Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Underestimation of Sin, Men's Edition

We had our first men’s night at church (9/27/15) on the heels of the Ashley Madison scandal. We entered that night by way of heavy hearts and pastoral concern for our men. Many Christian men this year have fallen and been publicly exposed online and/or in their communities because they underestimated their sin and never thought their unconfessed, unrepentant, or secret sins would be exposed and cause themself and others harm. I’m posting my message from that night to warn and encourage men as we are heading into 2016.

Some Fallen Men in 2015
I list these men not to tarnish or condemn them, but as examples of the seriousness of underestimating our sin.
     -Tullian Tchividjian
Tullian wrote, “I returned from a trip a few months back and discovered that my wife was having an affair. Heartbroken and devastated, I informed our church leadership and requested a sabbatical to focus exclusively on my marriage and family. As her affair continued, we separated. Sadly and embarrassingly, I subsequently sought comfort in a friend and developed an inappropriate relationship myself.”(1)
     “[Tullian] says having an affair really forces a pastor, a person, to look at themselves and ask, "What kind of person did I become for me to do what I did, my wife to do what she did, where did I fail? Did I become something, someone I didn't see I was becoming?””(2)

     -Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr.(3)
R.C. Jr. wrote, “In August 2014, in a moment of weakness, pain, and from an unhealthy curiosity, I visited Ashley Madison.”
     “The grace of God’s judgment bore its fruit, and by His grace I repented of my sin. By His grace, I have also received His forgiveness, the outworking of His love. Prophetic providence had done its good office. Jesus died for this sin, but there are still earthly consequences. With the revelation of the hack has come the revelation of my sin. I recently informed the board of Ligonier Ministries, which has handled the matter internally, having suspended me until July 1, 2016. I also informed my presbytery which is also handling the matter internally. And now the world is informed.”
     “My sin, sadly, has impacted those who are innocent––my colleagues, friends, and family. I have and will continue to seek their forgiveness. I covet your prayers.”

     -Josh Duggar(4)
Josh wrote, “I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have been unfaithful to my wife. I am so ashamed of the double life that I have been living and am grieved for the hurt, pain and disgrace my sin has caused my wife and family, and most of all Jesus and all those who profess faith in Him. I have brought hurt and a reproach to my family, close friends and the fans of our show with my actions. The last few years, while publicly stating I was fighting against immorality in our country I was hiding my own personal failures. As I am learning the hard way, we have the freedom to choose our actions, but we do not get to choose our consequences. I deeply regret all the hurt I have caused so many by being such a bad example.”

     -Seth Oiler(5)
“Seth Oiler died in the prime of his life. The 42-year-old pastor of First United Methodist Church (UMC) in Newark, Ohio, committed suicide in his church-owned home [in May]. His untimely death followed an adulterous affair with a church staff member to which he admitted.” The writer comments, “I can only imagine the guilt, shame and condemnation that was flooding his soul.” He left behind a wife and children.

     -John Gibson(6)
“New Orleans pastor and seminary professor John Gibson...can now be counted among the casualties of the Ashley Madison fiasco, [he committed suicide], and according to his wife, it illustrates the real and unnecessary human toll.”
     “For 25 of their almost 30 years of marriage, Gibson and her husband struggled with his sex addiction. She knew that he struggled and had relapsed over and over again. She did not know that he had used Ashley Madison until she read his suicide note... In it, her husband talked about his depression and his deep remorse and shame over having his name be among those found in the adultery website’s database.” The late pastor and professor Gibson said, “The shame is in the secrecy and the hiddenness and the lie of this.“

Ed Stetzer said that there might be up to 400 Christian men (all church leaders) whose secret sins will be exposed because of the Ashley Madison hack.(7) This is not counting the non-church leaders who may have an account; which means there may very well be 400+ families and communities impacted by unrepentant and secret sins!
     All of these men underestimated their sin and never thought their unconfessed, unrepentant, or secret sins would be exposed and cause themself and others harm. We don’t want this to be you. We don’t want the enemy ravaging you with bondage to sin, fear, and condemnation. We want you to know you are surrounded by other broken men, with sins & struggles like yours, and we also have a desire for those of you in sin/compromise to experience repentance, forgiveness, freedom, and restoration; because we have experienced it too.

5 Points of Caution
I believe God wants you specific men to hear these 5 particular points of caution—i.e. 5 points if taken seriously and followed will help to avoid the danger and mistake of unrepentant and secret sin.
1. God will put your unrepentant or secret sin on blast. (2Sam. 12:12, cf. 1Tim. 5:24).
     –Don’t assume that He won’t. And remember, God is perfectly righteous and just in doing so if He chooses to (Ps. 51:4). Instead, you need to recognize that the only reason your unrepentant or secret sin has not been blasted by God is because in His goodness He is patiently waiting for you to come to repentance (Rom. 2:1-4). It’s better that you tell on yourself and repent than God broadcast it and bring you to repentance the hard way.

