Sep 24, 2008

Daytime Detroit

On the flip side of the dark Detroit city streets, there is a bustling and very busy style of life. The night and day are just that and appear to be diametrically opposed in the manner of which kinds of people are out and about. Either way, the city still has a heartbeat. While it may yet be faint, it is still pumping and what little life is left can still be seen.

Having an opportunity to walk from the Greektown district to the Financial district, I was able to make use of my time spent there on business. When I parked, I stuffed my back pocket full of tracts and set my affections on God as I prepared to share the Gospel with someone, anyone, whoever the Lord set before me. As I went about my duties, my travels covered much ground from one area of Detroit to another. Of the 20-25 tracts I had, I left with 3 leftover. I even made sure that I went in front of the courts and gave some to the attorneys coming and going. Figured they'd need them as much as the next guy.

The best part about the entire trip was a familiar face. On the many excursions downtown with friends, and solo efforts, this individual has been spoken to at least once every time, I'm almost sure of it. When I saw him, I asked him if he was keepin warm. He said it'd be easier if I had some coffee. It was quite chilly between the buildings this morning and I know that I would appreciate a coffee If I were in his shoes. I figured we could do one better, and took him to the coney for breakfast.

Sadly, as we entered the coney, "Lloyd" walked in behind me, still wrapped in his blanket. The cook from behind the counter came trouncing around the grill and gave us the old one over look and acted as if we had just broken the treaty of versailles and brought war into his country. This was not something that is unexpected, most people cringe at the thought of someone like Lloyd coming into their business, he might be begging. I bought his meal to go and he bought his own cup of coffee witht the one dollar he had. I told him he was eating today, that's for sure.

I left Lloyd at the counter and told the waitress to take care of my friend. I bid Lloyd farewell and told him I would see him again, as Im sure I will, we've seen him plenty of times before. I spent another thirty minutes or so wrapping up my business at the Coleman building. Leaving there it was back to passing out tracts, most of them went at the bus stop next to the Coleman building where the Spirit of Detroit sits. I rounded a corner and could see up in the distance that "Lloyd" was back at his spot, eating his food, and had his nose deep in the back of the tract, as it was a very detailed one that required thorough reading.

I approached him once more and reminded him about the requirements of God's law on the human soul, the punishment for sins, and the crucifixtion of Christ. I then reminded him that our time here is short, and the joys and sorrows of this life are temporary. With joy I proclaimed the resurrection from the dead, glorified bodies, and Christs conquering of sin and death. Lloyd just looked with glazed eyes and uttered a smiling "thank you" as we shook hands. I walked away, and he went back to reading the tract.

Today was a good day. Pray for Lloyd. (P.s., Lloyd also goes by Mario, I'm almost sure of it)

Sep 22, 2008

Forgotten Resurrection

In evangelism, there is always an emphasis on making sure the point gets across. Sometimes too much so. The point most often expressed is that one must make a decision right away or else they may be left behind or threatened by the idea of scorching flesh for eternity. But all that it essentially equates to is selling fire insurance. Turning from sin is presented, and often enough, the importance of it is emphasized properly, but then modern evangelism pushes for a decision and a soul "won" for which the "evangelist" can brag about later. But this is not the gospel or evangelism. The original intent of preaching repentance remains intact, but the understanding of the power of regeneration and where it comes from is neglected. Placing emphasis on a decision through the means of a man denies the saving power of the full gospel. While man's neglect does not hinder the Power of God unto Salvation, it does reinforce the already hard heart of a false convert and increases their self-righteousness.

This is not a proper approach, and I won't critique it as so. I am stating the neglect in the matter of preaching the resurrection as well as the cross. Without resurrection there is still a crucified body buried in a rich man's tomb. Without resurrection there is no conquered death and promise of eternal rest for the believer. Without resurrection, the entire purpose of preaching Christ crucified is futile. Even in my personal efforts of evangelism, the preaching of our Lord's resurrection is forgotten, when it should not be. A true understanding and grasp of the reality that is Christ's resurrection and triumph over death would develop a rightful knowledge of who has the power to regenerate man. After facing the glory of the risen Christ one is only left with a perception that can only be had by faith from God. This perception is that Christ has the power to lay down His life and take it up again. The only alternative is plain, man has no power to give himself life. Eternal life can only be granted by the Lord, not by man's decision.

