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Monday
Apr032017

The Tension Of The Gospel

Anywhere the gospel is preached  there is tension.

Acts 4:18-20  Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

There is nothing like the power of the gospel, but there is nothing like the resistance to it as well. Anytime you are telling people that there is hope and God is behind that hope, you will find resistance. Have you ever stopped and asked yourself why is the gospel so offensive?  In the Book of Acts the reaction to the gospel was either a revival of acceptance or a riot of rejection.  The gospel is either accepted or it is hated for simply telling people that Jesus can change their lives. Why is this so offensive? God gives people a choice to believe it or not, and if they choose not to believe in the story of the gospel, then no one is forcing them to believe.

So the question still remains: why is the gospel message so offensive?

1. The gospel claims to be the only source of real salvation. In a world of diversity, that doesn’t work.

2. The gospel is a spiritual victory that defeats and exposes evil. Darkness hates the light.

3. The gospel declares the truth about human depravity and the hopelessness of the human condition. No one wants to hear about his or her sinfulness

4. The gospel treats all people the same, loved by God, and in need of a Savior. The only savior people want is one who can give them what they want.

Hating the gospel means you hate God. You cannot believe in God and hate the message of the gospel, because the gospel represents God. Easter is the most hated of Holidays, because it is the story of how evil was defeated, and how God provided a way for all humans to escape to a better life. Our celebration of Easter is our way of remembering when the gospel was born. The cross is where the gospel begins and the resurrection gave it life.  

1 Corinthians 1:18” The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction.  But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.”

I don’t know about you, but I believe the gospel is the greatest message mankind has ever heard. Its message never changes, and for those who believe in it will always know it is true by the confirmation of how people are changed by believing in it.

This holiday season take some time to remember that the gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t about the tradition of what He did; it is about the change that happens when people believe in Him.

Let’s keep Easter about the gospel, and about the power it has to change lives. But remember, a changed life is a testimony against all that is wrong in this world, and that may not settle too well with some folks.

Keeping it honest and truthful….K

 

 

 

 

Thursday
Mar302017

Known For What I Am For

“I want to be known for what I am for and not for what I am against.”

This popular saying is going around Christian circles today because it is catchy and positive. It is popular because people want to go to church to hear a positive word of encouragement, reinforcement of values, and be in an uplifting environment. Who wouldn’t want that kind of emphasis?  This saying however sprung up because so many churches were preaching things that identified themselves as uniquely for this and against that. Some pastors said, “let’s totally take out what we are against from our ministry equation and we will stay with only what we are positively for.” They basically were using the old adage “you can catch more bees with honey than you can with vinegar.” Who will argue against that?  I guess I will.

Cute sayings, and tag lines are great attention getting quips, but they aren’t wisdom for living. Let me put this popular saying in other words. As a parent let’s only tell your child about the fun, safe things in life, no mention of the danger of streets, strangers, hot stoves, and safety issues in general. Now no responsible parent ignores some of these issues and these messages come with a negative spin to them:  don’t touch, don’t play in the street, and don’t talk to strangers or take candy from them. Negative messages are often safety messages and are necessary for training a child to understand unsafe circumstances.

My concern about only preaching the positive things that we are for is this:

1. We may be eliminating the essential warnings that the Bible gives about the deception of evil

2. How is the delusion of our age affecting my family?

3. Does the discernment of the Holy Spirit only work in the positive? 

4. Life is not all positive and if we don’t train people how to respond to the negative we will never be effective at living life.

Another way of saying this is, “what good is an army without weapons?” How will that army protect a nation against their enemies if they don't have the weaponry to defend itself?  No church will ever be successful in developing disciples unless they tell the whole truth. There are lots of things Christians should be against, and they need to be trained with weapons of spiritual warfare that will help guard against the evil one.  For example, as believers we should be against abortion because it’s the genocide of the unborn, and the church should never tolerate its acceptance in our society. If I saw a young child running toward the street with on coming traffic, would I not try to save that child? Or do I simply say, "it's the child’s choice to play in traffic."That child unless I act will lose it's life, and that death will affect the entire family. Abortion doesn't just affect the woman, it affects a whole community. The attitude I take to do nothing about this child's dilemma, is like saying, "it’s not my problem, it’s not my child, and for heaven’s sake where are the parents?  Doing nothing or ignoring the situation doesn't make me right with God, and it doesn't make me right with the parents of a dead child. Abortion is one of those issues churches will avoid today especially if they buy into the idea that we don't talk about unpleasant things.  I will never accept that is is normal for a pulpit to be silent on abortion. Since when has the pulpit become a public relations agency? Is that what the Bible teaches about the role of godly leaders, to be public relations agents? We only want people to know what we are for, and not what we are against? I heard a pastor say this cute tag line recently in a video promotion for his church and I immediately thought that this pastor doesn’t really care about the truth. He is only concerned about marketing his church through a positive message.  Wouldn't it be great if he changed his message to say: "our pulpit isn't silent about the hell you will face without Jesus."   I think we should take a survey. Which tag line do you think will attract more people?

