My Many Faces

One thing I cannot stand is a lack of authenticity. I don’t like when people act one way in some situations and put on an entirely different persona for others. We refer to these types of people as fake or two-faced (or maybe even politicians). I prefer to know exactly whom I’m dealing with at any given moment, but when someone is constantly changing based on their environment… well they become more like personality chameleons and we never know which is the real version of them. I was thinking about this yesterday. And it occurred to me why I despise this particular bent so much… it’s because I’m pretty well guilty of it also… and I hate that about myself. Continue reading

Don’t Get Saved…

I remember the difficult thing about preaching… It wasn’t the getting up in front of people that bothered me the most. It wasn’t that I was concerned whether or not they would like my message. It wasn’t a concern over whether I would have enough to say (never been a problem). All of these things and many more would go through my head repeatedly as the time approached for me to stand and deliver. No… the biggest concern was how to wrap it up in such a way as to make sure people felt a need for salvation. I don’t mean that it was ever manipulative (at least not in an intentional way). But one of the primary things we’ve seen modeled is that we must always make sure people understand the need to come to Christ for salvation. I would approach it with urgency and true concern over their hearts and souls… and on numerous occasions, they would come forward and make a decision right then and there to “get saved.” Continue reading

God Confuses Me…

Have you ever noticed how some people throw statements like, “have faith,” or “just trust in the Lord,” around like confetti? Truthfully, I don’t know about you, but I’ve done a lot of that during my years of Christianity. I want to believe it. I want to trust in God. I want to believe that He’s truly and unquestionably always doing what’s right and best (or allowing it to happen). But… sometimes… I witness things or see things that just make me struggle with this… Continue reading

Is God With Us… Really?: Part 2

When we think of God, the word, “holy” gets used a lot. It means sacred and set aside. It refers to being different from the rest and set apart. God has always been referred to as holy and the Bible makes it clear that He cannot have fellowship with the unholy. His purity cannot intermingle with impurity. It’s not that He doesn’t want to get His hands dirty. It’s that He’s a purifying force and the holiness of His presence does not allow for anything to remain close to Him that is corrupt. This is the reason that even though God initiated a relationship with mankind, He still had to be apart from us. This is why He set His tent close to the nation’s but not in their personal camps. As much as they worshiped Him and followed His representation, they still could not get close enough to touch Him or feel His literal presence… so now even though they have come to know a God that cares about them for a change… they still are separated from Him… Continue reading

Is God With Us…Really?

Throughout time, mankind has worshiped someone or something. There has never been a generation throughout human history wherein an atheistic perspective was the prevalent belief system. We’ve always believed that there is a supernatural being or group of beings behind the scenes of this existence. In virtually all of these historical systems, the belief was that not only were they supernatural and omnipotent, but they were also separate from us… different… apart from us in any real relational way. We were the ants and they were the kid holding the magnifying glass. We were the animals and they were the masters. They didn’t engage with us the way we do with one another. They didn’t understand what it is like to be human… really didn’t even care. Now as Judaism entered the scene, and the identity of Yahweh was revealed to the extent that we could understand His existence… the question pops up… is He any different than those in which we’ve believed in the past…? Continue reading

Not A Better You…

I was listening to a podcast yesterday and it had an advertisement break. The product being advertised had a tagline that was something like, “becoming a better you.” As I thought about this I realized that nearly everything we buy or buy into is presented this way… with a promise that if we use the product, service, or ideology correctly, then we will be an improved version of ourselves. I continued to contemplate this idea and realized this is the way that many people (if not most) approach Christianity. The problem is that Christianity is not about making you a better version of you. It’s not about fixing your broken parts… Continue reading

Repenting of Religion: Part 2

I didn’t mention this in the previous article, and I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before in other posts, but the word “repent” has a very simple meaning. Basically, it means a change of heart. It refers to reformation of the mind and heart. When we hear the word, “repent,” I think we don’t often know its meaning but instead just associate it with some religious mindset in an almost superstitious way. It’s almost treated like a form of incantation although not used to that extreme. When I think of the word, the person that comes to my mind the most is John the Baptizer. He was a fiery preacher whose most memorable phrase was “Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand!” What did he mean by this… and have we considered it and applied it correctly? Continue reading

Repenting of Religion

“I need to be in church.” “I need to be reading my Bible.” “I should not be doing such and such…”

How often have you said these very things, or thought about them in an almost condemnatory sense? How often have you had something bad happen, either by happenstance or in a context that you brought on yourself, and thought, “God is getting even with me.”?