2. Never forget your past. (i.e. don’t forget about your Egypt) (Tit. 3:3)
     -Don’t act like your past isn’t yours. Don’t fail to remember how cruel a master sin was. Don’t disregard the bondage/oppression/deception you were once under. Don’t fail to remember what God has delivered you from [and maybe still is]). The moment we forget about our past, we, like the Israelites, begin to desire the hazardous things of the past we just forgot about.

3. Remain ever watchful in your present. (1Cor. 10:12-13)
     -No sleeping on the job, ever. Always alert. Always inspecting. Be like the German soldiers during the Cold War, weapon in hand, standing guard at every hole in the wall so nothing slips by. There is too much at stake. Be constantly vigilant!

4. Confidently pursue your promised future. (Col. 3:1-4)
     -Your life is hidden with Christ. You are not your past or your present. You are your promised future! Pursue the transformed you, the you being made-over in the likeness of Jesus, the you being progressively sanctified in Jesus, the you controlled by the Holy Spirit, the new you "being renewed in knowledge according to the image" (v10) of God. Your promised future is one of wholeness and holiness. Confidently pursue what God has for you while remembering your past and being watchful in your present!

5. Remember the character of God. (Heb. 13:8)
     –He is just and merciful. God will justly judge our sin, and yet He will extend mercy when we cry out to Him in repentance and for forgiveness.
     –He is holy and full of grace. Anything unholy is offensive to God. Our sin is offensive to Him. Yet, He graciously pardons our sin and iniquities even though we never deserve to be pardoned.
     –He is jealous and loving. God despises sharing our devotion and worship with anything or anyone, but His love remains unconditional toward us despite our disloyalty toward Him.
     –He is sovereign. God is in complete control and works all things together for our good according to His will, and yet He still holds us responsible for our sin, and to repent, and to obey.

There are, what I believe, 9 common sins among men: (The list below is not in any significant order)
     “64% of Christian men…say they watch porn at least once a month.” “Because porn use thrives in secrecy, many church members are trapped in a cycle of sin and shame, thinking that they're the only ones facing this temptation.”(8)
(iv)Pride of heart (the attitude)
(v)Pride of life (the pursuit (why and what), the image [reputation])
(vi)Idolatry (putting something/one in the place only God belongs)
(vii)Anger (rage, outward aggression)
(viii)Lust (lust of eyes, lust for sex)
(ix)Selfishness (self-absorbed)
These 9 are seen and done so naturally that conviction decreases, and so does repenting of these things, and so does striving to be transformed from these things (i.e. deliverance, holiness, wholeness).

Three verses to ponder and obey:
Proverbs 28:13 (NLT)—“People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.”
Jam. 5:16 (NLT)—“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
1Jn. 1:9 (ESV)—“If we confess our sins [to Him], He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Do not be that man that underestimates his sin and never thinks that your unconfessed, unrepentant, or secret sins will not be exposed and cause yourself and others harm. Confess and repent and experience mercy, healing, forgiveness, and cleansing!
“Freedom means that on your worst day you are loved by the Father because your acceptance is based on the righteousness of Another.” “Freedom means you don't have to hide from God because Jesus took your rejection. Weary and broken you can run to His gracious arms.” –Paul Tripp

5. |


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reflections in James

I was reading the book of James for my morning time with God throughout the months of August and September. As I read along, I took notes of some reflections and would post them to Facebook and Twitter from time to time to encourage and challenge believers. When I looked back over all the notes I had accumulated I thought it would be a good idea to post them all in one place. So here we are.... May my notes from my time in James encourage and challenge you as well.