Tag line one: “I want to be known for what I am for and not for what I am against.”

Tag line two: "Our pulpit isn't silent about the hell you will face without Jesus."

In today's culture tag line one wins hands down. Truth just doesn't sell much any more. 

I heard a pastor say this the other day: The average Christian today doesn’t really care about the truth. Give me what I want to hear, and don't make me think about what spiritual responsibility looks like in confronting an evil world. Yet the Bible says:

 Psalm 94:16 “Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?”

 In Matthew 23 Jesus did not mince His words against the religious folk of his day. He definitely told them what He was against. 

 

  • Hypocrites you don’t tell the truth
  • You make people in sons of hell
  • Blind guides you mislead
  • You neglect the whole law
  • You look good on the outside but you’re wicked inside
  • You are religious snakes
  • You are against the true prophets of God 

 

According to our cute little phrase, I don't think Jesus would be a good marketer for His church, He is against too many things.  Personally I was taught that the scriptures admonish us to be more like Jesus and I am confident He would never say:

“I want to be known for what I am for and not for what I am against.”

Just saying……

Keeping it honest and truthful….K

Wednesday
Mar292017

Toxic Beliefs

So what is a toxic belief?

According to the dictionary the word toxic means:  containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation.

Toxic beliefs are those beliefs that are not founded upon a Biblical foundation. Anyone can go to the Bible and find a passage of scripture that supports an idea or a presupposition. In the last days toxic beliefs will become more prevalent because they will mislead people away from the truth.  The most insidious toxicity comes when Jesus is used as an example to prove an unbiblical foundation.

Jesus wants you to be rich

Jesus wants you to always be healed

Jesus wants you to always walk in victory

The problem I find in toxic beliefs is that they don’t have the longevity to them. For example, when I first became a Christian the church I attended wanted me to speak in tongues, so they gave what amounted to as tongues lessons by having you repeat syllables that sounded like gibberish. I never did figure out why that was so important since it was just repeating what others told me to say. I am sure the second chapter of Acts didn't happen that way. I was also told that unless I spoke in tongues I would never be baptized in the Holy Spirit, so naturally everyone I knew tried even harder to make tongues happen.

Then I was told that I probably had a demon in me and needed deliverance. Now why they thought I had a demon was beyond me, but people had to be sure by having something cast out.  Demons were a common thing to be delivered from when going to church in my earlier years. It was about this time when the inner healing trend came into focus, and many people where told to visualize Jesus and by doing so you were letting Him heal any trauma that you experienced.  This was a strange time of meditating and visualizing a physical Jesus. Then came the Jabez prayer from 1 Chronicles 4:10 where you would expect God to expand your territory, whatever terriority you deemed important. 

Later there would be other trends such as the social justice emphasis, the worship emphasis, the Hebraic worship emphasis and on and on it went.

A good question should now be asked: are you saying that all these special emphasis teachings are toxic beliefs?  And is any special emphasis in the church a toxic belief? 

No, I am not saying that a special emphasis in the church is a toxic belief, but what I am saying is that any emphasis should be based upon a Biblical foundation that leads people to the Christ on the cross. When I analyzed all the special groups that I encountered over my 45 years as a Christian I found that much of it didn’t amount to much because it didn’t bring me close to Jesus. What it did was it brought me closer to the emphasis itself. What becomes toxic is the emphasis because it takes the place of Jesus, at least in part.

I know you might disagree with me just about now, so I want to point out to you two verses I often come back to because they are so convicting. People think that spiritually is dependent on how much you know, or how much you have experienced in the church and neither is the case. Spirituality depends on one thing: do you know Jesus?  And the qualifying factor in knowing Him is: are you surrendered to Him?

Mathew 7:21-22 “21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

All of what we do in His name as it says, means nothing if you don’t know Jesus.