I find myself in these thought processes every day… on an almost constant level. The truth is: I’m a selfish, egotistical, self-serving, hypocritical, dishonest jackass. I know these things about myself and I’m not proud of them nor am I intending to remain as such. But because I know these things, I find myself thinking constantly about how I should be doing different things and acting in different ways. For example, if I wake up in the morning and turn on SportsCenter and watch it while drinking my coffee, I begin to be plagued with guilt about not taking the time to read my Bible or write on this blog or simply spend time in silent meditation or prayer or… well you get the idea. If I use a word that Christianity has deemed foul or coarse, I immediately begin to think about how much I must be displeasing God. If I don’t attend a church service on a given Sunday morning (such as this one) I feel like I’m playing hooky. If I don’t give a certain amount of money to the church, I begin to wonder if my finances will be cursed.

I don’t know if you can relate to any of this or not. My bet is that you can.

One of the biggest objections to our faith from outsiders is that we have a bratty or draconian god that is looking for any opportunity to “smite” us. This really is not fair, though, because God isn’t the One that makes us think this way. He isn’t sitting on His throne with a checklist like some angry Santa Claus, eyeballing our every move with disapproval and scorn.

For some reason, perhaps it’s control, we tend to always come up with a mindset that encapsulates our relationship with God within a system of rules and guilt. This is what religion is good at. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because it’s the easier way out in regard to answering questions about what God wants from us. Once again, maybe it’s about control.

Christianity isn’t the only guilty party in this line of thinking, to be fair. All religious systems have similar tenets. Even atheism (which is also a religion, by the way…) has rules.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Rules aren’t bad. Rules keep us from driving on whatever side of the road we so please and therefore having a head-on collision or running someone else down and embankment. Rules tell us not to steal, kill, rape, plunder, etc. Rules keep our society in order. Some rules are ridiculous, like the one in North Carolina that says I can’t plow a cotton field with an elephant. Or in South Carolina, I can’t keep a horse in a bathtub. Come on, what if my horse is sick and in need of a warm bath, and all the while my elephant is perfectly capable of plowing my cotton field right across the state line? See what I mean? Let’s be reasonable.

Seriously, rules aren’t bad things. The rules God gave us in the Bible were for our own good, not petty commands that a capricious and bratty god came up with. Some are strange, but they have a context and I’m not trying to dissect all of that right now. What’s bad about rules is that we attach our adherence to said rules to our value before God. In other words, if we do or don’t do these things, then God is pleased with us and loves us more. This is the essence of the religious mindset.

Here’s the thing: our value in God’s economy is demonstrated by what He gave for us. He sacrificed His very own life. He lowered Himself to the form of a lowly human being, all with the intention of receiving a disgustingly bad beating and execution… all for us. He did this, knowing full well how we would continue to mistreat Him and rebel against Him. He did this knowing that even after I made a decision to become a follower of Jesus, I would continue to do the most selfish things and act in the most inhuman ways.

God’s love for me isn’t base in my actions or inaction. His love for me is based in His own eternal and infinite identity. He loves us because that’s Whom He is.

I encourage you to go to church. Read your Bible. Give of your resources to help others and support organizations. Do these things out of a love for Jesus and the love He has given you for others.

But don’t for one minute remain in the mindset that these things are what makes you valuable in His sight because He has made you invaluable. He has made you priceless. Our value is determined by the One that designed us… not by our activities.

 

Let’s Be Honest About Jesus

Lately, I’ve heard some more “progressive” Christians talk about how they believe in Jesus but they reject so many other things in Scripture. One of the biggest things they reject is a teaching called substitutionary atonement. This is what we are talking about when we say that God gave up His own Son to death on our behalf…Jesus dying in our place. The argument is that God didn’t “need” the sacrifice of Jesus in order to forgive humanity. If He wants to forgive us, then He can and will without condition or clause.

It’s not that I don’t see the logic of this thinking. It totally makes sense. God makes the rules and therefore can do any and all He so chooses or pleases to do. I don’t pretend to understand why He set this existence up the way in which He did. However, there’s something very troubling about all of this… the Bible…the BIBLE teaches us all we believe about Jesus. The Bible is where we get the tenets of Christianity. The Bible is where we get the basis of all of Jesus’s teachings. The tendency within progressive thinking to reject certain parts of the Bible while accepting the hero character of Jesus is nothing short of foolish and what’s more…it’s dishonest.