  • Trials are to be counted as blessings because of what they produce in us, growth/maturity. The end is greater than the pain of getting there. It's like working out, we like how we look and feel after all the hard, long days in the gym. The name of our life gym is called “Trials”, and God is our fitness coach. Look toward the end result during those painful periods. Remind yourself it's worth it because God is chiseling you into His likeness. #changeinperspective #getfit #feeltheburn (Jam. 1:2-4)
  • Asking God in faith and doubting contradict one another. Faith acknowledges God's character, doubt does not. Either we ask God in faith and await His response in hope, knowing that whatever He decides will be good because He is good and works all things together according to His good pleasure; or we doubt and disbelieve God can or will or that His response will be something other than for our good and we begin to worry, become anxious, and miss the good in God's response. (Jam. 1:5-8)
  • The glory of humility is exaltation (i.e. being honored for being humble). The glory of the rich is humiliation (because riches don't last and the pursuit of riches is short-lived). (Jam. 1:9-11)
  • Happiness is a by-product of enduring temptation. We're happy when we don't succumb to temptation, woohoo! Honor from the Lord is a reward of enduring temptation. Oh to hear the words, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant!”, is like being crowned by the King. (Jam. 1:12)
  • James 1:13-18 contrast good coming from God and tempted to evil coming from our own desires. And James warns us not to be deceived. Any evil we do or desire or approve comes from within us. Any good we do or receive or desire or approve comes from God.
  • Believers are to receive God's Word with meekness, not arrogantly or passively. (Jam 1:21b)
  • Only the Word implanted in the heart is able to save souls (Jam 1:21b). Our words, reasoning, opinions, and so on have no ability to rescue a person. Only God's holy Word does! Be an open and friendly conduit of God's truth from His revealed Word! #thepowerisinHisWord
  • Acceptable piety to God is to selflessly serve others in need and be noticeably set-apart from the world. (Jam 1:27)
  • James 2 is so easily misinterpreted to mean “we are justified by works”. Yet the context clearly shows that “faith is justified by works”. James 2 is so misinterpreted because we rather earn our salvation than for God to give it to us freely. Works are self-initiated. Grace is anti-self and God-initiated. Our faith is justified by works because it was initiated by grace. Thus, the works that genuine saving faith will produce is God-initiated not self-initiated (cf. Phil 2:12-13).
  • Faith and favoritism cannot coexist. If you show favoritism to one person over another, James says you commit sin. Our churches are failing in this department. Pastors, leaders, and members go read James 2:1-13 and repent if you're guilty and make the hard adjustments for the glory of God and the gratitude of His grace in your life. Hold each other accountable to this charge in Scripture. The church is not a country club (e.g. members only, same race only, same class only, etc), it's a safe haven for all sinners in need of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • People should not be quick to be teachers of God's Word/Truth (either in speaking or writing). It's a tall task of which there is an even taller standard of accountability. We will be judged by our words. There is a great cost for such a great privilege. (Jam. 3:1ff)
  • There are many people who appear wise and sound wise, but if they do not bear the fruit of wisdom they are not so. (Jam 3:13-17)
  • James 4:1-4 is where we are when we compromise and are being carnal. James 4:5-6 is how God responds. James 4:7-11 is to be our appropriate response to God's response. Let us read and heed! #devowithJames
  • Whenever we speak evil (unkind, untruthful, gossip, slander, etc) of another believer we speak evil of the law of Christ and sit in the seat of God declaring condemnation (James 4:11-12). Be mindful of what you say about other believers, even in the name of “venting” and getting “accountable”, because you may be sinning against God and that believer. #morningdevowithJames #convicted #imguiltyofthis #Jamesholdsnopunches #letsdobetterChurch
  • Be careful that the plans we make are not in arrogance as if we are sovereign. James calls this evil. (Jam 4:13-16)
  • The person whose heart desires and is filled with an abundance of things eventually brings misery and judgment upon themself. Their riches/wealth are their corroded treasure they have chosen over the Lord. (Jam 5:1-8)
  • Over-indulgence leads to judgment. (Jam 5:5)
  • We as believers need to be more quick to bear with one another than to grumble against one another. For how we are so we shall receive. (Jam 5:7-9)
  • When suffering as a believer remember the end is always intended by the Lord, who is full of compassion and mercy. (Jam 5:10-11)
  • Don't make commitments and promises you can't keep, or you'll come under the judgment of hypocrisy. (Jam 5:12)
  • We in the Church need each other. We need to be available for one another. We need to reach out to one another in the highs and lows. We can do much good to one another if we follow James instructions with pure hearts or much harm if we don't. (Jam 5:13-16)
  • It's okay to pray the unbelievable and the unforeseeable. God is not intimidated. He may very well do it. (Jam 5:17-18)
  • We are our brothers/sisters keeper. We are to help bring them home when they're wandering in error and heading for death. (Jam 5:19-20)


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Another Testimony of God's Sovereignty

Yesterday, I announced some tremendous news to my Facebook fam & friends. I figured I should share it here too for those who may not follow me on FB. May you marvel at God through this testimony of His sovereignty.

It has been hard times financially for my family for some years now. I work part-time, making scraps. My wife's photography business helps greatly, but not enough by itself. If I went full-time with work it would hinder her business and we still wouldn't make anywhere near enough to survive. But by God's grace through family and friends and sometimes His unbelievable provision, we've been surviving.

In addition, after ending Radical Life Church (our church plant) in February and submitting over a 100 resumes for ministry positions all across the country, only to experience rejection from every single one (a small few after I made it past the 1st or 2nd phase), this season has been emotionally tough as well. Most of my rejections were because I do not have a seminary degree, which is not a biblical requirement or qualification and yet that was what disqualified me from those positions. I found myself stuck, I'm too theologically conservative for most black churches, possibly too black/cultural for theologically conservative evangelical churches, not reformed enough for reformed churches, and not “seminarian” enough for the majority of them all. I cried many nights questioning if ministry was worth it or if something was wrong with me. I pursued speaking engagements and putting together a Bible conference for additional avenues of my personal ministry. I experienced rejection in those things too. The Lord provided a door with Biola University for co-sponsoring the Bible Conference and Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. confirmed as the featured speaker. Yet I couldn't get a single local pastor I contacted to be a speaker, except for one pastor who did accept the request 2 weeks ago. Pastors told me no or gave me no answer when I requested to highlight their church as a local biblically sound church that upholds God's truth, except for 2 churches. The constant rejection was embittering my soul. Then the Holy Spirit corrected me on my vanity (i.e. stop thinking that it was all about me), and challenged me through 1John to walk in love and truth in this season of being turned down left and right. And so I repented and followed the Holy Spirit.

