world. The tight focus on Jesus hanging on the cross is a version of Jesus where his other works, miracles, words, and overall mission are secondary. Sure he said some things and healed some people and taught people how to live. But all of that pales by comparison to preaching about the cross or focusing on the Eucharist.

Jesus the guru
This version sees Jesus' unjust execution on a Roman cross as the inevitable outcome of a good man living a life of love in a bad world, a la Martin Luther King Jr. What matters to these Christians is Jesus' teaching. If we could put the teaching of Jesus into practice, then we'd live like real Christians and the world would be a better, more peaceful place.

Jesus the miracle worker
This is the Jesus who solves problems by his superpowered ability to make bad things go away and good things happen. If he could cure a leper and bring corpses back to life two thousand years ago, he can deal with the problems people have today. Jesus the miracle worker is important in the present and has little real contact with the Jesus of the New Testament. He's mostly about hearing our prayers, changing things to match our desires, and sending miracles to whomever needs one.

Jesus the promoter
Jesus is always up to something big. He builds bigger churches, raises astounding amounts of cash, and sponsors huge religious events in stadiums. This version of Jesus can almost always be found in a venue with incredible music, entertaining video effects, and good-looking, upbeat speakers. He's the Jesus you meet when you find that awesome megachurch that has everything you need for a great religious experience.

Jesus the culture warrior
The culture-warrior Jesus is concerned about the public display of the Ten Commandments and the effect of Hollywood movies on your children. He fully approves of a number of political agendas, and his advice to his followers is to hunker down, take care of yourselves, and fight for America  -  a country that Jesus is particularly fond of. (No matter that he is a Palestinian Jew.)

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

All of these versions of Jesus contain truth, but they are not the whole truth.

Borrowing some more from Mere Churchianity:

Jesus did die on the cross and was raised from the dead, but that's not the entire gospel message.

Jesus' teachings deliver crucial knowledge, but Jesus is far more than just a motivational change agent. He gives people a new identity and a new life, not just better doctrine.

God is compassionate and a worker of miracles, but let's face it: Jesus doesn't always solve our problems. He is not a celestial vending machine.

There is no question Jesus is doing a big thing in history. He is advancing the biggest agenda ever: to bring all believing people from every nation into the Kingdom of God. But it's a mistake to equate Jesus with our ideas of importance or accomplishment, like attending a church that operates its own water park or having a laser show at the 11:00 a.m. service.

Jesus cares about what happens to children, families, and culture, but Jesus doesn't use morality to change the world, and he doesn't equip his followers with political weapons.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...I find myself humbly agreeing with C. S. Lewis, who said, "I need Christ, not something that resembles him."

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Nicene Creed: So What?


This blog just spent 33 weeks looking at the Nicene Creed line-by-line. Next to each snippet from the creed were related sections of Scripture. It was an attempt to validate those faith-tenents that millions of believers have hung their hats on through the centuries.

But why bother? What was the point?

One positive is the realization that there really is more that unites all the different denominations than the mostly inconsequential things that seek to divide us.

But a clue to the even bigger deal was in the "Truth is..." conclusion to the very first posting:

Truth condensation of thoughts or tidy list of beliefs can do the entire breadth of Scripture justice, but maybe this will help get things into bite-sized chunks suitable for digestion and life-change.

Oooooh...that last hyphenate..."life-change". Why did I have to go and bring THAT up?

Life-change really is what it's all about, isn't it? What good does saying I believe in this or that or the other thing do if the way I live my life isn't affected by those beliefs?

So we say we believe the power of the Holy Spirit reanimated Jesus' dead body, validating every word he ever spoke. So what?

So LIVE like your Lord is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful. Let your life be a reflection of that knowledge, love, and power. "Let your light so shine..."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is..."Anyone who listens to [Jesus'] teaching AND FOLLOWS IT is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock." (Matthew 7:24 NLT)

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Heaven's Gonna Be a Blast


Per the Nicene Creed:

[We look for] the life of the world to come.

Per the Holy Bible:

Since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

Romans 8:17-25 (NLT)

But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

Philippians 3:20-21

But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

2 Peter 3:13

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Truth is...while none of us knows exactly what heaven will be like, Scripture assures us that when Jesus returns, he will make all things right and restore the world to its original intent of unhindered fellowship with Yahweh and with each other. There will be no negative results from the presence of sin or sickness, "and he will wipe every tear from our eyes." (Revelation 7:17)

Bonus Treat...Here's a yee-hah kind of knee-slappin' song from the early days of Jesus Music that's the source of this post's title and a reason to sing along with Honeytree.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The Grave Can't Hold Me


Per the Nicene Creed:

We look for the resurrection of the dead

Per the Holy Bible:

But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.

1 Corinthians 15:12-23 (NLT)

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Truth is...the most audacious claim of Christianity is also the most important. Paul has said it well. If there is no resurrection...if death is the final chapter...then Jesus was either a well-meaning teacher who was suffering from a major delusion, or the foulest fiend the planet has ever seen.

