In the Beginning was Not the Video

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

My 18-year old will watch any video or GIF I send him, but anything longer than a few sentences he refuses to read. Even in his high school literature and writing classes, reading has been replaced with watching videos.

Can you see the implications of this? Ravi Zacharis did when he said, “In the beginning was the Word, not the video.

There’s been a dramatic shift thanks in large part to social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat: the written word is becoming obsolete. Gone is researched data, reasoned argument, and logical conclusion; replaced by catchy images lasting milli-moments, creating emotioned response and experience, but conjuring no thought nor conveying truth. Pictures get “likes” but text is ignored.

The impact of the words, In the beginning was the Word, cannot be expressed with a catchy video clip.

Some argue that video didn’t exist in Jesus’ day. If it had …. We forget that they did have drawings, mosaics, paintings, and statues, yet God still chose to call Himself the Logos, the Word.

Video and picture have a place revealing information, but truth is different. Truth must be pondered, questioned, and internalized. The image of a rose may display beauty, but scant truth.

The living Truth in the Person of Jesus is revealed in the written Truth of God, the Bible. Yet in a world desperately seeking truth, God’s Word is ignored because we refuse to read. Eternal life is within the reach of our hands, but we can’t see it because of the video screen.

I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name (Psalm 138:2).

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A Great Multitude

In the midst of Heaven is revealed a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues (Revelation 7:9). The passage goes on to identify this group as those who come out of the great tribulation and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14).

This group, obviously isn’t Jews, because they are of all nations, tribes and peoples. They are Gentiles who will be saved and martyred during the seven years of the Great Tribulation.

How will people be saved during this future episode of judgment against sin in God’s plan? The same way people were saved in the past and the same way we are saved today: by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus died on the cross as a substitute for sinners. His death didn’t appease Satan, for man’s sin isn’t an offense against the devil; he delights in your sin! Christ’s death was to satisfy the just wrath of the Father for the violation of His holy character and law.

By trusting in Jesus alone – not your prayers, your goodness, your religious deeds or your efforts – God the Father takes away your sins, forgives them, and places Christ’s rightness upon you. It is by faith in Jesus Christ where living begins.

God sent forth His Son to be a propitiation [satisfaction of a debt paid in full] by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness (Romans 3:25).

The Creator or the Culture?

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

This morning the clerk at the local grocery store wanted to talk. She closed her register and said that after almost 30 years at the same job, she’s not sure how to handle it any longer.

A few hours earlier, a man dressed like a woman came to Lois’ register. The man went on and on about how proud he was of his little boy who he’s raising as a girl. He’s 8 years old now and has never had his hair cut. This was something to brag about.

Lois asked me, As a Christian, how am I supposed to address a man who thinks he’s a woman? What am I supposed to say when he brags about raising his son as a girl?”

About a year ago Lois received a warning from her employer after a complaint was made against her. The customer was offended when Lois said, Good morning Ma’am. The customer is a lesbian who believes she is a male.

As Christians, we believe the Bible when it says God created male and female. God has never confused the two genders, building their separateness into our very DNA. The blatant blurring of that line of separation denies God’s authority as Creator, makes the Bible a lie, obscures God’s design for marriage and family, and perverts His plan for humanity.

Culture that conflicts with Scripture is sin, and every deviation from Scripture that we tolerate makes us responsible for the results.

In America, Christians are being increasingly challenged to either bow to God or kneel before our sinful culture, to stand for God’s Word or queue in the unemployment line, to pay homage to the Lord or remit a court fine and lose your business.

Planting a New Church

Pastor Isaac Mathembe translating for me at the Family of God Celebration Center in Mutalia, Kenya.

Not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith (Philippians 3:9).

I finished preaching from Philippians 3:1-11 on the Apostle Paul’s own testimony of God’s salvation. Using himself as the example, Paul explained all the ways that he had tried to gain the forgiveness of sins. He appealed to his own ancestry and nationality, religious rituals and family upbringing, spiritual enthusiasm and traditions, yet none of these made him right with God.

After a personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus, Paul came to understand that God saves sinners apart from any and all works, rituals, or merit. God saves sinners only by full dependence and reliance in the One who died and was raised to life.

When the service was over, one of the women in the church asked if I had a moment to meet her mother. Outside I was introduced to an overjoyed woman my own age who was visiting from the opposite end of Kenya.

She shared how the message of God’s grace had touched her personally. She said, I had no idea there was anyone in Kenyan preaching like this. Then came the shocker. She donated a piece of property in her hometown for a church to be started where the Bible’s message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone would be preached!

Plans are underway to legally transfer the property title and the planting of a new congregation. The great need right now is for God to raise up – and us to train – a Biblically qualified pastor.

Pray and rejoice with us as God continues to work for His glory in the nation of Kenya.

The Perfect Man

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself … holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27c).

I’ve got the best wife in the world, at least the best for me. She is supportive when I lack faith, encourages me with hope in disappointments, listens when I need a friend, goes along with my spontaneous road trips to Wyoming, laughs even when I’m not trying to be funny, is my partner in ministry I can always count on, and loves me despite my every fault.

I admit that I’m not a perfect husband. Not. Even. Close. I continually pray that God provides in Himself what I lack toward my wife, and that He grows in me in the ways I need to be a better husband.

God never expects us to be perfect husbands, but He does expect us to love our wives. That means that I give up myself and my dreams and wants for what is best for her. It means that my highest priority in our marriage is not to make her happy, but to encourage her in holiness and godliness.

Husband, love your wife as Christ loves the Church.

