Fresh Oil

Can I tell you something? And I’m talking to followers of Jesus now. If tomorrow we were to wake up and find all racism gone, all prejudice erased, world-wide peace and harmony, every conspiracy theory solved, and “justice” meted out on a global scale; it would not be enough to satisfy our hearts. We are His, and He alone can fill us.

My dear brothers and sisters, what we need today is not to be found in anything birthed by the flesh. No , it is a fresh revelation of the wonder of the Son of the living God. Once again we need to go to that secret place where only those who worship him in Spirit in truth may go and gaze anew upon the beauty of the glory of Jesus. He is the radiance of the unseen God and the exact imprint of his substance, all that we need in this age or in any age to come.

It is the love of God in Christ, eclipsing all other loves that alone can soothe the storm in our hearts. There is nothing that this world has to offer that can bring the peace and joy that he alone extends to us in his Spirit. Once more we need to cry out to God that the eyes of our hearts may be opened that we may see the One through whom all that is or ever will be was brought into being. There is nothing: no system or authority or dominion or powers seen or unseen over which he is not God. And this God almighty has called us to himself!

May we turn away from lesser things that vie for our attention and affection and return again to our First Love. Forsaking all others, let us hold fast to that which we have first believed, knowing that he is faithful to give us all things. We are heirs of everything, joint heirs with Jesus, recipients of every spiritual blessing God has to bestow. And he shouts with a lion’s roar, “Come away with me my beloved!!”

The name of the Lord is a strong tower. Let us run again to that name and do the things we did when we first believed, and find him again in all of his majesty. Faithful One, Holy One, First Born and Ruler of all creation. It is he who anoints our heads with fresh oil and binds our hearts together as the love of God is poured out in us by his Spirit. We return again to the fountain of living water, and shall thirst no more.

The Path Towards Totality

Today’s solar eclipse is but the beginning of a series of upcoming celestial events that have some saying it’s the end of the world, the beginning of the tribulation, or an indication that the “rapture” is about to happen. Could be, I don’t know. But what I do know is that we are most definitely on the path towards totality-Jesus is going to totally dominate.

Regardless of how men claim total and absolute power, the day is drawing near when Christ shall appear and the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. Although the rulers of this world set themselves and take counsel together saying, “We will not submit to God nor allow him to rule over us.” The Father has promised the Son, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage and the ends of the earth your possession.” And he shall rule them in totality!

We live our lives like there is no tomorrow, thinking only of how we can please ourselves. We have become so deluded that we deny even the simplest of truths. But the time is drawning near when the totality of God’s revelation of Jesus Christ shall be made known from one end of creation to the other. And on that day, when the total and absolute glory of God is revealed there will be truth and justice. Not the redefined powerless notions that we have made them to be, but the righteousness of God in totality.

While today is still called today, may we give to Jesus all that we are even as he has given us himself. Humbled, torn apart, and poured out upon the cross on a day in which the sun was also darkened, and God assumed the brokenness of his creation in totality.

(The Parenthesis) Living in the Spaces In Between

We read His-tory from the Old Testament on through the New Testament, and for so many of us, we don’t even think about that huge 400 year gap between the testaments. I mean really, there’s a huge space, a parenthesis if you will, between the Old and New testaments. Alexander the Great had come along, the Maccabean revolt, and so much more occurred in that space. When we open the New Testament, there are Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and many other groups that did not exist at all back in the Old Testament. They had sprung up in the “parenthesis,” complete with Messianic expectations that Jesus just didn’t quite meet. Hmm… the parenthesis.

Now in English grammar, a parenthesis is where you put thoughts or information that is not necessarily relevant to a complete understanding of the idea presented in the sentence or paragraph. In other words, if you didn’t have what’s in the parenthesis, you’d still be able to make sense of what’s being said. The parenthesis is not vital so to speak. But I want to suggest that in the dealings of God, it is those spaces in between, the parenthesis of life, which are vitally important to the way in which we think about God, as well as our becoming who God wants us to be. As strange as it may seem, I think the religious/political climate of Jesus’ day in many ways mirrors our own time. And if we aren’t careful, as the Church occupying the space between Christ’s first and second coming, we could end up like the first century Jews.  We could wind up being religious people, going through the motions, who really have no idea of who God is at all. And it all stems from what goes on in the parenthesis. Let’s look at some of groups that came on the scene in the 400 year parenthesis in Israel’s history, and see if we can learn some things from them.

