Dec 312016
 

There is a long list of threats around us: terror, cancer, falling markets, killing, others unlike us in all their variety, loneliness, shame, death-the the list goes on and we know it well.

And in the midst of threat of every kind, you appear among us in your full power, in your deep fidelity, in your amazing compassion.

You speak among us the one word that could matter: “Do not fear.”

And we, in our several fearfulnesses, are jarred by your utterance. On a good day, we know that your sovereign word is true.

So give us good days by your rule, free enough to rejoice, open enough to change, trusting enough to move out of new obedience, grace enough to he forgiven and then to forgive.

We live by your word. Speak it to us through the night, that we may have many good days through your gift.

Walter Brueggemann. Prayers for a Privileged People (p. 83). Kindle Edition.

Dec 312016
 

Matthew 14:22-36

Jesus Walks on the Water

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.

  • More movement – more separation
  • We see here … the mass has ended.
  • What were they being dismissed to? Going into all the world…

23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,

  • Finally, alone
  • I wonder what is the significance of always going ‘up the mountain’.
  • Why didn’t Jesus just drop where he was and pray – or pray while he was walking up the mountain?

24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.

  • What is our condition, are we not far from shore, beaten by the creation and the world is against us? … even as Christians if we get too far from Jesus.
  • What is too far from Jesus?

25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.

  • Jesus, just passing by.

26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.

  • In the OT, the sea was the enemy of God – In the sea was the home of Leviathan — The Beast
  • The beasts Leviathan & Behemoth – both stand for all things anti Christ.
  • Rev 13 the beast coming out of the sea and the beast of the land
  • If you know your OT, you see it.
  • Did the disciples believe in ghosts?

27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

  • They are saying “who is this?” And Jesus answers “It’s me – God.”
  • Jesus walking on the water is trampling down the sea – trampling down Leviathan, behemoths and the beasts. Trampling down his enemies.

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

  • “If it is you” – is Peter actually putting Jesus to a test?

29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

  • Watch this closely – Jesus is inviting Peter – his Church, to come walk on the sea – come walk and trample on the head of Leviathan.
  • This is faith on steroids!
  • Jesus gives Peter the authority to walk on water by his word “Come”
  • Faith receives what the Word gives by his word.

30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”

  • And what happens when we are distracted from the object of our faith?
  • This is what we do – then we resort to “Lord save me.”
  • Don’t take your eyes off Jesus (and this needs to be developed)
  • When my faith gets distracted. Whoa, I am food for Leviathan.

31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

  • Rescue – pulling Peter back is like bringing Peter back into the church.

32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

  • The wind was probably there for God’s purpose. Everything is there for God’s purpose.
  • The wind is just backdrop to the story – Peter is backdrop to the story. The entire story is about Jesus.
  • Jesus tramples his enemies – Jesus rules over creation – Jesus saves his own.

33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

  • This is what happens when Jesus does his work – we have church and we worship.
  • Notice that it is not just Peter who makes this confession – all of them say it.

Jesus Heals the Sick in Gennesaret

34 And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret.

  • A small plain located on the West side of the Sea of Galilee.
  • After feeding the 5,000, Jesus’ disciples crossed over the Sea of Galilee to Bethsaida, then crossed back again and came to land at Gennesaret.

35 And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick

  • Word spreads; the works of Jesus are recognized.
  • They brought him the sick – Jesus never needed to go searching for people in need.
  • If we look around, people in need are coming to us – do we notice?

36 and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

  • What was this touch? FAITH

 

Dec 302016
 

I spent most of yesterday at the hospital getting some tests done.

I’m headed back for more as soon as I hit “publish” on this article.

I’ve spent so much time in the place over the last year that I’m on a first name basis with much of the staff.

 

In some ways I like that, because it makes me feel like a person, instead of a number or an illness.

While I was waiting to be ushered back to all the machinery that would look inside me, I thought about the people waiting with me.

We all had something in common…we were all sick and looking for health and hope.

The waiting room leveled out all the class and economic distinction between us…we were all placing our faith in the ones we were waiting to see.

The best thing about the waiting room was that it was safe to be sick.

You didn’t have to make any excuses…if you were there, you were expected to be sick.

The objective was to make you well, not critique your health.

