Tag Archives: gospel

Kind of Like Marriage

Let us not, therefore, be insensible to His kindness. For, were Jesus to reward us according to our works, we should cease to be. Therefore, having become His disciples, let us learn to live according to the principles of Christianity. For whosoever is called by any other name beside this, is not of God. Lay aside, therefore, the evil, the old, the sour leaven, and be ye changed into the new leaven, which is Jesus Christ. -Ignatius of Antioch, one of the early church martyrs (ca. 117 C.E.), Letter to the Magnesians 10

When men are called by any other name they cease to be Christians for they have lost Christ’s name and have clothed themselves in human and foreign titles. -Justin Martyr (ca. 150), Dialogue with Trypho 35

Never at any time did Christian people take their name from their teachers among them, but from the Lord, on whom we rest our faith. Thus, though the blessed Apostles have become our teachers, and have ministered the Savior’s Gospel, yet not from them have we our name, but from Christ we are and are named Christians. -Athanasius of Alexandria (340 AD), Against the Arians 1:2

I dislike calling people onto the carpet, yet sometimes it is a necessary thing to do. The more “I think about”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=310 this issue, the more “analysis”:http://cpsdiscernment.blogspot.com/2006/03/ruminating-on-emergent-church.html I hear about it, the more I read what others write on the subject, the more I have to conclude that the folks who have stopped going to church are wrong in their decision to do so. I don’t like saying this about my brothers and sisters, yet I have no option but to conclude that the church was never meant to be broken up and fractured the way it is now.

Yesterday’s sermon at “my church”:http://www.yourchurch.com hit the subject of unity very hard. One of the things that Pastor Kauffman hit on specifically is that no matter what the problem, no matter what the issue, you do not leave the church. If your leaders are drunk around the communion table, if someone in the church takes you to court and sues you for everything you have, if something occurs that causes strife and conflict in the church, you do not leave the church. It actually occurred to me that it is something much like a marriage. No matter what happens in the marriage, you stay together and work it out, no matter how difficult it is to do. ((This symbolism is, perhaps, why the sanctity of marriage is so important.))

The fellowship of the Body is so very important for the Body functions better and more ably when it is whole. If people split off whenever there is the slightest amount of trouble (or even when there is a great deal of trouble), then the Body itself is broken into small pieces and is rendered impotent.

Titles and denominations are both terribly detrimental to the unity of the Body, as Pastor and Dr. Bebawi have “pointed out”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=315. In giving ourselves titles, in following one teacher over another, we lose our focus on the One we _should_ be following. We forget that it is all about Christ and him alone. It’s not about “labels”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=111 – it’s about being identified with Christ. It’s about joining with the Body, with the Church, and working from the foundation of our faith, that being the Gospel, to reach the rest of the world with the hope that we have. We may disagree on various points of theology along the way, but if we agree on the Trinity, on the depravity of man, on the personhood of Christ and His work on the Cross, on the work of the Holy Spirit, then we can be unified under God and we should work together to further the Gospel, no matter the problems and issues and conflicts that arise in our midst. We need to work through them, no matter how hard it may be to do so, so that the glory of God may shine in us.

Does this mean that God cannot use those times when people go off on their own? Does this mean that God is not present when they ‘do church’ in the coffee shops and private residences of our communities? Does this mean that God does not speak to and grow His children when they are absent from the Body? By no means, but I do think that the goal should be for these people to return to the Church as quickly as possible, for the strengthening of the Body and the edification of the saints. We are made all the stronger when we gather in greater numbers.

The Church is not perfect, that is sure, for it is still composed of as-yet imperfect people. Sometimes, the Church can be downright ugly, when people forget Who it is they represent. But how we the Church grow when those who most desire to do so leave it and turn their backs on it?

I appreciate the voices of those who have left, who have voiced their concerns and have spotted some of the problems within so many of our churches. But I feel that they have made the wrong choice in leaving, in depriving us of their vision and of their hopes. I recognize and realize that they are disillusioned and burned out and hurt, but we need them all the same. If we could give up our titles of Arminian and Calvinist, of Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, and Catholic, I believe we could once again function as a unified Body and turn this world on its head for Christ. This will likely never happen, but it does not mean that we cannot, and should not, work toward that end. We will never be perfect this side of Heaven, but we do have perfection as a goal, and we should be taking steps, however small, toward that end.

So, please return to us, those of you who have left. We need your energy, your vision, your hope of what _could_ be and what _should_ be in our churches and in our Church. We need that inspiration, that continual renewal of vigor, especially where that vision has grown stale and stagnant. More’s the power when you are with us and when we are together as one for the cause of Christ.

That’s My King!

