Jesus Love Me, Even Me

With all that is going on in the world, our country, our state, and our community, I have been “marinating” on what it all means. Is this what Sodom looked like right before the firestorm?   Is this just one of those seasons we must all go through or is it a precursor and sign to Jesus’ return? I was reading an article on trends and saw the prediction that by 2050 there will be more Christians in Africa than anywhere else.   Are we going to make it to 2050?   At the same time God has been pouring His own marinade into my current season of prayer and study – God’s holiness.

I’ve been looking over the call of Moses in Exodus 3 and Isaiah’s call in Isaiah 6.   In both callings there is the element of fear when face to face with the Holiness of God.   Moses is required to take off his shoes for he is standing on holy ground. Isaiah is in the holy temple surrounded by the glory of the Lord and cries out, “Woe is me I am undone!” or “Holy glory batman! I’m in serious trouble.” Thomas when he sees the resurrected Lord Jesus cries out in the same spirit, “my Lord and my God!”   Paul has a similar experience on the road to Damascus as he was struck with blindness he cried, “Who are you? Lord?”   When faced with holiness the Bible exposes an immediate response of fear and death. Was does all this have to do with the here and now? How is this relevant?   What does this have to do with prices of tea in China (I’ve never understood that saying)?

First of all God has not changed though our world changes constantly. God is still “I AM.”   God is holy, righteous, and glorious beyond our imaginations.   God is grace filled and God is love.   God is judge and jury.    The seraphim are still singing Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty!

Second our world is not any more or less evil than is has been in the past or will be in the future. Our world may have more people who can do more evil, but since the Fall (Adam and Eve) the world has been in rebellion to God.   Think about it, the first major story after the Fall is Cain murdering his brother Able out of envy – MURDER.   Within a few chapters God sends a flood to destroy the world and saved Noah and his family. The first story after the flood is Noah getting drunk and naked.   The world has not gotten worse, it’s always been evil.

Third when we who are evil, and all of us are, stand in the presence of God who is holy, we will soil our britches in fear.   In the presence of true holiness I dare you to play the good works card or I’m better than that guy or my sins aren’t that bad.   As I think about this scene in my head, I’m thinking I would love to be a fly on the wall when Madelyn Murry O’Hare, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Steven Hawking stand before God, but then I remember in the presence of God I am no better off.   My acknowledgement of God puts me in no better position than a person who denies God. Just because I acknowledge God does not mean I’m a better person.   Holiness has a way of equalizing everyone and everything.

So what’s the relevancy? We all need Jesus!   We need every drop of His blood that was shed and every ounce of pain He suffered.   We need every lash of the whip He took. We need every swing of the hammer onto the nails.   We need every insult thrown at the cross.   We need Him who knew no sin to become sin for us.   We need all His righteousness imputed to us.   We need Jesus the crucified and risen Savior and Lord.   We all need Jesus!   The Holiness of God is not going to bow to anyone.   The holiness of God is not going to accept, tolerate, turn a blind eye, overlook, justify, or stomach even one of our little white sins.

There is no one who is holy like God.   Which brings me to my conclusion – God loves us, not only that God loves the world and all who are in it.   I know it’s simple, but in the view of holiness it is extraordinary.   It’s almost cliché to say God loves us, but in light of holiness it is awesomely wonderful (take that MS Word grammar check!).   To say “God loves us” in light of God’s holiness is proclaim the grandest of all mysteries, the most scandalous of scandals, the most glorious of all truth, and the most beautiful thing in the world.   God who is holy loves us who are not. God who is holy loves us who are evil, rebellious, proud, self-righteous, hypocritical, selfish . . . God loves us.   There is a song that I have found so pure in the midst of this season, “Even Me” by I Am They. The words are Yes Jesus loves me, even me, even me. That is a true understanding of holiness that God no only loves, but He loves even someone like me.