All of which brings me to where it always does…the church.

Wouldn’t it be great if the church really was a “hospital for sinners?”.

Wouldn’t it be great if we were known for who we are instead of for our sin?

Wouldn’t it be great if  the ground really was level at the foot of the cross?

Wouldn’t it be great if it was safe to be “sick?”

What if our sole objective in the church was to get sinners “well”?

What if our faith was completely on the One we are waiting to see?

The other thing we all had in common was that at some point we had to admit that we were sick…

Someday the staff will be sitting in the same chairs we are…

I know and confess that I’m sick and can’t cure myself.

You’re sick too.

I’ll be in the hospital for a while today and in church on Sunday.

I’ll walk out of one them healed.

Make your own application…

Dec 292016
 

The Light Shines in the Darkness

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-14)

The Evangelist John opens his gospel by pointing us back to the beginning (of Genesis) where in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth by speaking: “And God said”. The Evangelist reveals that God’s Word is a person – the Son – eternally begotten of God the Father. (The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God in three distinct persons, who created heaven and earth.)

In his Prologue, the Evangelist lays two foundations for his gospel: (1) to clearly establish Christ’s divinity as God’s Word made flesh; and (2) to focus the reader on the power of the Word. This power was exercised by Christ throughout His earthly ministry when, for example, he raised Lazarus from the dead by the simple command: “Lazarus, come out” (John 11:43). But the power of the Word is also active in the written Word, as the Evangelist tells us near the end of his gospel: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

That the Church has endured and grown to the size it is today, having led billions of souls to Christ over the course of her history, is a miracle and testimony to the power of the Word. For Christ and His witnesses do not preach to a willing or even a neutral world. Our world is shrouded in darkness. It is spiritual darkness that resides naturally and universally in the human heart, separated from God and captive to the powers of sin, death and the devil.

Christ enters into the world as Light (i.e., the Word) which shines (i.e., speaks or preaches) in the darkness. Using the analogy of natural light, it is as if someone flipped on a light in a dark room, but the room stays dark. Or, it is like a blind man sitting in a dark room: someone flips on a light, but the blind man remains in darkness despite the fact that the light is shining brightly on him.

The Evangelist tells us concerning the Light that the “darkness has not overcome it.” Other translations have “darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:5 NASB). Both translations convey the opposition that the Word faces from the world. On the one hand, the darkened heart does not comprehend the Word. We do not comprehend because in our natural blindness we love “the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” (John 12:43) On the other hand, the world, which would like to silence the Word, cannot overcome or extinguish Him because He is divine. Jesus said: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” (John 10:18)

“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11-13)

It appears that God is in something of a pickle. How can He illumine darkened hearts with life, which neither comprehend Him nor wish to hear from Him? Claims of a Trinity, Incarnation, a crucified Messiah, and an empty tomb all register as fantasies and foolish fables to hearts darkened by sin and corrupted human reason. Reason cannot comprehend or accept any of it. Therefore, the Gospel cannot save us by a decision or assent according to reason, but only by faith which is above reason. For in no other way can the light of the Word illumine a darkened human heart.

The Evangelist tells us that the difference between those of Christ’s own people who did receive Him and those who did not receive Him was a matter of faith in His name (Jesus means “Yahweh saves”). Neither group received Him according to reason. If reason was a factor, the highly educated among the Scribes and Pharisees would have flocked to Christ. No, it is faith alone that gives birth to a child of God.

Let Christ instruct us: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24) Faith in the Gospel destroys the darkness of human reason and illumines the heart with God’s grace, forgiveness, peace and mercy. Faith converts an enemy to a child of God. Faith enables us to receive the mysteries of the Trinity, Incarnation, Christ’s atonement for our sins and His resurrection. Faith comes from hearing the Word (Rom 10:17). Therefore, let us continue to hear, digest and retain the powerful Word, by which He illumines our hearts with grace upon grace. Amen.

Glory to God on high!

 And on earth peace, good will toward men.

 We praise You, we bless You, we worship You!

 We glorify You, we give thanks to You for Your great glory!

 O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty!

 O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ!

 O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father!

 You take away the sins of the world! Have mercy on us!

 You take away the sins of the world! Receive our prayer!

 You sit at the right hand of God the Father! Have mercy on us!

