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Wednesday
Aug302017

Changing the Narrative

In a recent conversation with a small group of men that I meet with on a regular basis, we talked about changing the narrative in how we present things. For example, when we are talking about evangelism to Muslims, how do we present the narrative of Jesus so that the story is told from a Middle East perspective rather than from Western America? All narratives need changing from time to time because perspectives change and our narratives need to keep pace with how people are communicating. People love stories and we are at our best when we communicate through stories. One of the narratives we need to change is how we tell our stories about Jesus. In recent months I have become so much more aware of how my opinions about Jesus are biased and how that affects the way I read the scriptures. The common question I keep asking is: “How subjective am I as a believer, and does my personal bias influence my Biblical worldview?” At the same time, as I have written in previous blogs, much of what I hear from communicators today is highly speculative. In other words, is the Biblical narrative accurate in the presentation, or is the communicator taking liberty in how it is being told? In our small group discussion we talked about how our religious traditions can affect how we interpret the Biblical narrative. Doctrinal differences also play into how a Biblical passage is taught. When I was preaching on a regular basis my prayer was for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide in the communication process. I always wanted to stay away from things that were tainted with denominationally based doctrine and instead use the word to speak for itself.

When I think about basic doctrines of the Bible, these listed below are the ones that seem to be important and the Bible is clear on how these truths are to be told. Here are ten basic doctrines that I think summarize the Christian faith:

1.  The Trinity

2.  The Person of Jesus Christ

3.  The Second Coming 

4.  Salvation

5.  The Scripture

6.  Sin

7.  Evil

8.  Israel

9.  Biblical Prophecy

10. Judgment

The last three are not always seen as classic doctrines because there is so much controversy about them. Yet I feel that if we are to properly tell the narrative of Jesus, we have to talk about the importance of His Jewish heritage, His prophetic teachings, and the fact that he will orchestrate all judgment.

So have any of these ten basic doctrines been tainted with views from sources other than the Bible? I am sure they have because the Bible teaches that we now see through tinted glass as it concerns our understanding of God, so speculation is a normal reaction. However, when considering how to change the narrative on this, how do we present a Biblical perspective that is not generated from the bias of poor or ethnically generated theology? In regard to the importance of Israel, I never knew growing up that Jesus was Jewish, I thought He was a Christian whose teachings shaped our denomination.

Yet today the majority of Christian denominations have replaced Israel with the Church, making Israel irrelevant to the plan of God. Judgment is another issue, because many believe a loving God would never judge anyone as severely as the Book of Revelation describes, or that God would condemn a person to a place of everlasting torment. Today many ignore such themes, or they just insert an emotional response that is neither Biblical nor traditional.

Yet changing the narrative means we need to think about the things that are most important to God. That would mean Jesus. He is the number one focus on God’s ‘most important’ list, because without Him, nothing else matters. Our narrative is not about our doctrines, (even though many of you would disagree,) but it is about our pursuit of Jesus. He either makes sense to us in every avenue of our lives or He doesn’t make sense at all. People like to keep Jesus as a religious figure, but He is more than that - He is the franchise that holds all of life together.

Changing the narrative means that Jesus is the beginning of what we believe, and He is the end of all we know to be true. As important as some of the other doctrines are, they are nothing compared to Him. Unless our narrative changes to rediscover Him and place Him at the center of our faith, we will dabble in secondary issues that will not bring the world closer to God. We cannot let our narrative about Jesus be lost in the minutia of speculation.

Keeping it honest and truthful….K

 

 

Monday
Aug282017

Race and Christianity

Sunday I was in church and the pastor had an intriguing message on race and Christianity. I happened to agree with all he was saying, and his remarks got me to thinking about racism and diversity. The pastor did a great job in tracing the roots of these issues back to the early 1700s when the general thought of the Church was that white people had privilege due to the curse of Canaan in Genesis 9:20-27 (specifically verse 25).

 Then he cursed Canaan, the son of Ham. “May Canaan be cursed! May he be the lowest of servants to his relatives.”

He also related racism back through philosophers Immanuel Kant and other European philosophers and theologians throughout history. Many of them used this verse as the basis for promoting white supremacy over other races due to this curse. The pastor concluded his remarks with the knowledge of the scriptures made to Abraham in the Book of Genesis that negated the curse passages of Canaan and instead declared all people/nations would be blessed because of what God will do through His covenant with him.