We are all familiar with the Pharisees. They were one of the most (if not the most) influential groups present at the time of Christ. They had developed what was called the Oral Interpretation of the Law of Moses which sought to elaborate on the various nuances of the law. (It would all be later compiled as the Mishna.) Remember when Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath? Well, the reason they got so upset about that was that in their eyes He had broken the Sabbath. Jesus had instructed a man to carry his bed on the day when no work was to be done. Carrying the bed was work. And the time Jesus healed the blind man on the Sabbath, using His spit to make mud? Making the mud was considered work. They had actually begun to view their interpretations of scripture as holy as scripture itself, and this caused them (the majority of them) to reject Jesus. They had missed the point! They kept all the rules. They even added some, but in doing so had become hypocrites who, for the sake of their own traditions, made it hard for people to come to God. And if we as the church don’t have a righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees of Jesus day, as we occupy this space in between the first and second coming of Jesus, we could become hypocrites who reject what God is doing merely for the sake of our own traditions.

Now while we give the Pharisees a really hard time, in my opinion, it was actually the Sadducees who were the real bad guys. (One interesting note is that unlike the Pharisees, you never find it recorded in the NT that any Sadducee ever became a believer.) They were more or less the aristocracy. They were in charge of the temple, the priesthood, and oh yeah- buddy buddy with Rome. See, they had to have at least a decent working relationship with the local “Roman Civic Society” in order to keep things kosher. Be cool with Rome, and things could continue on as is. They rejected the Pharisaical oral tradition, as well as the resurrection from the dead and angels. In the parenthesis, they had developed a love for power and position, and were willing to kill to preserve it. “‘What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation’.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.’” (John 11:47b-50) They decided (along with the Pharisees) to kill Jesus and Lazarus too. Remember, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead and he was living proof that directly contradicted their religious beliefs, not to mention that an “out of control Jesus threatened all that they had come to love so much. The presence of True “supernatural” reality could undermine the prestige, position and power they had come to love in the parenthesis. We as the church of Jesus, in this time, must be willing to relinquish the control we so desperately want to maintain, and allow God’s Spirit to move as He so desires, even if it means the loss of our “respectability” and position. Ah, the parenthesis can be so dangerous.

(This post has gotten rather lengthy. To be continued…)

“The Bible” History Channel Style

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.” John 5:39,40)

Tonight marks the airing of the first episode of the History Channel’s “The Bible,” and it seems as if a lot of folks are awfully excited about it. Me, I don’t know. I’m not in the loop as they say, and while “faith celebrities” like Warren and Osteen were privy to a sneak preview, like you; I’ll have to watch it like normal folks. As I have not seen the series, it would be foolish and presumptuous for me to comment on it; however, I will venture some preliminary thoughts.

I do frequently watch the History Channel, that is, when they actually air something reputed to be of historical relevance and not the so called “reality- TV” they seem to be promoting these days ( by the way, “The Bible” is produced by the reality-TV heavyweight Mark Burnett and his wife, the actress Roma Downey). On a number of occasions, when the History Channel has televised programs which utilize the Bible, I have observed gross mishandling of the scriptural texts. So, I suggest that if you watch this mini-series,  check out your Bible as to accuracy. The problem is, we live in a biblically illiterate culture. Many (even Christians) will accept the History Channel’s version of the Bible as “reality,” without having read the Bible themselves.

Most importantly, when the series moves into the New Testament, be discerning as to the way in which Jesus is portrayed. Watch to see if the History Channel’s Jesus is depicted as God. The Bible says that although Jesus is indeed fully man, he is also God the Son, the logos who is life itself. The Bible teaches that no one can “understand” God, come to him, or have any relationship with him, accept through Jesus. Jesus himself said in the book of John, “All who hear from the Father come to me.” I think the most important thing to watch for in this mini-series will be the way in which Jesus is depicted.

