Category Archives: Theology

The Fakes We Make

Anyone that has read my blog in the past knows I love me some Breaking Benjamin.  What can I say?  Ben can scream with the best of them, and they’re simply my favorite band, as such I listen to them a lot, and as I’ve blogged in the past, Ben wrestles with a lot of issues in his songs, as in his life, so you can get a lot of fodder for contemplation from their lyrics (no, they aren’t a Christian band, listen at thy own risk).  On their latest album, Ember, there is a song (my favorite of the album) called “Psycho” which contains:

In the cold eternal light
I am the ember fading
Every scar we try to hide
I am the fake you made me

When I heard this I was instantly reminded of conversations that I had with a good friend of mine about the Church, about Christians, and how we treat one another and the expectations we hold.  Have you noticed people in our society abandoning the gathering together of believers, even abandoning the faith?  Perhaps that’s you (I hope you stick around til the end of this article and leave me a comment, BTW.)  Recently there have been some pretty recognizable names in Christian circles that have either renounced the faith, or even committed suicide.  Kids aren’t staying in the congregations they were raised in… why?

I think Ben’s lyrics touch upon something for me, and others I know, that partially explains it… the Church has been making fakes for a long time. (Disclaimer: this is not Ben’s meaning or interpretation, it’s all mine as he doesn’t like explaining the meaning he had in his head when writing/singing any particular song so who knows what he would think of all this.)  Now, the thing is here, I’m not blaming the fake, I’m “blaming” the environment and other people responsible for creating the fakes.  What has made our churches into fake factories?

One explanation comes in the song in the line just prior; “Every scar we try to hide.”  Scars are there from battles we’ve fought; grief and loss, addiction, betrayal, idolatry, greed, gluttony, dishonesty, sin of all shapes and sizes that are either a current fight, or one in the past, sins we’ve committed or sins committed against us.  Scars can also be from hard times in life; when there’s not enough money, when we fall flat on our faces, when we get sick or hurt.  What has happened is that the feeling many people have is they are not allowed to have scars, and if they do have them, they are supposed to hide them, act as though nothing has or is happening, OR that they’ve been handled in a perfectly cherry pie way.  We certainly can’t have the truth coming out, the doubts, the fears, the struggles… Lord help the parishioner who has real questions.

There is now an almost palpable feeling of fakeness in many sermons and songs, a weird kind of whistling past the graveyard.  So, everyone must march in a quiet lockstep and put on the fake face or else others get uncomfortable really quick.  If you sing the right songs with the right kind of lyrics, if you smile and nod at all the right places, you’re assured of salvation, right?  If you say the right things and follow along and don’t ask questions, everything in your life will be peachy keen, right?  No, it just produces fakes, but they’ve had to fake it to make it, right?  Well, that works as long as everything is chugging away, but what happens when a wrench gets thrown in to the works?  What happens when the husband leaves, the baby dies, another war starts, you lose your job, the doctor says “you’ve got cancer?”  Yes, if the faith was real and true and strong in you in a real way, and you are surrounded by real, true, strong believers, God does indeed become a fortress and a safe place… but what happens to all those faking it in order to appease the crowd?  They rightfully break and when they break… they are abandoned.

Please understand, I’m not talking about every church congregation, I’ve been part of a church where I truly believe those people would’ve died for me, warts and all, and I’d like to think I’d have died for them.  However, I am talking about something going on in our churches at large, and in general.  I used to think stronger apologetics would stop the problem, and I still think it would help, but now I understand; it’s not just the words that are lacking, it’s the actions that are missing.  We can defend the faith in word all day long, but if we don’t defend it in deed, we are going to keep losing people.  We are going to keep producing fakes.

A church under physical persecution doesn’t produce fakes.  Why?  Because your conversion and sharing the faith is a matter of literal life and death.  We don’t have that here in the West.  If we don’t have that, do we show forth the faith in deed in other actions in our lives, or do we live and talk just like everyone else, and then for an hour or two on Sunday slap on the fakeness?  In some respects I think it’s harder to be genuine when you are a part of a congregation.  What do you guys think?  I’ve been a part of a fantastic congregation, I’ve been a part of some not so fantastic congregations, and I’ve been outside of a congregation, which is where I’m at now.  I think that is one reason we see people disavowing Christian affiliation more and more; at least when you label yourself a “none” you don’t have to fake it in a sea of people every Sunday.  It would be hilarious, if it weren’t true.  It’s kinda sad that I feel I can be more Christian in word and deed outside of a congregation than in one.  What’s happened to us?

