Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Not only am I really tired of all the so-called end times prophets picking dates for the End of the World based on some obscure Bible passage, a few wonky mathematical equations, the alignment of the moon and the stars and a little bit of old-fashioned B.S. thrown in for good measure, I’m downright angry about it.
I mean, I can’t decide what’s worse: The fact that these sorts of predictions continually get promoted or that so many Christians endlessly fall for them.
What it does for our faith is to solidly prove to everyone who has never read the Bible that it must assuredly be too confusing to understand, or just flat-out filled with failed prophecies.
Either way, these end times prophecies about the end of the world based loosely on the Bible do nothing but make Christians look stupid and the Bible look untrustworthy.
Why would anyone listen to anything a Christian says about anything? If they can’t even understand their own Holy Book, what makes us think they can understand my life, or help me with my problems, or lead me to something one might consider to be “The Truth”?
With all that being said, I have something to say to all of you:
Jesus returns today.
I’m totally serious.
Today, Jesus will reveal Himself as the Lord and show His true power to the world.
Every knee will bow when they see Him.
Every tongue will confess when they hear His voice.
Every heart will melt like wax when they realize that they are in the Presence of the Holy One.
His Kingdom will descend from Heaven.
His rule and reign will have no end.
Jesus returns today.
Here’s how: You and I are carriers of His Presence.
His Spirit lives and breathes within every one of us.
There are millions of us all over the world right now.
Those of us who are in Christ will not only do the things that Jesus did – feed the hungry, care for the
sick, stand for the oppressed – but we will do even greater things than this.
Like, love our enemies and pray for those who hate us.
Like, forgive those who have spitefully used us and release them – and ourselves – from prisons of pain and regret.
Like, serving our neighbors and demonstrating the transformative love of Jesus in every way we possibly can.
When people who have not known Jesus see this kind of love, they will see Him and they will be conquered by His affection.
When people who have never experienced forgiveness are set free from blame and guilt, they will experience His presence and be overcome with joy.
When people who have been told they do not deserve love and compassion are suddenly and unexpectedly immersed and saturated by the love of Christ that is higher, and wider, and longer, and deeper than any mind can comprehend, they will know that Jesus has returned to rescue them.
Jesus is returning today.
If you’re lucky, you just might catch a glimpse of Him when He does.
If not, that's ok. He'll be returning tomorrow, too.
But, whatever you do, don’t get left behind.
Friday, September 29, 2017
This week I launched a brand new podcast with some friends called "Heretic Happy Hour" and so far it's performing better than we expected.
In our very first episode we talked about the word "Heresy" and where it comes from.
The actual word means "causing division" and the emphasis is on the sin of dividing the Church, not about false teaching.
Unity is a big deal for Jesus. He prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one. He said that our unity would be a sign to the world that Jesus was actually the Messiah sent from God.
This is also why Jesus commanded us to love one another as He has loved us - which is to say - extravagantly and unconditionally.
Paul also stressed unity in his epistles to the early Christian assembly. He rebuked the Corinthians for dividing over which Apostle they like best. He reminded the Galatians that we are no longer divided by race, or status, or gender, but that we are all one in Christ. He rebuked the Romans for dividing over whether or not eating meat sacrificed to idols was right or wrong and told them to each be convinced in their own mind, but to remain in unity as brothers and sisters in Christ.
He even suggested that it was ok to just allow oneself to be wronged as long as unity in the Body of Christ was maintained.
Unity was - and is - crucial. People will know that we are the followers of Christ if we have love for one another. So, it's a very big deal.
It's why Paul warned us in Titus to warn a divisive person twice and then have nothing more to do with them if they refused to stop dividing the Church.
So, the idea of dividing that Body was heresy. It went against everything that Jesus and His Apostles stood for.
Heresy, is about division. This means one could be guilty of heresy while teaching the truth.
How? By using the truth to divide the Body of Christ.
One could also be a heretic for simply saying this: "I cannot fellowship with anyone who disagrees with my theology."
Only a heretic divides the Body of Christ over differences in theology.
The irony, of course, is that people do this all the time. Hardly a day goes by on Facebook where someone doesn't say exactly this - "I cannot fellowship with anyone who disagrees with my theology" - and usually in the process that same person will accuse those who disagree with them of being heretics.
But the only heretic is the one who divides the Body of Christ - even if they are technically correct in their theology.
So, please don't be a heretic. Don't divide the Body of Christ over your own views of scripture. Don't insist that everyone must agree with you on ever single point before you'll accept them into your fellowship.
Our unity is in Christ.
LISTEN: Episode 01 of The Heretic Happy Hour: "Heresy Is In The Eye of the Beholder"
On iTunes Here>
OR, listen on Podbean here>
Monday, September 25, 2017
"Burning questions, not people."
Starting tomorrow, Tuesday September 25, the brand-new podcast I've been working on with Matthew Distefano and Jamal Jivanjee will launch on iTunes.
