John Wesley Powell, the Grand Canyon and Methodism

My family is taking a trip to see the Grand Canyon. Various family members have long wanted to see this large hole in the ground, including myself. One of the few American famous places I have not been.

In preparation for the trip, I’ve been reading books about the Grand Canyon. I read a book about park rangers there and about all the gruesome ways people have died in and around the Grand Canyon, which was nice to know.

I also read part of a book about a fire ranger at the park. It got old after a while. “There was a fire. We put it out. We are awesome men.” Was pretty much every chapter.

I am now reading a biography of John Wesley Powell, who was the first white guy to go down the Colorado River and put the Grand Canyon on the map. It’s a good read.

As you may notice, Mr. Powell’s name is “John Wesley.” He was named after the founder of Methodism, as his parents were big into that.

An interesting side note: Powell’s parents were some of the founding people of Wheaton, Illinois and the founding of Wheaton College. I did not know that. Even at its beginning, Wheaton was considered a liberal school because of their views on alcohol and slavery, the two main social issues of the day.

Powell turned from his strict father’s strict Methodism and entered the realm of the natural sciences, much to his father’s annoyance–he wanted his son to be a pastor. This is right during the time of Darwinism taking off. He rejected the creation story of the Bible and dove right in to evolution.

It is amazing to me how much Christianity works into history. One of the things history classes miss out on in our public schools is an understanding of Christianity and how its teachings have led so many people to do so many things, many of those things being bad.

Dumping religion from history removes a prime motivator in historical figures. I am not one who thinks Christianity is the backbone of American culture, but you’re a fool if you don’t acknowledge its role in our nation’s past, for good and bad.

I find it interesting how many pastor’s kids (Powell’s dad preached in the Methodist church), left the religion of their childhood and made a mark in our history.

Anyway, I have no major point, other than–one reason to know Christianity is so you have a clue as to what’s going on in history class.

Where’s the Grace in “Let the Dead Bury Their Dead.”

Not long after Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, some guys told Him they’d like to follow Him. Jesus attempts to thwart their desire.

To the first, Jesus tells him that He has no place to lay His head. Are you sure you know what you’re asking? There is no creature comfort in following Christ.

The next guy said he’d like to follow BUT “suffer me first to go and bury my father.” Jesus replies with “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.”

I have heard the explanation that the man’s father was not dead yet, so the son was actually saying “let me go take care of my old dad until he dies.” This seems plausible since why would the guy be there in the first place if his dad had just died? People buried dead people the same day they died back then.

Since that’s the case, we tend to downplay the severity of Jesus’ words. We view this wannabe disciple as one who is looking for a loophole. “Let me chill for a few years, but I’ll get around to following you.”

But I believe this man had a sincere desire to follow Christ, and, at the same time, had a sincere desire to take care of his dying dad.

I think we do injustice to this man, as well as to Jesus’ point, if we view him as an excuse-making slacker.

Jesus’ words are severe. There is no sympathy. “Oh, sorry to hear about your dad.” There is no sentimentality, “You’re right, you should take care of the elderly, after all, he changed many of your diapers.”

Nope, “Let the dead bury their dead.”

What does that even mean? I think John Wesley put it best in his commentary, “When God calls, leave the business of the world to them who are dead to God.”

Surely you can’t be saying that following Christ means we don’t care for our elderly parents?

Well, if following Christ means that, then that is what He’s saying.

We like to soften the demands of Scripture. “Hey, what about that grace stuff, Jesus?”

If God is a God of grace, shouldn’t this man be given a break? Plenty of people are not following Jesus for dumber reasons than that.

In the end, it does not matter what anyone else is doing. When Christ calls, we are to listen, even if it does look ridiculous or cold hearted to a watching world.

Compassed About and Sin that so Easily Besets

Sin is an offense to God. Anything that is done against what God says is sin. If God never said anything, there would be no chance for sin. “With no law there is no transgression.”

As great as it is that God said stuff (how else would we be able to know Him?); it’s also a bummer, because we can then choose to go against Him.

The fact that we sin based on what God said, does not mean what God said is at fault, nor that God made us do it, nor that what God said is somehow unholy. The law is holy, just and good, but we are sold under sin.

We’re idiots.

We’ve taken God’s efforts to reveal Himself to us, and instead used it to rebel against Him. That’s so dumb.

Unfortunately, sin is all around us and even in us. We’re born into a sinful system where the moment of our conception also marks the moment we begin to die. We are born selfishly desiring to look out for ourselves.

A very mighty power is necessary to get us to live for something other than our own advancement and enjoyment.

That power is the grace of Jesus Christ.

But grace doesn’t just pop in and say, “OK, man, I’ve got it from here. You just sit back and enjoy the ride. I’ll take care of everything!”

Nope, there is still responsibility on our part.

That is a giant bummer to most people and many theologies have been devised to try to explain away human responsibility. I advise you not to go there. We will give an account for everything done in the body, whether good or bad. That’s the definition of “responsibility.”

Sin gets in the way of our progress toward God. Hebrews 12:1,2 tells us we keep pressing toward the end, keep looking to Jesus. There are a host of other faithful ones who went before us, they showed the way, they lived for a better land, you can too!

Interesting thing in Hebrews 12:1. He talks about being “compassed about” by a great cloud of witnesses, the faithful roll call of Hebrews 11.

Compassed about is a phrase from a Greek word meaning to lie all around, to fully encircle.

