The Divine Straight

God has a way of doing things…perfectly. Everything God has done, is doing, and will do, is perfect. There have never been any misgivings in the mind of God, no second-guessing; God has never done anything which is contrary to the nature of God. God has always done everything in perfect accordance with His divine will– this is what I refer to as the Divine Straight

When we understand God’s will in any particular arena, we understand the Divine Straight. We understand the way God would want us to understand. When we are given the insight through the Word of God, and illuminated by His Spirit, I would contend that we are aligned with His Divine Straight.

In technical terms this is known as orthodoxy. The word orthodox comes from two Greek words, ortho + doxa, meaning “right opinion” or “correct thinking.” In Christianity, it generally means adhering to the accepted or traditional historic Christian faith revealed in the Bible–Essentials of Christian faith, we might say. In the early years of the Church, councils helped to produce right thinking as they were challenged by heresies. Some of these affirmations of orthodoxy are incorporated in to the creeds and confessions. They struggled through texts of Scripture in order to rightly understand the Divine mind, and truth. Orthodoxy may be defined as the least common denominator which links like-minded individuals under the same banner of “Christian.”

Obviously, discerning the divine will of God in any given path is difficult, however, over the years we have generated a pretty healthy cache of theologies which are considered orthodox.

The big problem is, the Enemy doesn’t like the people of God being equipped with that kind of awareness, and so, orthodoxy is constantly under attack.

Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

Paul adds a bit to that in the book of Acts, speaking to the elders of Ephesus. “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30).

At the extreme cults are opposing the Divine Straight, and seek to make it crooked at every turn; we get that – those are the easy ones. However, also at the forefront are songwriters. Pundits of the airwaves. Rock Stars. Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter. The wisdom of the age, professing to be wise they have become fools. They encourage praying to a god that cannot hear. They are all are seeking to make the Divine Straight, crooked.

Any aberration introduced in order to make The Divine Straight, crooked, is considered a heresy; it is heterodoxical, meaning “another” way of understanding. It stands opposed to generally accepted orthodoxical thought. Paul, in Timothy, describes these as “Doctrines of Demons” (1 Timothy 4:10).

This is the world we live in today, and it was no less the case in the time of Timothy; there have always been those seeking to bend the Divine Straight. Can you say, “Garden of Eden”? But, blessings abound for those who choose to remain in the Divine Straight, the path of God. Beware that Satan is seeking to tickle your ears with some newfangled, hot-off-the-press tidbits of truth. All in an effort to get you away from walking the center of the Divine Straight.

The Writer of Proverbs says it well:

Let your eyes look directly ahead
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.
Watch the path of your feet
And all your ways will be established.
Do not turn to the right nor to the left;
Turn your foot from evil (Proverbs 4:25-27).

We do best facing forward!

God, or Something Like Him (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man, which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ”– So contends Blaise Pascal, the famous French theologian, and philosopher. Now, I am not aware of any such Scripture specifically affirming the statement, but Romans 2:15 speaks of the Law as being written upon the hearts of men. Though the metaphor may be limited in some capacities, the imagery is profound. Continue reading “God, or Something Like Him (Shepherd’s Echo)”

A Place at the Table

I love the Evangelical tribe. They speak my language, they have a high view of Scripture, they embrace the same high ideals of theology-they are my home team! We have made many strides in the last several centuries, and in spite of the present “tension” notwithstanding, concerning the true meaning of the word “evangelical” we are in good shape as we look toward the future (IMHO).

Here’s the thing though, it seems now as though everybody wants a place at the Evangelical table. The problem is, those of us at the evangelical table so often kick out a chair and say, “come on, let’s talk about those things that we have in common. Let’s talk about the unity that we do have”– Kumbayah, and all. People sit down at the table and say, “We are Christians, just like you!” And when we allow them a place at the table, when we allow them to think they truly have a permanent place at the table, we do so at the expense of the Gospel, the integrity of the Gospel. We ought not do that; after all, it’s a narrow, not a wide road.

We have seen a movement in the last several years, various “churches“ scrambling to modify, or re-define their doctrine in order to make it more palatable, and to assert that they are true “Christians.” Historic terms and monikers have been jettisoned in order that the evangelical tribe (and the culture) would embrace what has been historically held at bay. To my dismay, they do seem to be gaining some ground; that which has been held to be incompatible with orthodoxy is being embraced at an alarming rate, or minimally given consideration as a valid option. Can you say Trojan horse?

And so, they rework their terminology, not their doctrine, in order that they would be a little more user-friendly, a little more included, and a little more inclusive. What we have as sentinels that differentiates us from the rest of the clans is the true Gospel, the narrow gate, which is salvation through faith in Christ alone. No amount of massaging false doctrine will make it any the more effective to redeem a soul–it will still be a cult.

And they seek validation in all venues of true Christianity.

A cult is something that compromises the person, or the work of Jesus Christ. A cult introduces and promotes ideas which attack, or seek to alter the person, or work of Christ. A cult assaults orthodoxy. Evangelicals have been entrusted as stewards of this Gospel, to be the pillar of faith which both supports it, and promotes it, as the one true way to restored relationship with God.

I don’t want to be branded as some hard-core right-wing radical separatist, but if that need be then so be it, if that’s what it takes to remain faithful to the Gospel. In fact, there are some “evangelicals” that, (it turns out), shouldn’t be at the table either. Seems like every other month another notable leader is rejecting a core tenet of evangelicalism, whether it’s the Old Testament significance, or the eternality of Hell, exclusivity of Christ, foreknowledge of God, promoting creation as myth, or endorsing the heresy of universalism.

We should never be willing to surrender truth in an effort to gain unity; we can not!

The table in Heaven will be much more exclusive. Only those whose names are written in the book of life will be there, only those with robes cleansed in the blood of Christ.

I am reminded of the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew chapter 22. The preparations are made, the invitations go out, and the hall begins to fill. “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Those who have “snuck in” will be found out. Those who have embraced universalism. Those who embraced another way to Christ. Those who have trusted works-based religion will not be there. Those who thought they were “good enough” will be thrown out.

My concern in permitting all to occupy a chair at the table is that in so doing we may fail to present the one and only way to God. We may fail to communicate that to our friends who are lost, and we may fail, or we may compromise our own beliefs in the Gospel, thus losing our foothold on the Truth. Minimally, we communicate, perhaps to them, and perhaps to the world, that they actually enjoy a seat at the eternal table of Christ. As the parable communicates; the man was speechless. He had nothing to say in his own defense to the Host of eternity.

It is through Jesus Christ, not through Joseph Smith.
It is through Jesus Christ, not through Mary Baker Eddy.
It is through Jesus Christ, not through Mohammed.
It is through Jesus Christ, not through Mary, or the Pope.
It is through Jesus Christ, not through any false messiahs.
It is through Jesus Christ, not through our own merits.

Of all the intersections we may share, none would be so broad as to include eternal salvation. Any points of connection, or overlap may be just that, moral, economic, social, but they do not identify us as being in the same spiritual camp.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my seat at the table. And, I want them to enjoy the hope of eternal life. I want them at the table; God wants them at the table. But, there is only one way to gain a place at this table, by wearing the right clothes. Yes, grace. And yes, mercy. But certainly truth.

If we are so bold as to kick out a chair at the table, it is done as a sacred offer, it is part of an invitation already extended by the work of Christ. It demands a response. We desire them to be part of the flock, but they need to RSVP to the True Host of Heaven.

As Peter affirmed to the religiosity in Jerusalem: “He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12).

Let’s be careful what we communicate, and what we fail to communicate; eternity is on the line.

Love Leaves a Mark (Shepherd’s Echo)

January 6, 1971 began unlike any other day in my youthful life. It was very early in the morning, well before dawn. I was in bed dreaming when I was ushered into the day by screams of my mother. “Boys, boys! Get up!” Our house was engulfed in flames, due to an iron, or a dryer left on in the laundry room. My mother, who slept in an opposite end of the house had awakened to find the house swallowed in fire, and she attempted to make her way through the residence trying to awaken her four children who were held captive inside the flames, yet the intense heat restricted her from doing so. We were facing near-certain doom. Continue reading “Love Leaves a Mark (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Psalter Cadence

Foraging around the church building this past week I spent time in an old Bible, a magnificent specimen of the endearment which the Word of God held in the hearts of some in days gone by. Published sometime in the 1880’s, it was filled with over 2000 illustrative images seeking to provide “flannel board” understanding to the reader. The tome was near 6 inches thick, and 12 to 14 inches square; I spent quite a while on my historical journey through this blessed effort, to find as the fruit of my efforts a section in the back, of ancient prose. Several were addressing The Shepherd’s Psalm–Psalm 23.