I was getting ready to toss in my ministry employment pursuit towel as the school year for my kids is rapidly approaching. Once my eldest son started high-school that was the cut-off for ministry employment. There would be no moving anywhere until he graduated. My family is priority, and my children's stability is priority. I would've pursued a non-ministry career, desperately hoping that God would open a door for that soon because we were living on fumes and by the end of August/September may have been forced to move because we couldn't afford rent, and ministry would have taken a back seat until who knows when.

This is where we were until this past weekend. For those who know me well, you know I am a “sovereignnite”--God's sovereignty means everything to me, it's where I find my security and freedom. God has been doing what He always does, working behind the scenes.

A church I applied for passed me through their first 2 phases and brought my family and I to Bakersfield for the weekend. My family and I have not experienced such authentic fellowship, intimacy, and an initial connection to a group of believers (strangers) since P4CM (a former church, circa 2009). No one knew who we were or why we were there. And yet you would have thought we were members who just came back from vacation the way the church loved and embraced us. The more time we spent with the leaders, the more we uncovered how much alike we are and instant friendships were birthed. On Sunday evening they told me their decision to bring me on as their small group pastor. And right then, in that moment, everything I had experienced since this time last year (church plant almost ending then, school almost ending then, almost losing our home then, etc) to this summer (church plant ending, barely making rent, being turned down by every church I applied for, canceling of the bible conference, etc), all came to my mind and I sensed the Father whispering to me, “See son, I never left you hanging. My plan was for something perfect for you and your family.” God has been sovereignly orchestrating this whole thing. Every other church's “no” led me to this church's “yes”. Every pastor who said they wouldn't be able to speak at the conference was because God knew He had a job for me and I wouldn't be able to through the conference like I prayed and desired if we were living in Bakersfield. God even granted the job right before my son started high school. Furthermore, to hear how many other candidates applied for the same position (more than 50, might have been closer to 100) and how at one point they took my name off the board too, and then for it to end in me being hired is all a testimony to God's sovereign plan.

My announcement is that I am the new Small Groups Pastor of Hingepoint Church in Bakersfield, CA, and my family and I will be moving there come the first week of August. If you have ever prayed for us during our tough season, THANK YOU SO MUCH! For those family, friends, and church family who supported us and stood beside us through our tough season, THANK YOU SO MUCH! You all get to rejoice with me and my family in God answering our prayers greater than we could've thought or imagined.

If you look up our new church family online, know that they far exceed whatever you will see or read. And if you know me well enough, you know I take God's Word, the Gospel, the Great Commission, the Great Commandment, discipleship, and authenticity very seriously. They exude this on steroids, lol. They are as a church what I had envisioned for RLC (our church plant). And only a sovereign and loving God can put a random family in LA with a particular vision and philosophy with a random church in Bakersfield with a particular vision and philosophy and they fit perfectly like a puzzle piece.

Thanks again for your prayers and support. We are excited for this new season. Time to go make some disciples in Bakersfield!

‪#‎OnlyGod‬ ‪#‎marvelingatGod‬ ‪#‎Ps23‬ ‪#‎theLordismyShepherd‬


Friday, June 26, 2015

The Supreme Court's Ruling & Our Ambassadorship

As I was leaving work this morning, a friend of mine told me about the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage. I was then reminded of the poetic truth rhythmically expressed by Eshon Burgundy,
“they tryna take the title from the Bible/tryna redefine the truth and make us feel like we are psychos/they bullets got our names and aint no typos on their rifles but that’s why we unashamed and make no idol of survival”    (“The Fear of God”, from “The Fear of God” album)
Captures it well doesn’t it?

I have to say, I’m not surprised by the Supreme Court's ruling and neither should you if you are a born-again believer. We are living in a modern time that mirrors the biblical time of Judges. This world in its secularist and postmodernist generations have been doing what's right in their own eyes, which is evil in the sight of God, for several decades now. Even former President Ronald Reagan in his 1983 speech before the Annual Convention of the National Associations of Evangelicals addressed the escalation of modern day secularism in a number of areas from morality, to family, to government interference on religious freedom. But the day will come when the Supreme Judge will address all of Creation from His Supreme Court.
“We will all stand before God to be judged by Him. The Holy Writings say, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before Me. And every tongue will say that I am God.” Everyone of us will give an answer to God about himself.” (Rom. 14:10b-12, NLV)
“Then I saw a great white throne. I saw the One who sat on it. The earth and the heaven left Him in a hurry and they could be found no more. I saw all the dead people, [great and small], standing before God. The books were opened. Then another book was opened. It was the book of life. The dead people were judged by what they had done as it was written in the books.” (Rev. 20:11-12, NLV)

Believers must remember, this world is not our home (Phil. 3:20). We are aliens here and ambassadors of a great and true King and Kingdom. We cannot expect "this world" to reflect or adopt the principles, conduct, and customs of the Kingdom we belong to. We are ambassadors here with an assignment from our King to be ministers of reconciliation.
“As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” (Jn. 17:18-19, NKJV)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, [as though God were] making his appeal through us.” (2Cor. 5:17-20a, ESV)
We are to implore the people of this world on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God (2Cor. 5:20b). That is our assignment as ambassadors of the King. And with every sinful and rebellious turn we see the world take, we should be more and more motivated to implore them to be reconciled to God because we know of the great judgment that is to come.