The dilemma stems from doubt and true allegiance given to the feat that was accomplished at Calvary. Christ made mention of His own resurrection. Even in His mention were the twelve and other listeners often perplexed by its meaning. (Mat 17:22-23, Mat 20:18-19, Luk 9:22, Luk 18:32-33, Luk 24:46-47) But the Lord repeatedly reminded them that what He was doing on earth had a terrible end, that He would die. For all that they heard was just that, He was going to leave. When he arose on the third day in glorified form it was difficult for His own followers to immediately recognize Him. But when they did, they were overcome so much so that they risked their lives to go into the world and proclaim the gospel. Never falling short of emphasizing the resurrection.

Opponents of the resurrection often place physical, earthly restrictions upon its possibility. They forget that if there were a resurrection, it would be of supernatural means, and the origin of these means in fact would be God Himself. Who above all would be capable of resurrecting a body in any form?

So in thought there is only one logical conclusion to the approach of evangelism. Jesus Saves. That's it, no dogmatic methods, no utilitarian approaches, and no need for bringing people to your Pastor for him to evangelize. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and if we indeed heed the truth of Scripture, we would do well to remember the resurrection, for it is evidence of the power of God in its purest form.

Are You or Aren't You?

I have thought many times about the answer to the question, "Why are you a Calvinist?" Asserting a stance on the doctrines labeled by a certain man's name ignores the inherent truth within them found entirely in Scripture. The Doctrines of Grace are not fabricated solely on one man's systematic theology, only expounded upon. Any study of Calvin would reveal his consistent appeal to the Church for purity and piety toward God. But he is not the origin of these doctrines, nor is he the only authority of them.

I am not a Calvinist, I am a Christian. It just so happens to be the same as telling the difference between the jars of jam from those of jelly. I believe and affirm the truth of God's Word. I also affirm the doctrines of grace because they explain the condition of the Modern Church and why its so difficult to find truth amongst the very people who claim the name of Christ yet live like Hell in the mean time.

Sep 19, 2008

When Does The Church Become The Church?

If a little rhetoric could do this justice, that would be dandy. But it won't, and I'm going to try anyway.

When does the church figure out that talking about BEING "a" Church isn't actually BEING THE Church?

The colloquial definition for this has become an ebonic slang term in the burbs. It's what is known as Trifling.

Sep 15, 2008

Free Sunday School Lessons For Children

Saturday afternoon, the mail ran late. When I went out to the box to see what was there (something I enjoy doing for some odd reason) there was only one 5" x 7" sized package there. I pulled it out to find a cartoon likeness of Noah and the animals of the Ark.

In typical childlike form, the illustrations were colorful and appealing to the eyes of a child. Admittedly they were appealing to me as well. I opened the package sat down to figure out what it was about. These large illustrated flash cards had a paraphrased story-like breakdown of Noah and his Ark. Just like the joyful happy versions we see painted on the walls of Sunday school classrooms these cards too radiated the smiling faces of different colored animals and an unconcerned, bald, bearded, Anglo-Saxon version of Noah.

As harmless as they first appeared, I even put the puzzle together that was on the back of the cards. It was fun for a few minutes. Then I sighed and put it all back together and neatly stacked it up. As I sat looking at it and feeling saddened that what I had received was a mass marketed mailing list promotion that thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people received in the mail that same week. Then the though crossed my mind that many of these same individuals are going to purchase this curriculum and teach it to their children in their age delineated, and generationally divided Sunday school classes. Oh, don't fret it's equally done amongst the sexes for the adults too. Men here, women there. Same problem, inept, untrained teachers teaching the Word. Worse yet, we deprive the children of worship with the rest of the congregation where falsehoods are countered by the preaching of the Word.

How convenient. We can keep them busy with the passive, unlearned teacher who could be equated to an unpaid babysitter and let them have fun at the same time. While they are having fun, they are given the great Americanized version of a literal event that illustrates the power and judgment of the Lord our God. After all, the flood makes for a good story no?

One might ask why I have beef with these cheesy Sunday school materials. And you might guess the this is the premise of me telling you. They left out some important facts that should be communicated to all of creation regardless of age or ability to comprehend. I could do well to share in my own words, but I think God's will work better.

(Gen 6:5-7 ESV) (5) The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (6) And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. (7) So the LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them."