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The Sky Isn’t Falling: It Already Fell

(I used the rainbow, because it belongs to God and reminds us of how faithful God is.)

rainbow crossOver 20+ years ago the chief editor from Christianity Today, Thomas Oden, spoke to my seminary prophetically about post-modernity.   We joked around with that word wondering what it meant. 5 years later I heard it again in relationship to the post Christian nation of the United States of America.   This time I knew what the word meant and the context of this prophetic voice.   I think we all knew the Supreme Court was going to re-define marriage, the more important fact is Christendom (Christian-Judeo worldview, morals, and faith) is fallen and no longer mainstream in the United States and maybe even the world.   Christians and Christian influence are now on the fridge even to the point of outcast.   The 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling should have woken us up that we are no longer living in a culture that is going to hold to Christian values and morals. June 25th, 2015 the Supreme Court re-defined marriage to simply two persons. If you are not awake yet on the fact that we live in a post Christian world then I’m not sure what will wake you up from your slumber.

For those of you awake and willing to read on forget about the terminology and listen to the substance.   The nation we live in has turned away from our values as Christians even to the point of being hostile toward us; calling us intolerant and bigots.   The Bible no longer is authoritative as it once was in our nation. Historically this moment in time is a watershed event.   Already the anti-church proponents are lining up in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling to take away the charity tax status of churches (503c tax deductible).   This would make our property and contributions as a church taxable and personal contributions non-tax deductible.   Think about that for a moment in terms of church budgets.   I’m not trying to be an alarmist or even prophetic. I would like to make 4 points.

  1. The Supreme Court ruling is not the end of the world for us who follow Jesus. The early church flourished and prospered in the hostile Greco-Roman world and under the persecution of the Jews.   Being on the fringe as outcasts is where historically the Gospel has boomed.   The church in China is a contemporary example as it prospers underground with suffering and persecution as a reality.   Our reality is full of promise and hope as well as suffering and persecution for following the One who conquered sin and death. The sky is not falling; it has already fallen and we have been living as if our nation was still Christian. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5 that he was not concerned about the morals and activities outside of the church, it was expected that the culture and government would be in rebellion against God. The Gospel has never been a political movement and it surely has never been snuffed out by any governmental actions.
  2. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We will all face the Lord God Almighty, the One whom angels encircle and constantly sing “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.”   Without a shadow of a doubt we will all know there is no hope for us in His presence except for the love and grace found in Jesus who died for our sins and conquers death.   This is not a time for us shine in pharisaical hypocrisy, but rather an opportunity in humility to extend our hands in love and hospitality.   Let your words and actions be grace-filled rather than stern. Speak Truth in love with authentic concern for those who are lost and a part from Jesus. Guard what you post on social media, say in the public square, and how you influence your children.   The Gospel is about love, grace, and the truth.
  3. Forget about comfort if you are living your faith.   Comfort and prosperity have never been the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.   The church has been comfortable too long and now we are soft.   Know your Bible a whole lot better than we know it today.   Risk more (ALL) for the One who gave us His all on the cross.   Our mission is not to change politics, but rather to introduce people to Jesus who can change heart, spirit, and soul eternally. Our calling is to the Gospel of Jesus Christ not to the Constitution of the USA. Having said that the Gospel will make an impact on our communities, our nation and God’s world!   It’s time to be brave for Scripture tells us we are more than conquers through Him who loves us!
  4. The Gospel is life giving and changes our eternal outcome.   The Gospel is not primarily about morals and life choices.   Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection changed far more than our political party, our morality, and our choices in music and movies. The Gospel is about God who loves beyond our rebellion and sinfulness. The Gospel is about God who redeems, reconciles, and reclaims us as His children through the grace of Jesus His Son.   The Gospel changes our loyalties from the world to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ.   The gospel positions us to love and forgive amidst a hostile world.   Therefore love God with all your heart, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.

I am truly grieved by the ruling of the Supreme Court on marriage. It knots up my stomach and raises my blood pressure. As an American I want to cry out FOUL!, because marriage is not even a federal matter, but as a Christian I cry out, “have mercy on us Lord Jesus and come quickly!”   Brothers and sisters in Christ the sky is not falling.   The sky fell long ago, but God who is rich in love and mercy sent His Son to redeem, reconcile, and reclaim us by grace!