I do so enjoy reading Tim Wilkins’s periodic newsletters. In each issue he writes a thoughtful piece of biblical truth addressing the challenges of ministering the Gospel to the homosexual community. A former homosexual himself, he is well-equipped to address the issue head-on, and he always provides a special insight. Tim is the founder of “Cross Ministry”:http://www.crossministry.org, an organization whose goal is to reach the homosexual community with the message and the hope of the Gospel.

This week’s newsletter is called “That’s My King!”

“That’s My King ”
By Tim Wilkins

Tucked away in Philippians chapter four is a verse replete with truth for gays and all other sinners. Yes, we’re all in the same boat; the ground is level at the foot of the cross AND the deck of the boat.

At the most personal level, the Apostle Paul knew God’s provision through shipwreck, snakebite, stoning and his notorious thorn in the flesh. He was warming a prison cell when he wrote “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (verse 19)

The fact is all of us are sinners who have been in or are currently in a sinking boat called sin. Face the inevitable if you have not done so. You are a passenger on a spiritual Titanic that is sinking. That’s the bad news; the good news is a Lifeguard is nearby who rescues and forgives.

First, we see in this verse the Certainty of God’s Provision. Paul wrote that God shall supply. In Jesus’ sermon on the mount, He said “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted”; “…the meek: for they shall inherit the earth”; “…those who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled”; “…the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy”; and “…the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:4-8)

Our Heavenly Father is the ultimate promise keeper and when I recognized many years ago a distinct and un-chosen attraction to the same sex, I also recognized a need for help that was certain and sure. I found that certainty in the God who created me in His image. But I learned that His image in me had been marred by sin when, as Vance Havner used to say, “Adam and Eve ate us out of house and home.” (Genesis 3:6, 23, 24)

But even with God’s certain provision, I needed to know the Sufficiency of God’s Provision. Was this God sufficient to supply all my needs as Paul wrote?

My needs could have filled a google of legal pads. I needed wholeness, comfort, protection, purpose, strength, wisdom, joy, patience, forgiveness and the list could go on. One of my early felt-needs was to be loved–which I had not found in homosexuality.

Indeed, God loves me. He loves me with an everlasting love, as Jeremiah 31:3 records and “everlasting” was superior to the half dozen homosexual relationships I had had over a ten year period.

I learned that God’s provision was certain and sufficient, but was there a Surplus of God’s Provision? I mistakenly believed that my needs were so great as to deplete God’s supply in no time flat. I did not want to be gay, but did not know how not to be gay. Those of you who have never experienced same-sex attractions will, most likely, not understand the previous sentence. You may think “just don’t act out homosexually”, which is the argument of a moralist–and not bad advice. For years I followed that advice thinking “if that’s all I have to look forward to, this earthly life is going to be considerably less than what Jesus called ‘abundant’.” (John 10:10)

And yet the text said “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Other translations say “glorious riches.” I had noted in Genesis that not only had God created Mankind, He created them “male and female”-He differentiated between the sexes. (Genesis 1:27) I thought “Maybe that means He wants me to become personally what He has created me to be biologically.”

I can not and neither can you exhaust God’s provision. Though the burning bush burned on, it did not burn out. (Exodus 3:2) The widow, whom Elijah commanded to make some banana bread, lived to learn she had a bottomless bottle of Canola oil. (1 Kings 17:16) The Israelites had a ready supply of French toast every morning when they did as God told them. (Exodus 16:35) Though Jesus started with five hoecakes and two wide-mouth bass to feed a multitude, He finished with twelve baskets of food—one basket for each of His twelve disciples. (Matthew 14:20) (OK–I took some liberties for humor’s sake)

When referring to the woman who emptied an entire jar of perfume on Jesus’ feet, at a cost of a year’s salary, Vance Havner called her act “Sanctified Extravagance.” (Luke 7:37-39)

By the way, have you ever noticed the Pharisee in whose house this extravagance took place? He thought to himself, “If (Jesus) were a prophet, he would know who is touching him…that she is a sinner.” Duh You don’t have to be Karnac The Magnificent to know she was a sinner; one hundred percent of the world’s population are sinners.

Take every man, woman, boy and girl on the face of the earth. Pile all their needs into a heap–if it were possible. Point the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-you-name-it God at that heap and He will meet each need as the need arises.

The hymn says “For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth and giveth and giveth again.” Psalm 121:4 says God neither slumbers nor sleeps

To know God never sleeps may be useful during a game of Trivial Pursuit, but a question remained unanswered. Has all this come down to behavior modification? I found this a divine dilemma

But this verse had more to say. “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Aha! Everything God has to offer me is found in Jesus Christ– the Source of God’s Provision.

