Saturday, September 08, 2007

Wacko Islam

With all the ridicule and abuse the name of Jesus gets, some newspaper guy publishes this cartoon
depicting the Prophet Mohamed as a Dog in his paper in Sweden and the Islamics go nuts.

So, at the risk of losing my head, I hereby republish the cartoon. We must take a stand.

Let's see, Jesus or Mohamed? Who is greater? We must make the world see the evil that is fundamentalist Islam once and for all. If rubbing the nose of the nuts in this accomplishes it then let's do it.

After all just yesterday Osama Bin Laden (or his body double) invited all Americans to convert to ISLAM. I just thought a little truth in packaging is in order before we all sign up. Of course in typical Euro-cowardice the Swedish government is trying hard to smooth things over. You can't smooth things over with nutcases.

Why try?

The Gospel is Good News - UPDATE

I am tired of hearing preachers preach about things which have nothing to do with the Gospel of Jesus. I don't mind a good sermon regarding prophecy, or overcoming sin. I think it OK to teach about the truth of the Word of God. Or about the full price paid by the Shed Blood of Jesus, that he died for our sins, that he rose again and we can be saved and be reconciled to Him thru the propitiation of the cross.

All that's true but it's not the Gospel of Jesus. At least NOT the Gospel Jesus came to teach.

It's also not the message of the Kingdom which he DID teach particularly after he rose from the dead. If it was so critical perhaps he should have not wasted time with teaching on the kingdom as he did and concentrated more on the lostness of men and sin. He didn't. I don't think we really understand what it's all about in the modern church.

Both are good, Sin and Forgiveness messages and Kingdom messages, both are essential, in their right place. Both should be taught and preached but people are hungry for the good news Gospel of Jesus. The good news Jesus taught. The good news of the Prodigal Son. Another badly taught parable.

I think a person could preach a facet of the good news every Sunday Morning, every Sunday Night, every Wednesday Night and in a Friday Bible Study and never exhaust the fullness of the true Gospel of Jesus.

I'll let you in because by now you are wondering, "OK Redlin, what is the Gospel". OK, Here's the secret. It's fullness of Salvation. Not just sins forgiven and going to heaven.

It's health, healing, deliverance, freedom, True Joy, Peace, Revelation, Wholeness, Provision, Protection, Covenant, Release, Fearlessness, Sanctification, Overcoming and a hundred perhaps meanings of the Greek words for Gospel Salvation, Sozo and Soteria. I have looked them all up and the list is right at 75 once you spread your search to include all words relating to them. Here's where to start: Iterations of the word Soteria are here. And iterations in meaning of the word Sozo.

Read all the passages referenced and we are talking biblical salvation. John 3:16-17. Jesus didn't talk in terms of his impending death and resurrection. He talked about true GOSPEL salvation. Yet most of the church preaches salvation from sin. Certainly that's a first step but only the first step. The reason so many in the church are so lost and confused is they don't grasp the fullness of the great salvation provided them.

Look at this diagram. You will see that a person sinks in sin, comes to a place of repentance and then after looking to the cross is built up in faith and redemption until they reach the fullness of their salvation on this side of the age or the other.

That's where the badly taught story of the Prodigal comes in. We (I have too so don't holler) preach it as the love of God receiving in a sinner bent for hell. Certainly that's an application that can fill an altar, but it's not the application Jesus made. HE was trying to explain the fullness of the Good News (Gospel) by illustrating that the son, no matter what he did, was always his son, the fullness of his salvation was always his, he needed to come back to the father to enter into it. Not heaven, enter into protection, provision, healing, restoration, and all the other facets we never preach on when we preach the Prodigal. Once a christian saved by grace and returned to the Father, we can then work out our salvation with fear and trembling and looking to the full expression of it all in our lives. That's what's not being taught.

We are too busy preaching folks into hell and then grasping them back. I'm for that. I hate cheap grace. But, let's then help them understand everything wrapped up in the fullness of his salvation. Sozo. Soteria.

Read Ezekiel 36.
There is a pretty clear picture of the Fathers salvation and his intent. He doesn't do it for OUR sake. He does it for the sake of his name. He IS salvation. His name is Jeshuah (OT Joshua). God is Salvation.

Back to what you are preaching. If you are only preaching and teaching on the forgiveness of sins you are missing most of the truth of the Gospel.
Let's just suppose you could preach on just ONE of those other facets of full Salvation. Could you exhaust that little partial piece of the full subject of salvation in one Sunday? I don't think so.

Jesus came and when asked to read, read from Isaiah. It's recorded in Luke 4.

16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and He entered the synagogue, as was His custom on the Sabbath day. And He stood up to read.