Later in the verse we are told to lay aside every weight and the sin that “so easily besets us.” Beset is from a Greek word meaning to stand all around.

So, get this! During our race of faith, we are surrounded by two things–first, there are faithful witnesses lying all around us. Second, there is sin standing all around us!

I don’t know entirely what to do with all that, but that’s cool! We’re surrounded by both good and bad, the difference is made in which of those things will you be looking at? Which one will you put off and which one will you follow?

Will we look at the sinful opportunities to indulge the flesh, or will we look to those who denied the fleshly lusts and lived for the world to come?

We should be choosing the one that helps us get to Christ quickest.

Graciously Christ offered Himself. He opened and completed faith. A great crowd of witnesses has already finished and gone on to Christ in the better country. We follow them there with the same end in mind.

Cool stuff.

Turning the Grace of our God into Lasciviousness

One of the false notions of grace is that it makes sin inconsequential.

There are some who think sin is just fine to do once a person “has grace.” Some even take it so far as to assume they won’t get natural consequences for sin because “God is gracious.”

Grace is indeed big, but there are some who force it right out of its boundaries and make it a joke.

These people turn “the grace of our God into lasciviousness.” When your notion of grace results in license; you’ve gone outside the bounds of Biblical revelation.

Making grace mean license is “denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I’ll stick those two together for you the way Jude did.

“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jesus didn’t die so you could revel in sin. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of grace. Grace gives. Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins.

God’s grace, the thing that makes forgiveness/salvation possible, is summed up in what Christ did on the cross and His resurrection. The Gospel is God’s grace, His way of salvation for all who believe.

To take that Gospel, that grace, and turn it into, “Hey, no worries man! You are forgiven, go live it up in sin!” Is to deny Christ Himself.

Sin is bad.

We’re not supposed to do it.

Grace not only gets us out of past sin; it also has the power to help us overcome future temptation. “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world.”

This deliverance isn’t just heaven in the future; it’s overcoming the world even now.

In the end, making grace mean “you can sin and get away with it,” isn’t making grace big at all, it’s merely feeding human lust. Real, true, great grace is seeing that not only does grace pardon; grace delivers!

The Man-Made and Biblical Adjectives of Grace

Grace is a great thing. Grace is foundational to Christianity. Grace should be talked about a lot.

Unfortunately, as with all things that are talked about a lot, many stupid things are said. People can’t leave well enough alone, they must press on to uncharted waters.

People want to appear to be novel and fresh. “Look at this new thing I discovered over here!”

Theology is like any other field–if you want attention, you have to come up with something new.

So, we can’t just talk about grace, we must talk about some new facet of grace that I, and I alone, have discovered. If we’re lucky, we might even get to start a new church over it.

Irresistible Grace is one example. Obviously, the Bible never speaks of grace as being irresistible. It’s a theological theory, that through much repetition, has come to be seen as “biblical.”

Prevenient Grace is a close second. Again, there is no such term in the Bible. Prevenient Grace is an Arminian idea that makes Arminianism just like Calvinism, only differing in terminology and keeping both parties entrenched in thinking they are not like the other at all. (How was that for a good attempt to offend all?!)

Theologians have also gone to talk about common grace, electing grace, preached grace, regenerating grace, justifying grace, adopting grace, ministry grace, sanctifying grace, empowering grace, provisional grace, financial grace, miraculous grace, persevering grace, glorifying grace, sacramental grace, and probably thousands more.

In the end, grace is grace. God didn’t have to define it further to build up any theological barricades to differentiate between orthodox and heretical.

For he that is not against us is on our part.” That sounds like grace.

God does use some words to further describe what Grace is. The list goes like this (all phrases from the KJV):

great grace
abundant grace
all grace
exceeding grace
manifold grace
true grace

These are not words that are limiting grace; these adjectives tend to expand our idea of grace. Grace is such a big word, and yet the Bible seems to constantly be pushing us to expand our understanding of it further, to help us see how big it really is. People define words to limit them, to buttonhole them, so they can better disagree with people.

It is the height of irony that we can turn this word into something to bash people with and divide over.

(My thanks to Onesimus for sparking this thought.)

What “My Grace Is Sufficient” Does Not Mean

Paul asked God to remove his thorn in the flesh. We do not know what the thorn was, but we can assume it was inconvenient, to say the least. It was a physical limitation of some sort, probably associated with pain.

God didn’t take it away. Instead, God said, “My grace is sufficient.”

People throw that phrase around. Perhaps it means weird things to people. Based on how I’ve heard it used, I think it’s just another flippant phrase people say with minimal thought. Here are a couple things “My grace is sufficient” does not mean:

1) Suck it up, you can do it!
Nope, not the point at all. The point of God’s grace being sufficient is that, no, you can’t do it, that’s why you need God’s provision. This is not a humanistic, power of the human spirit rallying cry. This is a phrase God spoke to Paul to help him get his eyes on the right things. To not only acknowledge his weakness, but to rejoice in it and embrace it, so that God could work through him.

2) Physical problems are minor.
Nope, not true either. Physical problems can be very major. This is not God’s attempt to minimize or trivialize pain. Remember, His mode of showing His care for our pain was to enter it with us. Physical problems can consume a life. God’s point with this is to get you off the selfishness of suffering and into the work of God that can be done through the suffering.