God wrote this narrative…which is to say that this universe is a story of which He’s the Author. I don’t have to understand His reasoning or His comprehensive purpose in writing the storyline the way in which He has. Within this narrative, He’s introduced a Savior. This Savior has said some wild things and performed the supernatural. He’s been executed and defeated the power of death itself. The idea that we can accept things we like about this Savior or “Hero,” while rejecting what Scripture says about reality in other areas is ludicrous. If we accept the narrative of Jesus, then we’ve got to accept the entire story…not just make up new ones as a supposed point of objective moral truth.

You can’t have Jesus without the entire truth within which He’s encapsulated. If you do, you don’t have Him…but a weak hybrid of human thought and divine truth akin to the ancient mythological characters. What’s more is that Jesus, Himself, said He would give His life as a payment for many. This means that He fully understood the reasoning He came into this existence in the first place. He also said that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. This means that He saw Himself as a divine Savior and Messiah…so the argument that He was perhaps simply a good moral teacher is also ridiculous. C.S. Lewis said that if Jesus wasn’t the Lord, then He was either a liar or a lunatic…but not a “good man.”

Jesus of Nazareth is perhaps the most controversial Person in history (at least in my opinion). When He is considered, many see Him as a rebel or a revolutionary. I understand some of that thinking. Then He’s viewed by many as simply a man that cared about how we treat each other…a man that never “judged.” He’s often branded as the gentle pacifist that would rather die than fight for His cause.

But rarely…rarely…is He considered in light of ALL the Scripture says about Him. Yes, He cared about people and didn’t condemn the flawed. But He also made a whip and beat the greedy merchants, running them out of the temple complex. Yes, He cared about social justice. However, when one of His disciples perceived a frivolous use of an important substance that could have been sold in order to help the poor, He rebuked him. He said that the poor would always be around, but He wouldn’t.

He is a gentle hand and violent storm. He had anger and He had patience. He accepted the fact that we are flawed, but didn’t allow that to be an excuse for our continued journey down a road of rebellion. He cared about everyone, but didn’t attempt to heal them all.

And what’s more is that before humanity enters into the narrative, He had already written out a story of redemption…a story in which He sacrifices and hurts more than anyone else. If someone things this is “divine child abuse,” well…they just don’t accept the Bible…nor Christianity. If they claim to have Christ without this central reality, they have nothing short of a dangerous counterfeit, masquerading as God’s design. A Jesus out of His full context is no different than either a rebel or a charismatic cult leader. If we are going to claim Jesus as ours, then let’s claim Him in honesty…otherwise, we have a fake Jesus, and small God, and a total lack of reality.

______________________

Image taken from: https://www.biography.com/people/jesus-christ-9354382

Jesus Has Been Hijacked

I think one of the greatest misunderstandings our culture deals with is that of the personality and likeness of Jesus of Nazareth. Aside from His divinity (which I firmly believe in), His influence on the world is likely the most widespread in all of history. He wasn’t an aristocrat, a prince, or a wealthy businessman. He was a laborer and a Rabbi (and, of course, is THE Messiah). Whether we believe in His God-ship or not, we all seem to have an opinion on what He was like…what He stood for…the ways in which He lived His life. The unfortunate reality, however, is that He has been represented in ways that further our causes more than He has been represented truthfully…and this really needs to stop. Continue reading

Forgive So You Can Be Free

I didn’t write any of the following. I’m not that gifted. But this sister is. Her name is Teresa McMillan. Look her up and follow her on Facebook. The rest of this post is hers:

They say ‘don’t get bitter…get better’…I’m working on switchin’ them letters ~Lecrae

It’s so easy to get bitter.

To not forgive.

To be a victim. Continue reading

My Dark Heart

My mind wanders to dark places…thoughts enter my head that make me shudder. I then begin to try and determine their origin. I wonder if it’s a book I’ve read, a movie/show I’ve seen, a conversation I’ve entertained, a song I’ve heard, maybe even a food I’ve eaten. As I try to determine how these things enter into my consciousness, I become conflicted within myself. I begin to ask myself, “Am I truly a Christian? Am I just fooling myself? Am I a total and utter hypocrite? Am I a fake?” Continue reading

The Walking Dead

I don’t understand the fascination that so many in our current society have with books, shows, movies, and/or other media related to zombies. I’ve joked around about this for years. For some reason, I have a strange and definitely irrational fear of zombies. I actually scoured the web one day (just for fun) looking for a word that encapsulated this definition. I found one: ambulothanatophobia (click here for definition of ridiculous word). If you’re still reading this, you’re likely wondering why I would be writing about this subject on a forum such as this… Continue reading

Does Everyone Go To Heaven?