I couldn’t have agreed more. I think white supremacy, Nazism and racism in general is unacceptable for a Christian. What did trigger in my mind was the fact that God does not look to his creativeness of the races as His basis for anything. The scripture teaches there are two kinds of people generally speaking: Gentiles and Jews. Gentiles mean all nations, so it includes all races. Jews, on the other hand, are His covenant people, those to which He chose to reveal the scriptures, the plan of salvation, and the path of His ultimate return. The Apostle Paul wrote in the letter to the Ephesians that it was God’s goal to break down any barrier between the Jews and the Nations, (Gentiles) and make one new man. Any distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles will be removed and God’s end product is the “one new man.”

Ephesians 2:15 “He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.

Racism runs deep in the American culture, but it is not in the DNA of Americans as a president once proclaimed. What we have in our DNA is sin, and that is what contributes to racism. If anyone can tell me if the soul of man, which God created for eternity, has any race to it, I would like to know more about it. God was creative in developing the races in His creativity, but the soul has no race to it. There is also no gender to it. When we see life through the eyes of the gospel, and through eyes that see into the future forever, we see one new man and one appearance, which is the reflection of the Son of God. No color, no gender, no distinctions that we are experiencing now on earth. All people will come from all places and tribes on earth as Revelation 7:9 says, but we are all one tongue, one body, and one people who love and worship God forever.

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands.”

As Christians we have a lot to say about racism, about sexism, and all the “isms” that we are debating in the public square today. Our stance starts with the fact that all humans are sinners in need of a savior. With God there is no distinction but for the distinction of salvation. You either are a follower of Christ or you are not. As a follower you cannot place yourself above another as a superior person; it is the humble God says He draws near to, but rejects the pride of the arrogant.  As Christians we live to serve others regardless of gender, race, or religion. Our service is based upon the foundation of what Christ taught us through His word, and we are people who will not compromise His kingdom on earth.

Race and gender are God’s creativity and who are we to place definition to it that lowers it to a hateful and resentful position. God has created us as we are so our job is to use our race and our gender to serve Him, which includes all who He has created.

Keeping it honest and truthful…K

 

 

Thursday
Aug242017

Dogs That Cannot Bark

If you have ever been to my house you know that my dog will bark, and bark, and bark. She would never hurt anyone, but she is warning us and trying to scare someone she doesn’t know away. The prophet Isaiah talks about the leaders in his day that could not bark implying that bark-less dogs are quite worthless.

Isaiah 56:10-12 (NLT)

10 For the leaders of my people the Lord’s watchmen, his shepherds are blind and ignorant.
They are like silent watchdogs that give no warning when danger comes.
They love to lie around, sleeping and dreaming. Like greedy dogs, they are never satisfied.
They are ignorant shepherds, all following their own path and intent on personal gain.
12 “Come,” they say, “let’s get some wine and have a party. Let’s all get drunk.
Then tomorrow we’ll do it again and have an even bigger party!” 

There are few pulpits that take their calling to the degree of being a watchman. There are fine preachers and expositors of the word in many pulpits, but even these fine preachers are warning the church.

"Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman... so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me."(Ezekiel 33:7)

A few pastors like Pastor Robert Jeffress from First Baptist in Dallas Texas have invested themselves to bring the full counsel of God to their congregations. Other Christian leaders like the American Family Radio executive Don Wildmon who often broadcasts the fact that most pulpits in America are silent about our nation’s moral problems. The silence that comes from our pulpits is a curse upon the land. Without a voice telling the truth that is not fearful of the retaliation of a society gone mad with immorality, our churches become like dogs without a bark.

Why are pastors silent? Good question. If your pastor doesn’t talk about the immoral issues, and the lateness of the hour in which we live, you should ask why this isn’t important to him or her. It might be an eye opener to you as to how the American pastor has been duped to think that these themes are of no interest to the flock.

