“Write a blog,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said.
I was encouraged to start a blog as part of a publishing project. I stumbled through creating a Web site. I searched my Facebook Friends for a Designer. I’d never thought of it, but being a designer is like owning a pickup truck; if you own a truck, your friends assume you’ll help them move stuff. Well, I’ve seen that same lack of eye contact in the faces of friends I ask about color schemes and graphic placement. Apparently that’s the designer’s equivalent to, “Does this font make my words look fat?”
I started a blog five years ago. I had intentions to post daily, but I quickly ran out of content and self-discipline. This time, though, I will be posting on Tuesday mornings. My hope is that I might share a different perspective and hear your thoughts, as well. With this initial post, I’ll take a little more space than usual so that you might have an idea what you might expect.
What Should I Write?
Do I write about my own life?
In my first blog, I wrote of my personal Christian experiences. I reasoned that my life was the only topic in which I was truly knowledgeable. After substantial humbling, I remembered that God knows the number of hairs on each of our heads, (Matthew 10:30). At best, I come in a distant second place in understanding my thoughts; I am unqualified.
Do I comfort God’s people?
I considered offering words of comfort and encouragement. We no longer wait for the evening news, our smartphones inform us, real-time, of worldwide troubles. On a personal level, we all know of individuals facing sickness, financial loss or separation from loved ones. Though always welcome, kind and comforting thoughts fall short. This blog needs to start at a different place.
How do I “Keep the main thing, the main thing?”
The Apostle Paul begins his letter to the Church at Ephesus:
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.” (Ephesians 1:3-6 NLT).
That’s it. I can’t think of a better place to begin a blog. Everything in this life that is worth discussing flows from the fact that we have a Heavenly Father that has created a way for us to be with Him through His Son Jesus. Though He foreknew every evil thing about us, He paused before creating the universe to plan our restoration.
When I was a young unbeliever, I sat in a Chemistry class at Indiana University. The discussion turned to the details of subatomic particles. As the professor spoke of “complimentary electron spin,” I saw that our universe had an architect. I was immediately convinced that it took less faith to trust in God than to embrace a world created by nameless chance. In my mind I spoke, “God, I believe. If You have something to say to me, I’d like to hear it.” Within thirty days, I was a full-on Jesus freak. The years that followed were amazing; my wife and I poured ourselves into reading the Bible, prayer, and ministry.
I’ve seen God’s interactions with men and women at a personal level. I’ve witnessed the core of human character genuinely cleansed and set upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. I have listened as small, otherwise insignificant, men opened the Bible and read profound and impactful words, empowered by the Holy Spirit. I have watched with awe as people told their families, friends and fellow students of meeting Jesus; I’ve seen the sincerity of a simple story melt the hearts of the unbelieving.
I am always amazed to see the leather, paper, and ink of a Bible become the Word of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen it weaponized with the opinions of men. It took me years to understand that as a book, the Bible has no power, whatsoever. Think about it. The words some treat like incantations were written in another language at a time where there were no printing presses, bible covers or personally engraved study edition books. In Bible times, the “Word of God” wasn’t the parchments; it was the message of God in Christ Jesus. The spiritual authority of the Bible is real and it’s awesome. However, the power isn’t in the ink; it comes from God through the Holy Spirit.
The Church Adrift
I think of myself as a conservative Christian, but I’m ashamed to identify with the commonly defined Christian mindset. The message is contentious and judgmental; it has been muddled with the self-serving drone of the Tea Party. Our proclamation of the Truth has become rule-based, just like the Pharisees. The Gospel has been made to be something less than Good News.
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ,” (2 Corinthians 11:3 NASB).
A “Simpler” Gospel
A couple of years ago, a friend asked me if the “virgin birth” was an essential Christian doctrine. Sensing a trick question, I remembered the historic creeds of the faith; I considered the amount of time devoted to the virgin birth in the Gospel of Luke. “Yes, the virgin birth is a critical Christian doctrine,” I answered. He responded with five words, “the thief on the Cross”. Instantly, I knew his meaning. In Luke 23, two thieves were crucified with Jesus. One man mocked the Lord, taunting him cynically. The second thief acknowledged his sin and said “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” One man died in his sin, but the other man entered Paradise by acknowledging his sin, recognizing Jesus, asking for mercy and receiving the promise by faith. Jesus and the thief on the Cross represent Christian theology at its leanest. These are the same requirements expressed in Hebrews 11:6, “for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
In these days of Internet trolls and contentious talk shows, the church devotes its attention to finding where we disagree. We look for reasons why we cannot fellowship. It’s as if we placed ourselves at the gates of heaven, arguing with God over who gets in. The Guest List is His concern. He has called us to love and forgive one another. We are a family; we are not enemies. Most of the things that separate Christ’s Church today have nothing to do with essential doctrine. We need to find where we agree on the Lordship of Christ and set every other litmus test aside.
A “Purer” Gospel
I was there at the birth of the Christian Right and I consider myself one its original card-carrying members. There was a genuine concern that we humble ourselves before God and turn from sin. In the ensuing years, mean-spirited people wove every imaginable conservative political agenda tightly into the Gospel message, in order to drive adherence to personal opinions. The U.S. is a country; it is not and will never be the Kingdom of God. Jesus told Pilate that His Kingdom was not of this earth. The Gospel does not mix with political agendas. Reading my translation, Jesus gave exactly seven dismissive words to the thought of Caesar when He said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” I’m very thankful to live in a country that offers me freedom; I have political opinions and vote my convictions. However, for the sake of the Gospel I keep my political thoughts to myself. The Apostle Paul said,
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some,” (I Corinthians 9:19-23 NASB).
Devotion to Christ
Dedication to Christ might bring to mind monks living lives of recluse. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Our commitment to Christ requires that we go where He goes. In Luke 7:34, Jesus is accused of being a friend of sinners; He is labeled a glutton and a drunk. He clearly and continually demonstrates that He prefers to spend His time with those that know their need of grace.
The story of a woman caught in adultery is recounted in John 8. A crowd gathers to stone her to death according to Mosaic Law. It should not escape notice that adultery is a team sport, yet only one person is standing judgment; her male counterpart may likely be standing in the crowd. She has moments to live. Fortunately, if there is one thing religious folks love more than judgment, it is ensnaring others in their self-righteousness by citing the Law. The Pharisees and Scribes quiet the crowd and say to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” (John 8:4-5). The men are confident they have cornered Jesus where He has no choice, but to agree with them. Jesus kneels and writes in the dust. He rises to say, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7). At that, the men turn away beginning with the oldest. As Jesus and the woman are left alone, He does not condemn her. He simply instructs her to sin no more.
In the Gospels, we see Jesus responding entirely differently to those who think themselves wise or holy. He consistently reserves His anger for self-righteous, arrogant, religious people. Those who wield the Law as though it were a weapon of vengeance should expect no grace from Him. In Matthew 13, Jesus calls them snakes, blind guides, hypocrites, and whitewashed tombs filled with the uncleanness of dead men’s bones. Ultimately, devotion to Christ is demonstrated by restoring sinners with grace and truth. Self-righteousness can never coexist in the presence of the Master.
Thank you for sharing your time with me. Each Tuesday morning I will post a shorter message in Web and mobile formats. If you would like to receive it in your Inbox, enter your address in the sign-up form. I believe if we can see Christ, we can find agreement. I would be honored if you would join me.
“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us,” (Philippians 3:14 NLT).