Of all of the questions that come from discussions related to faith and/or religion, one of the most central and critical has got to be the one about everyone’s eternal destination. As I mentioned in a previous post, Francis Chan wrote in Erasing Hell that it seems as though everyone goes to heaven if we look at the subject through the lens of what is said at funerals. I couldn’t agree more. It would appear as though one of our ways of comforting the grieving is to make sure they believe that the one they lost is now in heaven with other loved ones. (As an aside, let me say that it’s hard to know how to address this subject and this especially true when dealing with someone’s death.) So what does the Bible say about this? Is there legitimate evidence in Scripture to support the idea that everyone will go to heaven one day…whether they believe in Jesus or not…or whether they are part of an entirely different belief system, such as Islam, New Age, Hinduism, satanism, or any other? Continue reading

I Cannot Be A Christian

I grew up in the south. My grandfather was a minister for most of his life. Until my parents split up (when I was 7 years old), my dad taught Sunday School and my family was active in the church. Christianity was in our DNA. Church was inherited. It had been established in our minds and hearts as something we were to be a part of. In my teenage years and my very early 20’s, I had abandoned any belief in the Bible and in Jesus. I had certainly abandoned my belief in the church. However, there was always this nagging tug in my mind that I should be going to church. Even though I didn’t believe in it, I had learned this as an activity from early on in my childhood…and non-participation felt like a betrayal of my identity. We attended church nominally throughout those years and I would sometimes participate with my friends in a few activities…but it felt so foreign…so wrong…so fake…yet so important.  Continue reading

If I Was The Devil…

We see the cross everywhere. It is one of the most ubiquitous symbols in the world. It’s so pervasive that we may well have forgotten what it means. Worse yet, we may have become totally numb to what it represents. It’s possible that by putting this symbol in front of our eyes constantly, we’ve desensitized ourselves to the effect it should have on us. It’s a symbol of death. It’s a symbol of pain and suffering (I have written about his before more in depth, so if you would like to read that ===> CLICK HERE ). Being desensitized to something as important as the cross is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to us…and if I was the devil…It’s exactly the kind of thing I would want to see happen. Continue reading

God Doesn’t Love Me “Very Much…”

In my life, I’ve made many mistakes. Actually, if I’m honest, I’ve not made as many mistakes as I’ve made terrible decisions. These were not decisions that were made without knowledge of consequence, but in spite of it. Decisions were made with self serving interests…sometimes to the detriment of someone else. I wish I could say that I made those decisions before becoming a Christian so as to be able to avoid the label of hypocrite. However, I think I’ve made more of them since being a Christian than I did before. Having said all of this, I’ve spent much time in stir over whether or not God could really love me. If He could…then how much could He possibly love me? I mean…let’s be honest…If he’s really a holy and perfect Being…He couldn’t love me a lot…especially since He would know my every thought…my every action…the deepest, darkest recesses of my heart and soul… Continue reading

The Hell Of The Ark

For years I’ve thought about something relating to the story of The Great Flood and Noah’s Ark. Whether you accept this as history or myth, just consider what I’m going to present. I will go ahead and express that I hold to an historical interpretation of this story, although I’m not interested in debating it. I’m no expert on it. I simply believe it to be true, as did Jesus. So, please just grant the premise and consider something very grave… Continue reading

Not My Best

what-god-wants

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve gone throughout my day feeling like either a failure, an idiot, a disappointment, or a just plain guilty. These feelings come from lots of different causes in life. How many times have you felt that way? Have you ever felt like such a screw-up or disappointment that you just wanted to walk away from the world, become a total recluse and hope to never have to face anyone again? I have. I have had days where I just wanted to hide. I wanted to hide from the world…from family, friends, co-workers…even God. Continue reading

Lies Christians Tell #6: “We Will All Be Judged”

final judgment

How often have we heard this phrase? How often have we thought about standing in front of God after we die…in a courtroom type of setting…and often with a great degree of anxiety? We are fearful of what kind of punishment may await us…worrisome over the sins for which we may have forgotten to seek forgiveness. Many believers and non-believers alike harbor this same fear. The fear of actually receiving the just recompense for our actions…penalties for our rebellions…retribution for our ways. This fear lurks in the hearts of many…and it  may drive some to seek mental or emotional escape…only worsening the problem. Where does this come from? Why do we live in such fear? Continue reading

Lies Christians Tell #1: “Believe”

lies

Christians tell lies. We tell them to each to each other, to ourselves, and to non-Christians or “outsiders.” The lies I’m referring to are not the intentional deceit or malice that we see in the world around us. They are not “stab-you-in-the-back” lies. (Yes, I’m well aware of the fact that many Christians do offend others with these types of lies at times. Those are simply not the ones I’m writing about.) The lies I’m referring to are actually worse…because they have a larger impact on the world…and what is really alarming is the fact that we buy into them and believe them ourselves… Continue reading