Some are moved by this psalm to many degrees. I think of the soul who was so moved by the theological richness to pen the English words in rhyme. Somewhere in the midst of the industrial revolution, Presidents Chester Arthur and Grover Cleveland, the presentation of the Eiffel Tower, the first World Series game, the first patent on a roll film camera (Kodak), and electric streetcars…somewhere in the midst of this movement toward the explosive 20thCentury, yes, in the midst of the flurry of “modernity” some soul in the quiet of their heart was moved to recount the depths of solace and hope held in this psalmic gem.

This work could easily have been lost to antiquity as I doubt there are many of these Bibles around anymore. If they are, I would doubt many people are seeking to foray into the appendical catacombs ensconced therein. To honor the individuals who composed this volume, and to honor the heart once again of this long-ago departed saint, but most of all to honor the Shepherd of the sheep, I offer this work once again, well over the 130 years since it was first penned, as an encore.

I pray the truths would be both a balm, and a light to the sheep of His pasture.

My Shepherd is the Lord Most High,
And all my wants shall be supplied;
In pastures green he makes me lie,
And leads by streams which gently glide.

He in his mercy doth restore,
My soul when sinking in distress;
For his namesake he evermore,
Leads me in paths of righteousness.

Yea, though I walk through death’s dark vale,
Ev’n there no evil will I fear,
Because thy presence shall not fail,
Thy rod and staff my soul shall cheer.

For me a table thou hast spread,
Prepared before the face of foes;
With oil thou dost anoint my head;
My cup is filled and overflows.

Goodness and mercy shall not cease,
Through all my days to follow me;
And in God’s house my dwelling place
With him forevermore shall be.

Var står det skrivet? (Shepherd’s Echo)

The church with which I am affiliated (the Evangelical Free Church) has a rich heritage of tradition, as do many denominations. It is a “big tent” church that embraces the gospel. And, as such, it is very intentional to embrace the true Church of “Believers only, but all believers” as the body of Christ; that means we recognize the redeemed as greater than any one denomination.  And it believes in staunchly confirming the Word of God as the “Rule of Faith” for all things pertaining to faith, life and godliness; this is the doctrine of sola scriptura. Our predecessors had a saying in Swedish (from whom the denomination emanated), Var står det skrivet?” In English it means,”Where stands it written?” Continue reading “Var står det skrivet? (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Psalm of Jonah

Normally, when we think of psalms, or even in the modern day when we think of songs, a person composes it in a tranquil setting of contemplative thought; that’s not the case with Jonah. Jonah is geographically challenged. Perhaps hundreds of feet below the surface of the water, he is being sovereignly transported, from where he was going, to where God sovereignly wants to take him. The great fish is that vehicle of transport. Actually, though I don’t think Jonah is trying to write a top-40 song; he is simply communicating, from a gut-level, a more repentant heart, or at least for the moment, a sober heart.

So, he composes a psalm, and he has less than 3 days to do it.

The psalm here is going to describe his life–I see that very clearly. But it’s also going to describe the immediate predicament, and salvation by the fish, God’s sovereign act of salvation using the fish. Remember, it’s a great fish; it is not a whale, but it’s a great fish.

We find this psalm in Chapter 2 of his eponymous book. We see in verses 2 and 3 that he acknowledges God’s sovereignty. And we see in verses 4 through 9, that he submits to God’s sovereignty.

Verse 2, “And he said ‘I called out of my distress to the Lord and He answered me. I cried for a help from the depths of Sheol. You heard my voice.'” He talked about crying out from the depths of Sheol, the depths of the belly. He is engulfed in the possibility of death, and he will not actually die, but he comes really close to it. And he says, “You heard my voice.” He’s addressing God. He’s finally facing in the right direction.

Verse 3, “For you had cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas and the current engulfed me. All your breakers and billows passed over me.” He recognizes that God is the one sovereignly responsible. He says God has tossed him in and “your breaker’s, your waves, your waters, have passed over me.” He describes the circumstances as a judgment from the sovereign Lord.

His response is in verse 4, “So I said I have been expelled from your sight. Nevertheless, I will look again toward Your holy temple.” Is Jonah here a little bit fuzzy? Maybe he’s not quite recovered. Maybe, he’s forgetting who was trying to get away from whom. Remember in verse three of chapter one, Jonah is trying to get away from the presence of the Lord. Jonah is trying to get away from the presence of the Lord two times in that verse–Jonah initiated that expulsion. God, for the moment had merely honored that choice.

Jonah sought to flee from the sight of God; he is trying to run in the opposite direction. He says, “I have been expelled from your sight. Nevertheless, I will look again toward your holy temple.” He announces that he will once again face God. This idea is one of repentance, that rather than focusing on his will, he is going to focus on God’s will. This is the whole idea of restoration, the idea of a restored relationship with God. God truly never lost sight of him.

Verses 5 and 6, “Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, weeds were wrapped around my head. I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, but you have brought up my life from the pit, Oh Lord my God.” He focuses here on the situations that were surrounding him. He focuses on the absolute hopelessness that was his as he was sinking through the water. There is an implicit recognition of the sovereignty of God. Because he says, “You have brought up my life from the pit, from the grave. You have done this.” Here is the understanding that God still has a plan. Jonah doesn’t know what it is yet, he doesn’t know if he’s going to die in 20 minutes, or an hour; he doesn’t know where he’s going. But he says, “You have brought up my life from the pit, Oh Yahweh, My God.” He once again identifies Yahweh as his Lord as his God.

Verse 7, “While I was fainting away, I remembered Yahweh. And my prayer came to You into Your holy temple.” As he is thrown in to the tumultuous waves he breaks the surface, he begins to sink. There is a lack of oxygen. He begins to drown. And this is while he was fainting away. As he is losing consciousness he remembers the Lord, and he begins to pray. From the deep, from the belly of the fish, the prayer ascended through the water to the throne room of the Almighty where God rules from His sovereign throne.

No matter where we are. No matter what conditions we are in, a true and sincere prayer is a hot line to the throne room of God. Jonah recognizes that, and I’m going to suggest that this prayer is not one of simple desperation, but of sincerity, at least true repentance for the moment. And his prayer is not just facing the Holy Temple, is not just facing God, but the prayer is making it in to the throne room of God.

Verse 8 is a little bit odd; I had to work through it. It says, “Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness.” “Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness.” Now, color me simple, but if I’m sinking down and am a couple hundred feet below the depths of the water. I’m probably not in all that philosophical state of mind where I’m going to be throwing out some kind of proverb like this. “Aha! Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness.” It’s a little difficult for us to understand, but that word here for “vain” is also “empty,” or “false.” We say, “Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness.” Our response is, “huh?” But Jonah is saying those who regard false idols, those you regard empty idols, forsake their faithfulness. I would suggest that Jonah is speaking of himself. He is his own false idol. He is his own empty idol because an idol is something that you place before God. An idol is something that you placed before the will of God. Jonah is sinking down, and yet he understands that he has been the person of primary importance in his life; way above God. And in doing that, he forsook the righteousness of God.

Verse 9. “But I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed to pay. Salvation is from the Lord.” Jonah is submitting here, and though it’s difficult to ascertain the level of joy he has in doing this; he is at least surrendering. Does he think that he’s going to get out alive? I really don’t know. I don’t think so, but I really don’t know. But at this point in time he’s rededicating his life. He’s got the sovereignty of God stuff figured out, but things look pretty bleak. Perhaps, his skin is continuing to burn. Maybe his eyes are irritated. He is in the dark. He is unsure of his future. He says, “that which I have vowed I will pay.”

We don’t know specifically what Jonah has vowed to do but he is rededicating himself to the vow that he had made previously. I would surmise that that means he is going to fulfill his calling as a prophet however long that he has. He is willing to do what God has called him to do. And part of that is this interesting little statement that he makes at the very end, “Salvation is from the Lord.” “Salvation is from Yahweh,” which is actually the primary message of any prophet. It’s actually the primary message of any believer in God. “Salvation is from the Lord.”

Though his zeal will wane, he will faithfully deliver this great truth to the people of Nineveh–mmm, well, sort of–the Spirit makes sure the message is understood.

Most of us are on a journey from where we thought we were going, to where God is taking us. Though we may judge Jonah, we would do better to identify the level of sovereignty of our God in our lives and surrender to it.

In that (gulp), Jonah has something pretty important to teach us!