Regardless, of how it turns out, at least the series may prove to be a means by which the believer can enter into conversation with others about the Bible, in particular the Jesus of the Bible. So, if you watch “The Bible,” watch it with your Bible in your lap, be discerning as to how Jesus is portrayed, and be prepared to discuss it with those God brings across your path.

Disillusioned: The Jesus Drug

Why do people use drugs? Well, you’ll get a lot of different answers to that question, but the bottom line is that people who use drugs, for whatever reason, find that their every day life is not satisfactory; therefore, there is a need for something more. It may sound crazy, but there are countless Jesus Drug addicts among us today. The Jesus Drug, just like illicit drugs, comes in a variety of forms, tailor made to suit the varying personalities of the addict. As with the abuse of narcotics, the Jesus Drug promises a never-ending high, enhanced self-esteem, and a host of other empty promises just as long as you continue to use it. Be careful though, it’s easy to get hooked, and you can get a fix on about any corner.

Jesus Drug addicts (like all addicts) come in all shapes and sizes. There are the Mystical Addicts who are hooked on that next “deep experience” with Jesus. There are the Prophetic Addicts that see Jesus as a means by which they will be lifted up to some kind of mind-reading, avenger like character. Then you have your Political Jesus Junkies, hooked on taking the country back for Jesus. Down the street, lives the Postmodern Jesus Drug addict, unsure of anything accept the fact that it is everyone else who is addicted. Then there are the I Hate the Organized Church addicts, high off of the twisted euphoria of bitterness. There are the Traditional Jesus Drug addicts still mainlining the religiosity of days gone by, hooked on form without substance. We mustn’t forget the Intellectual Jesus Drug addict, numbed to any form of emotion, ingesting his daily dose of dead religion.   I could go on, but you get the picture. When you talk to Jesus Drug addicts they rarely talk about anything (including Jesus) other than their drug of choice. They are disillusioned with their relationship with Jesus, and have come to the conclusion that there must be something more. Perhaps it is the fact that they never have truly understood what knowing Jesus is all about, or perhaps the religion being offered by your typical institutional church has failed to deliver, but whatever the cause; the Jesus Drug addicts are continuously chasing the next self-affirming spiritual high and selling their souls to get it.

Ask an addict and he’ll tell you that it’s not the getting high part that’s the problem; it’s the coming down. Many within the church today are experiencing withdrawal from the Jesus Drug, and like all addicts, the crash is leaving them confused and wondering what to do. They know that something is wrong. The Jesus Drug has failed to deliver the intimacy with Christ they craved when they first came to the Lord.  As a former addict myself, I can tell you that the first step is honesty. If you begin to sense in your heart that you may be a Jesus Drug addict, come clean. The fact that you are aware that there is a problem means that God’s Spirit is at work. Yeah, your pride will be hurt, but that is exactly what has to be crushed because it is the belief that somehow you deserve a little more that led to your being an addict in the first place.

Can I ask you something? Are you in love with Jesus or simply hooked on the Jesus Drug? Has your addiction to the Jesus Drug reduced your relationship with Christ to merely something that makes you feel better about yourself?  God has provided an awesome one step program for the Jesus Drug addict, and it is the Cross of Jesus. We go to the cross believing that God will not reject the broken and contrite heart that has been crushed and torn apart by addiction to the Jesus Drug. We go to the cross and confess that we have seen Jesus as a means of healing our broken egos and fixing our low self-esteem instead of acknowledging him as Lord. Frankly, the only cure for the Jesus Drug addict is Jesus himself. Come, taste and see that the Lord is good, and he is all you truly need.

I Wanna Get Spiritual, Spiritual…

It is very popular in our culture today for people to say they are attempting to become more spiritual. It is greeted with general acceptance when people claim to have come to a realization that materialism in its many forms is not the chief end of man, and decide that perhaps spirituality is what’s missing in their lives . Many today are claiming to have experiences with God. There is indeed a trend towards the spiritual in American culture today. We are encouraged by talk show hosts and self-help gurus alike to return to traditional values, begin to pray, have faith and seek after God. Sounds pretty good huh?