The first 3 episodes will post all at once, so please do me a huge favor:
*Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes
*Download the episodes [at least one]
*Leave a review or comment
*Rate the podcast
If you can do that for us, it would really mean a lot.
Also: Head over to Facebook and join the brand-new Heretic Happy Hour group we've started. It's already attracted over 450 people but there's room for a few more.
This podcast is something I'm very excited about. I do hope you'll take some time to listen and to interact as well.
We've even set up a Heretic Hotline where you can call us and leave a voice mail message (which we might play on an upcoming podcast episode] or text us a message or question.
The Heretic Hotline number is: (240) 3-HERESY or (240) 343-7379
Our first 3 episodes are:
1) Heresy Is In The Eye of the Beholder
2) Is Total Agreement Necessary for Unity?
3) What Does It Mean To Be A Christian?
Future episodes are:
4) How Other Religions Compare To Christianity
5) Discovering Christ in Non-Christian Places
6) Can We Know God Without the Bible?
and more to come!
Thanks for your support!
Friday, September 22, 2017
In my previous post I asked the question: "What if no one had a Bible?"
The point of asking that question was to get us to consider what our faith would be like without depending upon what others wrote 2,000 years ago about their experiences of Jesus.
Instead, I hoped to inspire us to consider that our faith is based on our own experiences of Jesus - today.
Some people misunderstood that. Maybe it was my fault? If so, I apologize.
But let me make it crystal clear: The Bible leads us to Jesus. But what we do with Jesus after that is the most important thing of all.
People often tell me that we couldn't know anything about Jesus or God without the Bible.
But the Bible contradicts that. Over and over again.
What the Bible tells us is that we can know Jesus, and the Father, directly, personally and immediately at this very moment. [So, if you really believe the Bible, then do what the Bible says; connect with God yourself. Don't just read about Him - know Him and listen to Him and follow Him and learn to love Him more every day].
I've already written about this fact several times.
So, if someone took your Bibles away, you would still have Jesus.
If every Bible on earth was suddenly destroyed, you and I would still hear His voice.
If no one ever read the Bible again, God would still be alive and moving and speaking and revealing Himself through His Spirit, and through His people, and through nature, and art, and music, and circumstances.
However, if your faith would be hopelessly empty without the Bible, then you just might have a much bigger problem. Maybe you don't actually have a relationship with God? Maybe you've only focused on reading a book and learning information about God, but you've not exactly come to know that God in any real way yet?
If so, then I most certainly recommend setting your Bible aside. Get to know Jesus. Spend time alone with Him. Talk to Him. Listen to His voice. Practice an awareness of His presence. Reading more Bible verses will not help you encounter Him. In fact, it just might postpone any deeper experiences with Jesus you might have.
You've read about God. You know information about Jesus. That's great. But now it's time to meet Him and to know Him in a deeper way.
God is not the Bible. The Bible is not God.
Yes, the Bible is a wonderful blessing to us all. We should be very grateful for it. But Jesus transcends and eclipses the Bible in every possible way. He is not bound by a book. He is not constricted into syllables and sentences. He is not captured on a page.
By asking the question: "What if no one had a Bible?" I am inviting you to consider moving on to phase 2 of your life in Christ.
Look up from the page long enough to listen for His still small voice.
Close the book long enough to walk with Him today.
Put the Bible back on the shelf long enough to put what you've read about into practice.
You can always come back to it later. But sometimes you need to take off the training wheels and learn to balance yourself if you really hope to enter the race.
I'll meet you at the top of the hill.
FOR FURTHER READING:
The Problem With Saying The Bible Is The Word of God
Why I Love the Word of God
The Word of God and the Bible
Five Times Jesus Contradicted The Old Testament
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Try to imagine it: No Bibles anywhere. No King James. No NIV. Not even a paperback copy of "The Message".
What would that be like?
Regardless of how such a thing might happen, try to imagine what it would be like to never have access to the Bible - ever again.
In some ways, I think our world might actually be a better place if no one had a Bible anymore.
Maybe if we didn't depend on a book for everything we'd start to discover an inner desperation and a hunger for a deeper experience of Jesus.
Not only that, if there were no Bibles, we just might start to value listening to one another share testimonies of Jesus. Especially if there was no more need to hear from the resident Bible expert or scholar talk for an hour every weekend.
Imagine sitting around your living room with friends and listening to people share what Jesus was saying or doing in their lives that week. Imagine someone closing their eyes and quoting verses about how nothing can separate us from the love of God, or about how Jesus died for us while we were still enemies of God?
Don't you think this might help us to connect with one another - and with Jesus - more directly?
Maybe I'm the only one, but the more I think about this the more convinced I am that we might just be better off without our Bibles.
Now, I get it. I'm talking about what it would be like to first learn what the Bible says and study it and memorize it before experiencing those words in a deeper and more intimate way.