“I called out of my distress to the LORD,
And He answered me.
I cried for help from the depth of Sheol;
You heard my voice.
“For You had cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the current engulfed me.
All Your breakers and billows passed over me.
“So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight.
Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.’
“Water encompassed me to the point of death.
The great deep engulfed me,
Weeds were wrapped around my head.
“I descended to the roots of the mountains.
The earth with its bars was around me forever,
But You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.
“While I was fainting away,
I remembered the LORD,
And my prayer came to You,
Into Your holy temple.
“Those who regard vain idols
Forsake their faithfulness,
But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving.
That which I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation is from the LORD.”

Have Mercy Upon Me (Shepherd’s Echo)

Jesus is an absolute master of “Virtual Flannel Boards.” You remember those, perhaps from your childhood Sunday school classes. Flannel boards were those instructional visual aids to help in the telling of a story. With the props, and scenes, and figures, and such, they helped us grasp the Biblical narrative. Christ had the amazing ability to describe these flannel boards as though they were hovering in midair for all the people to see. It was in part this great skill which so allowed Him to effectively communicate powerful truths. I am sure the crowds could visualize the pictures which Christ presented. In so doing, these parables of Christ struck quickly, and they struck at the hearts of those listening. Continue reading “Have Mercy Upon Me (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Epitome of Love

In John 15:13 Jesus states, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”  Because life is precious, and is given as a supreme gift by God, when one chooses to surrender it for the sake of his friends it is counted as the extreme act of love.

Earlier Christ had alluded to this same expression of love in John Chapter 10, the “Good Shepherd” passage. In John 10, beautiful images of Psalm 23 are brought to the forefront once again. In John 10, Christ reveals himself as the Divine Shepherd of Psalm 23. Shepherding is an image one would know well in the economy of first century Israel, as little white puffs dotted the country sides, sheep were used for food, for wool, and also for sacrifices in the Temple. Though this imagery is a little foreign to us in 21st century America, still, the metaphor is packed with richness for us today.

In John 10:1-18, Christ is speaking prophetically about the people of Israel, and the leaders, to the Pharisees whom He addresses. In this passage He announces Himself as Messiah, and He foreshadows His mission to the world–His passion for man. He forecasts both His mission, and how would He fulfill that mission.

A key focus here is the flock of God, the fold, the sacred community of faith. Christ announces Himself as the Good Shepherd, overseer of this flock. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Jesus identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd, His mission has been announced in the previous verse­–to give abundant life (John 10:10), and His method is hinted at in verse 11 as well–He lays down His life. This terminology is codespeak for sacrifice; it speaks to the sacrificial system established by God in Temple, for the atonement of sin. The good shepherd, places Himself as the supreme sacrifice before the Sheep.

The “good Shepherd” is not simply morally good, but beautiful, attractive, lovely, and excellent, He is virtuous. And, He surrenders His life. The word here in the Greek for life is not bios, or zoe, but psuchos; it is the idea of soul. Christ lays down His soul for the sake of those in the flock. It is not simply mechanical, or physical pain, but a surrender of the soul.

We have to ask the question, “Why does He do that?” We see at the end of verse 18 that He is being obedient to the Father’s command to do so.

“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father” (John 10:17-18)

He describes, in muted detail the sacrificial atonement; He describes the events of what we celebrate as Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday. The act of laying down His life would be committed upon the altar of the Cross-all for our benefit! The blood of Christ was a requirement of God for the atonement of sin.

The nails pierced His hands and His feet as He was nailed to the cross. The blood would flow onto the wood, and down to the earth. Jesus was scarred for life–our life. Days later He would rise, victorious over death!

It was some pretty incredible blood which flowed through the veins of the Good Shepherd.

Some amazing blood which flowed from the veins of the Lamb of God, upon the altar of the Cross.

Some powerful blood which flowed to the fountain of Grace that the sin of the world would be able to be cleansed, mankind redeemed, and our broken relationship with God restored.

And the blood, His blood will never lose its power!

Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

After “Ever After” (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

And they lived…“Happily ever after.” How many times we have read those all too familiar words as the iconic fairy-tale ending? As the newly crowned king ascends to his throne, as the beautiful princess finds true love, as the newlywed sovereigns begin their journey of ever-after blissfulness. These words flow well off the tongue and work well in a fairy tale, but sadly enough they cannot sustain the weight of reality.

The truth is these words truncate the story of real-life much too soon. For, at some point in the near future of our fictional character’s lives, “until” will come.  You see, in the very real world is the word, “until.” Until changes the course of action as it implies “up to a certain point in time.” Until suggests that a particular state of being is about to shift.   Continue reading “After “Ever After” (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Shadow of Christ (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

Shadows are funny things. They are visually there, but they are not substantively there. A shadow can arrive before a person does, or it can remain behind for a bit after the person leaves. In either case, it is not the actual person, but a silhouette, so to speak, of that person. In that respect, Biblical prophecy actually casts a shadow on history, as events can precede an event, or leave a shadow behind.

It should be no surprise to us that our week of Easter generally coincides with the Passover celebration. If we look at Scripture closely, that is what has been predicted all along. In other words, it was no coincidence that Christ fulfilled His Messianic prophecy at the time of Passover. The Old Testament had long predicted the coming of a Messiah to bring salvation. In fact, Genesis 3:15 announces this coming of the Messiah that would eradicate the effects of sin, and “crush” the head of Satan. Continue reading “The Shadow of Christ (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Bovine Scrabble (Shepherd’s Echo)

Image courtesy of The R. A. Fox Society

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

S-O-L-A-T-I-N-G: the act of transforming a gelatinous substance into one of a liquefied, soluble state. How Cool! Two triple-word scores, one double-letter score and 50 bonus points for using all seven tiles – BINGO. 131 Points! I was King of the Scrabble board. No way was my opponent (my iPhone) going to touch me, as I was now some 150 points ahead. The game was all but over.

Next thing I knew there I was, staring at a herd of cows in a corral. And they were all challenging me, speaking to me, “Mooo.” I remember thinking, “There is no way you guys could beat me in Scrabble…I am King of the Board.” How could you beat me with only one word? They kept trying to persuade me but they could come up with nothing better than “moo,” a mere 6 points. I did hear one offer up, “MmooO!,” but even with the right place to play it, and a triple-word score value the best she would have merited is 27 points, “Ha!, a far cry from 131 points.” Make your best moooove, cow. Continue reading “Bovine Scrabble (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Warped

 Near the end of his letter to Titus, Paul reminds his lieutenant of the very real danger of wolves who will seek to disrupt the kingdom work on the island of Crete.

The text is found in Titus 3:9-11: “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.”

Paul’s words are a reminder to keep focused on the main thing, sound Gospel doctrine. The ministerial role is difficult–thorns, distractions, criticism, and wolves are all part of the daily grind. The challenge is keeping the main thing, the main thing: loving God, and building up the Church.

As the doctrine of the Gospel is great, and pours grace over the island of Crete there are three distinct theological distractions Paul addresses: foolish controversies, genealogies, strife and disputes about the law. In verse 8 Paul has described the proclamation of the Gospel “good and profitable for men.” Here, the debates on controversies, and genealogies are not profitable and produce no fruit; these are “unprofitable and worthless.”

Paul makes it clear that there are people in the mix of mankind who are trouble makers, and simply desire to derail ministries. There are those who continue to introduce controversies, “genealogies”– “authenticating” faith outside of real faith, and strife. Paul says to give them ample warning and be done with them, to retain them will cause disruption.

The NASB renders verses 10-11 as, “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.”

We seek to extend grace, and yet, there are those who would seek to take advantage of that grace, and cause trouble. Grace only goes so far…

It is difficult to know if this “factious” posture is doctrinal or behavioral; it seems to include both. It is difficult to know if this man is a believer or an unbeliever, however, it addresses the kind of individual… the logical conclusion is that it seems to be both–anyone who is causing any kind of division within the sacred community. Sometimes we cannot rightly discern if a person is regenerate, but we can determine if there is any fruit, or if the behavior is in line with how a person should act biblically. The seeds of division and heresy are devastating to the Body. This promotion of division can be public, or subversively silent, behind the scenes, and yet, in either case tears the Body apart.

The idea in Titus is very much an abbreviated measure of Matthew 18, though Matthew is solely addressing disobedient believers the command is to shun them and treat those who promote poor doctrine or behavior to be cast out, rejected for the sake of the flock, because confusion is not something that fosters health in the sacred community. While there is tension because we want a person to come to Christ, or come back to Christ, we do not accept their detrimental behavior when it is intended to control, or destroy, or disrupt the work of the Lord.

The ESV translates these verses as, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11).

This person who devises division is presented as “warped”, which communicates that one is perverted in character, not seeing straight, being mentally twisted, spiritually bent.  It is the idea of a piece of lumber or wood which has become so convoluted, and twisted that it is nearly irredeemable–so gnarled that without the work of the Holy Spirit they truly are irredeemable, which pretty well puts us all in the same camp, though not all are seeking the demise of Gospel ministry.

