Sunday, September 20, 2020

“Jesus 2020” yards signs are wrong on many levels.

1. Jesus Christ / Jesus of Nazareth / the Lord Jesus Christ is NOT a citizen of the United States and is ineligible to be elected president.

2. As someone who reveres Jesus, I find these political lawn signs that say this demeaning of Jesus. I presume they put these in their yards because they love Jesus, but it is misguided. The Good Book says Jesus IS king of kings, an appointment of absolute authority and power that does not expire and cannot be voted in or out. Maybe we are going to elect a new “prince,” but Jesus does not need and does not ask for our vote. Jesus taught over and over about the kingdom of God, but all American Christians seem to muster is talk about their churches, their pastors or one or two particular ethical issues. Petty and small, a sign like these drags Jesus down to this smallness.

3. The strife of the 2020 election has sharply divided our country—again. Many significant issues are at stake that affect real people’s lives and livelihood. I don’t know how it will play out nor, honestly, do I really know how it should play out—I am not a king, kingly or even knowing about many of the complexities involved (though like everyone else I have my clear, peasant’s perspective). To someone who doesn’t know me, my ultimate trust in King Jesus may make me seem impractical, unwise or unconcerned (I hope those who know me know that not to be true, and that I am committed to acting justly and not just waiting for pie in the sky justice). But, I trust Jesus still, until the end.

4. In the last book of the Bible, there is a dramatic graphic portrayal of extreme turmoil and tumult coming on this dirt clod hung in space that we live on, BUT Jesus is sitting on a throne and the sea around his throne is calm as a mirror, as flat as a piece of glass. Another time, during his human life, Jesus was with his followers in a boat that was being swamped by the waves—and he calmed the sea. When I keep conscious, daily contact with King Jesus I know HIS calm, like an eye of the storm. And, I know he will ultimately calm this stormy sea tossing our collective boat.

I trust King Jesus, still, to the end. 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Is meeting in a church building essential?

Is meeting in a church building essential? No. But, my “why” comes from following Jesus, not a political or economic view point. “Church” is not a building, organization or denomination. For the first 400 years it was almost always groups of 10 or less. It only needs 2 or 3.

Church-as-we-know-it in America is a building-based, “come to the building” mentality. But, this is not the original understanding: no church building existed for the first 400 years of Christianity, for one simple reason: it would have been destroyed or confiscated in the many persecutions that happened. The “gatherings” (what ekklesia, “church,” means in the Greek of the time) were mostly in houses, sometimes in prison and often on the street, walking along the road.

Cupcake Christianity in America requires cushy seats, an expensive HVAC, paid professional speaker/comedian and band/singers and infotainment for the children/teens for what is essentially a religious performance wrongly called “worship,” to make the listeners feel better, be better, be “fed,” under the ruse that this is sharing the good news about Jesus. Ha! Almost everyone there has already heard the message, and they are “preaching to the choir.” It is not new news for almost anyone who hears it, just a numbing drone drowning out the heartbreak and cries of the world outside that really does need the good news of Jesus.

“Worship,” again in the Greek of the day (and made explicit in the New Testament) is not a feel-good-make-God-feel-good-by-singing-nice-things-over-and-over-about-God thing. “Worship” is being “poured” (leitourgein), as in poured out, offered up, expended. It is not something you do in a couple hours, nor could you. It is an expending of your life in service to the Lord Jesus. “Present your WHOLE self as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which IS your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). The next verse could apply to how we wrongly view “God in a building box worship” in America and the West: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). We do not have to be pressed into the church-in-a-box, church-in-a-building mode, but can have a transformed view with an mind changed by the Good Book.

“Worship” looks like Jesus dying on a cross, a life expended and given up in obedience to a loving Father’s will in a world full of horrendous evils. There is no room, really, for such suffering in Cupcake Christianity, nor for such sacrifice, dedication or fanaticism. Nope. CC is all about dumbing down the medicine, serving with a lot of sugar so it is palatable (and about counting nickels and noses). An inoculation effect has taken over so that most CCs in our country cannot even see the text of the Bible that talks about what real worship is. They only see through their building-fogged CC lenses.