 For You only are holy! You only are the Lord!

 You only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost,

 Are most high in the glory of God the Father! Amen.

Dec 282016
 

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season has left me little time to get online this past week, let alone to write.  My thoughts this time around, therefore, are a bit shorter than my normal bloviation.  ‘Tis the season for rejoicing.  🙂

And ’tis has been the season for shopping for presents.  And wrapping them and then opening them (and then having to fight through the packaging to get to each toy and having to set up each electronic because you’re looked at as the go to guy for such even though you’re far from an expert).  And ’tis the season to shop for and prepare and serve all kinds of food.  And tis the season to make the rounds to visit all kinds of family and friends.  Hustle and bustle, busy, busy, busy.

Meanwhile there is the battle and struggle to keep the remembrance of what this season is really all about.  To deal with the blahs and bah humbugs that accompany thoughts of how commercialized and distracted we have become in our culture during this time.  While balancing that with the joy that is brought to and by so many through giving and receiving.  The joys of seeing the children’s faces lighting up when first seeing the gifts under the tree.  The joys of giving that special gift that truly touches someone else.

The joys can hit such a high.  Yet we also know of so many who struggle through this season.  Those who have lost loved ones or who are down on their luck and have very little or nothing at all to give or to receive.  Those who have no one to celebrate with or the children who wake up to no Christmas at all because they have no parents or parents who can’t even get themselves together enough to do a Christmas for them.  And those who are depressed for however many reasons or circumstances and suffer through the holidays that they are supposed to “enjoy”.  These things just don’t seem right or fair.

We should be celebrating the greatest Gift of all, yet there are so many who are suffering through so much pain.  Even if we’re not the ones suffering great pain, we are still conflicted with so much that happens during this season. We struggle to come to terms with all of it.

We have been reading on these pages about the coming of Christ.  For onto us a Savior is born, and He is coming yet again.  An anticipation of the remembrance of His coming in the Incarnation and an anticipation of His coming yet again where He bring final judgment and set all things right once and for all.  The Good News and what it all means.

Lord, we thank you for all the joy and happiness of this season. We admit to the struggles and pains of this season with which we sometimes don’t know what to do.  Help us to keep our eyes on you.  In what you have already done and in the promises you have given.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—  the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—” – I John 1:1-2

“Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” – John 5:28-29

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4

Dec 272016
 

So, my friend wrote me to tell me that a lot of folks in Boise are struggling with the fall of the long time Calvary Chapel pastor there.

What do they do now?

The question honestly irritated me.

It irritated me because it’s built on false premises about pastors, the church, and Jesus.

Jesus didn’t fall.

 

Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever…if your faith is shaken it was in the wrong person.

That’s called idolatry and the pastors fall was the best thing that could happen to you spiritually.

Now, you will always focus on Him.

My friend further asked me if I’d written anything about what to do when pastors sin.

I’d write non stop the rest of my life to cover that…all pastors sin, just as much or more than you do.

What the vast majority of us do is avoid disqualifying sins.

The pastor in question did not, and he hardened his heart as he went to avoid repentance.

He is now disqualified.

Next…

The church itself seems to be in good hands with another pastor who will hopefully install effective accountability structures to help him walk the straight and narrow.

If you understand that the “church” and the “pastor” are not synonymous, that will help you transition.

If you think they are synonymous, refer to my paragraph on idolatry.

The church is all of its members together (with the pastor being one of them), under the headship of Christ.

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

(Romans 12:4–5 ESV)

Biblically, you’re as important to the health of the Body as its elders are.

Right now, the Body you were part of needs all hands on deck to recover and function.

Some of you are upset and I’m going to make you more upset.

You turned over the complete care and feeding of your soul to one man and his name wasn’t Jesus.

You showed up and you probably tithed, but you were content to let others determine the health of the church and the accountability of it’s officers.

You went to and invested in a church where the members have no say in anything, expecting some special anointing on the pastor to protect you from the doctrine of total depravity.

It didn’t work and now you feel betrayed.

You were.

Some of you are looking for another man to hand what’s left of your faith…if his name isn’t Jesus, don’t do it.

The lesson is to find those places that value each member as the Bible states they should and be willing to be involved in very level of the church you can serve in.