This part is summed up on card (1) in a few short words. "He looked down at his creation and felt very sad." Sure, it even mentions briefly that people had merely forgotten about God and had grown wicked. That's it. I would hardly say we should make children understand fully the details of the sexual immorality occurring in the text of Genesis 6, but then a majority of American parents consume visual images on prime time television right along with their Children just the same. I know that's a whole other argument, but I hope you get the gist of it. Right along with that imagery we have violence that was taking place amongst men while they walked the earth. Hardly a mere flooding of the earth "Just Cause."

On the bright side, this material could be utilized in the right hands of the right teacher. Sadly enough though, the material is part of a mass marketed media ploy to try before you buy scheme. You have to really seek out the details to discover that your free gift of the "deluxe" version is really a 10 day trial that you'll eventually pay for. And after you visit their site to see the other "fun" lessons they have, you can order the "New Age" flash card set, to learn about profound New Age philosophies that will set you free! Can anyone say motive please?

Would it be distasteful if I had no problems with you finding me a slight bit cynical in this matter?

Sep 13, 2008

In Lieu Of Institutional Christianity

In response to the Catholic sacramentalism, many have adopted a view that the New Covenant is not one marked by any outward expression or form. The proponents of this view also emphasize that the New Covenant is wholly represented by sprituality and invisibility. The major malfunction with that statement is simply refuted, Christ appointed the signs of the sacraments. Most notably in His command to remember His death until He comes again and to carry out the great commission. If I may quote Edmund P. Clowney in Contours of Christian Theology: The Church,

These outward signs mark out a visible fellowship; they structure Christ's church as a community with membership. Baptism requires a decision about admission to the community. The Supper, a sign of continuing fellowship, implies exclusion of those who have turned away from the Lord. Those who scorn the church as an institution may rightly rebuke the secularizing of the church on the model of imperial Rome or entrepreneurial Wall Street, but the sacraments testify that the church must have organized form as well as an organic life. (emphasis mine)

I can never over express my sympathy for those who have utter disdain for the institutional and overly sacramental church structures, but have sadness for their utter rejection of anything that system resembles that is clearly residual from the structure the Lord lays out in scripture. The reason for my sympathy is one of a similar conscience and similar perspective, but the empathy comes from hoping the dim mirror would be clearer for them. But to reject any of its form because of institutional abuse is a response to the farthest extreme and a rejection of scripture and biblical mandate itself.

Sep 10, 2008

Mine Is Right Because I Ordered It That Way!

Last week, I attempted to make a clever reference to the choices we make in food and how we prefer to consume things, and ever so tastelessly, I'll admit I probably failed. Either way, I hope the point made got across. If you are clueless, the post below should help refresh your memory on what was being discussed. I am going to discuss more in detail some of the points I was hoping to make. This way, some light might be shed on what I find to be some necessary "sarcasm" for this particular topic. The quotes are from the post in question, followed by the unpacking of it's intent. Thanks for reading!

Let's get on with it shall we? This chit chat is wasting space.

Man, isn't America great? Not only can I choose what flavor cake I want, I can eat it too. Then I can put it away and tell the rest of the world how they should deny themselves and sacrifice for jesus. Who's jesus? You tell me...

Evangelism has become a highly debated issue in many circles. On the forefront of Church history, we see the prioritization of the proclamation of the Lord's Gospel and the message for mankind to repent of sin and become restored into a right covenant with the Father. Revival in its purest sense has graced the landscape and shores of many continents and has always shown its truest form through the redemption of sinners and the witness of freshly bore fruit.

Righteousness was always the indicator of a believers conversion because it was such a stark contrast to his previous state, utter depravity. If there is no essential contrast of one from the other the indication would and should be pretty obvious. However, today's evangelicali$m has shrouded and clouded that truth with its own veil and outward form of godliness. Sadly, a majority of the examples labeled "christian" that are paraded in mainstream media today are simply charlatans and false teachers who have successfully done what Simon the sorcerer had originally set out to do, and that was make a buck (Acts 8:18-20). Thankfully, through God's providence, Simon came face to face with true Apostles who spoke a true message and openly rebuked Simon for his treacherous attempt to pilfer the gift of the Holy Spirit for his own gain.