I’m guessing I lost most of you much earlier in this post, so it won’t hurt to finish honestly with this: fanaticism is the only acceptable standard for Jesus-followers. Can Jesus’ execution on the cross as a central symbol of the kingdom message mean anything less? A building kinda hampers radical followers of the Cruciform and Crucified One. No buildings needed (many types of businesses are learning this also during this pandemic). COVID19 does not affect church-as-God-wants-it at all, except perhaps to make it more clear why biblical small gatherings around caring meals and simple Bible study are much more built for the world ahead, and the only way to survive persecution, since a single match or power outage or flu shuts down CC. Not to mention: a LOT of money flows away from building mortgages and maintenance and toward mission and compassion.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

If someone says, “Jesus makes me happy all the time,” they have probably only been a follower of Jesus for a short time. Don’t get me wrong. I have found deep joy in following Jesus. Sometimes that joy looks like laughing, smiling happiness. But sometimes, though I feel joy, it is mixed together with the strain of circumstances or the anguish of being attacked by another. 

In the Good Book, an older follower of Jesus says to a young protege, “Everyone who wants to live seriously spiritual life in Jesus Christ will be opposed and attacked” (2 Timothy 3:12). Everyone. The “normal” Christian life is joy among sorrow, peace amidst persecution. If you want to follow Jesus, it will be a long, hard road. Full of inner peace, yes, peace that defies explanation. BUT, with side swipes, back stabbing, and full head-on collisions from the darndest people at the most inopportune times. 

The encouraging news is “the Lord [will rescue] me from all of them!” (2 Timothy 3:11). Like salmon against the current, following Jesus can feel like a grind. But “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 3:10).

Sunday, March 8, 2020

“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God” (Psalm 69:1-3).
Knowing God means learning to let go of your inner control freak. None of us likes "losing control." But, if we are ever to get over our self-importance and self-centeredness, we have to get over our heads and learn that truly, deeply, really, God is in charge. Every ridable horse must be "broken." Everyone who wants to walk with God in a deep way must be broken. The path to fulfillment in the Kingdom of God involves breaking, surrender and yielded-ness.
Charles Spurgeon puts it, “It is not a curious thing that, whenever God means to make a man great, He always breaks him in pieces first?” This is the example of Jesus and his followers, and the witness of the spiritual greats who have walked the face of the earth. To yield to God’s purposes, we must have our wills broken and tamed. 
Spurgeon continues: “Have none of you ever noticed, in your own lives, that whenever God is going to give you an enlargement, and bring you out to a larger sphere of service, or a higher platform of spiritual life, you always get thrown down? That is His usual way of working; He makes you hungry before He feeds you; He strips you before He robes you; He makes nothing of you before He makes something of you. This was the way with David. He is to be King in Jerusalem; but he must go to the throne by the way of the cave. Now, are any of you here going to heaven, or going to a more heavenly state of sanctification, or going to a greater sphere of usefulness: Do not wonder if you go by the way of the cave.”
Breaking is part of the deal, and its fruit is more intimate relationship with God, more faithful obedience and clearer understanding of the deep truths of God’s Word. It doesn’t hurt any less when we realize this, but at least we can then receive what God is doing because it frees us from bondage, and makes us more like Jesus.
In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian wades into the River of Death, his last obstacle to cross on his way to Celestial City. As he goes in he cries out to Hopeful, “Help! I sink in troubled waters! All his billows go over me!” Hopeful calmly replies, “I feel the bottom, and it is good.”

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Commands of Christ

Here are all of Jesus' commands in one list. I find it very helpful to prayerfully read and ponder the list from time to time. Jesus said we will be blessed if we do what he commands, not merely "hear" them.

Commands of Christ
  1. Live by God’s every word, not merely by food.
  2. Do not put God to the test.
  3. Worship and serve God alone.
  4. Make my house a house of prayer for the nations and do not make it into a market or a
    den of thieves.
  5. You must be born again.
  6. Repent and believe the good news.
  7. Go and learn what it means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
  8. Do not be amazed at My authority.
  9. Rejoice when you are persecuted for My sake.
  10. Let your good deeds bring glory to God.
  11. Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or Prophets. I came to fulfill them.
  12. Do not be angry with a brother.
  13. Reconcile before you pray.
  14. Lust is adultery. Radically protect yourself from it.
  15. Do not divorce. Do not separate what God has joined together.
  16. Do not swear.
  17. Do not resist evil people who abuse you.
  18. Give to the one who asks. Do not turn away from those who want to borrow. If someone
    takes what is yours, do not demand it back.
  19. Love your enemies.
  20. Take care not to do your righteous deeds in order to receive glory from men.
  21. Pray like this...
  22. Do not hoard treasures on earth, but in heaven.
  23. Do not worry about your life or food or clothing but seek God’s Kingdom and
  24. Do not judge.
  25. Deal with your own sin before judging another.
  26. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
  27. Enter through the narrow gate.
  28. Beware of false prophets.
  29. Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls to swine.
  30. Ask, seek and knock in prayer.
  31. Be merciful and perfect as your heavenly Father is merciful and perfect.
  32. Forgive and you will be forgiven.
  33. Listen! (Usually in reference to one of His teachings or parables.)
  34. Give and it will be given to you, abundantly.
  35. Take care what you listen to and what you do with it.
  36. Come to me. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.
  37. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.
  38. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, drive out demons.
  39. Proclaim that the kingdom of God is near.
  40. Freely you have received. Freely give.
  41. Shake the dust off your feet where no one receives you or listens to you.
  42. Go, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves, so be as shrewd as serpents and as
    innocent as doves.
  43. Do not worry about your defense when you are arrested for My sake.
  44. Do not fear man, but fear God.
  45. What I speak to you quietly, announce loudly.