Next week...the final phrase from the Nicene Creed, and it's about our final outcome.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

One Baptism


Per the Nicene Creed:

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins

Per the Holy Bible:

After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him.

Matthew 3:16 (NLT)

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit."

John 3:5

Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Acts 2:38

As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing.

Acts 8:36-39

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

Ephesians 4:5

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Truth is...we mortals have managed to turn this simple, Scriptural imperative into a multi-faceted controversy. However, reading Scripture at a basic, no-twisting-required level, we can agree with those fine folks in Nicaea back in 325 A.D. that a baptism that gives witness to a person's faith, repentance, and submission to Christ is an expected part of a Christian's journey.

A quote from one of my sermons of long ago:

You may say to me, "I've loved Jesus for over 20 years. You're telling me I have to be baptized?" And I may say to you, "You've loved Jesus for over 20 years and you're telling me you haven't been baptized?"

Grace and peace to you.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

One Church


Per the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one holy, universal, and apostolic Church

Per the Holy Bible:

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (NLT)

So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

Ephesians 2:19-22

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Ephesians 4:11-16

With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter.

2 Thessalonians 2:15

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Contrary to the signs outside all the church buildings around the world that proclaim different denominational names and conferences and traditions, there is only one Church, and it spans all man-made distinctions and trivial divisions. Christ is the head of this one Church, which is comprised of all persons who have been joined to him through faith. The Church is not limited to any particular time, place, ethnic group, language, religious heritage, denomination, or institution.

As for the word "apostolic"? It comes from the Greek word for people who are sent on a mission (apostello). As Christ was sent into the world, he has sent his followers into the world (John 17). The Church is apostolic not only because we are sent on a mission, but because the teachings of the first apostles  -  those called and sent by Jesus himself  -  are authoritative for the Church. The New Testament Scriptures have apostolic authority and are God-breathed.

Truth is...No matter what side discussions and opinions about controversial subjects may seek to divide us, the Church stands united by the Love of the Father, the Lordship of Jesus, and the Leading of the Holy Spirit. The main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

The Spirit Has Spoken


Per the Nicene Creed:

[The Holy Spirit] has spoken through the prophets.

Per the Holy Bible:

"In the last days," God says, "I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants — men and women alike — and they will prophesy."

Acts 2:17-18 (NLT)

Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

2 Peter 1:20-21

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Truth is..."All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right." (2 Timothy 3:16) A more literal translation for "inspired by God" is "God-breathed". Put that together with the knowledge that the Hebrew word for breath and spirit is the same, and you've got a picture of how it is that the Holy Spirit has spoken through the prophets, in both the Old and New Testaments.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Praise the Spirit, Too


Per the Nicene Creed:

With the Father and the Son, [the Holy Spirit] is worshipped and glorified

Per the Holy Bible:

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

1 Peter 1:3 (NLT)

Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

Matthew 14:33

For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.

John 4:24

Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.

1 John 3:24

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Truth is...because the Holy Spirit is just as much God as the Father and the Son, He deserves our worship just as much. It may feel a little strange for those brought up in more conservative circles...or certainly so for those raised with no spiritual background at all, but the Spirit provides our most intimate contact with God. It is only "natural" that we worship Him through song, meditation, and obedience.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Where Did the Holy Spirit Come From?


Per the Nicene Creed:

[The Holy Spirit] proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Per the Holy Bible:

But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me.

John 15:26

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Truth is...It seems reasonable to me to believe that humans have not invented the Holy Spirit and that He is a real aspect of the Triune God. I mean, why would anyone make up something as hard to understand as this?

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

A Body Without a Spirit Is a Corpse


Per the Nicene Creed:

[One name for the Holy Spirit is] the Giver of Life

Shedding Graveclothes

Per the Holy Bible:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.

John 14:16-17 (NLT)

And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

Romans 8:2

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Romans 8:11

Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

Galatians 6:8

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Truth is...Without the Holy Spirit, we couldn't experience any kind of "Christian life" whatsoever. Moral, upstanding citizens? Sure. But what made Jesus exceptional and unique was his unswerving dependence on the leading of the Spirit and entrusting himself to that leading...even to the point of death. Our efforts at being little Christs (Christians) will only be exceptional and unique if we do the same.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Lord Holy Spirit


Per the Nicene Creed:

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord

Per the Holy Bible

The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Genesis 1:2 (NLT)

After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him.

Matthew 3:16

On the day of Pentecost, all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

Acts 2:1-4

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Truth is...There is much more to be said about the Holy Spirit, and it will be said in the next several phrases in the creed. For now, let's just begin one step ahead of some believers in Ephesus that Paul encountered in Acts 19:

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers. “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them.

“No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Never-ending Kingdom


Per the Nicene Creed:

And his kingdom will have no end

Per the Holy Bible

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations.

Psalm 145:13 (NLT)

I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life.

John 6:47

What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.

1 Corinthians 15:50

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.”

Revelation 11:15

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Truth I've said before, eternity is a concept that my human brain can't quite get a grip on. But if God's rule is a perfect rule, and his kingdom is literally heaven on earth, then it makes sense that it would never come to an end.

Lead on, oh King eternal...