The term “sinful” means willfully and knowingly persisting in sin.  And “self-condemned” means that the actions of the person provide the basis for his or her own removal through their own antagonistic behavior–again, a parallel to Matthew 18. The warped person is in-the-present-tense sinning, and has brought about his/her own conviction.

In any instance, those who seek to infect the Body with poor behavior or doctrine should find no grace to do so. They are to be shunned, and rejected.  It is a relief and an act of protection for the flock. Paul says to have nothing to do with them, offer them no seat at the table until such point as they come into alignment. We leave the door open to repentance.

From here until glory people will be trying to destroy Gospel teaching, and abiding churches; they will endeavor to loft red-herrings in order to mislead. Real people. Real names. Real consequences. They ruin entire households (Titus 1:11). These people will drain our energy, and spiritual health.

Protection is a pretty common theme in the Scriptures. As shepherds over the flock of God, Ezekiel 34 casts a pretty strong admonition; we are to be a first line of defense to those over which we have been entrusted as stewards. Acts 20:28-30 carries that out to its logical conclusion:

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30).

 “Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out,
Even strife and dishonor will cease”– Proverbs 22:10

Lord, have mercy!

The Pane of Deception (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

As we approached the doorstep of our friend’s house we noticed there upon the deck, beneath the window the body of a beautiful bird. Its breast was a brilliant yellow and its feathers of a rich green-brown tone. It was beautiful, still it was dead, and its limp and lifeless body told the all too familiar story that occurs each, and every day.

While in flight this creature had come down to the level of the window and perceived open skies as far as he could see but he was deceived. Flying at full speed the last thing it had seen was the reflection of unending skies in the window that were actually behind him. And then…snap, instant death. Life for him was over, and now he lay motionless on the deck, another casualty of deception. The window had revealed the promise of vast eternal horizons but in the end delivered a quick and brutal death to the unsuspecting victim. Continue reading “The Pane of Deception (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Evangelism:

Evangelism. It is one thing if we can even pronounce it, it is another altogether if we can understand what it truly is. Many of us have no idea, or we limit it to a couple of people doing door-to-door visitations, or open-air street corner preaching. But still, we are not quite certain what that entails. I believe it is both a little more simple, and a little more complex than that.

Let me suggest a working definition of the term, Evangelism: The grace of God reaching down through the Church of God with the good news of redemption in Jesus Christ to the lost people of the world. There! It may not be that compact, but I do think it communicates the necessary components of the word, evangelism.

The “Good News of redemption” is referred to, and encouraged multiple times in the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus) as “sound Doctrine.” The idea is, if we cannot, or do not adequately communicate the truth of the Gospel, then our message is deficient in some capacity.

Paul words it like this in the 3rd chapter of Titus:
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).

The Gospel here, and the resulting fruit is identified by Paul, not in the minutest detail, but nonetheless, it addresses the incarnation of Christ, salvation by the mercy of God rather than by works, and justification according to Trinitarian desire, which leads to the hope eternal of life with God–forever! We would include upon this grid work why the Gospel was needed–sin, Hell, lostness, the sacrifice of blood, holiness and repentance, etc. to complete the picture. The first component of evangelism is sound truth. If we do not communicate the good news effectively, or correctly, the foundation upon which any faith is placed, may be deficient.

Second, an authentic witness of the sacred community is to be exhibited to the surrounding world; a superficial witness or poor character does little to help win others to Christ – the behavior that we exhibit to the world either affirms or denies the faith we profess.

Titus 2:1-8, in general, skims the surface and encourages the minimal evidences of conversion in the Church, the idea is that the Church would be beyond reproach in its behavior. “In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:7-8). The world may not believe in Christ, or even morality of a holy ilk, yet, they will be able to sniff out hypocrisy in the evangelical tribe.

Finally, I believe there needs to be an explicit invitation. The unbelieving world needs to know that the grace of the Gospel can be experienced by them as well. Therefore, an explicit invitation needs to be extended to them as well to taste of the grace of God. Paul speaks of “good works” in Titus, I believe as “Gospel opportunities.” I don’t think Paul is addressing walking older ladies across the street, or saving puppies so much as he is encouraging the community of faith to look for areas of service, and influence that in time would lead for the Gospel to be communicated, and an invitation to be given to respond to the Gospel call.

Now, evangelism is the accurate communication of these things, but then, other than prayer, the destinies are out of our hands. We do not argue people, or drag people into the Kingdom of Heaven. Rather, the Holy Spirit is at work, convicting people of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16). And, at the very core, the heart needs to repent and choose to follow Christ. People have the free will to accept or reject Christ.

We are privileged to participate in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), as we emphatically proclaim the Truth of the Gospel, wrapped in grace, being lived out in the sacred community, and extended through an outpost of grace to a lost world whom God loves.

Evangelism: The truth about redemption in Christ, an authentic witness to the world, and an invitation to grace.

You’re on Church!

Stolen Grace (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

Even in the “on demand” society in which we live, most of us understand that there is a protocol to the acquisition of our desires. We do not visit a store and simply take what we want; we realize there is a need abide by socially acceptable norms. We need to pay for it. At times we may be the recipients of items for which we have not been required to pay – those are called gifts. And even in those cases we don’t determine when we take ownership of them, we must wait for the giver to make that decision. We all “get that.” We understand that in the realm of the world, but we have difficulty at times grasping that in the context of God’s economy.

How many of us are willing to run to our favorite sin knowing full well it is offensive to God, yet expecting to be completely forgiven of it by playing the grace card? “It doesn’t really matter that much, cause I am saved. Christ paid for that sin.” I think we all do that to some degree whether or not we see it in our own lives. And though it is true that the blood of Christ paid for our sins, should we be so presumptuous, so careless as to toss grace around like a borrowed credit card?  … If we are so quick to do that, what does that say about our hearts? Continue reading “Stolen Grace (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Reprobates Like Me

“Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons.” Paul speaks these words to Titus (Titus 1:12) identifying the pretty dark character of people among whom Titus will be ministering. What does that even mean? First of all, “always liars” points to a failure to grasp and honor the truth. “Evil beasts” addresses a failure to abide by a moral code. And, “lazy gluttons” communicates feelings of entitlement to gorge themselves with minimal investment or effort. These were some pretty low-level people–we would call them, reprobates. Hmmm, sounds a little too close to home for my comfort, but more on that later.

From a human perspective, Paul and Titus may just as well have sailed around the Island of Crete and have been done with it. And Satan would have had his way, if they would have. But Paul knew that God wanted these “Cretans” in the kingdom. Paul knew that Cretan fruit could be borne among the thorns on the island, and the key to producing that fruit was “sound teaching” communicating the love of God, and how people could be set right with God.

11For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:11-14).

The hope for every reprobate on the island is held in those verses–the plan of redemption initiated by divine desire. We can even hear the words of Jesus in John 3:16-17 echoing through these words. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

What God has done for every reprobate is communicated in Titus 2:11-13. In verse 11, God, through the incarnation of Jesus initiates this plan, that forgiveness through the blood of Christ opens the door to being transformed for the glory of God into the image of Christ (verse 12).

Paul is talking about Crete, the reprobates of the island who are “always liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons.” And he is affirming that they can be saved and transformed to lives of godliness!

But that’s not all there is…a new creation in Christ has the sure and certain hope, the confident expectation of seeing Christ again when He returns to take us home (verse 13). We look forward to this moment because we are His possession (verse 14), and He has delivered us from the clutches of sin for this very moment–eternal life with Him.

In verse 14, the Greek word for redeemed, means to set free, to deliver, to liberate, as from slavery. The kind of person who has this sort of assurance, should have joy, and be motivated to serve God by serving man, the “good deeds” part.

Amazing! Huh?

“Always liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons” sounds a lot like the world that I live in.  Failure to grasp and honor the truth. Failure to abide by a moral code, and feelings of entitlement to gorge themselves with minimal investment or effort.

Our culture, and society want to dispute the authority of the Scriptures, and the message of the Gospel. People today are tough, godless, liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons. There is a real spirit of darkness in the world, many spirits of darkness have been sent to keep people from accepting the Gospel, to keep the Gospel from gaining greater traction.

But, for God so loved the world…
But God so loved the Island of Crete…
But God so loved the United States…, California…, and Bishop…
That He sent His Son to redeem them.