Yet, I would be remiss to mention that it will get worse here in this world for us. Jesus makes it clear, we are not from this world like He our King was not from here and if they hated and rejected Him they will hate and reject us too because we are His. Let us not respond to them as they do to us.
“If the world hates you, know that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. However, I have chosen you out of the world, and you don’t belong to the world. This is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you, ‘Servants aren’t greater than their master.’ If the world [persecuted/harassed] Me, it will [persecute/harass] you too. If it kept My word, it will also keep yours. The world will do all these things to you on account of My name, because it doesn’t know the One who sent Me.” (Jn. 15:18-21, CEB)
“I have given Your Word to My followers. The world hated them because they do not belong to the world, even as I do not belong to the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world. I ask You to keep them from the devil. My followers do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world.” (Jn. 17:14-16, NLV)

Until our King's Kingdom is the only kingdom left, we are to joyfully and obediently serve our King in this foreign world in the ministry of reconciliation as ambassadors of His Kingdom and look forward to that great day of His return. Be bold. Stand for God's truth. Represent His Kingdom. But do so seasoned with grace not hate.

June 26, 2015

Friday, June 5, 2015

The "Idea of Love"

In the wake of the Bruce Jenner controversy, I saw many professing "Christians" comment to other "Christians" who disagree––with Bruce Jenner, how the media and society has portrayed it, and what the Bible has to say about it––with the (now) old catchphrases, "God loves and accepts everyone", and, "This is why Christians are considered intolerant now, because they hold to narrow-minded principles in an out-dated book", and, "Jesus taught love not division". When these things are written by unbelievers, that's to be expected. Apostle John writes, "the world does not know us, because it did not know Him" (1Jn. 3:1b, NKJV). But to see comments like these from professing "Christians" always lead me to question, at worst, are they truly born-again, or at best, are they that benighted. There is simply no way a biblically-grounded born-again disciple of Jesus can utter statements like these from their heart. But the problem goes much deeper.

Far too many people (professing "Christians" and non-Christians alike) are reinterpreting God's "love" to include tolerance and acceptance for everyone and everything. Thus they strip "love" from the biblical God and plain reality, and make "love" an illogical, subjective, humanistic, fanciful "idea" which imposes unrealistic expectations that benefits whomever determines the definition and context of the "idea of love" at that time. It is commonplace now to hold this "idea of love" worldview and interpretation. And by commonplace I mean there has been a normalizing of desensitization toward this hazardous view and interpretation. This commonplace has also crept into the church pews and pulpits, small groups, bible studies, and Christian colleges, bookstores, and blogosphere. In North America and Europe this commonplace now sits proudly in the front row and publicly speaks as if it's a member of the Church. It is a ravenous wolf dressed in sheepskin.

The "idea of love" has no fundamental point. It's a formless "idea" able to be configured to the liken of whomever. In contrast, the fundamental point of knowing and understanding God's love is His unchanging Scripture properly interpreted (because we all know Scripture can be interpreted to say and affirm anything). In Scripture we see God's love is unconditional and has been demonstrated on all mankind in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. But we also see in Scripture God's love is holy and not tolerant and accepting of everyone or everything. Here are 3 examples:
1. God hates sin.
"There are six things the Lord hates—–no, seven things He detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord [among brethren]." (Prov. 6:16-19, NLT)
"You must not worship the Lord your God the way the other nations worship their gods, for they perform for their gods every detestable act that the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters as sacrifices to their gods." (Deut. 12:31, NLT)

2. God hates the wicked.
"God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day." (Ps. 7:11, NKJV)
"The Lord tests the righteous, but His soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence." (Ps. 11:5, ESV)

3. God's special love is only bestowed on His children––which means there is partiality with God's love.
"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" (1Jn. 3:1a, NIV)

Also in Scripture, we, the people of God, are told that if we "love" and revere God we are to "hate" evil. This is clearly not teaching tolerance and acceptance of everyone or everything.
"You who love the Lord, hate evil!" (Ps. 97:10, NKJV).
"The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil." (Prov. 8:13, ESV).

We see God's love (and teaching) in Scripture stands in direct opposition to this reinterpretation of His "love". It's one or the other, God's love as revealed in Scripture or God's "love" as reinterpreted in the "idea of love".

In addition, the reality of "authentic love" between humans must too display partiality at times; it cannot logically and realistically be tolerant and accepting of everyone and everything. An example of this is a man whom genuinely loves his wife and children will not choose the life of another over his wife and children. Even more, a man whom genuinely loves his wife and children will defend their life, if need be, to the point of death of himself or another. Or, a parent whom genuinely loves their children will not be tolerant and accepting of someone molesting or abusing their children. When people with "authentic love" for another have a choice to make, more times than not, they logically and instinctively will choose the one whom they love more over the one whom they least love. This indicates the reality of "authentic love" as not being absolutely tolerant and accepting of everyone and everything.