17 And there was handed to Him [the roll of] the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened (unrolled) the book and found the place where it was written,

18 The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon Me, because He has anointed Me [the Anointed One, the Messiah] to preach the good news (the Gospel) to the poor; He has sent Me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity],

19 To proclaim the accepted and acceptable year of the Lord [the day when salvation and the free favors of God profusely abound.

20 Then He rolled up the book and gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were gazing [attentively] at Him.

21 And He began to speak to them: Today this Scripture has been fulfilled while you are present and hearing.

Notice that Jesus NEVER talks about going to heaven, forgiveness of sins or the rituals we must or should observe. He declares the good news, The Gospel is that he is the anointed one, the messiah, and as such that the poor don't have to be in poverty any more, that those bound up by anything can be freed, that blindness spiritual and physical can be reversed, that those oppressed by situations can be delivered, those bruised can be healed, those crushed by calamity can be restored. He proclaims that a year of Jubilee has been proclaimed over us, the favor of God is given to us profusely.

That dear reader IS the Gospel.

While to most people it's that Jesus died for your sins. That's how the Gospel has been released but it's not the full Gospel.

I suggest that if you are a pastor and you preach or teach others you might ask yourself today, Am I preaching the Gospel of Hope, Freedom and Deliverance or am I placing people further in bondage?

If Jesus did it, maybe we should too. Preach the Gospel.

Off the Road Again

I have been postless because I have been traveling.  Selling and buying. 
I also made a visit to the IHOP in KC.  I am going to blog on that at some future date.
I can only say this, this trip gave me a lot of windshield time to decide what is and isn't important in my life right now.  What matters and what is futile. 
I no longer feel like I am getting where I am called to be on the path I am on.  It's time for a change.  I don't know what that looks like but it's not the same as now. 
More to come.
As Peggy said to me 22 years ago when I was offered a position working in the Chicagoland area, "I'm up for a change".  I am.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

No Surprise Here

Keith Blogged his results from the Belief-o-Matic Quiz.

Here's what they say I am:

1. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (100%)
2. Orthodox Quaker (95%)
3. Seventh Day Adventist (94%)
4. Eastern Orthodox (90%)
5. Roman Catholic (90%)
6. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (65%)
7. Orthodox Judaism (55%)
8. Islam (53%)
9. Hinduism (51%)
10. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (46%)
11. Jehovah's Witness (44%)
12. Bahá'í Faith (43%)
13. Liberal Quakers (42%)
14. Jainism (36%)
15. Unitarian Universalism (35%)
16. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (34%)
17. Mahayana Buddhism (33%)
18. Sikhism (32%)
19. Theravada Buddhism (32%)
20. Reform Judaism (29%)
21. Scientology (27%)
22. New Thought (23%)
23. New Age (20%)
24. Neo-Pagan (18%)
25. Nontheist (16%)
26. Secular Humanism (13%)
27. Taoism (11%)

Like Homer would say, Duh-o

Really Neat Gadget

If you have ever wanted to know how to include HTML tags in your comments, particularly links, bolding, italics, underlining etc you will want to look at Scribefire. I use it with Firefox, which if you are not using as a web browser, well now, shame on you. It's free and works bout better than anything else I ever used.

Scribe Fire allows you to create a wysiwyg comment with links and pix and then drop them whole using the html button into a comment field. It's really neat.

What are you waiting for?