From a human perspective, it would be easier to “sail around” Bishop. California. And the entire United States. Sometimes, we lose hope. We wonder if God is even working. But, God desires to bear fruit, yes, here in Bishop–fruit from among the thorns. And the Gospel of Christ is the only way to do just that! What amazing grace!

I have to remember God’s heart and His grace, and I need to remember that I, myself, was one of those reprobates, who is now a reprobate covered in the blood of His dear Son.

Grace seeks us out. Grace redeems us. Grace indwells us. Grace transforms us. Grace gives us hope. Grace has a future for us. But in the here and now, grace has a mission for us, to be the outpost of His grace to the world.

My faith in the Gospel to transform reprobates needs to be greater than my doubt for mankind. If I am to be obedient, I need to understand the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to save reprobates…like me.

For us all…Our faith in the Gospel to transform reprobates needs to be greater than our doubt for mankind. If we are to be obedient, we need to understand the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to save reprobates…like us.

The Moral Cliff (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

Much concern has been drawing the attention and ire of politicians and the American public in recent weeks – it is the fiscal cliff. It is the very possible prospect of “not being able to pay our bills” and recognizing that on a national level (Can you say, “Hello austerity measures and the European economy?”). The implication is that once we go over the edge there is no point of return. We sail to the bottom only to be dashed on the rocky landscape of failure below.

While this looming scenario is dire, it is only one of the threats to our society, as we know it. We have seen an unprecedented erosion of ethics, economics, spirituality, accountability and financial responsibility in recent years. It has been a mad dash to see who could bankrupt their cache of inalienable rights the fastest as though insolvency, economic or otherwise was the noble ideal.

Perhaps, the one I see as the most daunting, yet clearly minimalized, is our moral decay. The moral fortitude of this country when we began is a far cry from the picture we face now, and no doubt would be unrecognizable to the founders of this country. Yet for hundreds of years now we have been gleefully plunging into the dark abyss of moral corrosion and self-absorption.

We went over the “moral” cliff long ago and have been in freefall for centuries. If any given behavior was wrong thirty years ago, then it is still wrong. There is not a sliding scale that ebbs and flows according to the whimsical morality of a waning value system. Morals do not change with time as though our nation’s values expired or went through a time of obsolescence.

Yet we continue our downward spiral, smacking against protruding rocks and crashing through jutting branches toward our appointment with a rapidly approaching and abrupt “stop.”

If you’re still reading this sobering indictment, more power too ya; it is dismal. Here’s where we turn the corner. Can we change? Maybe, maybe not. Is there any hope? Yes, there is always hope when God is involved.

I think of the Biblical story of Jonah. God had decided to judge the land of Nineveh because of their evil. Jonah was an unwilling, yet obedient agent sent to communicate the impending doom upon the land. The Ninevites repented and turned from their abominable acts.

Jonah 3:5-6 says, “Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes.” As a result the Lord relented from the calamity, which He was about to send.

Is it even conceivable for a nation to radically change direction in this day and age? Yes. President Yoweri Museveni celebrated Uganda’s 50th anniversary of independence a few years back, calling for national repentance from sins, including his own. “Forgive us of sins of pride, tribalism and sectarianism; sins of laziness, indifference and irresponsibility; sins of corruption and bribery that have eroded our national resources; sins of sexual immorality, drunkenness and debauchery; sins of unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred and revenge; sins of injustice, oppression and exploitation; sins of rebellion, insubordination, strife and conflict.” Shades of Daniel 9 for sure. Pretty well covers it I would say, and pretty well identifies our sins as well.

I can’t help but believe that God will honor these requests if they are embraced by the nation. From my fencepost the answer is simple. Turn back to God, the God of the Bible and everything else will work itself out. Will it take time? You bet. We have built up quite a lot of momentum heading in the wrong direction, but God is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

“Wise men still seek Him.”

Making the Grade

Even as we turn the wheels into the church parking lot we subconsciously begin to analyze the efficiency of the parking crew and the over-all “welcomingness” of the facilities. As we move toward the sanctuary we evaluate the flow of human traffic. How are the doors working? Is the paint appealing? What is the ease of finding a seat? Are there greeters who seem sincere? How “friendly” are the other attendees? How comfy are the seats?

As the service begins, we judge the acoustics. The length and interest of the announcements. The peppiness of the songs, and of course the sermon. Did it draw me in? What did it do for me? What can I take home? Did the pastor have irritating traits? How tasty were the treats offered to me at the welcome table on the way out?…’Em, All in all, it was “okay,” maybe a C+. Yelp it a “meh,” and move on– “I may, or may not come back next week.”

I wonder how many hidden shoppers invade foreign worship centers (churches) and simply measure the worship experience in light of their own benefits. “Unserved” they’re off to another venue the following week with the same stone in their chest. How many boxes will receive good checkmarks, and how many a “needs to improve”? Get the ticket punched, grab the gold star of attendance, and you’re good for another 167 hours.

It may sound goofy but it seems that’s what I hear when people communicate about their church experiences. And I wonder…rather than us sitting in our seats peering around and criticizing, what if God were grading us, and our engagement in the sanctuary. What if the divine eyes were turned in our direction, upon the quality and integrity of our worship?  What was the condition of our hearts? Had we prepared our souls the previous week? How had we done that? Had we come with hearts which were in the right place? Had we even looked at the Bible in the previous 6 days? Spent time with God? Or, was this time the sole 90 minutes of “investment” in the Sovereign? Were we there to worship God at all, or simply give it a once over with “white-glove” scrutiny?

What if God was “grading you” on your last visit to church…how would you have fared? I mean, it’s not like God hadn’t criticized poor worship before, “THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.” This is spoken from the mouth of Jesus in Matthew 15:8 as He echoes the more lengthy passage found in Isaiah 28:13:
“Because this people draw near with their words
And honor Me with their lip service,
But they remove their hearts far from Me,
And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote…”

The idea is one of insincere, lackluster and insignificant worship, because of a heart which is not engaged.

So, back to you, were your lips in harmony with your heart as you sang, or recited Scripture? Were any prayers offered which evidenced a true trust in His Sovereign ability to answer? Was your heart in harmony with God, loving God, at peace? Or, was a time for a thorough critique of the human element more important? Ouch! Yeah, ouch!

How easy it is to forget that God seeks not only to fellowship with us, but to be worshipped by us, to be pursued by us. God desires our hearts to be focused singularly on glorifying Him. Would the level of your last trip to the sanctuary of God merit a “Meh”? Was there any level of passion to praise the Lover and Redeemer of your soul?

May I caution that every element of the worship experience is to worship God?

May I suggest that words such as reverence, appreciation, reflection, praise, sincerity, love, and worship should be a major part of describing what you are doing not only throughout the other 167 hours, but as you kneel your heart before the Lord in the corporate worship experience?

Harsh words? …Maybe. Maybe a bit, but likely we need the reminder. And they are as much for me as they are for the next person. It’s not a 21st century issue. It’s not a New Testament issue, or an Old Testament issue–it’s a humanity issue.

Solomon pens it well in the 5th chapter of Ecclesiastes:
“Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few. For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words” (Ecclesiastes 5:1-3).

Simple truths for reverent times. Draw near and listen; God is speaking. This is not a time of insincere platitudes. Don’t cross that line! This is not performance, or self-care time. This is not bill paying time, doodle time, or cell phone time. “For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few.” This is a statement of position rather than geography. God, and only God, is in the position of divine sovereign. God, above everything else deserves this time.

Verse 3 finishes with the futility of dreams and lost words; they do not produce what can be invested in, and gained at this moment. This is reality.
A time we ascribe to God the value He is rightly due.
A time we hear Him speak.
A time to worship.

What have we got to do that is of a higher magnitude than that?

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures, here below.
Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

Amen!

 

 

Are You Ready? (Shepherd’s Echo)

Few of the parables of Christ have sparked such debate as that of the ten virgins and their lamps. Though it is pretty well accepted that Christ is the bridegroom much else seems to be up for debate. Questions prompted are: Who are the virgins? What is their role? What are the lamps and what is the oil all about?  Some of the theories can get pretty complicated, and in my opinion, convoluted to the point where the parable is reduced to minimal importance.

Allow me to weigh in with just a few observations. The parable is found in the first 13 verses of Matthew 25. It is set amongst other parables relating to the end times, specifically the return of Christ, and how people are to be living life in anticipation of that day. Continue reading “Are You Ready? (Shepherd’s Echo)”

A Brief Orthodoxy: Christian Living

As a result of our salvation by Christ, we must remember that we have been bought with a great price, and saved for a purpose (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We cannot simply accept salvation and not move toward a state of holiness, or sanctification. This understanding elevates redemption in Christ to a moment of salvation coupled with the experience of the transformational value upon a person’s life. No one who has actually tasted of the Lord can continually choose to live a life as they please (Romans 13:14). Our Lord commands us to love God with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind and all of our strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Mark 12:28-30). This means we should be holy as our Father in heaven is holy (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:15-16). We are made positionally holy by the blood of Christ, but we then allow the Spirit to make us holy experientially. This will be evident in the way we seek to let the Holy Spirit sanctify us in thoughts, words and deeds that are pleasing to the Lord. In doing so, we will strive to be led by the Spirit, rather than by the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17). We will go out of our way to minister to those in need around us as the Lord has modeled.