3) God doesn’t care about your physical problems.
Nope, again, that’s not His point. God does care, that’s why He gave you grace! If God didn’t care about your physical problems, He would ignore your needs. Instead, God says “I know your needs more than you do, watch me meet them.”

4) Just think happy thoughts about Jesus!
Nope, it’s much more than that. Certainly joy will come, but again, this is more than “Rah, rah, you and Jesus can do it all!” More than likely, we have no clue what God can do through us and as long as we’re focused on begging for problems to go away, we will be focused on ourselves, not on Him. Jesus doesn’t just want you to be happy; He wants you to live a new life, demonstrating Christ daily. Pain helps us get there.

5) God’s grace will take the problem away!
Nope, not necessarily. Sometimes He might, and thank Him for that. Other times He will let the problem stay and drive you to Him through it. The problem may get worse. Remember, He’s the one who came up with “Tribulation works patience, patience experience, experience hope and hope makes not ashamed.” He knows what is best for us. He was a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief, don’t think for a minute that being Christ-like will result in no pain or suffering!

God’s grace is Christ. It’s all that Christ brings. Rejoice that your name is written in heaven. No matter the suffering, the pain, the torment, your name is written in heaven. He loves you. He wants you with Him. Watch Him work and give thanks in all things. His grace is sufficient.

Grace, Contentment And Good Works

Grace is all about giving. God gives us stuff. The reason He gives us stuff is because we are weak. His primary area of concern is in our spiritual weakness. He often uses physical weakness to get across spiritual points.

It is when we are humbled, when we see our weakness (and all physical weakness is a result of sin in our world and its effects, which is why we need grace), that God gives grace.

Our weakness and inability leads us to our good God, who then gives grace that is sufficient. God gives all sorts of stuff with His grace.

It’s all centered in the person of Christ. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. This is His ultimate gift. But in this one gift, the manifold abundance of His grace is on display.

“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

God’s grace is sufficient. Sufficient means to have enough, to have all you need. If you’ve got all you need, what is the result?

Contentment is the result. In fact, the same Greek word that is translated “sufficient” by the KJV, is the same Greek word translated “content.”

This is where I think language is fascinating! Having sufficiency=being content.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” The root word of “contentment” is the Greek word translated “sufficient” in 2 Corinthians 12, “My grace is sufficient.”

Two verses after “godliness with contentment,” Paul says, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” “Content” is the same word as “sufficient.”

Hey, I got all I need! If I have all I need, then I’m not focused on me and my needs, those are already met. Especially since I now see that my spiritual needs are far greater than my physical needs. He transforms our perspective with this.

Since my needs are met, I can esteem others better than myself. I can give of myself for the benefit of others. I won’t be selfishly fighting for my stuff; I can rather use my stuff to benefit others.

Hebrews 13:5 uses the same word for content and sufficient, “be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

God is always with me. I don’t need to fuss and fight about getting more. Since I have Christ, I can part with anything else in service to Him for the sake of others.

Christ is our ultimate example of this:

For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”

Why could Christ afford to give up His stuff for our benefit? Because He has His Father and heaven and doesn’t mind giving up his earthly life and sacrificing His fleshly body for us. His grace gives us this same perspective.

Man, so much here. I’ve gone too long. Cool stuff.

My Grace Is Sufficient

The reason God gives us grace is so that we do good works.

I know this is a giant letdown to many who have been taught and/or shown that grace is license to sin and live it up, to see God’s commands as “suggestions,” and obedience as legalistic bondage, but alas, I disappoint daily. I’m a pastor. It’s what I do.

Grace is the energy behind good works.

How does that work exactly?

Who is this person who keeps writing things in italics in my blog posts? He should cut it out.

OK. Sorry.

No problem. Now, where was I?

You were talking about how does grace get us to do good works.

Oh yeah, right. Thanks.

There are some who think that grace is power from on high that infuses you to do good works, whether you are paying attention or not. Sometimes it is linked with religious duty to receive this grace/power–baptism, communion, confession, etc.

“Means of grace” is a weird term. It’s not biblical and I never understood where it came from, other than from a bunch of church leaders who know no one wants to go to church, so they freak people into thinking you have to go to church and listen to us, or else you won’t get grace.

It was a nice theory and it works pretty well, but it’s also of the devil. The actual way in which grace enables good works is much simpler.

God’s grace is sufficient. Paul learned this when he asked God to remove his thorn in the flesh. “Nope, my grace is sufficient” God told him.

“Sufficient” is a word that means, “to avail, to be satisfactory, enough.” God directs Paul’s mind off his physical suffering and on to God’s provision. Paul, with a shifted perspective, sees that the thorn in his flesh keeps him humble and allows Christ to work through him.

Paul is then transformed to see that his problems, the stuff that makes him weak, is making room for God’s power to work through him in Christ. Paul has to be removed. Nothing like weakness to remove a person’s inflated view of self.

God, through Christ, steps in and displays power. This is why not many, mighty, not many noble, not many wise are called. If they were, people would chalk up what they did to their nobility, power and wisdom.

Instead, by God using weak people, you have to attribute what happens to God’s credit, not to the abilities of the people.

God’s grace is enough. God’s grace did not remove Paul’s problems; God’s grace allows Paul to survive his problem. Not only that, through this problem, Paul sees much spiritual good come for himself and others.

You still haven’t answered the question–how does God’s grace create good works?

Sure, I did, in part anyway. God’s grace can only work when we are honest about our weakness. When we become humbly dependent on God. That’s the first step of grace’s work in you.