But, what if we only had our memories of scripture to sustain us? What if we could only pass on to our children the verses that really spoke deeply to us? What verses would we choose?
Probably verses where Jesus says, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do" and "Love one another as I have loved you" would dominate your memory.
Perhaps you'd want your children to remember certain Parables that Jesus shared, like the Prodigal Son, or the Treasure in the Field or the Sower of Seeds.
Chances are you probably wouldn't find it all that crucial to memorize verses where God commanded His people to slaughter every man, woman and child and warned them not to show any compassion while doing so. You might leave behind the verses about how blessed those people are who dash infants against the rocks.
That, to me, would be a very good thing.
If all we had left was Jesus and our memories of scriptures that really touched us and profoundly changed us, that wouldn't be so bad.
What do you think?
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Sometimes we get it very, very wrong, in fact.
In those moments it can be difficult to maintain our trust in Him because we can assume that He misled us, especially when we had our hopes in whatever we felt like He promised us.
The most challenging time for our family was when Wendy had a dream that she was pregnant with twins. She was standing in our back yard working with her flowers and she felt like she was having a miscarriage. Her first thought was, "Oh no. I'm losing this baby" but immediately she heard the Lord say to her in her dream: "Don't say this baby will die if I say it will live."
A few weeks later she realized she was actually pregnant.
A few weeks after that she started to lose the baby.
People came over to our house and prayed over her. They affirmed what she had heard in her dream; that this child would not die but live.
So, we held on tight to those promises, and especially to this dream which God had given to her long before she even realized she was pregnant.
But then we lost the baby.
It's hard to describe the sense of loss and betrayal we felt.
How could God do this? Why would He give us such a specific dream and promise of life and then take it away from us? Was God being cruel? Was He playing with us? Didn't He know how we would have interpreted that dream and that promise that the child would not die but live?
There were no answers then, only questions.
We grieved. We cried. We wrestled with our doubts. We struggled to hang on to our faith in God's goodness.
Over time we began to look at all of this through another lens. Wendy had another dream later on that suggested that our daughter was indeed alive and in the presence of Jesus. She took comfort knowing that we would see her - and the other 5 children we had miscarried - one day soon.
But that experience led us to reassess the way we interpreted God's voice. Not everything was easy to discern. Not every word was to be taken at face value.
In other words, we weren't so sure about what we knew anymore.
I recently shared this story with someone and they asked me what to do when you know that God has told you something but you're still struggling with doubts?
After thinking about how to respond I had to say this: "The list of things I 'know' is pretty short these days. I can only say that God is good and He loves me. Beyond that, I can't honestly say I "know" anything."
This is where we are.
Our confidence in anything other than God's goodness and love for us is up for grabs.
But because we know that we are loved by a God who is good, we can handle anything else that comes our way.
Like the man who said to Jesus, "I believe. Help my unbelief!" or Peter who said, "Lord, where can we go? You have the words of life", we can only hold tight to Him, even if we don't always understand what He is doing.
So, hold fast to these simple truths: God is good. He loves you.
Anything else is subject to change.
Saturday, September 02, 2017
The more I talk to Christians the more I start to notice how often certain phrases reveal a belief system that’s just under the surface.
For example, the other day I shared something on Facebook about an infamously anti-Christian celebrity who had posted a video on their wall which suggested they might possibly have turned to Christ.
Some people were genuinely excited that this man may have found faith in Christ.
Most, however, were angry that I had shared the video at all.
Still others doubted the legitimacy of the man’s conversion because he was not a "Bible-believing Christian” and that got me thinking about another famous person who wasn’t “Bible-believing” but most certainly was a Jesus-follower.
Gandhi, who would never have called himself a “Christian” and most certainly not a “Bible-believer,” was a Jesus-follower. By that I mean, for the last several years of his life he read the Sermon on the Mount every day and tried to put it into practice.
What would you call someone who did that? Possibly not a “Bible-believing Christian” but at the very least, a “Jesus-follower” would be an accurate description.
Now, I'm not saying that Gandhi was a Christian, or even that he placed any faith in Jesus beyond the the teachings he read in the Sermon on the Mount.
But, the funny thing is, I hardly know any “Bible-believing Christians” who read the Sermon on the Mount every day and then try to live it out in their daily lives.
I think we should be more alarmed at the fact that there are apparently many more “Bible-believing Christians” in the world who don’t read the words of Jesus daily or try to put His teachings into practice.
Isn’t this exactly what Jesus was talking about when he rebuked the Pharisees saying:
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.“ [John 5:39-40]
It’s not in the Bible that we find life. We only find life in Christ. He is the One we need to go to and follow if we want eternal life.
Maybe we need to move beyond the idea of "Bible-believing Christianity" towards a "Jesus-following Christianity"?
Because believing in something is worthless if you're not actually putting it into practice in your daily life.
"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." [James 1:22]
We need more Jesus-followers and less Bible-believers.
Who's with me?