Those who hold to the "idea of love" are living an illusion. That "love" that supposedly is tolerant and accepting of everyone and everything is a fantasy. It's not real. It can never be real. Those who demand the biblical God and others to hold to this "idea of love" are delusional and self-refuting, because (i)their belief is "firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument"*, and (ii)they themselves are not being tolerant or accepting of the biblical God or others who disagree with their "idea of love".

In no way am I saying that as Christians we are not to "love" others. Loving others is a direct command from Jesus (Matt. 22:36-40). We obey our Lord, no matter what. However, loving others in a subjective, humanistic fashion is not the "love" Scripture teaches. The "love" Scripture teaches is patient, kind, gentle, humble, unselfish, hopeful, and many other favorable virtues (1Cor. 13:3-8). Yet, the "love" Scripture teaches also does not rejoice in/with sin but rejoices in the truth, does not behave rudely, does not love this world nor the things of this world, hates evil, and much more (1Cor. 13:3-8, 1Jn. 2:15). Scripture teaches believers a balanced, holy love (like that of their Savior & God), not a subjective, humanistic "idea" (like that of the world). So yes, we as believers are to love others, but in accordance with all of Scripture not only the virtues some deem favorable because they're more likable to others, but also the virtues that may/will pit us against the world as well.

When I started writing this it was suppose to be a tweet. After I realized it was more than 140 characters, I said it'll be a Facebook post. But, once I saw I had multiple paragraphs I decided to post it as a blog article. This has nothing to do with Bruce Jenner. It was the comments from professing "Christians" in defense of Mr. Jenner that were the tipping point and ushered me to write. This is about the poisonous and deadly deception of viewing and interpreting God's holy love as revealed in His holy Word through the lenses of this illogical, subjective, humanistic, fanciful "idea of love". This is about how this "idea of love" is not even in touch with reality and an innumerable amount of people across generations and countries are dismally lost in it's illusion. If you are a professing "Christian" and you continue in this deception you may prove yourself not truly one of His regenerate children (e.g. 2Thess. 2:10-12), and if you die in that state of deception you will find out firsthand how God's holy love is not what you thought when you experience the hell for those He hates (Prov. 16:4-5, 1Thess. 1:6-9). Please hear my heart, my previous sentence is not from a harsh place (though I'm sure it may have been received as such). As Apostle Paul writes in 2Thess. 3:15, "do not count [them] as an enemy, but warn [them] as [brethren]" (NKJV). I am simply pointing out another biblical reality that opposes this "idea of love": "Those who refuse to embrace the Word of Truth have not been saved by the truth and are furthering their own deception."**

My hope and prayer is if any of this is true in your life you come to repentance and escape the snare of the enemy. You cannot hold to two opposing beliefs, for in your heart you will uphold one and reject the other (e.g. Matt. 6:24).

*1. Dictionary. Version 2.2.1. Apple Inc
**2. Quote from sermon, "Trick, Cheat, Deceit, or the Word pt. 6"

June 5, 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Does God Approve of “Shacking Up”?

I have had many conversations with many professing believers who have argued to me that God does not disapprove of “shacking up” (i.e. a couple living together like they are married without actually being married). Their arguments have ranged from, “we're engaged so what's the big deal”, to “we're getting a feel of what it would be like to determine if we're ready for marriage”, to “the Bible doesn't say we can't live together”, and so on. Many professing believers do not see a problem or any carnality or compromise with “shacking up” (living together) with whom they're dating. Many professing believers may not even know how the Bible addresses this or if it even does or care if it does.

Let me say it first, the Bible does address this topic but not directly like a “Q&A”. You can find the Bible's view on this in it's pronouncement on marriage.
“18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”....21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.””
(Genesis 2:18, 21-25, NIV)

To physically move in and live together with your boyfriend or girlfriend is outside of God's design, and that is what makes it an error. God designed here in Genesis 2 that a man will leave his parents and be joined to “his wife” as “one flesh”. Living with your boyfriend or girlfriend purports becoming “one flesh”. How so? Because both people have left their separateness to live and be together as a couple (as “one”). A couple living together is a component reserved only for God's design in marriage. It is not meant to be done outside of this specific God-ordained relationship; for to do so is superseding God's design with one's personal view and preferences.

I have no need to address the potential and promising problems with couples living together before marriage to build an apologetic against it, because the greatest argument against it is that God ordains from the very beginning of humanity's existence that leaving, cleaving, and living together as “one” is for marriage only. To do otherwise, whether knowingly or unknowingly, is a clear defiance of God's design. One's ignorance or ignoring does not dismiss their violation of God's design. It will always be a violation––i.e. sin (falling short of God's standard).