Mad At God

angry-with-god

Consider a reality that we sometimes feel uncomfortable with…consider the reality that sometimes we have really awful things happen in our lives or the lives of those that we care about and we have a lot of questions. Then we pray…we ask God why this happened. He gives no answer or gives one that we do not understand at all. We may ask Him more questions…only to have Him go silent. At this point, we feel an array of different emotions. We may feel hopeless, abandoned, confused, panicked, anxious, doubtful…and that’s just to name a few…and then…perhaps the one feeling that is stronger than the others is angerwith Him. We find ourselves mad at Him. Can you relate? Have you ever been angry at God? I have…very recently. As a matter of fact, I’m still processing through my feelings… Continue reading

The Hell Of Jesus

cross and hell

During WWII six Navy pilots left their aircraft carrier on a mission. After searching the seas for enemy submarines, they tried to return to their ship shortly after dark. But the captain had ordered a blackout of all lights on the ship. Over and over the frantic pilots radioed, asking for just one light so they could see to land. But the pilots were told that the blackout could not be lifted. After several appeals and denials of their request, the ship’s operator turned the switch to break radio contact–and the pilots were forced to ditch in the ocean.

Can you fathom the feeling of that type of abandonment? That had to have been the scariest and most helpless feeling one could ever have… Imagine the panic…imagine the anxiety.   Continue reading

My Chameleon Faith

blend_chameleon

On many occasions, I have heard preachers ask a particular question (I’m pretty sure I dropped this chestnut before as well). They ask, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” We obviously understand the meaning of this to be about whether or not our verbal professions of faith are lining up with our behavior. When we are asked about how our journey in faith is going…we always have the same answer…something like, “I’ve got a lot of growing to do,” or, “The Lord’s working on this area of my life or that.” While it is true that God is always working in our lives (when we let Him), I have found that I love to play those “get-out-of-jail-free” cards way too often. I love to have such an excuse. I love to be able to say, “I’m only human,” or, “I’m not perfect.” But…I find myself using those more as excuses than I do as statements of reality anymore…I find myself being the thing I HATE. I find myself being a hypocrite. Continue reading

Why I Don’t Like Your Church…

envy_m

I don’t know how many other pastors struggle with this particular problem…and I sure haven’t heard any speak about it much. Perhaps it’s an understood problem and therefore a taboo thing to bring up…but I can’t help it. I think I need to expose a serious problem in my life…my heart…my soul…my ministry. I need to expose it because if I don’t, then like black mold that grows and reproduces in the darkness…it will simply become a problem larger than I can deal with. It will take over. It will rule my life and my ministry. So here goes: I am going to tell you what’s wrong with any church but my own. I’m going to explain to you why I believe all other churches aren’t good enough. I’m going to tell you why I don’t like your church…whether your the pastor or the pew-sitter. Continue reading

Lethal Savior

not a tame lion

I was teaching through a story in the New Testament recently…and something Jesus said really alarmed me. I have read this passage numerous times…and it has always seemed odd to me in light of whom I’ve understood Jesus to be. I had always been lead to believe that Jesus was simply a loving person…never harsh. Every time I had heard a sermon or lesson about Him in which He seemed severe towards someone…well…it was explained away through some type of verbal gymnastics, “In the original language, this word mean such and such and that phrase meant something totally different…,” and so on. Following along this same path of thought, when I would teach something difficult about Jesus, I would do the same thing…until the other day…and then I decided to let Him be Him…and I found a much more shocking Jesus than many of us have known… Continue reading

Not My Enemy

enemy

Many times when I write things such as the following, my premise is misunderstood. Frankly, I think that some want to take it a certain way…looking for areas of disagreement, debate. If that’s the position in which you find yourself, then you may want to stop reading now because this is not an argument in regard to theology, philosophy, or politics. This is simply my journey in a sea of humanity wherein all are searching and many are wandering in darkness. Therefore, before I begin, let me preface this by saying that in no way am I trying to “find common ground,” or “sympathize” with anyone. This is about being human and…hopefully…biblically Christian. Continue reading

The Battle In My Head

careful what you think

I have a terribly judgmental and harsh way about me. Those that know me well also know that if you start a critical conversation with me, then I will escalate the discussion. This is not something I’m proud of in the least. This is one of those things that haunts me in the mirror. I spend so much of my time thinking back over things I’ve said and the ways in which I’ve said them, wishing that I had had the will to keep my mouth shut… Continue reading