My last post was on The Good, The True, and The Beautiful, and I do think some of the answer is there, but those things have to include not hiding scars, not trying to fake it til you make it, not just living like the world while preaching something totally different.  We have to actually love everyone… somehow we’ve failed in that.  We don’t have to love like the world tells us to love, we have to love dangerously… we have to love in truth and in deed, but we can’t do that if we only accept someone when they are faking it.  And, we have to take responsibility for making fakes in the first place.  I don’t have all the answers, I don’t think any one person does.  What are your thoughts?  I’d especially love to hear stories from those who have indeed left either the faith, or the church.  Have you been “the ember fading?”  Did something happen to quench that ember? What hurt?  How about stories from people who have felt like an ember fading, but you were renewed? What helped?

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He is Risen!

In historical fact and in truth, He is Risen, He is Alive!  God bless all my brothers and sisters in Him on this Easter…

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The Armor(s) of God

So, I’ve blogged a bit about all the troubles we see around us, and as my brothers and sisters in Christ know, we are to put on the whole armor of God… but what does that really mean?  What are the references to this armor in scripture?  Do you know Paul did not originate the idea, nor was he the first to write about it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Let’s take a look;

Ephesians 6: 13 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. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

So, in Ephesians we have Truth as a garment that is girded (tied for war), Righteousness as a breastplate, the Gospel as boots, Faith as a shield, Salvation as a helmet, the word of God as a sword.  Let’s dig in a bit to the words here;

First, truth is an easy one, in the Greek alḗtheia, which is just as we would read it, simply truth.  Unchanging fact, and that truth is tied up, girded, as a garment around the “loins.”  The loins in Jewish thought represented (and were) the seat of procreative power.  Truth protects the future of the people of God.  We are to be draped in Truth, and when in war, gird it around us to aid in battle.

Next, we have a Breastplate, covering the thorax and it is Righteousness.  Righteousness in Greek is dikaiosýnē, and is “right-ness.”  It is union with God in the sense of having been made “right” and “upstanding” in relation to Him.  Of course, we believe that is the righteousness granted to us by Christ, by His Righteousness.  So, that covers the thorax; the lungs that breath, the heart that pumps the blood.  It covers your vitals, and the heart is seen to be the seat of thought in Jewish teaching.  The air we breath, the thoughts that make us “us,” and the very blood pumping through our veins is to be covered in Right-ness.

For a foot covering we have the Gospel of peace.  Gospel is euangélion in the Greek, and you should recognize that; evangelize. Are feet are protected and bound up with the Gospel.  In Jewish description, disciples sat at the feet of the teacher.  As we go forth and as we teach others, the first and most important thing to present is the Gospel of Christ; the good news/tidings of Christ. Further, the Gospel acts to protect us on our journey.  Even when we are just walking and not fighting, the gospel protects us because it is covering our steps.  Peace… the gospel is the good news of how to have peace with the Creator of all.

After that is the shield, which is faith.  In the Greek pistis, faith, is trusting with great confidence.  It isn’t head knowledge, it is reliance on something, and it can have different targets.  For the Christian it is God.  In this context it acts to shield us, and is so powerful it doesn’t just stop normal “arrows” but can actually quench the fire that is riding on the arrows.  One of the drawbacks of many shields was that the arrows raining down would “stick” into the shield, and if they were lit with fire, you would have this fire clinging to you.  The shield of faith takes care of the heat and flame, it will not touch you.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.

The helmet is next, and is salvation.  Soterion is salvation in the Greek.  Salvation protects your brain.  Remember what the Lord said?  A fool hath said in his heart there is no God.  The mind is a tricky thing, as well as the heart.  We can over think things and even confuse ourselves because we are so sure we are brilliant.  Salvation cuts right to the point and keeps one humble; you can’t save yourself, and if you are smart, you will believe in God.  With salvation comes the gift of the Holy Spirit, and He changes us (including our minds) from the inside out, and protects us from the outside in.

Finally is your weapon; the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  We forget that a sword is both offensive weapon and defensive armor, in the sense that you block oncoming attacks, not just with your shield or other wearable pieces of armor, but also with your weapon.  Notice that Paul tell us we have to “take up” the armor, including the sword.  It’s not just something “there.”  If you want a weapon you need to know the word.  That means time and effort in order to become armed.