You can learn to speak in tongues, visualize your life away, take as much territory as you desire, and claim as much riches as you wish, but if you don’t know Jesus, nothing you believe will matter. People tell me all the time what they believe and you know what, I don’t care what you believe, because if you don’t know Jesus your beliefs do not really matter, do they?

Let’s try to get back to Jesus and His cross during this season and make it about Him and not the traditions.  Traditions will never save you; in fact some of them are toxic beliefs and will keep you from coming to know the real Jesus.

Keeping it honest and truthful….K 

Monday
Mar202017

Rejecting God For The Idols

Acts 3:13-14  “For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of all our ancestors—who has brought glory to his servant Jesus by doing this. This is the same Jesus whom you handed over and rejected before Pilate, despite Pilate’s decision to release him.  You rejected this holy, righteous one and instead demanded the release of a murderer.”

I find these words so reminiscent of how God is rejected today. As we approach the holiday season of First Fruits (Easter) we become more aware of how Jesus was rejected by the people. His rejection was the result of the influence of others to accept the criminal Barabbas over Him. That same influence is alive and well today. God is always placed beneath the cultural icons of politics, money, sports, and the influence of the powerful. Some may say these icons aren’t like the criminal Barabbas, yet if they lead people away from God and ultimately replace Him, I would say they are worse.

Idols replace the importance of God in your life, and bring you a substitute for worship.

Exodus 20:3-5 “You must not have any other god but me.

4“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.”

God does not take lightly our passion for things that replace Him.

We all have priorities, and many of them may be the building blocks to our success and happiness.

  • Children
  • Ministries
  • Education
  • Work Ethic
  • Goals
  • Dreams
  • Worldviews
  • Church
  • Theology
  • Marriage

All these are good, meaningful things that are essential in the human experience. Yet do these good things ever cross a line in competing with a jealous God who does not tolerate anything more important then Himself? A case can be made that God wants us to succeed at all these good things, yet they were never meant to take us away from Him. I don’t think we ever think about a jealous God, do we?  We usually see God as a tolerant, loving Father, who could never be described as jealous. Yet God calls Himself jealous because He wants your undivided attention when it comes to your priorities. It is much more difficult to understand God when you idolize the good things in life, and then hear that God is a jealous God and He is not tolerant of any kind of idol. (Even if they represent good things.) That’s the difficult thing in all of this, isn’t it?

God has to be first. Period. No excuses. He wants us to love and worship Him first, and then all the other good things will be added to you. That’s what Jesus made clear didn’t He?

Matthew 6:33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

The questions at the end of the day are: “What has been first in your life?”  “What do you seek more than the Kingdom of God?”

Great questions aren’t they? Sobering for sure, and you will never be more honest when you answer them in light of knowing God already knows the honest answer, and He is listening. 

Keeping it honest and truthful…K

Thursday
Mar162017

The Main Point Of Life Is About Surrender

John 21:21-22

21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

What did I learn this week?  Friends are invaluable.

I had coffee with a friend recently and we talked about this verse in John.  It reminded me that my first obligation is not to identify anyone else’s sin but my own, and to keep my life right with God. It is far too easy to look at others and find fault than it is to look in the mirror. My first responsibility is to make sure that I am in a right relationship with God, and if things are right between Him and me, then my light will shine.

Another friend reminded me of the verses in Isaiah 58 as we had coffee together. He pointed out the importance of Isaiah 58:9-10:

“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”

Faith has to be accompanied by a righteous heart that looks to help others. It is in that moment of caring that your light shines at its brightest level.

So this week friends were a very important source of truth. They reminded me that none of us is an island in this sea of life and everyone needs a mainland of relationships to help supply the resources that are necessary to keep our lives spiritually healthy.  

These friends reminded me that I need to make sure before anything else in life that I am right with God and I am following His lead. He will always lead me in a way that will allow me to be an influence for Him.  However, He will only allow me to be an influence if I have first surrendered to Him. God’s first priority is for those who are lost to Him, and it is those people that He has called us to influence, but only if our surrender to Him is in order. In the Isaiah 58 passage it talks about the kind of fast that God calls us to do. It is a fast to know Him and it is a fast to represent Him in a world where people need to see the kindness of God through us. That takes a surrendered life.

It is a big responsibility to be a follower of Christ because it is a life of surrender.  Life is full of distractions and empty promises, but as followers of Christ we don’t have the time to waste on things that will draw us away from influencing others for His kingdom.

I suggest you find some good friends who can feed into your life; it will prove to be invaluable.

Keeping it honest and truthful…K

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