In addition to loving the Lord our God with all our heart we are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). This calls for us to reach out to others in the body to edify them and stimulate them to good deeds (Colossians 1:28; Hebrews 10:24). It also means reaching out to those around us who are in need of Jesus Christ as their savior. If we are not sharing the good news with these people, we are not being led by the Spirit, as we all are given the gift of sharing our faith in Christ. The Gospel or Good News is the belief that the Bible is the Word of God, and this Word points to the work and person of Christ as the Messiah of mankind, as the Redeemer. He has rescued us from the certainty of death due to sin. In order for others to experience this salvation, the gospel needs to be shared. How will people hear unless there is a preacher (Romans 10:14)? Among the many things that can be said about it, salvation is, by definition, being rescued from the consequences of sin. It is not a part of man’s ability; it is from the Lord (Jonah 2:9). It is not based on man’s desire, but on the mercy of God (Romans 9:16). And it has been predestined from the Father before the foundations of the world for His pleasure (Ephesians 1:4-5).

As was touched upon in the last section, the question of eternal security hasn’t been proven unequivocally through Scripture. This battle has raged for centuries with neither side being able to claim victory. As far as I am concerned, it should not be a divisive issue, but it does affect the way I lead my own life. Suffice it to say here that I believe that the Holy Spirit was given as a seal of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). His presence is not contingent upon the level of sin or obedience in our lives. Also, we come to faith in Christ through grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). If we sin, that does not mean that we failed for a moment in time to have faith, we simply let our old nature get the better of us, which is characteristic of human nature including Paul’s (Romans 7:15). As this is my position on this debate, it directs us to live a life of confidence in Christ, not worrying that He will “pull the rug out” from under us at any moment. We cannot lose our salvation, our eternal destiny, if we have seriously, and sincerely committed our lives to Christ as our Redeemer at some point in our lives and demonstrate that by following after Him (John 14:15; Romans 8:38-39, 11:29).

For this mindset, we will incur constant spiritual battle with the enemy, and engage in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18). And once again, our driving force will be to follow Christ’s command to witness for Him to all nations, to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). As such we need to be prepared and fully armed for such battles. This entails spending time in God’s Word (Psalm 1:3), the Sword of Truth, and discerning His direction. It also means we are to be relying upon the power of the Spirit of God for strength as it is beyond our physical or spiritual capabilities to go head-to-head with the enemy (Zechariah 4:6; Ephesians 6:10-18). To be fully empowered is to have the ability to obey God’s Word and Will and to live for Him in the world in a way which is pleasing to Him. Also, a glorious and successful Christian life involves being bathed in prayer on a continuous basis (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Liar, Liar (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

Many of us are familiar with some form of the child-hood rhyme: “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!” The complete version I learned was, “Liar, Liar, pants on fire, nose as long as a telephone wire!”

Though there are several iterations, and there are multiple “explanations” as to what this really means, it does seem to be universally accepted as a taunting indictment, which is cast toward someone who has been caught in a lie. It would appear that the garment on fire is a judgment of sorts, and the elongated nose even a reference to Pinocchio’s nose when he lied.

My mind wonders how interesting it would be if all such vile actions were revealed and judged this way. Hmmm? Self-igniting attire? And incriminating bodily contortions?…Wouldn’t it be convenient if other pieces of apparel spontaneously combusted so as to judge the inappropriate presence of gossip, slander, or wickedness? What if flapping ears, bubbling lips, and twisting eye-lids heralded that something was awry?

It would sure make it a lot easier to know what kind of character your friends had, and with whom you should choose to be hanging out. I imagine it would make it easier to figure out whom to hire, with whom you should do your banking, or who to put on the witness stand.

Yet, were that true, we would likely all be a poorly dressed, and distorted lot.

Proverbs 6:16-19 gives a pretty depressing cache of deplorable behaviors of mankind.

“There are six things which the Lord hates,
Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
And hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that run rapidly to evil,
A false witness who utters lies,
And one who spreads strife among brothers.”

The eyes, the tongue, the hands, the heart, the feet, the false witness, and the one who fosters dissention; these actions of such are abominable to the Lord. Abominable: detestable, repulsive!

Now, I’d like to think that these behaviors were relegated to the unbelieving of a depraved society, but to my chagrin, I have witnessed these abundantly within the walls of the Church. And yet, if they are so repulsive to the Lord, then why on Earth do we so readily embrace them? Oh, the evil that lurks in the darkness of every human soul!

Obviously, we are steeped in our sinful nature, so perhaps we do it simply because we can “get away with it”, or perhaps because we are not immediately judged for such conduct. My guess though is, that we comfortably engage in such atrocities after we have sufficiently “sanctified” them. After we have justified this behavior in our minds as being “necessary” then we are free (in our own minds) to do that which is expressly forbidden or despised of God. Actually, I think we do this with most sin.

“It’s for the greater good.” “It’s only because I am concerned.” “I only say this because I am hurt.” As though any of these conveniences of conscience would absolve one from guilt.

Well…it doesn’t appear that tormenting clothing and telling physical anomalies will be coming anytime soon to help us discern the spiritual integrity of others. But I would suggest that Proverbs cautions us to be on the alert, and to scrutinize our own actions. Though our bodies may not indict us, nor our clothing adjudicate us, God knows the heart of man; He knows what is done in the shadows, and He knows when we are doing wrong – at some point there will be a reckoning.

Neither asbestos threads, nor plastic surgery will be of any value; the answer is internal. “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man” (Matthew 15:18). So, the answer lies in the heart; but it needs to be a heart of right character; a heart that is fostered in step with the will of God. They can be little factories of sin, or they can be measures of glory to honor our Father in heaven. Of utmost importance then is the stewardship, the protection of a right heart.

“Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

God sees. God knows. God honors.

“For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

Find us Lord!

And may our hearts be truly, completely Yours!

Fear No Evil

“They’re out there. They are under the bed. They are in the closet. And they are out to get me.”

Most of us remember these thoughts of horror as we imagined unwelcome guests in our bedrooms at night. “Did I hear something? I thought I saw something move.” The problem with our bashful childhood nocturnal nemeses is that they failed to reveal themselves very clearly. Yes, we may have seen a flash of light from their “eyes,” we may have heard a rustle of papers from under the bed, but in reality it was a very deficient affirmation we gleaned of their presence. In addition to that, we failed to grasp the full scope of their intent of evil for our lives. So, all in all, who these denizens were was greatly a mystery.

Most of us could be reassured by our well-intentioned parents that those which lurked in the darkness were only figments of our imagination, and most of the time they were right…until maybe the next night.

For those of us in pastoral ministry it seems we have often relived these suspicions of doom and despair; we have imported these memories of paranoia of sorts into our ministerial vocation. “Did I hear something? I thought I saw something move.” Of course, it is not in regards to any given monsters, at least none of the ogrely type, yet, it applies to those, unexplained events, unnerving rumors, and odd actions of individuals observed in the context of our sacred community.

Of all the things communicated to me in seminary, I never heard, “They are out there. They are under the bed, in the closet and they are out to get you!”  No professor ever cautioned me that some of the greatest threats to my pastoral longevity could be those seated in the pews, or worse. Please don’t get me wrong, I loved my seminary days, but I could fill a book with the things I never learned in seminary…well, sort of. You know what I mean. Sometimes, you just end up learning in the school of life and experience.

The truth is that not all of those seated (and nodding) are on your side. Not all of those on the membership role are pulling for you. Not all those in the orbit of the church are even saved. In fact, yes, in fact, some are actually subversively seeking to expedite your demise. If you do not believe me, this will come as a great shock to you when (not if), it happens. Let me be the one to tell you, “They are out there, and they are out to get you”; it’s how the enemy works.

I don’t communicate this to alarm anyone, solely that one may be aware, and alert in regards to those in the congregation which may not have our heavenly interests at heart. We worry that we are hearing things, or seeing actions which do not add up. “Gee, that person seems to be acting oddly.” Or, “Why did he say that?” Or, “What in the world is going on around here?!”