Let me just respond to my last sentence. It is not up to a pastor to decide what their flock should hear or not hear from the Word. What right does any Christian leader have to edit God’s Word and decide for God what is relevant and what is not? If He wrote it in His Word, why shouldn’t it be preached just the way He wrote it? Why do we add or subtract from it? Our family dog, (the one who barks all the time) loves each one of our family members, and would never harm even the cat that often taunts and teases the dog, but she is not afraid to bark at what might mean danger to us. So again, why are pastors so afraid to bark at the culture? Let me suggest 10 excuses they may use: 

 

  • I don’t want to divide anyone-there is already too much division everywhere.I don’t want to sound angry with anyone, I am not angry with anyone.
  • I don’t want to show the love of God to everyone and I don’t want to jeopardize the opportunity to be a witness for Christ.
  • I don’t think it is appropriate to use the hour on Sunday as a bully pulpit.
  • I don’t want anyone to perceive I am projecting hate or judgment on others.
  • I don’t want to be political about anything, so I will avoid any controversy that could be considered political.
  • I don’t think my theology will allow me to be that abrasive and coarse about people.
  • I don’t think God accents on minors like this, so I will stay on track with love and forgiveness, which are the majors of the gospel.
  • I don’t want to be the only pastor in our denomination that goes in that direction.
  • I don’t know enough about how God thinks on these issues to speak to it.

 

I do not think a Christian leader should ever use excuses to explain his/her behavior, and above all, these excuses are cowardly and inexcusable. Christian leaders are commissioned by God to lead, not be led. If we are being led by these kinds of excuses then our leadership is like a dog that cannot bark. Of what value are you in leading people to His Kingdom?  Christian leaders are to be like a shepherd dog that tirelessly herd the cattle or otherwise be trampled by the animals they were entrusted to control.

We have problems in America, and we will never solve them by not addressing them from the pulpits in the land.

If you are a pastor or Christian communicator of some kind, don’t stop barking and become like the dogs in Isaiah chapter 56.  Bark your head off.

Keeping it honest and truthful….K

 

Tuesday
Aug222017

The Other Side of the Story

Proverbs 18:17 “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.”

There are always two sides to every story, right?  That is why so much communication in our world is not balanced; it has a one-sided viewpoint. Now I realize everything we hear or even what we say is biased because we filter everything by our own personal filters. A liberal thinker, for example, will filter everything through the grid he or she has learned from school or political mentors. Conservatives do the same - we parrot what Rush or Shawn or Mark Levin has to say. I think that is fair to say. Yet are any of these people really right? Is there only a liberal or conservative point of view? Personally I would say no. There is God’s point of view, right?  Well, yes and no. God’s word, the one document we all say is all important for the Christian to follow as the first and last authority on how to live, is filtered through the kind of theology you have been trained by and often listen to. Theology is important because it is the foundation by which you filter God’s Word. Let me illustrate this by a conversation I had with a friend and professional counselor by the name of David McKnight. Here is David’s assessment of the two political parties:

Democrats focus on two areas:

  • Caring or Compassion
  • Victimization or being a victim

Republicans focus on bigger broader areas:

  • principles
  • values 
  • the individual

Now I don’t know if David is right, but that is his filter in how he sees the two parties in America. (I kind of think he is right, but don’t tell anyone, I want to remain politically neutral so I don’t ruin my reputation…)

Okay this kind of filtering is something we all do, and when it comes to interpreting the Bible we filter it according to our religious traditions or our experiences with God.

Here is what is wrong with filtering according to traditions. Many traditions are not Biblical; they are simply patterns of thought or worship that have come out of a religious group that seems reasonable to them. This reasonableness may be fine in establishing a pattern of practice for a group of people in a denomination, but it doesn’t make it Biblical. In fact, most traditional patterns have a touch of the Bible, and a whole lot of man in them.  Many times leaders of religious groups don’t like mysteries, which the Bible is full of, so they teach easy practical beliefs in order to explain God and be accepted. For example, I was a Christian for 20 years before I knew the significance of Israel, and the fact that Jesus Christ is coming back to earth in His second appearance as a Jew. Now wouldn’t you think that if this was important more denominations would spend time finding out why it would be important for Jesus to return as a Jew? You would think!

Again, most churches filter their religious training through a European denomination and a New Testament grid in teaching Christianity.  Sorry, but that grid is incomplete and leads to misunderstanding God and to Anti-Semitic thinking. The old covenant or Old Testament is critical to laying the foundation to Christianity, and if you do not know the principles of God found there, you will never understand the New Testament teaching of a bloody crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

All of the hot buttons in today’s culture have spiritual ramifications and can be traced back to the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). John 1:14 tell us that those Scriptures, the Word of God, became flesh and dwelt among us.