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Craving for Real Community

I’m thinking of John chapter 8, the women caught in adultery and thrown at the feet of Jesus for a decision of execution.   I’m also thinking of a friend I haven’t seen in a while. His name is Gerald and he has cerebral palsy.   I’ve known him now for 20 years although I’ve only seen him once or twice in the past 5 years.   I met him at a camp for children with disabilities when he was 10 years old.   For the past 20 years I have taken youth to this camp on a mission trip.

Gerald is a cute and loveable guy.   He is smart. He is a ladies man in his own naïve way. He laughs and teases in joyous ways.   He is contagious in his love.   Gerald once taught me more about Jesus in a few words as we gazed upon a cross in the room than a whole seminary class.   Gerald also drools. If you are around him for any time, you will discover that his drool gets on everything including you.

One of my rules for my youth kids going on this mission trip is that the response of “oooooooo Yuck Gross Nasty!” in any dialect, form, expression, or language is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Drool and sometimes worse is expected on this mission trip and needs to be dealt with with soap and water or hand sanitizer not words or any kind of emotional response.

So I’m thinking about John 8, my friend Gerald and his drool, and now James 5:16 (which says, “confession your sins one to another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”). I have seen people cringe and say, “gross, yuck, nasty” when hearing about the sins of another. In John 8 Jesus didn’t shutter at the women’s capital offense of adultery as she lay there naked in front of him.   We will never find true Christian community in the confession of sin as James 5:16 commands with the judging, “gross, yuck, and nasty” of those we are trusting with our deepest secrets.   We will never have a friendship with those who are different that us.

I crave for a community where my sins are not met with judgment, but compassion, a community that will not tolerate or justify my sins, but walk with me to overcome them, and a community that loves me enough that I can trust them with my heart no matter how dark the furthest corners are.   I want to be in a community that takes serious the holiness of God, the atoning and reconciling blood of Jesus, and the fellowship of the Spirit.   I want to be fully loved, drool and all.   Don’t you want that kind of community?

Hey church! we are created to be that community!

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The transformation of the missional heart

Transformation Into a Missional Heart

In Luke 14:16-24 Jesus is telling a parable about the Messianic Feast. He begins with an invitation by a hospitable host who wants to throw a great banquet. The RSVP’s are sent out and returned, “yes we will be there.” At the right time the servant is sent out to tell the guests that the band is fired up, the food is ready, the celebration is about to commence. One by one the guest give insulting and lame excuses why they cannot come. Hearing the servant’s report and the insulting excuses the host turns his anger into grace and invites the outcasts, the marginalized, and in-firmed.

The servant sees his master’s grace and experiences the joy of those who accept the gracious invitation. The servant sees his master’s heart and the servant’s heart is transformed. He returns to the master transformed and fully engaged in the master’s vision, “Master what you have commanded is done and there’s still room!” The servant is then sent out into the country side and to the crossroads and back roads to make sure the banquet is full. When the servant says, “and there’s still more room,” he exposes his transformed heart. He gets it and wants to be a part of the master’s gracious invitation.

How much more of an experience of grace than the death and resurrection of Jesus do we need to have our hearts transformed. God has changed his anger into grace. The invitation to God’s banquet is for all people. We the church are the servant sent into all the world to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that Christ Jesus has commanded. The missional heart is born out experiencing God’s grace in Jesus and a yearning to be a part of God’s mission in the world.

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3 Crucial Things We Must Protect as Leaders

3 Crucial Things We Must Protect as Leaders | Catalyst.

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Worship = Desert

I hope to expound upon these questions at a later time. If you worship as an obligation, is it worship? If a sacrifice is given with a non-sacrificial attitude, is it a sacrifice?

I believe we do certain things based on faith and obedience; Tithing for instance. I also believe worship is a faith and obedience choice with an attitude of thanksgiving and praise. However obedience is not an obligation, but rather a faith response to the love of God and a craving to live in and experience God’s love. Therefore offering ourselves as living sacrifices (our spiritual act of worship) is out of love not obligation, duty, responsibility, or requirement. It’s like desert, everybody wants desert, but nobody ever has to eat desert.

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Good Question!