Demand open and transparent finances and demand that policies be presented to the people for consideration.

Demand to know the church by laws and the accountability structure for pastors and elders.

Too many churches withhold information because they believe that the “sheep” are dumb animals incompetent to deal with “spiritual” matters.

Stay away from them.

Finally, take responsibility for your spiritual health and that of your family.

No one will do this for you.

In your new situation…trust, but verify.

If you loved the fallen pastor, pray for him and deal with him as another fallen sinner…with as much grace as you can.

If he taught biblical truth, it’s still truth…God has spoken through many asses in redemptive history.

Just ask my church…

Dec 272016
 

The puzzle of Christmas…

What you do to your neighbor you do to Christ…

The innocence and wonder of a child…

Barely alive and barely breathing…

Evangelicals and Palestinian Christians…

This Christmas, remember the refugees…

“The Shack” movie reigniting heresy controversy…

What if judgment is actually good news…

Christmas…the full and glorious yes…

The key to contentment…

It’s too late for Russell Moore…

Why Anglicanism?

When you feel like a miserable failure…

How to avoid troublesome churches…

Surviving the wasteland of faith…

Marriage…the state of our unions.

Russell Moore commended…

Jesus and science…

A liberal Christian looks back on the year…

Religious buildings of the future…

More later…

Support EricL at top right for his help on Tuesdays!

Dec 262016
 

Most of the time I write things for the edification of my readers.

I’m writing this for me.

I’m writing it because I’ve found something wicked in my soul, something that I loathe.

Cowardice.

 

There are things that matter that I’m afraid to write about because I know my audience and my audience doesn’t want to hear them…and my audience will leave me if I write as I should.

I’ve been forced by the timidity of my heart to choose between writing about all the things that God puts on my heart and writing about the things I know our readers will read.

If I write about some things, they will not hear me about other things.

Now, I will cleanse my soul.

The greatest problem facing the world today is the migration of the poor and oppressed from places of violence and poverty to places that offer a measure of hope and safety.

The problem isn’t going away.

It doesn’t matter is you’re liberal or conservative or something in between…the people keep moving.

There will be a day when we can no longer avoid the problem.

The wall will only fool us into thinking we’re safe.

We’re not.

We are much safer than the people that are on the move…millions of them all over the world.

What I believe I know about Jesus leads me to believe that attention must be paid to the realities all of us must face.

I don’t have answers, but I can’t be afraid of the conversation…even if my brethren in the church leave me for starting it.

It really is all about what I think I know about Jesus…and I think He’s on the move with the migrants.

He can also walk through walls…

Dec 262016
 

1. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I was offline much of the day and will continue to be offline more than on for the next week. I need a year end detox from social media,lest I become as toxic as folks who were still arguing politics on Christmas Day…

2. Back to our conversations about “authenticity” in the church…the Calvary Chapel split is an example of the lack of it. Because we cloak everything in faux “love” for the brethren, we cannot get our arms around the fact that some folks in the church simply don’t like each other and can’t work together. We have to make up “Biblical” reasons to oppose each other when the real reasons are as worldly as they can be…

3. I’ve been a part of major corporations who liked to talk about the company as a “family”. In truth, you were part of the “family” if you produced, the company was profitable, and you didn’t rock the boat. Evangelicalism has modeled itself after the business world in more ways than one…make your own application…

4. I will not expound on how drug cartels and the Mafia are family oriented as well…

5. There have been discussions here about whether or not both parties should be named when we report on the fall of a pastor through sexual sin. I don’t believe so, at this point. My responsibility is the protect the flock by providing information on the disqualification of a pastor to those who may not have that information, especially if the influence of that pastor exceeds the boundaries of the local church. The other issues and people involved should be handled at the local church level as there is no compelling reason for it to be spoken of elsewhere.

6. The church has often redefined “love” to where the real meaning of the word has been lost. There can be no more inauthentic act committed…

7. Authenticity in the church begins with authenticity in me…that doesn’t mean really trying to follow the rules, but really being who God made me to be…

8. Jesus was the ultimate iconoclast…which makes me wonder why we don’t value them in His house…

9. The 11th Commandment should be “thou shalt not be petty”…

10. Just for fun…name your favorite book, movie, and music for the year. Bonus points for telling us how many books you read this year…

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