Colossians 1:19 reads that all God’s fullness dwells in Christ Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

Mind you, Jesus is not a means to an end. For years I unknowingly used Jesus as such–demanding that Jesus give me my “opposite sex attractions” until I realized, as Oswald Chambers so poignantly wrote, “Getting in a right relationship with God is the easiest thing in the world–unless it’s not God you want, but only what he gives.” Ouch

John Eldridge writes “Healing does not happen apart from intimacy with Jesus.” So there you have it. My Lifeguard, Jesus, loved me so much He died on the cross for my sins.

You want to know a secret? I still find myself attracted to men occasionally. To those of you with the puzzled looks on your faces, let me say it a different way. I have found that God’s provision is not necessarily eradicating the same-sex attractions; His ways, which are not my ways, include strengthening the shoulder that bears the burden. And as Dr. S. M. Lockridge used to say “That’s my King! ”

_Reprinted with permission by the author._

Literal Truth

Rushan had a question posed to him recently that requires some attention, I believe:

bq. “I can no longer accept the Bible as literally true, am I still a Christian?”

If you read my “previous article”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=213, you should already know the answer to this: Yes, so long as acknowledge and accept the message of the Gospel. More specifically, so long as you recognize your inability to attain Heaven on your own and accept the person of Jesus Christ and His work on the cross and subsequent resurrection as your only hope for salvation. If you are able to do and say that, then yes, you are still a Christian.

I might express some concern, however, over what parts of the Bible you consider to be literal and what parts you do not. If you do not believe _any_ part of the Bible to be literally accurate, then we might have a problem, for then what foundation do you have for knowing the only truth that matters, to wit, how to know God and live with Him for eternity? If you cannot believe any part of the Bible to be literally true, then you cannot know whether or not the Gospel itself is true, rendering impotent its power to save. Likewise, you cannot then know that God exists, you cannot then know that He loves you and wishes to have fellowship with you, you cannot then know much of anything except for what your own five senses can tell you – and we know just how deceptive and misleading our senses can sometimes be.

I stated previously, as well, that historical passages of Scripture should be interpreted literally, things like the existence of people who appeared in the various stories (e.g. Abraham, David, Jesus, Paul, etc.) and geographical locations. Archaeology have even been able to verify much of the historicity of the Bible, thus giving it a great deal of authority. The trouble with literal interpretation comes with prophecy and imagery-laden parables. Prophecies are sometimes difficult to interpret, though at least partial interpretations were provided by many of the prophets themselves. But because they are visions of future events, I suspect that some of the prophets could only do their best to describe technologies they had never before seen (such as John the Revelator describing his vision of the end times). Whether we were ever meant to know and completely understand is something of a mystery, but it seems clear that much was given in such visions to provide both warning and hope to those who heard. Christ’s parables were told in such a way as to make those people who would to ruminate over the meaning, but He was also not opposed to providing clear meaning to those who asked (typically His inner circle of twelve).

I do believe that the Bible is a wholly trustworthy document. It’s accuracy has been verified time and again all the way back to the earliest manuscripts, and as such, it holds a great deal of authority and power. It continues to change lives merely by the simplest reading of its pages, further demonstrating that the Holy Spirit has preserved it and uses it to bring God’s children to Himself.

In the Background

Christianity is a faith, I believe, that functions in the background. Or at least it should. The Christian faith is a personal one. It functions as the relationship of individual to Deity, but it is also a function of individual to individual. The most effective dissemination of the Gospel has always been on a one-to-one basis. Granted, God has blessed many great evangelists over the years with widespread ministries, leading hundreds and thousands to Christ at a time. But I think the numbers would show that the greatest spread of the Word has been through personal relationships with each other, with letting the Christian lifestyle speak volumes, with communicating our hope in casual conversation. When Christians take the Gospel to the public arena, particularly the political arena, the message somehow gets tainted and stilted. In that realm emotions like fear flavor the good news in a way that is often harmful because political-religious concerns involve protecting the right to worship. That fear drives that political action, and what starts as a movement to protect freedom of worship almost turns into a blanket action to forcefully establish a state religion, something that the founding fathers were very careful to protect against. (Of course, there are also those who use their beliefs to foster an attitude of superiority, who allow that attitude to breed anger, hatred, and bitterness, but those are the individuals that need to be separated from the whole because they clearly do not aid the Body. They are the cancer that brings the Body down and should removed.)

Christianity is a faith that operates best in the background. Our faith should be visible, but not obnoxiously so. Our faith should be presented with love and compassion but also with patience and understanding, two virtues that I think are all too often forgotten or ignored. No one can be forced to believe in Christ or in God, yet the practice of our faith should be compelling and awe-inspiring. This is why it is so important to develop active relationships with other people — with other Christians for the strengthening of our faith and the renewal of our spirits, and with unbelievers so that we may demonstrate with our lives and testify with our lips the power of the hope that is in us. Let us relate our hope to others and build the Kingdom one life at a time.