Why Does God Give Us Grace?

Yesterday I said that you know you have God’s grace because God gives you stuff. But “stuff” here doesn’t mean physical, earthly stuff, although that may at times be part of His grace, it’s not the main focus of it.

There is a reason God gives us stuff through grace.

To make me ridiculously happy on earth?

Nope.

To make me enjoy fleshly comforts and smooth handling automobiles?

Nope.

To make me feel extra specially, squishily loved?

Nope.

The reason God gives you stuff through grace is so you do good works.

Oh.

Really?

Yup. Really. Ephesians 2:8-10–for by grace you are saved, not by works, so we would be His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.

Titus 2:11-14– For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, purifying unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17–Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

So, wait, are you suggesting that God gives me grace so I have to do good works, not so I can go sin more?

I am not only suggesting it, I’m right out saying it.

But I thought if there were works it was no more grace?

You can’t do good works by works, you can only do good works by grace.

That doesn’t even make sense.

Perhaps tomorrow’s post will help.

I’ll be the judge of that.

You certainly will be.

Grace Gives

Grace is often linked with giving in the Bible.

God’s favor is not just happy thoughts, “Ooo, I’m so glad God likes me.”

Grace is an active word and it never comes alone. Grace gives. “He giveth more grace.” “For by grace are you saved through faith, that not of yourselves it is a gift of God.”

When Paul tries to get the Church in Corinth to give money for the poor saints in Jerusalem, he uses the word “grace” to mean their gift of money. “Who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace.” “Grace” means their gift of money to be taken to Jerusalem.

When Jacob returned home, he was afraid his brother Esau would still hate him. Jacob put herds of cattle and sheep out front as a gift. Esau asks Jacob, “What’s with the gift of animals?” Jacob says, “These are to find grace in the sight of my lord.”

When the NT uses the word “gift” it often uses “charisma,” a Greek word with “charis” as the root word. Charis is Greek for “grace.”

One way to know that you have an idea what grace is, is because you begin to be gracious. To be gracious means you are giving. You don’t put yourself first, but put others ahead of you. You put them in a place of favor. When you favor someone, you give them stuff.

I favor my wife over all women. One way you can see this is because I give her stuff. I favor my kids over all other kids. You can know this because I give them stuff.

You know you have God’s grace when He gives you stuff. However, we must be careful here! This is no health and wealth Gospel! He gives us what we need spiritually.

“Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace

What Is Grace

“Unmerited favor” is the knee-jerk definition most Christians spew when asked “What is grace?”

Grace simply means “favor.” The “unmerited” bit of the definition got stuck on over the years by over-zealous, and probably insecure, theologians trying to make a point.

Grace is not deserved, this is true, but “unmerited” is not an inherent part of the definition of the word. Sticking “unmerited” in front of “favor” makes it sound like there is nothing one does to get God’s favor, when indeed there are things you do to get God’s favor.

What the Bible says a person does to get God’s grace/favor is still not deserving the favor, but it is what you do to get it.

God gives grace to the humble” is one prime example of this. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. This makes sense, because I don’t think anyone would take anything that God offers apart from humility.

“For by grace are you saved through faith” is another example. A person needs faith in order to capitalize on the offer of grace God provides.

So, if “unmerited favor” means to you, “there’s nothing I do to get God’s grace,” then you have indeed out distanced yourself from biblical revelation.

If there’s nothing you do to get God’s grace, then there is no hope of you ever being saved apart from God shoving His grace down your throat. The universal offer of salvation becomes a giant lie and farce. Unless you are a hyper-Calvinist, this seems pretty obvious.

I do not know who the first person was to begin sticking “unmerited” into the definition of Grace, but I wish they hadn’t. “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” works well here. Soon “unmerited favor” will be said to be “church tradition” if we continue to spread the misleading definition for too many more generations.

I would encourage you to go with the clear and concise definition of grace by just going with “favor.” That’s what it is. No need to confuse the issue.

Where’s The Love, Man?

I watched some of an interview with two big Catholic guys, “big” not as in body mass but as in position in the Catholic Church, regarding Pope Francis.

They were being asked about the pope’s popularity, “why do you think the pope has had such a good year with so much acceptance by the world?”

“It’s because he lives the Gospel. When you live the Gospel, people love you.” The one guy answered.

I shook my head and said, “Oh, come on, guys.”

Why did the world kill Jesus again? Because they just loved Him to death? What was that bit about people hating the light and loving darkness? What was that part about anyone who desires to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution? What about the verse that tells us not to marvel when the world hates us and persecutes us just as it did to Christ?

I am amazed at people’s inability to consistently deal with Scripture. People don’t want to deal with the real Jesus. We want the cute, cuddly Jesus, the kind Mr. Rogerish philosopher who just loves, man. Won’t you be His neighbor?

Let me make a snide point:

Last week I did a couple posts on the new Jesus movie, Son of God. Through various people’s links on Facebook and through search engines, the posts I did on those three days equaled 441 views.

So, I thought I’d do a little experiment and do some posts on who Christ actually is, see if the same amount of people are as curious about Jesus as they are curious about watching movies about a fake Jesus.

So I did three days of posts on Jesus, they barely got 150 views all together, that’s pretty close to the average views per day last week.

This is part of my problem with Christianity. We’re way more into defending who we think Jesus is than we are into actually finding out who Jesus is.