So what of this point? Simply put, many have gone out in the name of Jesus. Many claim to carry His banner, proclaim His name, and do so 100% convinced that their take on the Gospel is the one that is right. Their cry too is repentance and faith. Their cry is righteousness and holiness. Their cry is that only Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn 14:6). They seem to be preaching the very same Gospel you and I would say is...Gospel. But one minor difference exists that separates the heresy from the fact. While the decree is proclaimed to sacrifice your life, sell your posessions, and give your life to Christ, this decree is scarcely met by the same degree of fulfillment required by the words being directed at others. They are telling you to do what they think they are doing right. The only standard that qualifies perfection and accuracy is theirs.

Distinguishing the deeds that are done as more righteous than the deeds done by others who also profess Christ through measuring it against the deeds carried out on personal behalf in no way measure up to the deeds required to consider oneself "righteous" in the eyes of God. Technically, what is being done is carried out with a pure intent that has reversed itself and become hypocrisy and ill motivation. "Way Of The Masterism" has created a creed and coven of street preachers who are maliciously making mishief and denouncing anything orthodox in the name of true religion. Out of the box evangelism training and pragmatism has created a brood of unqualified, unordained, rebel, and seceding persons who desire to see their version of the gospel preached so much that they've divorced themselves from all the means and Biblical standards that have served Christ's Church for centuries. Its hard to think that the standards they've created for what is called "righteousness" are so much more different than the ones they've read in the Scriptures.

The cake has become flavored by true religion, but as most flavors in most out of the box cakes it is "artificial." If you deviate from the original instructions just a bit, it throws off the entire batch, no matter how you try to spell it. As much as the same desires are shared by so many others in the Church, The Believing Body of Christ, their too is a desire for truth and holiness to be had in God's people. The supposed restoration of the testimony and witness of Christ in the world is not going to come about through the means of men. It will come about through the means of Christ, when He chooses. His glory is His and His alone, not ours to initiate or dictate the time and hour. While the sense of urgency should be on the forefront, the compromise of the Lord's Church as seen in Scripture should not be had through misinterpretation, prooftexting, and sheer overemphasis on non prescriptive Scriptures. Remember, not to preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but from good will (Php 1:15). To seek a name for ourselves with the wrong purpose completely undermines why we are preaching the Gospel in the first place. Sometimes, those who say they are Christian only do so because they've been told by others they are, but they are still lost, should they not bre treated as if they were lost? Instead of everyone besides ourself who says they are Christian become a target for our anger and "other" gospel?

If I believe that my gospel is the one that will save men, I've removed Christ from the equation and ignored His sovereignty in salvation. Essentially, I've changed the recipe and somehow done as man always does when he steps in and attempts to change the world and the Church through his own power and methods. In doing so, I've not only wound up with bad cake, I've wound up with an empty plate...

Sep 6, 2008

Perceptively And Slightly Skewed Please


How do you like your Gospel? Rare, medium-well, or toast? Depends on your taste right? I guess so. It's really a matter of choice isn't it? It may as well be with the plethora of options we have to choose from. Almost like going to the old school buffet bar for family night. Now that's fine dining. While you gorge on your preference, you can get free dessert too. Man, isn't America great? Not only can I choose what flavor cake I want, I can eat it too. Then I can put it away and tell the rest of the world how they should deny themselves and sacrifice for jesus. Who's jesus? You tell me...

Imagine that we have a preconceived, and presupposed notion of how things are. Matter of fact, forget imagining, let's just flat out assume. Then, take that presupposition and base it upon our experiential relationship with what we believe to be god. Instead of the safer route of basing all presupposition upon scripture, we'll opt for the former.

For sake of argument, let's assume that the god we worship is our perception of some 'type' of jesus. Then, we see that this experience dictates our relation to the world, others around us, and those who we feel "led" to preach the gospel to.

Next, isolate our demographic, narrow our target audience, and then yoke everyone around us by the standard we've set based upon our individualized experiences. Let's also keep in mind that because we are reaching this group, it is on terms our experience has created. The next assumption is that we know the hearts of men. Then another assumption is that we are able to divide the truth infallibly and precisely as if we spoke it into existence, and any challenging position is heresy and automatically dead wrong. We can also throw in the half-cocked, lame brained idea that we actually have an influence upon those being ministered to by our experiential gospel with hit and run 'here's our message tactics'.