Why does our gospel get us ready to die while the gospel of Jesus gets us ready to live?
Perhaps we should listen closely to the words of Jesus, and move from being consumed with where we will go when we die to being consumed with how we live here and now. How would that change, not only us, but also our world?

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Why Does God Love Us

“Why does God love us?”  This simple question was a part of reading discussion from Kyle Idleman’s book, Gods at War.  In all our rebellion, sinfulness, and apathy why does God love us?   We killed his prophets, crucified His Son, and deny his existence.   We choose promiscuity over holiness, selfishness over serving, and idol worship over worship in Spirit and Truth.   We are disobedient.  Basically we will choose anything and anyone but God, so why does He love us? 


Despite all our rebellion and rejection, God pursues us relentlessly and at all costs.  The question, why does God love us?, for some reason focuses us on our character as if there is something in ourselves worthy of God’s love.   The real focus of that question is answered in the character of God – I John 4:16b God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  Love is the character of God.  Love is who God is at the core so much so that God is love.   God’s pursuit of us is not based on how loveable we are – Thank goodness.   God’s pursuit of us is based on how loving God is. 

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Conservative vs. Evangelical

My question of over the past few months is, “what does it mean to be EVANGELICAL?” I believe words like conservative and orthodox are used as synonyms, but really they are complementary words. We use evangelical and conservative interchangeably just as progressive and liberal.
As an evangelical I have a traditional historical view of the Bible and that my theology is “conservative.” I’m not sure you can describe yourself as evangelical and not be conservative, but I’m sure you can be conservative and not be evangelical. Conservative means you hold to certain fundamental and orthodox views. Evangelical means you place priority on sharing Jesus as Savior and Lord as a decisive activity in your life that flows through all other life activities. Therefore evangelical activity is actions and words intent on sharing Jesus as the crucified and resurrected Christ and Lord.

I chose the verb sharing intentionally for two reasons.
1. The action of sharing requires that one give something of his/her-self; truth and experience of Jesus, His life, death and resurrection. Truth is the Biblical account of God the Father sending, God the Son to reconcile the world through His death on the cross and resurrection in the power of God the Holy Spirit. Experience is the evidence that faith in Jesus is both transformational and relevant.
2. Sharing requires a moment of decision or acceptance from the receiving person. Everywhere Jesus went He confronted people with a decisive moment to believe in Him or not, to follow Him or not. This is the heart of evangelical activity – to bring people face to face with Jesus in a decisive moment.

The conservative and the evangelical might be in the same boat. They may believe the same things and attend the same church. The difference is that the conservative is painting the name on the back of the boat and making sure the boat is comfortable, and the evangelical is fishing from the boat. The conservative is compassionate about what he or she believes the evangelical is compassionate about making sure everybody has an opportunity to believe in Jesus.

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A Certain Man

Right before Jesus celebrates the Passover with his disciples, Luke tells a rather bland story of how Peter and John are sent to prepare the Passover meal.  Luke 22 – 8 Jesus sent Peter and John ahead and said, “Go and prepare the Passover meal, so we can eat it together.”  9 “Where do you want us to prepare it?” they asked him.  10 He replied, “As soon as you enter Jerusalem, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him.

Mark also tells this story in his Gospel as does Matthew.  Matthew simply says “a certain man” where Mark and Luke describe a man carrying a water pitcher.   We could just glaze over this and go right to the Lord’ Supper.  But, why a dude carrying a water pitcher?  In my mind I went that is rather vague Jesus.  Everybody has got to have water and since there is no indoor plumbing, everybody had to go get water.  In ancient times women carried the water not men.  The vagueness turns to uniqueness. 

I begin to wonder about this guy.  Is he the prototype of chivalry?  Is he widower without children?  Is he an outcast?  Whatever he is, he is so counter-culture that he stands out in the droves of people who have descended upon Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.   He is as Matthew says, “a certain man.”   “A certain man” commissioned by Jesus for a task. 

Our culture is oblivious to God’s ways if not defiant.  I wonder, “Does my faith/faithfulness stand out in the crowd?”  Can Jesus commission me for a special task that others may follow me?  Can I be “the certain man (person)” that Jesus commands others, “follow him?”  Do I just blend in with the culture? 




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