If a guy speaks about Jesus, just gives people Bible teaching, he will be largely ignored. If instead he talks about culture and society and pretend Jesus with pithy applications in entertaining formats, he will get attention.

This little experiment is in no way scientific. I’m sure I skewed the results intentionally. And, even if I didn’t, it still means next to nothing. Call my experiment junk, or worse, and my point still stands.

People really don’t want Jesus, they want a Jesus of their own creation. They will defend their happy thought more than they will defend the truth. They will resist efforts to be educated on the true Jesus and allow entertainment to form their views.

Even so, come quickly.

The Simplicity That Is In Christ

Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 11 about his fear for the church in Corinth that Satan would trick them and their minds would be corrupted from “the simplicity that is in Christ.”

Frequently, this is taken to mean that the Gospel or that Christ is simple. “Even a kid can understand it” is often stated in this context.

Unfortunately, that’s not what the phrase means.

“Simplicity” means, according to Thayer’s definitions, “singleness, simplicity, sincerity, mental honesty 1a) the virtue of one who is free from pretence and hypocrisy.” It’s not that Christ is simple; it’s that our devotion to Him is singleminded, totally honest and pure.

Paul’s fear for Corinth is that they will be devoted to Christ plus their favorite speaker, or their favorite book, or some work or spiritual attainment. Paul does not want Satan to confuse the issue like he did with Eve.

“Don’t eat from the tree” suddenly got confusing because Eve’s single-minded devotion to her Creator was messed with. Is God holding back on me? Did God really say? These were attacks on Eve’s devotion to her Creator.

The cool thing about this Greek word is that it’s also translated “generosity!”

Romans 12:8 is a classic example. The KJV says, “he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity.” The NAS says “he who gives, with liberality.” Both are right. The KJV went with the mentality that leads to giving–single-minded devotion to Christ; the NAS goes with the resulting act of devotion–liberality, generosity.

It’s the same word, translated either single-minded devotion or generosity. How can one word mean seemingly two different things?

Here’s how you wrap it up:

If I am single-mindedly devoted to chocolate, I could care less what you do with the rest of the food in my house.

If I am single-mindedly devoted to Christ, I can easily part from my stuff. It leads to a generous spirit because “I have Christ, what else do I need? You want it? You can have it!”

It’s the gentiles, the heathen, who fight for the things of this world. The single-minded devotee of Christ lets it go. Let em fight over it; I have Christ.

One of the key ways you know you are devoted to Christ is how loosely you hang on to your stuff. Generosity is the outflow of devotion.

Who is Jesus: THE Truth

Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. Jesus and the Father are one, if you have seen Christ, you have seen the Father. Jesus said that.

The big question is: Who do you say that I am?

If Jesus is not God in the flesh, then Jesus is a liar and should not be listened to. One of the main problems the Jewish religious leaders had with Jesus is that He makes “himself equal with God.”

They understood clearly who Jesus said He was–God in the flesh.

If Jesus says He is the Son of God, the Messiah, the fulfillment of OT prophecies and that He is God in the flesh, do you say the same about Him?

Jesus Christ is called “the word” by John, particularly in the first chapter of his Gospel. John also says in his Gospel, “Thy word is truth.”

Jesus isn’t just talking about syllables that come out of God’s mouth being truth; He’s talking about Himself.

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.”

Jesus is the embodiment of God’s Word, the Truth. God’s word sanctifies; Jesus Christ sanctified Himself according to God’s word (set Himself apart for the Father’s use), so that all who believe might be sanctified by Christ.

When Jesus says, “I am the truth,” there’s an awful lot going on there! The words are simple; the meaning is awesome.

Jesus is the truth. If you aren’t agreeing with Jesus, you aren’t in truth.

Because Jesus is the truth, we must be very careful how we portray Him. If our portrayals of Christ are not consistent with God’s Word (even in seemingly little details), then we change the truth of God into a lie and worship and serve the creation rather than the Creator.

The desire to change who Christ is, is nothing more than a desire to worship creation, to create a God after our own image. This is of the devil.

Jesus is the Truth. This means huge things.

Who is Jesus? He Is The Way to the Father

God has long been the source of human wonderment.

Revelation is the only sure way we have of knowing who God is. Everything else is just theory and opinion.

Agnostics claim we can’t know God. This is true if one were to rely upon human reason alone.

However, God, knowing our inability to know Him, took certain steps to reveal Himself. One hugely important part of that revelation was His role in becoming flesh. God became flesh and dwelt among us.

That is fascinating. Again, I know we know this, but let that sink in. God became flesh!

When Jesus came, He wasn’t just a good teacher. He didn’t sit people down and share His theories of God with them. He wasn’t trying to get people to ascribe to His philosophy. He did not come merely to teach about God–HE WAS GOD!

If you have seen me, you have seen the Father!

I and the Father are One!

Jesus came out from God!

Jesus reveals who the Father is because Jesus and the Father are the same. Jesus is a revelation of God; not just a teacher teaching facts about God.

Jesus is the way to the Father, because He is one with the Father.

There is no other way to the Father but through Christ. It would be an impossibility for it to be otherwise. Any other man made God, including false Jesus’s, are not leading you to God, they are deceiving you down the broad road to destruction.

Jesus is no mere teacher. He isn’t a philosopher theorizing about God. Jesus is God in the flesh. There is no way to the Father except through Him, because He is one with the Father. One of the titles of the Son of God, the Messiah was/is “Everlasting Father.” Ponder that one!