New Testament Christians Need the Law

I like to read Keith Darrel's Blogsite.  He's a good writer and John Armstrong, who knows him, says he respects him a great deal.  I hope to meet him someday.  On his website profile he says something that is jarring but absolutely true:  I came into the world a still born - dead in my sins and transgressions, a rebel against the one who created and loved me.
I could cite chapter and verse on this.  To a non believer it won't matter and to those who know the Bible you already know the references so I'll just go ahead without citing.  If you really want to know where I got that, just ask.
Most adults today grew up in a too permissive society.  An indulgent society.  A forgiving society.  On the surface this seems like  good thing.  I mean people like to be allowed to become whatever they can become. Right.  Let's see.
My first boss was a hard one.  Tough.  Mean. Demanding.  Overbearing.  So was my father.  He could kick me across the room. And did.
Both men in one way or another are reasons that I am so thankful for the salvation I have today.  I know what it's like to fear.  That is a positive.
I can't prove what I am about to say exactly but observationally.   I think we have raise a generation of people, now adults who think they are OK.  In fact A-OK.  They have stuff and somehow think it's the blessing of God to have stuff.  They have never suffered anything.  They don't know the meaning of the word NO.  Life has been easy and they think it's supposed to be that way.
To them everything is and has always been, "you're the best, no one is better than you are, you can do no wrong, you are perfect".  Self esteem stuff pumped into them from a child.
On the surface it seems like that might be a good thing.  It's not.  This false illusion of human goodness sends a damning message. 
An employee who is always given awards for excellence even when they aren't excellent, commendations, decent reviews,  when the day comes for reckoning they are shocked.  If they had been corrected and directed all along they would have conformed their behavior and performance to a level suitable for the job they are about to be fired from.  I can't tell you the large number of people who have told me this story over and over again.  The boss thought it was merciful of him to give them good feedback even when they didn't deserve it.  What they really needed was a kick in the butt.
In the old testament there were lots of laws.  There were the 10 commandments, the levitical laws and sundry Jewish laws implemented as time went by.  Jews did guilt pretty well.  The problem is forgiveness was a system.  So, on the day of atonement you could sin like hell for another year.  We have that in the modern church.  Structured forgiveness which allows for sin without consequence.  It happens in old line denominational churches more than evangelical.  The classical application is Catholicism, Confess, say a half dozen hail Mary's and you're good to go.  Lutherans do it in communion.  Sin like hell, cop a pop and a wafer and your good to go.  Evangelicals do it at the altar.  Come up, confess, weep, then go and start all over.  We have a quick fix.  It's time to put the law back on the wall.  GOOD: Love God, Keep Sabbath, No Idols, Honor Parents, BAD Killing, Stealing, Lying, Coveting, Adultery, and taking the Name of The Lord in Vain. 
Jesus came.  He fulfilled all of the law and set it aside because of the power of the cross and his resurrection.  Now we have Christians who live, party, marry, divorce, steal and claim to serve God like there was no Hell and the law was neutralized.  It wasn't.  It was fulfilled in Jesus. 
The bad news for them is, Hell is Real.  If they continue on this path they will end up there.
I blame lots of things.  The ban on spanking.  I didn't need to wonder if I was a sinner as a child.  I knew.  I was spanked and disciplined pretty hard.  Today, we don't allow our kids to know that disobedience is sin.  It is but we couch it.  Spanking is hardly done anymore.
I learned early on that disobeying my parents meant I was headed for hell.  I thought the 4th commandment meant that if I disobeyed I'd be killed by God.
Is that good.  I'm not sure it isn't.  The Bible says that the law is a way for us to understand the depth of our sin.  It's a mirror for us to see ourselves as we really are. 
Some time ago I asked God for a glimpse of Heaven.  What I got was a glimpse of ME thru heaven's eyes with and without the Blood of Jesus.  It was ugly beyond belief.  Yet his love and receiving of me as a vile sinner was without condemnation.  He washes me clean.  My depth of sin and his complete love in receiving me is such a distance so as to cause me to bow and cry Holy.
We must allow the law to convict people of sin.  We must start letting people know that if they are living together it's sin, if they are selling drugs it's sin, if they are beating people up, it's sin, if they are stealing it's a sin and if they cause a little one to stumble it's real sin.
Jesus did not come to abolish the law, he came to fulfill it's requirements but if we continue to sin in blatant rebellion to the laws of God we are heading for hell even if we name the name of Jesus. 
We must warn people of the mouth of hell drools waiting for them hoping they get stupid and sloppy about who Jesus is.  Our culture doesn't like that warning.  It likes soft words.  Let me ask you.  Have soft words won America to Jesus?  Have they even kept pace with the devil's culture?
What about other countries and continents?  Do they have any doubt about the requirements of the law?  Is it any wonder why the whole globe is coming to Jesus and we're not in America?  We never learned or believed how lost and stillborn we were spiritually.  Who's fault was that?
Mine.  Yours.  It's not too late. 

Monday, September 03, 2007

Like Begets Like. 5 levels of the Christian Walk and Churches - Answering the high calling of God

Most churches and most believers are convinced that the prime directive from God is to get people saved. John Armstrong has a story about one such effort I question.

I have bad news. It's not.

Jesus NEVER told his disciples to go out and get people saved. HERESY I heard you say. OK, let's look and see.

Your prime directive is to make disciples. Isn't that the same? Nope. Our job as Christians and as a Church is to reveal the Risen Christ and the finished work of the Cross which saves from damnation on this side of the veil and the other. The Holy Spirit woo's who he chooses to woo. We can pray, we can hope, we can witness but in the end it's not up to us. If a person isn't called by the Holy Spirit all the witness in the world won't save them. There are professors in divinity school who know the Bible better than you do and are headed for hell. There are pastors of churches who are as lost as the worst sinner in the gutter. Hell bound, unredeemed and unrepentant.

We have a plague of immaturity in the church which means that we are unable to fulfill the great commission. We are weak and ineffective because the church is made up of whatever is replicated by it's leadership. Like begetting Like.

It's a progression. There are 5 levels to this progressive upward call.

Level One -- Head Knowledge and Emotions
A person becomes a new believer. He is excited. He tells everyone he knows. He's a witness. Other new believers come on board. They form a new believers group. They love it. They love each other. They decide to get aggressive in finding others to become part of their group. There are churches who are full of the passion and enthusiasm of new believers but who are not yet taught or stable. The door revolves as people become disappointed and go looking for more.