Jesus said that no man can come to the Father (God) except through himself. He told the Jews at one point that if they were truly hearing from God, if they were taught of God as they claimed; they would believe in him because he was sent by God. Jesus said that the Father himself testifies that he (Jesus) is the way by which men can come into relationship with God. Jesus also said that the Holy Spirit testifies concerning him. He said the Spirit would glorify him. Jesus also told the people that if they truly understood scripture they would believe in Him. The point I’m trying to make is that if we are truly having a “spiritual awakening,” if we really are in touch with and hearing from God; it will be centered on the person of Jesus. Trying to be more spiritual without an intimate relationship with Jesus is really just another way of being religious.

It is vastly unpopular today to claim to know something absolutely. It is frowned upon by the majority of the populace when some one claims that this or that is the only way. However, that it is exactly what Jesus did. He said I am the way, the truth and the life. The apostle John, in his writings, tells us that you can’t have the Father without Jesus. We find that any one who does not confess that Jesus is the Christ, God who took on a real flesh and blood body, is not of God. I know you’re not supposed to say stuff like that nowadays, but it’s true. John tells us that if you have Jesus you have eternal life. He put it like this: “…for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” (1John 5:9-12)

House on the Risen Son (Doing)

“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the flood waters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built.  But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.” (Luke 6:46-49)

In our previous segments we’ve talked about coming to Jesus. We’ve looked at how he desires us to be hearing him speak. Now, we want to look at a third aspect of  the wise builder: doing. So many today shout “legalism” or “Pharisee” anytime they are told they must obey or do something. We are sometimes sold an imitation gospel here in the USA, one that says all you have to do is come, ask Jesus in your heart, and then; you’ll prosper, achieve your divine destiny, etc… However, Jesus assures us that unless we do something about what we hear as we are coming to him, we are building on unstable ground.

Here, in Luke 6 this doing, the third leg on our tripod, has the same connotations as coming and hearing- it’s a continuous doing.  I want to keep repeating this: coming, hearing, and doing are continuous, a right now ongoing thing. Jesus said his disciples are not just the ones who hear his word but do it. It is those who are coming, are hearing, and finally, are doing that are his disciples. Remember he asked, “Why do you call me Lord and don’t obey me?” You see, when you study the Bible you find out that “being” and “doing” are always linked. If you really are what you say you are you will do his word and not just hear it. Jesus says he who keeps my word, continues in my word, who obeys and does my word; this one is my disciple. None of us are perfect my brothers & sisters, but the New Testament clearly teaches that a disciple is one who is doing the word.

 James 1:22 tells us that the  one who hears and does not do is deceived. Remember how I said that the Greek, here in our Luke 6 text, showed that this coming, hearing, and doing, was something we did ourselves, for ourselves? Well this being deceived is the same type of word. The one who is merely going to the Bible, hearing the words of the Lord, and not doing them, are right now, present tense, walking in deception which they have brought upon themselves. You know, some people enjoy hearing the word of the Lord. Some people enjoy being convicted. I think of Herod who was moved when he would listen to John the Baptist  preach, but; he never did anything about it!!  I want to drive this home: Jesus is telling us that as disciples we must be coming to Him for the word, continuously hearing His word, and continuously doing His word. Pastor Dennis Hall mentions that Christ, while on earth, enjoyed constant communion with the Father as he continuously sought him in times of isolated intimacy. Jesus continuously came to the Father, heard him speak, and then did what he said. And so it is with us- You can’t only come, you have to hear. You can’t only hear you have to do. (One thing we need to remember is that unless this doing flows out of  the intimacy of coming to him we can easily wind up wind up like the Pharisees.)

Let’s come to Jesus and put into practice the things we hear from him. As we do, we will dig deep and build our house on the risen Son of God.

Examine Yourselves (part 7)

     If you haven’t read parts 1-6 of this series I encourage you to do so. We have explored certain “myths” surrounding the concept of salvation and have come to understand that in order for one to truly “be saved,” there must be repentance and faith. Last time we looked at what repentance means sola scriptura ( by scripture alone), now; let’s take a look at what it means to have true saving faith.