So, to all the professing Christians that may read this, you have no biblical “omitted” basis for your defiance of God's design for living together as a couple; neither can you use the “cultural context” excuse to explain away the truth principles in this passage because there was no culture defined. This was humanity's inception. Thus, this principle is tied to all generations of mankind in every culture. There is no escape. The only reason you have to stand on is the real one, selfishness and pride––you want to do what you want to do and you don't want to be told that you can't. After this biblical response, to attempt to argue that it's not a violation to shack up (i.e. God does approve) further shows your selfishness and pride in your effort to justify your sin.

If you are a professing Christian shacking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend, God does not approve and you are in fact sinning against your Savior and Master. As always, there is grace––of which you've probably been receiving from God in the midst of you sinning against Him and have likely mistaken it for His approval. God will forgive, if you repent (1Jn. 1:9).

My final word to you, thank God for His grace and forgiveness, choose to obey Jesus and either get married, move out, or suffer the consequences of violating God's design (and whatever may come from that).


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jesus said, "I AM the Good Shepherd"

In the Gospel of John, Jesus proclaims eight “I AM” statements about His identity—–(i)I AM the bread of life (Jn. 6:35); (ii)I AM the light of the world (Jn. 8:12; 9:5); (iii)I AM the door (Jn. 10:9); (iv)I AM the good shepherd (Jn. 10:11); (v)I AM the resurrection and the life (Jn. 11:25); (vi)I AM the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6); (vii)I AM the vine (Jn. 15:5); (viii)I AM that I AM (Jn. 4:26; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:13, 19; 18:5-6, 8). Of the eight statements four of them are descriptive nouns for tangible things (bread, light, door, and vine), and three of them are descriptive nouns for nonmaterial things (the resurrection and the life, the way, the truth, and the life, and I AM that I AM). But there is one “I AM” statement which differs from the rest. In this “I AM” statement Jesus uses a character noun with the emphasis on the adjective. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd” (Jn. 10:11, emphasis added). The question now, why did Jesus choose to exhibit this characteristic of God? Let’s start with getting some background on what was taking place during the time Jesus uttered that “I AM” phrase.

The good shepherd illustration is in between the time of the Feast of Tabernacles (Jn. 7:1) and the Feast of Dedication (Jn. 10:22). Thus, Jesus and His disciples were in Jerusalem. Some hours earlier before the discourse Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath that was born blind and that starts a new confrontation with the Pharisees (Jn. 9). The Pharisees had previously attempted to stone Him (Jn. 8:59) for saying they were children of Satan (Jn. 8:41-44) and that He was the great “I AM” (Jn. 8:58). And yet the Pharisees are at it again. Robert Thomas and Stanley Gundry said, “The occasion for this allegory [John 10] was furnished by the excommunication of the blind man whom Jesus healed (Jn. 9:34).”[*3] Because of how the Pharisees responded to the healing of the blind man, Jesus equated them in His illustration with the thief, the robber, and the hirelings (Jn. 10:1, 12). The Pharisees “had no real concern for the sheep.”[*1] After this discourse by Jesus there was a division amongst the Jews because of what He shared (Jn. 10:19). Some said He was mad and had a demon, others said a mad and demon-possessed man cannot open the eyes of the blind (Jn. 10:20-21). During the Feast of Dedication, the Jews seemed fed up with waiting, some for reasons of entrapment and some for sincere inquiry. Seeing that the Feast of Dedication “was closely connected with that part of Israel’s heritage known as the Maccabean revolt,”[*5] the Jews just straightforwardly asked Jesus was He the Messiah probably with a political intent in mind (Jn. 10:22-24). This question turns into another debate and ultimately ends with an attempt to seize Jesus again (Jn. 10:25-39). The good shepherd illustration was delivered right at a time where it would be starkly contrasted with the characteristics of the Jewish leaders.

The sheep and shepherd illustration can be traced back to the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 34 and Jeremiah 23:1, God speaks out against the shepherds of Israel who aren’t concerned about the sheep. This is similar to what Jesus did throughout His public ministry with the Jewish leaders (Pharisees, priests, etc). He was purposely making mention to the Old Testament scriptures. The Jewish leaders are symbolic to the irresponsible shepherds depicted in the Old Testament. Jesus, on the other hand, is displaying and proclaiming Himself to be the good shepherd whom God was portrayed as in the Old Testament (Ps. 80:1). God is revealed as the savior of His sheep (Ezek. 34:11-15), the One who cares for His sheep (Ps. 78:52-53, Amos 3:12), the One who causes His sheep to rest (Ps. 23:2, Jer. 33:12), and so forth. Jesus says, in regards to those representations of God in the Old Testament, I am that same good shepherd.