Misunderstanding the Gospel

I am of the opinion that the Gospel is the single most misunderstood topic in the history of mankind (even among Christians themselves). It has incited Crusades of death and persecution and yet has inspired millions to give their lives to Christ.

The most current example of this misunderstanding is the criticism of the release of The Passion of the Christ. One news periodical criticizes the movie harshly, saying, “The Reporter also says that the movie’s violence is so intense and more important than character development that audiences may have trouble with that.” I’ve not yet seen the movie (though I hope to this weekend), but the point of this particular movie is NOT to provide quality character development or shield us from the violence of that moment in history. Quite the opposite in fact. It is to show us the very graphic nature of what Christ went through to atone for our sins. And quite frankly, if you want character development, take some time to read through the Gospels for the complete view of Christ and his earthly ministry.

A local talkshow host advocated the movie during his broadcast last night, pointing out that many of the critics of this movie have yet to see it. His advice to said critics was to go see the movie and then form an opinion. And while he advocated the movie and was so close to being correct, he was also soFAR from being correct. He made the statement that Gibson’s goal in producing this movie was marketing and that local churches also are using it as marketing to get people into the pews. This is both correct and not correct (and here is a facet of the misunderstanding). On one hand, it is marketing insofar as it is intended to draw people. But that is NOT the primary goal. The primary goal is to share the Gospel, using a clear depiction of what Christ went through in His final hours to drive home the weight of that moment that has forever impacted and changed history. This is the thing that the unsaved world simply cannot understand. It is not marketing that we care about — it is souls. We desire to bring others to Christ so that they, too, may be spared from eternal damnation, as we have been. And the ONLY reason this movie has been so criticized so harshly even before its official release is because it is a religious movie, and a Christian religious movie at that. No one complains about the intense violence and lack of character development in a Jean Claude Van Damme movie (or any other movie or television show, for that matter).

..edit.. This website is a prime example of the Christian contribution to the misunderstanding of the Gospel. While I respect this organization’s attempt to exhort and correct a perceived wrong, it is Christian ‘wackos’like these who inspire hate and disgust of all those who bear the name of Christ while at the same time taking the Scriptures out of context in order to suit their own purposes and interpretations of the Bible. And it is exactly this kind of ‘Christian’ that makes me want to distance myself from everyone who claims to be a follower of Christ so as to avoid tainting my own ministry to others and to cleanse this bitter taste from my mouth.

Bupkus

Ok, I promised I would come back and revisit this book I’m reading. I’m working my way through it (slowly!). It’s an intense read, to say the least, and I am finding that I just don’t have much time for ‘casual’ reading with my current class schedule. But I just finished the introductory chapter, so let me summarize it.

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The author is a physicist who originally started as an atheist. Throughout his work, he eventually came to the conclusion that God exists and that a future resurrection of the dead to eternal life will occur (and that this is all provable). He states that the universe has already been existence for at least 10 billion years and will continue for at LEAST another 10 billion, but more likely for another 100 billion+ years in the future. God, in his theory, is in actuality something called the Omega Point, basically the end of time/space/etc. He claims that as a necessity to his theory (and by implication proven through his calculations), God is not yet fully Being, that His Being will actually only occur in the future, at this Omega Point event. He does claim that his God is personal and that his God loves us, and thus will resurrect us. Heaven and Purgatory exist (or will exist, to be more precise), and Hell might exist, depending on a future condition (a.k.a. variable) of the Omega Point event (i.e. the end of all time and space). According to the author, the resurrection of the dead will occur for all those who have died in the past (but not for another few billion years, at the end of time), but that it will occur as an emulation performed through the computers of the future. The dead will be resurrected to this state of being (which he claims can be proven to be identical to our current state of being), and that it will be a state of “continued individual becoming.” Additionally, he states that neither Western Christianity, nor any other major world religions, fits well into the Omega Point Theory. He states that the Omega Point Theory merely proves the two things that every religion shares — that God exists and that He will grant immortality to us. The rest of the book will be used to flesh out these thoughts/theories more fully.

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Already, I’m barely out of the introduction, and I’ve discovered that what this scientist postulates does not match up with the God that the Bible proclaims. I would not say that this scientist is a Christian (and based on his own words, I do not think he himself would claim to be a Christian, necessarily, either; in fact, I think it would be far safer to say that physics is his religion), though he believes in God, because his view of God (and his view of an inevitable and undiscriminating resurrection of all to essentially the same place) does not match the Scriptural proclamation of the Gospel. I plan to continue working my way through his book because I believe in giving everyone a fair chance to voice their opinions (and frankly, I curious to see where he goes with this).