Who is Jesus: He’s Not Who You Think He Is

One of our modern-day poets, a Mr. Eminem, once said,

“And I am, whatever you say I am
If I wasn’t, then why would I say I am?”

Let me assure you, Jesus never said these words. Jesus is not what you say He is; Jesus is who He said He is.

Jesus has been portrayed as a pretty boy, a football player, a lover, a rock climber, and all manner of other things. He isn’t. He’s God in the flesh. He was born as a Jew to a Jewish mother in first century Israel. He lived a sinless life that the world couldn’t handle.

The world killed Jesus.

I want that to sink in. I know we know that, but really, let that sink in. The world could not handle God in the flesh. And, let’s not forget, He was being meek, gentle and humble while in the flesh! Still the world couldn’t handle Him.

Jesus does not like what is going on in our world. He despises what man esteems. He told His followers, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!”

We understand, “Woe unto you, scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites,” we even know enough to hate those guys. But He speaks a woe to those who are universally liked? Yup.

Jesus is a complex person. His ways are fascinating to examine.

Jesus doesn’t care about your theories about Him. He does not strive to meet your expectations for Him.

Jesus is who He is, and He’s been the same since forever.

Jesus does not change upon meeting us; we change upon meeting Him.

There are all manner of voices telling you who Jesus is. We are measured by how well we conform to who those voices said Jesus is.

But remember, we don’t get points with God for how well we conform to other people’s opinions.

I cannot explain to you all that Christ is. I, nor anyone else, is the end of your seeking for Christ. People can help, but they can never take the place of you knowing Christ.

God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. He doesn’t reward for diligently seeking what someone else said about Him.

“But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me,
that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth:
for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.”

What Is Christianity?

Christianity is a pursuit of Christ. Without Christ, you just have ianity, and that aint nothing.

When Christ was on earth gathering disciples, He didn’t say to them, “Follow my rules.” He didn’t say, “Follow my 12 step program to freedom from sinful bondage.”

No, when Christ called disciples He said, “Follow me.”

Now, we need to be careful here. Many nod their head to these sentiments, “That’s right, man, it’s not a religion it’s a relationship.”

Be careful, Christianity is, by any sensible defining of words, a religion.

When Christ said, “Follow me,” He also meant they were to adhere to His teachings and obey His commands.

Following the person of Christ does not mean not following rules; it means following Christ’s rules. If the rules take precedent over the person, yes, we have problems.

One of the fundamental questions Jesus asked His disciples was, “whom say ye that I am?” That same question remains fundamental in our day.

Who you think Christ is will determine your Christianity. Christianity is a following of Christ.

Unfortunately, and I say this as humbly as I can, not many have a true understanding of who the Bible says Christ is.

The versions of Christ in people’s heads are not always consistent with the Christ revealed in the Bible.

Yet, the Christ of the imagination is followed, and the follower consoles himself, “well, I’m just following Jesus.”

We have asked for years, “What would Jesus do?” And our particular version of Him has given us our answers that we follow. Perhaps the better question to ask is, “Would Jesus really do what you think Jesus would do?”

Christianity is a seeking and a following of Christ. It is nothing else than that. It is of utmost importance that we seek the Christ of the Bible and follow Him.

J. C. Ryle on Fighting the Fight of Faith

“Necessity is laid upon us. We must fight. There are no promises in the Lord Jesus Christ’s epistles to the seven churches, except to those who “overcome.”

“Where there is grace there will be conflict. The believer is a soldier. There is no holiness without a warfare. Saved souls will always be found to have fought a fight.”

“It is a fight of absolute necessity. Let us not think that in this war we can remain neutral and sit still. Such a line of action may be possible in the strife of nations, but it is utterly impossible in that conflict which concerns the soul.

“The boasted policy of non–interference, the “masterly inactivity” which pleases so many statesmen, the plan of keeping quiet and letting things alone—all this will never do in the Christian warfare. Here at any rate no one can escape serving under the plea that he is “a man of peace.”

“To be at peace with the world, the flesh and the devil, is to be at enmity with God and in the broad way that leads to destruction. We have no choice or option. We must either fight or be lost.”

Pope Francis, Grave Robber

Speaking of Lent and mourning for sin, Pope Francis has confessed that he stole a rosary out of the dead hands of his confessor.

Seriously, he stole from a dead body.

However, it is now a sign of mercy and grace for him, plus he put some flowers on the casket, so it’s ok. Plus he’s pope, what are you gonna do about it?

The one interesting thing I learned from this article is that the pope has no pockets in his clothes. Seems like a glaring oversight.

This confession of stealing from dead people is an attempt by the pope to demystify his office, to deflect praise, to show us he’s a real person and whatnot. He’s just like you and me, he steals from dead bodies too.

Well, I know I feel better.

Lent: What It Is and Why I Don’t

We have begun the season of Lent.

I did not grow up in a church that did anything with Lent, whether that’s Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday or anything else. Never even heard of those doughnut things until my wife got some on sale last Ash Wednesday.

They’re no chocolate ice cream.

Lent is from the Middle English Lente, meaning springtime. It begins with Ash Wednesday and lasts 46 days until Easter. The intent is to fast or abstain from a fleshly enjoyment. According to Twitter, the leading activities given up for Lent this year are:

With about 5,000 tweets analyzed, the new hot topics so far this year are: “Netflix,” “Flappy Bird,” and “Getting an Oscar.” “Social Networking” is currently way out in front, with twice as many tweets as perennial favorites “Swearing” and “Alcohol.””