Some may say that just as Jesus was showing a parallel of the present day Jewish leaders with the Old Testament irresponsible shepherds, so He was doing with Himself and God—He was merely showing a similarity not a claim of deity. However, Jesus knew exactly what He was saying when He said, “I am the good shepherd” (Jn. 10:14). Jesus speaks of Himself in the same manner God did in Ezekiel 34. In Ezekiel 34 God calls them His sheep and His flock (Ezek. 34:6, 8, 10-12, 15, 17, 19, 22, 31). In John 10 Jesus calls them His sheep and His flock (Jn. 10:14-16, 26-27). This is significant. Because in Ezekiel 34:23 it was prophesied that God will establish one shepherd over His sheep. Jesus, in His “I am the good shepherd” statement, is saying that He is the fulfillment to this Ezekiel prophecy. Jesus makes it very clear that He is God the good shepherd the Old Testament testifies of:
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want…Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Ps. 23:1, 6).
“Know that the LORD, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Ps. 100:3).
“He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young” (Isa. 40:11).
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture…I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own…And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring…I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (Jn. 10:9, 11, 14, 16, 27-28).
There is no ambiguity to what Jesus meant. Jesus claims Himself to be that same good shepherd portrayed in the Old Testament, not merely a similar one.

So, why did Jesus choose to exhibit this specific characteristic of God in an “I AM” statement? This “I AM” statement demonstrates the preface to the affectionate nature of God. The shepherd cares, protects, feeds, leads, and will even die for His sheep. By re-introducing this characteristic of God, it was an ideal way for Jesus to express the totality of God’s affectionate nature, that is, that Jesus–—the Son of God—–is literally laying down His life for His people (Jn. 10:11, 15) to ultimately care for them and keep them safe (Jn. 10:9-10, 27-29), and that no one else but He is willing and able to do so (Jn. 10:12-14, 16). The greatest display of a good shepherd is making the greatest sacrifice for his sheep, and that’s exactly what Jesus did for His, which is why He is and will always be the good shepherd.

1. The New Testament and Wycliffe Bible Commentary. New York: The Iversen-Norman Associates, 1971
2. The One Volume Bible Commentary. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1936
3. Thomas, Robert, and Stanley Gundry. A Harmony of the Gospels. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978.
4. Towns, Elmer. A Journey Through the New Testament. Mason: Cengage Learning, 2008.
5. Towns, Elmer. The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. AMG Publishers, 2002.


Monday, March 9, 2015

Did Jesus speak out about homosexuality?

I read an article today, "Hillsong Church Pastors Won't Speak Out On Gays Because Jesus Didn't Either". I'm sure we're all tired of hearing about Christians and Homosexuality, the Church and Homosexuality, the Bible and Homosexuality, God and Homosexuality, etc. And no, I'm not one of those that always has something to say about gays. This is my second time ever writing about it, and I'm only writing this because Pastor Carl Lentz of Hillsong Church NYC stated, "I'm still waiting for someone to show me the quote where Jesus addressed it on the record in front of people. You won't find it because he never did." It is sad but not surprising that many pastors and churches will ignore what Scripture says about this issue (and since Scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit, it's really what the Holy Spirit says about this issue).

So to Pastor Carl Lentz and any other pastor or church or believer who wants to see and know if Jesus addresses this issue on the record, I declare affirmatively that Jesus most definitely addresses this topic. He just directed it toward the heart of the matter. Jesus says in Matthew 15:10-19 that what comes out of the heart is what defiles a person, and fornication and lust (Gr. porneiai, sexual immorality) made His list.
“For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.” (Matt. 15:19, NLT)

So a man/woman fornicating with another man/woman (whether hetero- or homo-) or lusting over another man/woman (whether hetero- or homo-) is sin and defiles a person. Jesus said in Matthew 19:3-6 that marriage is between a man and woman as God established in the beginning.
Some Pharisees came and tried to trap Him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?” “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’” And He said, “‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” (NLT)

Thus, same-sex marriage is not God designed or approved. So if Jesus declared that fornication and lusting over another is sin and defiles that person and same-sex marriage is contrary to the command and design of God in marriage, what is left for homosexuality ("involving or characterized by sexual attraction between people of the same sex")? What part of homosexuality is not sinful? The answer is there is nothing left for homosexuality, and homosexuality is in fact sinful. Jesus died for that sin like He did all the others, and He transforms the heart and life of a homosexual sinner the same as He does a heterosexual sinner. Either you trust in Christ and become born-again or you die in your sin like every other (hetero- or homo-) sinner without Christ will. So to Pastor Carl Lentz or any other person who was wondering, that's how you can biblically answer the question of what Jesus has to say on this topic.

Grace is needed, but so is truth. Grace and truth cannot be divided otherwise we water down grace and reduce truth to subjectivity, and they are no longer biblical grace and truth.

This was simply a brief response to the question of did Jesus speak out on gays/homosexuality. I have another article that addresses "Can there be a gay Christian?". That's a more in-depth article on this topic.

As a side note, notice in the Matthew 15 passage I mention how it's the Pharisees that are “offended” by Jesus calling out defilement. In our day in age, many of us biblically-orthodox Christians are considered “Pharisees” because of our supposed “lack of tolerance” and “narrow-minded stance” concerning this topic of homosexuality. However, in this passage we can see the parallel with the Pharisees who were offended by what Jesus said about their sin and how today the biblically-liberal believers and leaders (and anyone else) are offended by those who call homosexuality a sin or say that same-sex marriage is not approved by God. That's one to ponder, are the biblically-liberal believers and leaders guilty of being like the Pharisees in their offense to what God clearly calls out in His word?