  1. Do not think that I came to establish peace on earth.
  2. Look up and see the fields ripe for harvest.
  3. Do not work for food that perishes, but for food that endures eternally.
  4. Look out for the teaching and hypocrisy of the Pharisees.
  5. Anyone who wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow
  6. Become like children.
  7. Do not hinder anyone just because they are not in your group.
  8. Resist temptation radically.
  9. Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.
  10. Deal with a brother who sins.
  11. Forgive 70 times 7 times.
  12. Do not judge by appearances, but judge justly.
  13. Come to Me and drink.
  14. Follow me and let the dead bury their own dead.
  15. Do not rejoice at power over demons, but over eternal life.
  16. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.
  17. Be generous to the poor.
  18. Beware of all greed.
  19. Do not fear.
  20. Sell your possessions and give to the poor.
  21. Be ready and watching for My return.
  22. Humble yourself.
  23. Exalt the humble and serve them.
  24. Use temporal wealth for eternal purposes.
  25. When you have done all you were asked to, say, “we are unprofitable slaves, we have
    only done our duty.”
  26. Remember Lot’s wife and do not try to preserve your life.
  27. Be wholesome in your speech.
  28. Let children come to Jesus and do not despise them.
  29. Keep the commandments.
  30. Serve others.
  31. Have faith in God.
  32. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
  33. Beware of the scribes and do not imitate them.
  34. Watch out that no false Christ deceives you.
  35. When you see signs of my return, do not be terrified, but take heart.
  36. Be alert for My return.
  37. Follow and serve Me.
  38. Love each other.
  39. Take, eat, drink. Do this in remembrance of Me.
  40. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and in Me.
  41. Believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me.
  42. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
  43. Remain in Me and in My love so you can keep My commands and vice versa.
  44. Pray in My Name.
  45. Take courage.
  46. Receive the Holy Spirit.
  47. Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel.
  48. Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all My
  49. Hear what the Spirit says to the churches. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"Do as you will": Are Libertarians the Anti-Christ?

Compare these two statements and see if you are not at least a little alarmed by their similarity:

      "Do as you will." This is the only ethical command in Satanism.

       "As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others."

Juxtaposing these raises two questions for me: 

Is there any difference between the essence of libertarianism and this demonic command? 

Is the libertarian EXPRESSED philosophy really any different that the Democratic and Republican REALIZED philosophies of fighting to do whatever the heck they want, no matter what Da Good Book says on the subject?

One charitable response to the questions above is that libertarianism is more naive than diabolical.

Another is to reduce  "anti-christ" is some grand villain, "a Caesar, Napoleon, Lenin, Hitler types that show up regularly: one who taps into the lure of deep longings for unity, order, fruitfulness residing in the human heart. The issue then becomes the means to those ends, a kind of bait-and-switch. There's always violation in the means because the extension of power to bring about an attractive vision will violate the vulnerable outside of submission to the true Christ" (astute observations by Kyle Phillips on Facebook post).
This is a commonly held view today, and amongst the first century followers of Jesus. But Da Good Book corrects this misconception in two ways:

(1) First, 1 John 2 gives a direct correction to this thinking: "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now MANY antichrists have arisen." As Colin Brown used to say, "If your ideas don't fit with scripture, too bad for your ideas." 