Unlike those mysterious denizens lurking under the bed these menaces are indeed real and seek to derail the most devoted of ministerial efforts.

We would rather my words were in error but Scripture would affirm them. We would love to believe the visible church on earth was filled only with the redeemed. But Jude cautions otherwise–the entire book has much wisdom to commend to the unsuspecting Christian leader. We would love to live within the insulated walls of the church absent of spiritual adversity, but that is not a real world. At times, those menaces are unwittingly part of a nefarious scheme. Satan performs some of his “best” work within the walls of the Church. And…it gets worse.

Lest you think I overstate my case, let’s see what Paul says to the Ephesians about it.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:12).

Wow! That’s a lot of adversity; I am simply flesh and bones, what chance do I stand against this sort of enemy?

Isn’t it just grace that this verse (verse 12) falls well absorbed in the context of God’s provision? Look at the verses that precede it, and follow it.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11).

Before we even get to verse 12 we are exhorted to be strong in the Lord and His might, His armor–my “cape” never had anything to do with it. However, our obedience to put on the full armor has everything to do with it. And the armor doesn’t work in just some instances, but against the schemes of the devil. Not just his weak schemes, or his “less than” schemes, but his schemes.

Yes, verse 12 could cause us some angst, but in case we missed verses 10 and 11, verse 13 follows it up as another assurance of God’s divine oversight.

“Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

Just note that we do not eradicate evil. We do not destroy it. Even Christ sent Satan away, though it was in His divine power to snuff him out for good, He did not (Matthew 4:10). God has a time and a plan for the termination of evil. Our knees may shake a bit, our heart rate spike, but we stand firm.

The divine heart of God prayed for our deliverance, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one”(John 17:15); and He provided the means.

“They’re out there. They are under the bed. They are in the closet. And they are out to get you.” And they are powerless to affect you as you are insulated in the power, and the full armor of the Lord.

Suit up!

The Smell of Knowledge (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

When I think of knowledge I think of books. When I think of books I think of the fragrance of books, and books come in two “flavors.” The first one is the smell that hits you when you open up a brand-new book; it is the overwhelming aroma of fresh ink and paper. I associate that smell with the pleasurable experience of buying a brand-new book and the anticipation of soaking up its contents. Mmmm. The second aroma is that of Grandma’s basement, yes, Grandma’s basement, that musty damp smell that meant you are lost in the midst of antiquities. Books that smell like this are old and often frail but offer the promise of a treasure trove of ancient knowledge. I love it.

What can I say? I love books. I love the smells. I love the tactile experience of the pages between the fingers. I enjoy sneaking ahead to see how many pages are left, or just finding out how the book will end. So, when it comes to the newfangled digital books on Kindles and iPads I am sort of in a quandary. I am between generations. You see, I do love technology, but I love good old-fashioned books. Did I say that already? Nothing can replace that experience. Perhaps, it would be a good idea to place a scented sticker at the top of the Kindle which smells like a new book or musty pages to simulate the true paper experience, sort of like that “new car smell,” but alas, even that would fall short; the event just cannot be synthesized. Yes, the smell of books signifies knowledge. Continue reading “The Smell of Knowledge (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Truthland

As a child, and for most of my adult life I had the opportunity to grow up in Orange County, California. Bright, sunny, open fields, and yes, orange groves. Beaches and mountains were all available destinations in the course of a single day. All kinds of distractions were at the beck and call of the adventurous mind. The locale allowed me to grow up in the shadow of what was to become known globally as Disneyland Park. 

Many a weekend was spent in the Magic Kingdom, a dream of Walt Disney which was fulfilled as it opened July 17, 1955. As a little bit a trivia, do you know the 5 major theme areas that were part of the original park plan? I had to think about it a bit, but they were Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Main Street U.S.A., and Fantasyland. Interesting choices and names that acted as lures to draw visitors in to escape from the normalcy of their everyday lives, and of course, relinquish their dollars. 

It is probably obvious that these areas of entertainment were not categorized as Realityland, or Epistomological Acres. People wanted to escape for just a bit; nobody wanted to go to attractions such as Overdue Bills, or the Negative Test Results, or Valley of Tears, or Truthland; those attractions would not have fared so well. But, let’s get real, life, real life is not bright-colored plastic, and giant animals and princesses hugging me. I appreciate Mr. Disney’s marketing genius, but …we, people need a healthy dose of reality, of Truth if we are going to navigate this life, and its afterlife. 

A theme park may be great every once in a while to “get away from it all” but it seems that somewhere along the way distractions, and avoidance of such things as truth have become the norm. Truth it seems is only tolerable in small doses, relative, subjective, or neglected, abandoned, and scorned as the modern-day evil; as such truth is finding itself a difficult seed to find purchase in a concrete jungle. 

But, we still live in an age of reality and Truth, and embracing the absence of Truth still has its consequences. Truth matters.

The Church has been assigned as one of the sentinels of Truth, in fact the greatest Truth of all. We are not offering some subjective “option” of truth; we are offering life at the highest level, in relationship with God Almighty. We are offering knowledge of the Narrow Gate, the Narrow Road unto salvation. True Truth!

Here’s how Paul lays it down in the book of Titus…

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:11-15).

The grace of God is revealed in the person of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. As such, believers are called to walk in a posture of holiness and obedience to the will of God. It is this body of believers who look forward to the blessed return of Christ to take them home, something in the mind of God before the foundations of the world. 

Our mission, as we have accepted it is to communicate redemption through the blood of Christ, available to all men, and subsequent to that, to live a life of God-honoring devotion in worship to Him in every way. Our message of Christ, and the sure and certain hope of His coming to take His Bride home is the message of victory the world needs to have today. 

Paul tells Titus, “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”
Tell someone the Truth!
Encourage someone in the Truth!
Correct them in the Truth, if need be.
We have the “E ticket” to eternal life!

For all it has to boast, Disneyland will likely never offer any sort of Truthland, but God does…it is called the Church. As we rightly station ourselves upon the Word of Truth we operate as His outpost of grace to a longing world.

The Pillar of Truth (Shepherd’s Echo)

In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul writes to his protégé, “but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”

Paul’s intent is to visit Timothy in person, but in the event that he is delayed, he desires to remind Timothy in this letter of the privileged position of the Church.

Paul makes an incredible assertion regarding the mission of the Church; it is to be “a pillar and support of the truth.” A pillar is something which elevates, or holds high for all the world to see something which is on top. To support is to be a rock-solid foundation of those truths. Continue reading “The Pillar of Truth (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Beneath the Waterline

Anyone who has observed an iceberg has beheld a thing of massive beauty. It may not seem all that complicated, or majestic, but it is an amazing thing to behold. Some may have seen it pass as they stood on the shore, or sailed along on a cruise ship, or observed from the air, but in each case one could not rightly state that they had seen the entire iceberg. One could not categorically hold that they had observed it in its entirety for an iceberg is only partially seen by those above the surface. We know this; an iceberg is only 10 percent above the surface; 90 percent is below the waterline. In other words, the iceberg in its solid state is less dense than in its liquid state, so 10% or so rises above the waterline (following Archemede’s Principle of Buoyancy). The molecular structure assures this truth every time. We have a good idea that the portion above fairly accurately represents that which is unseen below, but we do make that conclusion based on logic.

We are faced with icebergs in the church every day. What does that mean, Kelly? It means that people are floating through the waters of the church every day. We see them, we monitor them, we evaluate them. We have to make judgments and decisions, in regards to those icebergs. The problem is there is a lot more to those “icebergs” than meets the eyes. So, how can we do that?

From an aerial perspective above, one can view a much larger mass of being, buoying the mere representation above–the tip of the iceberg; the matter below is often very different in shape than the mass above.

We may be forced to just consider the upper 10%, and we often do. But, sometimes those decisions land us in hot water.  We may simply guess at what lies below the surface, or we may be graced with divine discernment, Solomonic discernment.

Spurgeon stated that, “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.” Unfortunately, the real estate between the two is razor thin, and sometimes you only get to choose once.

Discernment: intuition, the idea that something is just not right, a gut feeling, a check in your spirit. The problem with discernment is trying to take all the facts that you know and make sense of them. Sometimes all the facts in the world just don’t add up. Discernment in leadership is having to decide based on all the variables that are observed, understood and known, the problem is we never have that luxury. Making decisions in leadership is like assessing an iceberg. We need to evaluate regarding the whole iceberg even though we can only see the top 10%. We need to evaluate the entire structure, having only a fraction of observable DNA. In the case of people, we have to make decisions based upon what we know, what we see, and perhaps some referrals. The problem is we are failing to see 90% that is below the surface. To make matters worse, sometimes the person being assessed may not be all that compliant and …transparent.