Isaiah had a few things to say about armor;

Isaiah 59:15 Yes, truth is lacking; And he who turns aside from evil makes himself a prey. Now the Lord saw, And it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice. 16 And He saw that there was no man, And was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, And His righteousness upheld Him. 17 He put on righteousness like a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle. 18 According to their deeds , so He will repay, Wrath to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies; To the coastlands He will make recompense.

Notice the similarities?  Notice the differences?  Breastplate/Righteousness, and Helmet/Salvation is the same.  Notice this is the Armor of God Himself, it is what He wears.  What is different?  He also has garments of vengeance, and a mantle of zeal.  We don’t have the same thing, we aren’t to take up vengeance, and God’s zeal, His passion and jealousy aren’t a part of our armor or our clothing, they are His.  We learn elsewhere, in Revelation, that He also has a sharp sword coming out of His mouth; the word of the Lord.

Last but not least, read Paul again, and think on this;

Romans 13: 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

And now, to the crux of the command; put on the armor of Light.  And what does that mean; put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Folks, we are living in a war zone, the deeds of darkness are all around us, but we have been given access to the armor of Light.  Put on the whole armor of God, be active in it.  Don’t mistake our clothing for His, we have what we need, we only need to accept and utilize what has been provided for us.  If you haven’t put on the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, my prayer is that you will do so soon.

Grace and peace to all those covered in Him,

K

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Sadness for Hard Hearts

This is a post about many things… it’s about the Israeli/Hamas conflict, it’s about the different ages we have lived in along with the different covenants, and it is about the hearts of Christians.  Admittedly this is about my heart, because I find myself having to write today after a very disturbing happening on a Christian message board.  I worries me for the sake of some professed believers because apparently many people do not acknowledge the depth of their own sinfulness and the role Jesus plays in this age of grace, and it makes me incredibly incredibly sad.

First, let me be clear on a few things; Israel is doing the right thing in battling Hamas.  That is what I believe having looked at the facts of what transpired prior to Israel’s retaliation against Hamas rockets.  Israel has an absolute right to defend herself.  Israel is also right in doing something else that no one is talking about; Israel sends aid and even sets up hospitals in order to help the Palestinian people.  While Hamas tries to bomb and attack the roads and the workers bringing that aid to the civilians.  Hamas does not believe in civilians, Israel does.

There is coming a time when God will refocus everything on Israel because He still has promises to keep to them as a nation.  But right now we are in the Church Age, this is the age of grace.  The Church does not replace Israel, Israel still has a future front in center of God’s attention. In Christ, therefore in the Church, there is neither Jew nor Greek.  We truly live in a special age, an age of mercy and grace.  God speaks to us through His Son, for now there are no kings or prophets or judges leading Israel, there is no temple, hence Israel is not in the same position as it was in the OT with the ability for their leaders to receive orders directly from God.

So here is what has me upset, you can leave a comment if you like to explain why I either should or should not be upset.  The question was posed whether or not, given the capability, Israel should wipe out every Palestinian.  Seriously that was the question.  The argument is that Israel, under the Old Covenant, and in the OT was ordered to do that very thing in different circumstances.  I was saddened by all the responses that agreed that they should indeed wipe them out.  I pointed out that Palestinians are not all members of Hamas, nor do all of them support Hamas.  I also pointed out that there are brothers and sisters in Christ who are Palestinian. None of that mattered.

Hamas needs to be wiped out, just like the Nazi were stopped. Of course they should be.  We all also know that civilian casualties in war are inevitable, and it doesn’t help when Hamas uses human shields… why do they do that?  Because they don’t believe in civilians. Literally, they believe everyone is a combatant.  But here’s the catch; they are wrong.  Perhaps these Christians I was conversing with would like to go kill all the Palestinian infants?  I’m confused, I’m saddened, and it is readily apparent they don’t recognize that we are in the Church age.

This is the age of mercy and grace, and yes, it will come to an end, but right now we are in it.  Jesus did not tell His people to go try to kill all the Romans, and we are the Body of Christ.  We represent Jesus now.  Again, there will be a time when the church is not here, then the game changes, and God resumes His direct interaction with Israel, but that time is not yet.  To see Christians promoting the wiping out of humans on that scale saddens me to the core.  Where is the mercy and grace?  Where is the acknowledgment that we are guilty sinners worthy of death ourselves outside of Christ?  Where is the teaching that we should be trying to reach both Muslims and Jews with the good news of Christ, right up until we are snatched away?  Where is the teaching on the difference between the Old and New Covenants, and why God ordered what He did in the OT? Ugh.