(2) Second, the antichrist is not simply a grand villain, but a "spirit": "Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world." (1 John 4:3). The most simple rendering of the Greek "antichristo" into English, in my opinion, is "the in-place-of-Christ." With that simple translation, I think you'll easily see the connection to your teaching about idolatry: anything, good or bad, that one substitutes in place of where Jesus should be. Do you catch my meaning, or would you like examples of this? 1 John calls this a spirit and I think it is connected to things "above" and "below" the ceiling and floor of material existence, the principalities and powers that make puppets of people who walk in their own will ("flesh"). (3) I think we do a dangerous disservice to the body of Christ to think of the "devil" as a figure with a red Halloween costume: "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). The many things we put in place of Christ are more likely to be almost-Christian looking and therefore more powerful deceptions. For example, when I run into someone who can quote all the latest, hot almost-Christian authors around the country who are hot because they are saying something edgy and controversial, not because they are standing-under the Word of God. The head game almost-Christianity we live among can be an in-place-of-Christ where one's pet theology is the source of identity, security and personal meaning instead of Jesus himself. And, then, there is the distinct possibility that church-as-we-know-it (as opposed to church-as-God-wants-it) is a substitute Jesus, if you read the bumper stickers: "Come to the first church of what's happening now! We got the best band! We got the funniest 'pastor'! We have what your kids need!" I wonder if people really understand the threat to their children. I smoked my first joint at an unsupervised youth group outing (pre-Jesus). Sex, drugs, rock-n-roll--yes, these are obvious in-place-of-christs. But what about all the people who never open their Bibles or pray or do any of the 53 one-anothers of the New Testament. 

Republicanism, too is an in-place-of-Jesus for many almost-christians. It is chic, hot, cool, and edgy to move to "do as you will"--just as Satanism itself is hip. We could lose a whole generation of almost-christian leaders to this thinking, "Do as you will." To that I answer my own question with this: Satan appears, not in a red devil's suit, but as an angel of light to deceive and destroy every single follower of Jesus, if possible. The hater of our souls is at work destroying and crushing, maiming and pillaging. As C. S. Lewis rightly warned us, materialistic almost-christians are blind to what's above the ceiling and below the floor, the upstairs principalities and powers, and the downstairs mob. They operate most freely in our land that once was free, among our nation which is all so rich yet ever poor.

When I wrote this post, I immediately began to take the log out of my own eye by posting on most the doors and every mirror in our house this A - B - A coaching sheet for Ingrid and me:

         A: Do whatever God wants, quickly, no matter what it costs. 

                B: Do NOT do whatever you want. 

         A: Do whatever God wants, quickly, no matter what - period. 

"Do not focus on what is SEEN but on what is UNSEEN. What is seen is temporary and therefore passing away. What is unseen is eternal and therefore last forever" (2 Corinthians 4). Open the eyes of our hearts that we can see You, Lord Jesus, AND the hater of our souls who seeks like a lion to maim, pillage and destroy.

Making art: pointing others to the unseen, eternal so they can take their eyes off the seen and temporary

Julia Owens​ and Jeff Rogers​, I think I had an epiphany why you and my brother AJ urged me to un-quit writing, and I saw through fresh eyes yesterday that I'd like to talk to you about soon. I have always thought of Bible teaching in the semi-scientific terms that I was reared on in college and seminary, but only yesterday, 20 years after completing it, realized the impact that the Sheffield Ph.D. program had on me as an artist. Somehow, and I'm not sure how this is, my brain went from being a "disciplined scientist" to being an undisciplined artist. I refused to write regularly partly because of burnout from writing 5 books after the Ph.D. dissertation while keeping down a full-time job, and partly because of my self-chosen trip into the desert to detox from the religion people have made up about Jesus in our country. Julia and Jeff, you are two of the most disciplined artists I know. Julia you structure a schedule in an almost Kant-like style to make art. Jeff, you are so prolific, but you have God on your side so that is no fair: you live in Kentucky and the art you make is framing the art God made. What do I need to do to become a disciplined artist? Block the time and just do it? I am coming out of the desert and about to start writing again after a 10+ year hiatus. I'm glad I quit. I am glad you wouldn't let me quit entirely. Abraham Lincoln said, "If I had 8 hours to cut down a tree, I would spend the first 6 sharpening my saw." I've been sharpening my saw for 10+ years, and I'm about to cut me some wood, baby. I'm about to unleash a torrent of art I paint with words. I think I have 4 or 5 books left in me. Ingrid Dodd​ would like me to "go fishing" or something because I'm driving her crazy with all this gathered, pent up energy. Let the paint fly, says he. I have returned to my studio as of today. (Clifford Schroeder​ I messaged you the wrong address for my blog--correct one above; Wes Foster​ I may have given you the wrong address at Panera Seminary yesterday--see above).