Another assumption is made that the efforts that are half hearted put into this experience based concoction of a gospel is actually going to change peoples hearts and deliver them from their sin. Not only their sin, but their environment and their life. Not only their environment and life, but their entire culture, worldview, and ethnic identity--as empty as ethnic identity is, it exists. Now that all of our assumptions or ducks, or whatever, are all in a row, what then? Well, we are successful members of ministry, men and women of god, people who have been set apart from the mainstream, and wonderful participants of the kingdoms will for the nations! Here in the present tense! We are prophets, called to beckon Nineveh and Sodom. Ordained to Apostolic offices that stand on par with the canonized words of Scripture. We have been nominated to faithfully communicate the very spoken words of our own presupposed-experiential gospel as if they were the words of God himself.

Where do we start then? Can't we just leave everyone where they are? Or do we allow them to fend for themselves, plug into a fellowship we disagree with (pretty much all of em, anywhere). Do we know where to send them if we can't bring them back to our own local body? Should we ignore this glaring defect in our ministry so that a week later we can shred them and their entire concept of Christ while accusing them of being false converts? The latter sounds so harsh, but it is more edifying for our ego and our piety. After all, we can only define our piety by destroying yours, shoot, it makes us feel better. After all, they are all religious hypocrites? Well? Pharisees deserve that kind of treatment don't they? So what if you've professed Christ, your not in fellowship with me so you are a religious hypocrite worthy of the rebuke the Lord Jesus gave to the Pharisees. Their religion isn't true like ours, it is based upon a false conception. After all, they are American, so they automatically don't know Christ. Their mere profession is worthy of dismissal the second it falls from their mouths, they must immediately be rebuked and strongly corrected. There is no way they are babes in Christ, or new converts, there's no way they are fellowshipping with a genuine local body, there's no WAY THEY CAN POSSIBLY KNOW MORE THAN WE DO ABOUT THE WORD OF GOD...DON'T THEY KNOW WE ARE THE RESTORATION OF THE PROPHETS OF OLD, CALLED OF THE ISRAEL KIND TO CONDEMN THE NATIONS!


Shouldn't we talk to them first? See where they really are in life? See what they really think about the Gospel? See if their profession matches their fruit? Love them as our brothers or sisters, or even better, love them because they may be our enemy? Better still, regardless of the results of any of these answers, shouldn't we be determined to know nothing among them except Christ and Him crucified? -Amen

Sep 2, 2008

Birthday Schmerthday

Today, I officially become a 29 year old bag of dirt. How bout that? Today, I live to see a day I never thought I would. As hindsight would have it, my past has made my present (and future) extremely joyful. My past has presented me with an outlook that gives something to compare present and future grief or sorrow to. Today, I have a vertical gratitude that produces an appreciation for all things temporal. My past indicates that in all actuality, I am only four years old. For the birthday that has the most significance has not been far off.

Today, avails to little in light of eternity. Today, friends and relatives might find it nice to call me and say hello, and happy birthday, and In turn I'll be presented with an opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His grace is the only reason I have today, let alone a perspective that allows me to reflect on my yesterday's, and the only provision for a hope in any tomorrow's. Christ is my life, my all, and my reason for living (Php 1:21).

Today this bag of dirt may be considered but young in the eyes of the world, but my eyes are weary and I long to go home and be with the Father. I've seen a fair share of wretched, depraved, and useless existences, and even partook in most of it. Here lies my stead and my plot in life and until this flesh returns to dust I'll serve in the foxhole awaiting the trumpets call. I know now that I once served a purpose, and that was my own self satisfaction and agenda. But today, my purpose is to see my life be a testimony to His grace and His glory (I Ti 1:8-14).

This day is a reminder of grace. The grace of God alone to change the hearts of a man who did not want to be changed, yet distinctly knew his only hope would be to change. I'd never thought my cry to Christ that day would be heard, or that He would see fit to grant a wretch like me repentance. Today I remember my belly-button birth, but today I reflect on that birth occurring under the sovereign, watchful, and loving hand of the creator Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, life is but a vapor. Tomorrow, there is hope in resurrection (Jas 4:14).

Until mine eyes set sight on the celestial city, that great offer of grace shall bide me through.
While I await the vision of my Lord, my comfort will be in what He's set for me to do.
And just when I think it's me who does the work, it's the Lord's word that rings true.
The glory of sinners turned to saints belongs to the one and only Lamb who was slain.

Coram Deo