My heart hurts, and I’m so disappointed, and that disappointment is obviously directed at man, not God.  I will continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and to support Israel, and thank goodness that Israel herself doesn’t take the view of some very vengeful believers.

To my brothers and sister I say grace and peace be with you through Jesus our Lord.

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Famous Last Words

When we look at the books of the New Testament (NT) chronologically, we can do something kind of interesting.  We can look at the main authors of the NT (Peter, Paul, and John), and figure out which words we can read in scripture were the “last words” of aforesaid Peter, Paul, and John.  That is what we are going to do in this article, but it is also interesting to go through and read the last sentences of the books of the Bible; it doesn’t take long and it can really make you think, so when you have some free study time, try it out.

Alright, here’s the list:

Peter: 2 Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

Paul: 2 Timothy 4:22 The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.

John: Revelation 22:21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Do you see the theme yet?  I see 3 components that are always there.  This article is inspired by a teaching by Doc Scott, and he picked one aspect to focus on so I mention that component first, and that is grace.  “Grow in grace,” “grace be with you,” and “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”  Do you think grace is important?  Each and every last word from the heavy hitters of the NT includes grace.  What is the second?  Jesus Christ.  What is the third?  The “amen,” the affirmation to the reader of these things.  When God repeats things, they tend to be important don’t they?

In order of importance:

1) Jesus.  Let’s look at the phrases used: Lord, Saviour, Christ.  Those are the titles given to Him in these three passages.  The way that the word “Lord” is used here by Jewish individuals can leave no room for debate, it means they are bestowing the honor of the word reserved for God and apply it to Jesus.  Remember Thomas’ “my Lord and my God?” Here that is underscored by the big 3.  Saviour meaning one who saves. Christ meaning Messiah.  So Jesus, our “God is with us,” Who is our Savior and Messiah is the cornerstone of the great last words of Peter, Paul, and John.  We would expect no less, but do we recognize Him in such a profound way in our speech, even in our churches in today’s world?  Should He not be included in every single last word that we have in our churches and between believers? Our Lord, Saviour, and Messiah; Jesus.

Peter even admonishes us to grow in the knowledge of Jesus.  We should learn of and be reminded of, His life, death, and resurrection.  His life including perfection, and His teachings, His death and why He had to die, and His resurrection as the sign and promise of our faith.  Study it, teach it, learn of Him because His yoke is easy and burden light.

2) Grace.  I’ve taught on here about grace.  The Greek means “unmerited favor.”  Peter received the grace of Jesus firsthand after denying Him 3 times.  Jesus forgave and forgave and forgave.  Peter never earned it.  Neither do we ever earn forgiveness.  We cannot work our way to forgiveness, there is no physical act we can do to earn forgiveness, He bestows it upon us and we are to grow in it!  This is why I decry anything that smacks of sacramentalism.  Peter, Paul and John offer the reminder of grace and the free flowing nature of it from God to us, and we don’t do anything to merit it.  The Lord and Saviour Jesus the Messiah did everything to merit the grace for us!!  What is our response? Faith.

In Galatians 2:21 Paul boldly proclaims “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”  Jesus died for the free flow of grace to us from our God!  His death was both necessary and sufficient to open the gate… to tear down the curtain dividing us from God.  Paul clearly says, “grace be with you.”  Unmerited favor be with you.  No hoops, no red tape; grace be with you.  The same comes from John, the Apostle of love; “grace be with you.”  Do you get it yet? lol Grace be with YOU.

3) Amen.  Amen translates into “so be it.”  Grace be with you, so be it.  That’s double affirmation being displayed with faith.  It is the communication that what has proceeded the “amen” is in line with God’s will, and that it shall be done because of His goodness and promises. When we have faith, which is trust, in what God has said and done, we have that ability to say amen; so be it.  Jesus is Lord, Saviour, and Messiah.  Learn about Him.  Grow in His grace. So be it!  If only our preachers and teachers reminded us of this, and underscored the meaning of it, and taught it with authority.

So, those are the things that Peter, Paul, and John believed were so fundamental that they included them at the very end of their correspondence.  Humans tend to remember the first things and the last things mentioned to them in letters and speeches. Pay attention to these things and put them in your heart, because they are fundamental to what it means to be Christians.

To my fellow believers in Jesus who have placed their trust in Him, I say; grace and peace be with you through faith in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

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Parents; it is your job to teach your kids about God.