Lent was a Catholic thing, first hinted at in 960. It’s not in the Bible.

More and more “Protestants” and/or non-Catholics are borrowing Lent now (borrowing Lent, get it? No? OK, not funny.). I really don’t know why. Probably something to do with ecumenicalism and the antichrist’s coming one world religion. (That was a joke.) (Partly.)

I guess I have no problem with someone observing it. It’s fine. The intent is to identify yourself with the sufferings of Christ. I get it. I don’t get why it’s only 40 days and not for life, but alas, that’s probably too self-righteous to express.

The problem I have with it is that many people think that by dabbing ash on your forehead you have done something spiritual, or that abstaining from Flappy Birds for 40 days has worked off some sin, or got you into God’s good graces.

Lent is a man-made tradition. I don’t mind people keeping their own bodies under subjection, as Paul told us to do, but to make others do it and trump it up as a means of grace or something, goes too far.

God wasn’t too happy with people who obeyed their own forms of worship they invented more than they obeyed what He said. God has enough stuff in the Bible we should be doing, I do not know why we invent more things, especially since we rarely carry through on either.

But alas, I’m one voice. One voice who has snidely “given up Lent for Lent.”

I share my opinion on Lent because people ask me because I’m a non-Lenting pastor. Do what brings you closer to Christ and don’t forget to do what He actually said to do.

Bible Trivia and Biblical Literacy

As we all know, biblical literacy is at an all-time low, even though they’ve only been testing biblical literacy for about 20 years. Kind of like global warming statistics, how do they know how cold winter was in Wisconsin 200 years ago?

Pastors like to badger their people for how little they know, because this makes pastor’s feel special because we like to think we do know. So we flop out ridiculous Bible trivia questions to prove our point.

Is quizzing people on Bible trivia the best measure of Bible literacy? Probably not.

“And here’s my real concern. If we tell people that biblical literacy is a problem (which it is) and then equate biblical literacy with Bible trivia, many will conclude that it’s not really a problem because they can just get the trivia answers online. That may work for trivia, but not for real literacy.

“A Google search can’t immerse you in the story, helping you reflect on the bigger themes, gradually transforming you into the image of the Son, changing the way you view the entire world as a result. Google can do many things, but it can’t do that.

“If you know the trivia, great. The devil isn’t in the details, it’s in the way that we sometimes use the details to neglect the story itself. Biblical literacy is far more than Bible trivia. And suggesting otherwise contributes to the problem, not the solution.”

Click here for more.

Son of God Movie: Another Passing Fad

I’m not a fan of the Son of God movie, or The Passion of the Christ, or the new Noah flick. I will never like Hollywood’s depiction of anything in the Bible, for the same reason I don’t want public schools teaching creation–they have no idea what they are talking about and do it disservice.

In all honesty, I didn’t know about the Son of God movie until this past Monday when I heard people talking about it. I decided I should know what’s up.

So I looked into it, and what I found bugged me. I voiced my opinion (which I wrote on Monday and appeared on this blog Tuesday and Wednesday).

Tuesday’s post, I didn’t even read until after I posted it and got some negative feedback for my admittedly harsh response. I should not have used the phrase “millions of brainless Christians,” and, more than likely, should not have referred to the film as “filth.” Whitened sepulcher would have sufficed.

After thinking on it, here is my stand that I may not have communicated as effectively as possible, and even this will, no doubt, fall short of my intent.

When Jesus was on earth, He did not rail against homosexuals, abusive government, tax collectors or prostitutes. Yes, He did tell many of these sinners to “go and sin no more,” but He never got too worked up about seeing sin in the world; as if He expected to see it there.

What did get a rise out of Jesus, continually, was people playing at being righteous. He railed against people making money off His Father’s temple (which was a figure of Christ). He railed against false teachers and the wolves in sheep’s clothing. He was bugged by those who made a God of their own liking and patted themselves on the back for honoring him.

One gets the sense He is far more concerned with what those talking about Him and His Father are doing, than with what the blatant sinners are doing.

Rated R movies are being honest–RESTRICTED AUDIENCE–what you are about to see is sinful yuck, even we sinners who made it think so.

Movies about Jesus are far more dangerous, in my mind. They give the impression they are showing you Jesus and depicting what the Bible says, but they rarely do.

Yet churches are supposed to buy out theaters, and use the newly published Son of God study guides, and do weeks of sermons on the movie, and show clips, and invite it right into the church.

The Jesus of the Son of God movie is not the Jesus in the Bible. Sure, there are some commonalities, some details they got right, but in general, they completely misunderstand Christ.

Since they misunderstand Christ, they create a Jesus of their own making. They tell a story about the Jesus they wish had shown up.

If anyone comes to Christ because of this movie, they will first have to deconstruct the false Jesus this movie portrays.

I’m not all that concerned about this movie, I won’t mention it again, because it will fade away as The Passion of the Christ did, either with or without the producer’s ensuing anti-semitic tirades and character implosions, that is yet to be seen.

In the end, the Bible stands. Rest there.

“Heaven and earth shall pass away,
but my words shall not pass away.”

“He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words,
hath one that judgeth him:
the word that I have spoken,
the same shall judge him in the last day.

Homeless Jesus Statue

A sculpture depicting Jesus as a homeless man . . . has been installed outside St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson, N.C.. The piece shows Jesus sleeping on a bench in front of the church.”