“14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. and we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”

So everything in the Old Testament was living among us through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. So issues of the killing of the unborn, (abortion) or homosexuality, (sexual perversion) or tattoos, or restitution for wrong behavior, or the issues of right or wrong behavior as delineated in the Ten Commandments are all foundational in this old covenant. We are told that Jesus did not come to destroy this old covenant, but to become its fulfillment. That means all of the Old Testament and its teachings are now complete in Him. Jesus is the conclusion of both Old and New Testaments He is what the Bible teaches. That is why we need to study the entire Bible, and filter our lifestyle and our worldview accordingly.

The other side of any story, teaching or communication needs to be examined. We can no longer accept a single point of view simply because it may not be a clear picture of what is true. As I have told you in the past my discernment grid is simple and I filter everything through it:

What is missing?

Why is that so?

Prove it!

I am always looking to the other side of the story for balance, clarification, or simply to determine if the other side is full of darkness or full of light. We need to upgrade the way we process this fake world in which we live, and I, for one, want the best in doing due diligence in pursuing the truth, regardless of who is telling it to me.

Keeping it honest and truthful….K

 

 

Wednesday
Aug162017

The Most Important Element In Our Day

I write a lot about the last days because I believe we are in them. Some of the categories we have discussed are:

Delusion

Deception

Propaganda

The Assault on God

Fake Christianity

And yet all of these themes play into the most dangerous aspect of our day. Oswald Chambers describes it best:

“It is possible to know all about doctrine and still not know Jesus. A person’s soul is in grave danger when the knowledge of doctrine surpasses Jesus, avoiding intimate touch with Him.” 

You can know everything about the Bible yet never come to know the author. It was never about what you know it has always been about whom you know.

For example many Christians have posted some ugly things about the neo-Nazi’s and white supremacists on Facebook. As true and disgusting as some of these hate groups are, we are to be better than to hate in return.  Have we forgot as believers that God still loves them? Or has our political correctness trumped the love of God? There is little civility anymore and I believe it’s because we have lost our hope in God. I find lots of posts on Facebook these days about the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend and most of them are about the disgusting people who were involved. As true as that may seem, how disgusted does a person have to become before God stops loving them? Does God love racists?  How about White Supremacists? Our world sees what it wants to sees and judges according to a politically correct grid. Yet God sees people a lot different. I am not suggesting that we overlook racism and bigotry, but as believers don’t we have a solution to what ails people like this? What about their eternity? Do we even care about people’s souls anymore?

The most important part of any discussion should be about what God thinks of this situation. If anyone is to blame for incidents like this it should be God, right? I mean people blame President Trump, but he didn’t create people - God did!  God is allowing us to see how ugly people really are without Him. How bad sin is and there is no cure for sin outside of Jesus Christ. God either allows the Charlottesville’s to happen or He could shut it down. What did He choose?  Of course we know He allowed it. Hatred is not of God, but hatred is the by- product of a heart that does not know Him. Many times I have questioned the posts on Facebook by believers I know who border on hateful remarks about our President. You may not agree with him, but you are compelled to love him and support him as scripture commands. We are told to support those who God puts in authority unless they go against a moral code of scripture. Or have we forgotten Romans 13:1?Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.”

Jesus told us to go into the world and teach the things He taught us. Would Jesus post the type of articles many of you have posted about Donald Trump?  Is this what He meant by going into the entire world?  I don’t think so, and we only weaken the voice of the gospel when we stoop to the level of people who don’t know God and then become like them.  It is time we upgrade our thinking and behavior to a level that is becoming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The most important role you play is not your political viewpoint or your self-righteous attitude in hating people you have disdain for and are disgusted over their hateful worldviews. Your role is to first know and love Jesus, and then go represent Him even to the vilest people imaginable that you now hate. I bet your Facebook posts would radically change.

David Wilkerson was a country preacher who thought this way and went to New York City to reach the gangs who were killing people. He decided to confront their hate with the love of God and the rest is history. That is the most important element we the church can do. Be more like Jesus rather than some radical conservative or liberal. Drop the baggage, Christian, and get back to your first love.

Keeping it honest and truthful….K

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