         The Bible tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 12:6). If it is impossible to please God without it, we must make it a priority to know what faith is. The Bible tells us that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). So, if faith is the vehicle through which we are saved, we must understand just what faith is; in particular, saving faith. What is saving faith?

        “Saving faith may be defined as a response to God’s call by the acceptance of Christ with the total person- that is, assured conviction of the truth of the gospel, and with trustful reliance on God in Christ for salvation, together with a genuine commitment to Christ and to his service.”[1]  This saving faith can be distinguished into three aspects: knowledge, assent, and trust.[2]

            1) We must be aware of what we are to believe.

            2) We must whole heartedly agree with the gospel.

            3) We must trust with our entire being.

 All of that may sound kind of mechanical and static, so; let’s see if we can bring it to life with the following example:

        Someone has told the story of the man who was walking back and forth across Niagara falls on a tightrope. Well, he walked across the falls a couple of times and the people were all amazed. Returning from  the other side for the final time, he turned an asked the crowd, “Do you believe I can walk across the falls blind folded?” Every one responded with cheers, “We know you can, let’s see it!” He then proceeded to ask that a wheelbarrow be brought up to the platform. He turned to the crowd and said, “Let’s see who truly believes I can do it. Will some one come up and climb into the wheelbarrow and let me push you across as I walk the falls?” There’s a big difference in saying you believe and getting in the wheelbarrow. If you’re going to get in the wheelbarrow, you definitely need to be aware of what/who you’re putting you faith in, you’re gonna have to wholeheartedly agree that the man’s words are true (i.e. his claim that he can get both you and he across blindfolded), and you are most definitely going to trust with your entire being.

            Misunderstanding saving faith can be dangerous. The Bible clearly teaches we’re saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.[3] The argument by many is that since salvation is through faith alone, there is no need for any works. However, the book of James reveals that it is the presence of corresponding works which qualifies saving faith (James 2:14-26). James points out that Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac revealed that he was indeed in possession of saving faith.  “Lip service, with no manifestation of the fruit of faith is not saving faith.’[4]


         We have discussed the fact that salvation is not simply a self-help tool designed to make me the best me I can be. We’ve discovered that salvation isn’t merely keeping a list of do’s & don’ts. We’ve examined the fact that the presence of the miraculous is not proof- positive of communion with Christ. In part four we saw that mere mental assent to the facts concerning Jesus does not mean one is in communion with Christ. And finally, in part five we came to our last “Myth Buster” and found that nowhere in the Bible is someone inquiring as to how one is born again told to just “ask Jesus to come into your heart.”

We have come to understand that true salvation involves repentance and faith. An exploration of the meaning of faith and repentance should serve to further the already present witness of the Holy Spirit that we are indeed the children of God, or else, convince us that our conversion experience is altogether lacking or perhaps disingenuous. And finally,we have learned that salvation is not a one time event, something we did a long time ago; it is an ongoing, right now, present tense relationship with Jesus.

We have entitled this series Examine Yourselves, so; let’s examine ourselves. While this is by no means a definitive list,based on what we’ve learned; I’ve created a list of questions that will at least help us begin to examine ourselves:

1) Has my life truly changed direction?

2) Have I turned away from sin and towards God; and, am I continuing to do so?

3) Has my outlook on life as well as my behavior truly changed?

4) Do I have sincere remorse over my sin?

5) Am I presently looking to God and relying on Christ to keep me free from the dominion of sin?

6) Do I truly believe that Christ came, incarnate God (God in the flesh), and died for my sins and rose again from the dead?

7) Am I “in the wheel barrow” so to speak? (Remember the story above.)

8) Is my life marked by a continued commitment to service, and works which bear evidence of the reality of my faith?

Well, that’s it for the Examine Yourselves series. “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13)

                1. Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved By Grace, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 140.

            2. Ibid., 140-143.

            3. Tim Riter, Twelve Lies You Hear In church, (USA- David C. Cook Publishing, 2004), 18.

4. R. C. Sproul, Essential truths of The Christian Faith, (USA- Tyndale House Publishers, 1998), 187.