Homeless-JesusThe statue is to get people to consider the call to care for the poor. As you do to the least of these you do to me.

I like the concept, as far as art goes. I get the point.

I just wonder how Jesus taking up prime bench seats is helping the homeless.

OK, that was probably uncalled for.

Compared to much Christian art, I’ll take this one.

What thinkest thou?

Joel Osteen, Son of God Movie and The Last Supper

Here’s another promo Joel Osteen did for the new Son of God movie.

Here are the following inaccuracies in this three-minute clip:

1) The Last Supper is a moving time because, as Joel says, “Jesus realizes” one of His disciples is going to betray Him and one is going to deny Him. He just realizes that there? Really?

2) There are disciples crying during the supper. The Bible gives no indication that anyone cried until it was way too late. The disciples were particularly clueless about what was going on that whole evening.

3) “This is my blood” is indeed a quote from the Bible, but it continues, including a bit about the remission of sins, which is conveniently left out. In Mark and Luke, He says the blood was shed for “you.” The writers probably had a hard time figuring out exactly why Jesus was killed; He seems so nice and pretty.

4) The Last Supper shows “Jesus’ love and concern for His disciples” but He still “believed the best in them.” Oh my. No, Joel, He did not believe the best in them; He dies so their sinful souls could be forgiven and go to heaven. There was no good in them for Him to believe in. Come on, Joel.

5) Peter follows Jesus and says he will lay down his life for Christ. Jesus smiles and gives him a hug! Oh man, this is killing me. It’s as if Jesus has a new spring in His step now that He can depend on words coming out of Peter’s mouth.

According to the Bible, in response to Peter telling Jesus he won’t deny Him, Jesus mentions a rooster crowing. In other words, when Peter says “I won’t deny you,” Jesus more or less says “Yes you will.” He doesn’t go smile and hug him for his fine sounding words.

Jesus didn’t die because He believes in us, or because we have redeeming qualities.

He died because we are lost in sin and there’s no hope for us being right with God apart from a righteous sacrifice on our behalf.

Two of the points above are all Joel, the movie is not responsible for the stuff coming out of his mouth, except that they gave him the venue. If this is the accuracy of the promos, one fears for what the makers think about Christ.

Yes, #HotJesus is a Thing

I’m not the only one who sees the ridiculousness of Hollywood’s Jesus.

“I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but as I watched the trailer for the new movie, “Son of God,” I found myself gawking at the actor portraying Jesus.

“Diogo Morgado is one hot dude. His Jesus looks more like Brad Pitt than that nice man with the beard in all those paintings.

“I’m not the only one gawking at Morgodo’s Jesus. He inspired the hashtag, “#HotJesus”. It went viral on Twitter. The actor told The New York Times he doesn’t want his looks to distract from the movie, but, “If the message of Jesus was love, hope and compassion, and I can bring that to more people by being a more appealing Jesus, I am happy with that.”Clearly we have a new trend. A “more appealing” Jesus is not just a better prophet, he’s … sexy.”

If a person reads the Bible, one will pick up on the notion that God uses despised things. God despises what man esteems. I guarantee you Jesus looked nothing like any Hollywood portrayal of Jesus.

Many people think they are following Christ. In reality, they are following their idea of who Christ is. These are not the same Jesus.

Joel Osteen, Son of God Movie and Walking on Water

Son of God is another film pandering to and/or exploiting the brainless millions who make up American Christianity.

The film is a squishing of the Gospels’ section of the 10-hour documentary, The Bible, that aired on the History channel, starring a white Jesus with fantastic hair.

Among those who recommend you go see it, is Joel Osteen, which is reason enough for me not to see it.

In the following video, you can see a clip of the movie about Jesus walking on water along with scintillating commentary by Joel, another white guy with fantastic hair. See, Jesus and Joel do have something in common.

Here are the following unbiblical aspects of this short clip:

1) The disciples did not look at Jesus walking on the water and smile and say, “He is the Messiah.” Rather, according to Matthew (that’s a book in the Bible), the disciples were terrified and cried out in fear. Matthew 14:26

2) Jesus did not ask Peter to walk on the water, that was all Peter. Peter said, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” Peter wasn’t sure the whole time. Matthew 14:28.

3) Peter did not fall into the water and nearly drown. Matthew 14:30 says, “he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.”

4) Jesus never said to Peter, “You need to be strong.” That’s not even close to anything Jesus ever said to people. Jesus was strong; that’s why Peter was supposed to have faith.

5) Joel says this story has a “simple message” that “when we get our focus off of God, off of our faith, off of Jesus, that’s when it’s easy to let doubt come in, and life begins to go downhill.” That is indeed a simple message, the only kind Joel seems to see in the Bible.

6) In one of the closing fast-edit clips Jesus is seen saying, “We’re going to change the world.” Nope. Never once said that, and,in fact, if one pays attention to what Jesus said, that’s the exact opposite point of Jesus’ life.

“My Kingdom is not of this world” means something. It means that Jesus isn’t too concerned with changing the world, Jesus knows very well that the world will continue on as it has in gross sin and rebellion.

He came to pull a remnant out; not to change the world. Joel doesn’t understand that point, which is why his “simple message” is about your “life going downhill.”

This movie tortures Scripture, the person of Christ, and the message of the Gospel. Avoid it. Don’t give your money to such filth.

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