I heard something on the radio today that disturbed me greatly.  What was it?  A preacher trying to tell parents the way to tell their kids about God, Jesus, and salvation.  Ugh.  No.  He was tossing words out there like “justification.”  Yeah, say that word to your three year old, and see if they understand.  The preacher was making a point in saying that you just keep telling the child the same thing over and over, and eventually, mysteriously, they’ll get it.

Any developmentalist will tell you that you don’t talk to a three year old the way you talk to a nine year old, it’s useless.  The preacher seemed to think that a child has to jump through a series of hoops in order to be well and truly saved, and that the kid needs to know everything an adult would know, and that the child needs to make sure to be old enough, etc… Well, yeah, children need to have an understanding of who Jesus is, and what He did.  But, Jesus didn’t ask how old the children were who wanted to come to Him.

Anyone, regardless of age is allowed to go to Jesus, in fact, it is encouraged.  The child isn’t going to be able to set down and write out a dissertation on sin and redemption, but that’s fine.  A child’s faith is held up as what we adults are to aim for.  A parent needs to evaluate each child and not compare them to one another.  Some will “get it” sooner than others, and that’s fine.  It is indeed your responsibility to always check along the way, for example, when your child wants to take communion, you need to make sure they do understand what it means.

Further, parents, it is your job to teach you children, not a preacher.  You need to know your own faith, and why you have it, good enough to explain that to your children.  Know faith and grace, know scripture, know Jesus.  Remember your kids are watching you and you need to make sure you realize you are their number one model.  Also, realize your child does not know what you know, you are not your child.  You may know that baptism isn’t required for salvation, and why, but your kids don’t, unless you TEACH them.

Some parents think that they can just give their children books, or have them watch cartoons, or listen to a certain preacher and that will be fine.  No, it won’t.  You are to raise your children up with the instruction that they need from you personally.  Ask questions, and then really listen to their answers.  Listen to sermons together, watch those cartoons together. Read the Bible together, and don’t water it down.

As a final thought; as you walk this road with your child, I would bet they’ll teach you a lot about God too, so be willing to learn.

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Jesus was not a hippie.

I can’t believe I actually have to type that.  I also have to apparently type; Jesus was not a Democrat, Jesus was not a Liberal, Jesus was not a Republican, Jesus was not a Conservative, and on and on and on.  Jesus was God made flesh, the Messiah, the Lion and the Lamb, the only perfect human who was also 100% God.

I’ve heard that phrase, “Jesus was a hippie” from several sources, and it always makes me wonder if the person saying that knows what a hippie was.  It is easy to romanticize political or societal fads and movements, but to associate Jesus with a romanticized version of a historical movement is dangerous in the extreme.  Some people do it to try to sound funny, some do it rhetorically to try to make a point as to how they would like Jesus to be.

Hippies.  What did they stand for?  One of the obvious things was “free love.”  What does that mean?  The idea of free love included an attack against monogamous marriage.  There is also a more generalized idea that a sexual relationship contains no obligation.  Sleep with who you want, whenever and wherever you want.  Does that sound like Jesus to you?

Another aspect of the hippie culture was their advocacy and use of drugs.  One of the focuses was on mind altering substances, such as LSD.  God desires us to have temperance and a sound mind.  We are never to imbibe a substance that completely alters our brain chemistry.  Even something like marijuana, despite its growing positive reputation, can trigger a psychotic episode that can in turn trigger lifelong schizophrenia.  The effects of these drugs on fallen human bodies and natures is negative in the extreme; for the individual, their families, and society.  Do you think Jesus advocates that?

How about peace?  The peace the hippies chanted about is not the peace Jesus preached to us and offers us.  We could have all the peace on this earth we desire and still lack peace in eternity.  Make love, not war.  Sure, that works in this fallen world.  The hippies could flourish here in the US where other people were putting their lives on the line to insure freedom of expression and freedom of speech.  The peace Jesus offers is grace unearned so that we can have a relationship with the creator of all.

How about nature and flowers and rainbows? Jesus is the Word of God, it was by Him and through Him that all was made.  Hippies made the age old mistake of worshiping the creation instead of the creator.  Rainbows should remind us of fallen man, and God’s promises.  Nature and flowers? Part of creation, so are we.  We were fashioned from the ground by God Himself.

As I mentioned before, most who try to paint Jesus this way want Him to fit an agenda that they personally believe in.  It doesn’t work that way.  To portray Jesus in any way other than Biblically is presenting a false Christ.

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