Discomfort for Mr Macaroni

slow food pasta art workHeaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.”

Mr Macaroni boiled hearing Moody’s words. He’d always been something of a limp noodle, and today he was doubting his choice of employment. It had always been tough making decisions, but once made one he was left feeling deep regrets. When the clock struck 5, Macaroni was ready to get sauced.

Despite his constant indecision, Mr Macaroni was as true as a man could be. He was no impasta when it came to living, but his new job as a dental assistant was leaving him feeling a bit al dente.

He quickly exited the office on his way to the Meat Ball to dance with his sweetheart, a beautiful Italian gal named Penne. All dressed up, he straightened his little bow tie and slicked back his thick blonde angel hair with a bit of olive oil.

As he stepped from the sidewalk into the street, humming “On top of Old Smokey all covered with cheese,” Mr Macaroni was still steaming. A motorcycle with gleaming chrome twin-forks raced toward him. He never knew what hit him and instantly pasta way.

A moment later Mr Macaroni opened his eyes. Before him were the golden arches and beyond was the dazzling White Castle he’d always heard about. Macaroni was greeted by a choir of French guys singing, “Welcome to the realm of Burger King and Dairy Queen.”

A stout fellow calling himself Big Mac approached and laid a whopper of a story on him about being dead and forever living in the presence of the King. “If you’ll lettuce, tomater my friends and I will take you in-and-out through the kingdom.” It gave Mr Macaroni the shakes.

He hadn’t been at ease with people when he was alive, now an eternity with them was unbearable. He wasn’t made for a place like this. He hadn’t wanted anything to do with the king while he was alive and he didn’t want it now. He longed to have it his way and he wasn’t lovin’ it one bit. Mr Macaroni wondered, “Why did the King bring me here if I didn’t want him back when I was living?

If you don’t enjoy King Jesus today, what makes you think you’ll enjoy eternity with Him?

In My Father’s house are many mansions; it if were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2-3).

Leaving Home

My son Daniel has turned 18, and though he still has another year to complete in high school, he is old enough and mature enough to leave home and be living on his own. He wants to be on his own.

It’s difficult as a father to feel, see, and hear his eagerness to leave home. I know, it’s what children do when they grow up, and I’m excited to see what he makes of himself, but it still hurts.

Pastors get hurt too. Talk to any pastor you know intimately, and he’ll confide how lonely the job is. Adding to the hurt is that we’re taught in seminary never to become friends with our congregations. Friendship makes it difficult to carry out discipline and can even appear as ungodly favoritism; but friendships still happen. Congregations should not only worship as friends, but exist as family.

When a member leaves the church, it hurts the pastor. Even when it’s a trouble-maker who goes, it still hurts. Always. Believers never leave a congregation because of spiritual maturity but because they are angry or hurt about something. We’d never consider leaving a spouse or our family because our feelings get hurt, yet that’s exactly how we treat our local church and we don’t see it as sinful.

Regularly pray for your pastor; he’s a human being too. No pastor is perfect like you are and he will hurt your feelings at some point in the course of his duty, especially if you are close. You’ll be tempted to flee, but remember that he gets hurt too.

Be kindly affectionate toward one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another (Romans 12:10).

Your Name Here

Do not be called “Rabbi”; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in Heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Matthew 23:8-12).

I abhor titles in the church, though I understand they are helpful at times to distinguish roles. Too often among Christians, titles are used to make mediocre and little people appear significant and powerful. Apostle, prophet, bishop, reverend, and even the title of pastor often burnish the sin of pride and transform leaders into objects of idolatrous adoration and authority.

The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day were big on parading their titles, but had no fear of responsibility in the titles. Jesus warned His followers not to fall into the same trap, but to remember that we are family and fellow-servants unto Him.

Few are far-between are humble leaders of God’s people content with the title of brother or servant on their Facebook page, church sign, or business card.

The Door of Opportunity

God said to Cain, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).

You pray for God’s guidance for a job, a husband, or a new pair of shoes. Beware that an “open door” may not be God’s door but a door of opportunity to sin.

Temptation is the enticement to do evil, to disobey God. Every temptation comes down to a decision: Will I obey God or listen to the voice that offers what my sinful flesh wants?

As Christians, we’re promised that God leads us. If you’ve been born again, you should expect the Spirit of God to lead you (Romans 8:14). The problem is that your sinful flesh also leads you, warring against the Holy Spirit (Romans 7:23). It is only when you walk by the Spirit in submission to the Scriptures that you won’t fulfill the lustful desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).

Adam’s son Cain was warned by God that sin was waiting, crouching like a lion ready to pounce. Opportunity wasn’t necessarily God’s will.

One evening King David stood on his housetop and spied Bathsheba bathing. That “open door” was a temptation to sin that caused great suffering for David, Bathsheba, and the whole Jewish nation.

A fall often occurs when we’re faced with sin of presumption or defiance against what we know God has said. Be careful to examine every door by God’s Word – even when you feel peace about it. Feelings of peace are deceptive. Feelings, like doors, open and close, come and go, but God’s Word remains.

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple … Keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me (Psalm 19:13).

At Calvary

 

 

 

Years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died on Calvary.
By God’s Word at last my sin I learned;
Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned,
Till my guilty soul imploring turned to Calvary.
Now I’ve given to Jesus everything;
Now I gladly own Him as my King;
Now my raptured soul can only sing of Calvary.
O the love that drew salvation’s plan!
O the grace that brought it down to man!
O the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!
Mercy there was great and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty,
At Calvary.
(Hymn, At Calvary by William R Newell, 1895).

God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world  (Galatians 6:14).