So, the challenge before us each and every day is to read between the lines, to see behind the curtain, or below the waterline. Discernment is making a judgment based on things not seen, listening to that check in the spirit, that gut feeling, that something is not reconcilable. The true gift of discernment is figuring out what is going on beneath the surface: Solving the unseen by measures other than empirical certainty.

Could we suggest that check may be divinely issued? Could we say that God has placed that caution within our spirits so that we may protect the flock? We may not have a chapter and verse, but maybe that yellow flag is an alert to step back, take some time and continue the observation.

Unfortunately, making judgments based on mere discernment, is one of the more difficult actions to justify, especially when it is not so popular with those around.  I have had times when the level of discernment needed was well above my pay grade; haven’t we all?

We cannot see how people act at home with their spouse and children. We cannot observe them at work. We do not know who they are at the computer screen, nor how they may talk in a group of friends. We are ignorant of their conversations in the shadows. We cannot see their motives. Yet, we need to make decisions as to how they might safely, and effectively fit into the local body.

Failure to discern can get us into much trouble.

Joshua and his crew had some heavy positive momentum going on, until they met up with the Gibeonites. Joshua 9:14…they were hoodwinked, bamboozled, and tricked into issuing a covenant to these grifters. In order to avoid decimation, the Gibeonites concocted a scenario whereby they may be able to avoid being wiped out; the plan was to feign impoverishment and perhaps, receive mercy. The Israelites saw with their eyes and not with their hearts. They did not discern, and they did not seek the will of God, the same mistake they made as when they sought to destroy Ai. And they paid dearly for it.

The divine mandate was to destroy all the inhabitants of Canaan. And yet, as they failed to discern wisely, and seek the Lord, they covenanted with those whom they were to destroy. In the end, they commissioned them to be hewers of wood and drawers of water; not only would they be spared annihilation, but they would be employed in the service of the Tabernacle.

Joshua and the leaders made a decision based upon the top ten percent, and they failed. If discernment is the ability to “see below the waterline”, to have a clearer picture, either by the gift of divine understanding, or discernment–What exactly did they do wrong? How did they fail to discern what was going on beneath the waterline?

Three strikes the Israelites committed in the exchange which set them adrift from their divine directive. One, they did not seek the counsel of the Sovereign Commander; literally the “mouth” of the Lord. They had open access to the mind, the will of God, and they failed once again to exercise it.

Second, the decision having been made absent of any appeal to divine counsel, Joshua and his comrades assessed the situation by their own eyes, through compromised human mechanisms. They adjudicated based solely on the presented 10 percent.

Third, the move they made came without patience. They imputed some level of urgency to process this situation when no such urgency existed.

Finally, after they had failed in all respects, they offered a deal to the charlatans which was not part of the divine mandate to categorically clear the land, nor did it appear to be a request by the Gibeonites. They ultimately disobeyed the direct specific command of Yahweh.

We cannot fault the Gibeonites as they were merely seeking to stay alive; they were willing to connive in whatever way they could to sustain their existence.

So how does this connect to the present day?

First, let us remember that our pastoral commission is to tend and feed the sheep, to guard against false prophets and christs.  We observe, we evaluate, we look for fruit which is visible, and we plead to the God of Heaven for divine counsel. Our leadership, our decisions, will have an effect on the health of our flocks and even upon our own spiritual health. If we are not careful, discerning and wise, we could wind up in hot water.

Second, let us understand that, in this fallen world, we will never see the 100% we desire. And let us also understand that not all bergs are bad, or even trying to hide something below. Still we can move methodically seeking guidance along the way. And yet, still we will not get it right 100% of the time.

In Heaven we will have 20/20 clarity regarding truth and discernment. In the here and now we must take clues, actions, and words as our understanding and we are limited to make decisions and actions based upon those minimal clues. Let us not leave the Sovereign God of all truth out of the equation.

Abyss of Accountability (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

For better or worse, one of the identifying characteristics of Americans is our rogue independent spirit. We pride ourselves on migrating across the sea, establishing our own country, pioneering west and conquering the elements with no one to thank but our humble little old selves (thank you very much). A little arrogant to say the least, and we continue to wave that banner of self-reliance to the world, refusing to be conquered by any, and accountable to no one; my heart grieves to suggest this takes place in the Christian realm as well. Continue reading “Abyss of Accountability (Shepherd’s Echo)”

A Brief Orthodoxy: Christian Living

As a result of our salvation by Christ, we must remember that we have been bought with a great price, and saved for a purpose (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We cannot simply accept salvation and not move toward a state of holiness, or sanctification. This understanding elevates redemption in Christ to a moment of salvation coupled with the experience of the transformational value upon a person’s life. No one who has actually tasted of the Lord can continually choose to live a life as they please (Romans 13:14). Our Lord commands us to love God with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind and all of our strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Mark 12:28-30). This means we should be holy as our Father in heaven is holy (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:15-16). We are made positionally holy by the blood of Christ, but we then allow the Spirit to make us holy experientially. This will be evident in the way we seek to let the Holy Spirit sanctify us in thoughts, words and deeds that are pleasing to the Lord. In doing so, we will strive to be led by the Spirit, rather than by the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17). We will go out of our way to minister to those in need around us as the Lord has modeled.

In addition to loving the Lord our God with all our heart we are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). This calls for us to reach out to others in the body to edify them and stimulate them to good deeds (Colossians 1:28; Hebrews 10:24). It also means reaching out to those around us who are in need of Jesus Christ as their savior. If we are not sharing the good news with these people, we are not being led by the Spirit, as we all are given the gift of sharing our faith in Christ. The Gospel or Good News is the belief that the Bible is the Word of God, and this Word points to the work and person of Christ as the Messiah of mankind, as the Redeemer. He has rescued us from the certainty of death due to sin. In order for others to experience this salvation, the gospel needs to be shared. How will people hear unless there is a preacher (Romans 10:14)? Among the many things that can be said about it, salvation is, by definition, being rescued from the consequences of sin. It is not a part of man’s ability; it is from the Lord (Jonah 2:9). It is not based on man’s desire, but on the mercy of God (Romans 9:16). And it has been predestined from the Father before the foundations of the world for His pleasure (Ephesians 1:4-5).

As was touched upon in A Brief Orthodoxy: The Church, the question of eternal security hasn’t been proven unequivocally through Scripture. This battle has raged for centuries with neither side being able to claim victory. As far as I am concerned, it should not be a divisive issue, but it does affect the way I lead my own life. Suffice it to say here that I believe that the Holy Spirit was given as a seal of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). His presence is not contingent upon the level of sin or obedience in our lives. Also, we come to faith in Christ through grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). If we sin, that does not mean that we failed for a moment in time to have faith, we simply let our old nature get the better of us, which is characteristic of human nature including Paul’s (Romans 7:15). As this is my position on this debate, it directs us to live a life of confidence in Christ, not worrying that He will “pull the rug out” from under us at any moment. We cannot lose our salvation, our eternal destiny, if we have seriously, and sincerely committed our lives to Christ as our Redeemer at some point in our lives and demonstrate that by following after Him (John 14:15; Romans 8:38-39, 11:29).

For this mindset, we will incur constant spiritual battle with the enemy, and engage in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18). And once again, our driving force will be to follow Christ’s command to witness for Him to all nations, to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). As such we need to be prepared and fully armed for such battles. This entails spending time in God’s Word (Psalm 1:3), the Sword of Truth, and discerning His direction. It also means we are to be relying upon the power of the Spirit of God for strength as it is beyond our physical or spiritual capabilities to go head-to-head with the enemy (Zechariah 4:6; Ephesians 6:10-18). To be fully empowered is to have the ability to obey God’s Word and Will and to live for Him in the world in a way which is pleasing to Him. Also, a glorious and successful Christian life involves being bathed in prayer on a continuous basis (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

“Bobble-Head” Christians (Shepherd’s Echo)

It seems somewhere along the way, that the prevalent worldview of the last 2 thousand years has taken a hit, especially over the last 150 years. Time was when the dominant respecters of higher education were those who embraced the Christian faith. Did you know that Princeton (1812), Harvard (1636) and Yale (1701) all began as Christian seminaries? Those that were champions of higher education were those who embraced the Bible. Wow! Where have those days gone? Today, in the arena of higher education, Christians are often viewed as the naïve, simpletons, bobble heads on campus, merely nodding in agreement to a “ridiculous” way of understanding. Now, Christians are ridiculed for holding to a worldview many believe is irrational and illogical. Today we are judged to be intellectually inferior. So much for “tolerance”! Continue reading ““Bobble-Head” Christians (Shepherd’s Echo)”