Level Two -- Hands of Doers of the word
They want to become a follower of Jesus. They find other people who are followers of Jesus. They wear the WWJD band. They get a bumper sticker that says Jesus is my Best Friend. They have a poster on their wall that says, "Jesus is My Pastor". The church they are in is stuck on creating Jesus Followers, doing good works and helping the poor and so forth. They are busy but vulnerable and immature. Eventually something will hit them on the head and they will leave out the back door looking for something more. They have been struck with the futility of empty good works without more. What is more now?

Level Three -- Heart Knowledge, Loving Jesus
They want to KNOW Jesus. Not know about him. KNOW him. Intimately. Passionately. Like a Bride knows her husband. They become engaged in becoming the disciple that Jesus Loves. They pursue true discipleship. They pray. They get to know him. They are really committed. They fall in love with him. The problem is they become inbred. There becomes a spirit attitude about the Body of Christ as them and us. Soon they are like the disciples on the mount of transfiguration, they want to establish a tabernacle there and stay there. It's all good and well meaning but it isn't enough. It's still not the high calling of God. People want MORE. So they move on.

I can hear you saying. This is church hopping. No, it's a spiritual longing for maturity. Each of the steps along the way are important and shouldn't be ignored but many churches are not great at bringing people to spiritual maturity. They teach, preach and take an offering. People ever hearing and never learning or growing. The sermons they hear are good but not what will help them go to the next level.

Level Four -- Feet for ministry
Here is a church with good believer flow, followers of Jesus and good discipleship. The people are ministered to by the staff. They love their pastor. Unfortunately many churches get stuck here too because the idea that only the minister, called man of God or leaders can do ministry. This creates a cult of personality. Not that they do a bad job as much as they do, but they are not what those dear people need. They need someone to come along side as a mature person. In most churches that mature Christian is not present in quantity or quality because the focus is on the professionals on staff. This is the pattern we see in many good churches but it still isn't the highest calling of God. People can live here for a long time but if they grow in maturity they will want even MORE.

Level Five -- The Master Builders using Knowledge, Hearts, Hands in Ministry
They want to be part of an equipping and sending church.
When church leadership really grasps that it's highest call is to serve all 5 levels at all times they come close. I know some churches like this. Faith Center in Rockford is very close. The focus is to equip people for ministry. The church should be a place that builds apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and preachers and then become intentional in finding a place to engage their gift in and out of the church building. That is that is the kind of church a person will settle in for a long time. Become a part of and then be sent from to do the work of the ministry and replicate themselves.

It's a tough balance to achieve. This can be the stuff of Church Splits. As people become equipped they start searching for ways to be used of God in the Body of Christ and not just keep a pew warm. They want to go from being a disciple to making disciples and then to equip them for the ministry and eventually release the 5 fold gifts they have. These people become driven by the great commission.

Abraham Maslow describes this pattern in a humanistic way. I can take Maslow and interpolate it to speak to the spiritual maturity pattern.
  1. We need to feel like we are saved and secure as a believer
  2. Then we need to be busy doing something as a Christ Follower
  3. Then we need to feel the intimacy in relationship as a disciple
  4. Then we need to be focused on ministering to others. Many Churches are stuck on this with a strong leader who carries the gifts he does. He becomes the answer man.
  5. Ultimately deep inside we need to be contributing to all ministry in our gift. We becomes Body of Christ focused. We become equippers.
That is the highest call. It is the upward call we all hear in our spirit.

Unfortunately like produces like.

If you have a church full of baby believers they will be immature and unstable. And they will replicate themselves. The church will be full of baby Christians forever.

If you have a church full of Christ Followers, they will be engaged in good works, feeding the poor, doing stuff in the community. They will be so busy they will never grow up themselves. This church seems to be productive but you know when you are there because the church judges you by what you contribute in good works. Immature believers sometimes are the hardest workers, for a while.

If you have a church of disciples who are passionate toward Jesus and tabernacle builders there will be an inward turn that will cause new believers and Christ followers to be excluded. There will be a them and us division. We're not like those other guys. You will not be judged by what you do in good works but by how much time you spend at the altar in prayer.

If you have a church of with a staff of ministers and strong leadership there will be a good sense of teaching, instruction, learning, and preaching. The pro's do the work and the people enjoy it.

But, if you have a church of mature believers who are called of God to the ministry of equipping the saints, you have a church that is reaching very close to the upward call of God. Equippers from the 5 fold (Ephesians 4). You will know they are equippers because they will select choice people and work hard to develop them. They will concentrate on developing and equipping them for the ministry. God's best is for people to operate at this level.

Jesus had the same situation.

Jesus had lots of people who believed in him. Who came to him with needs. They believed he could heal.

He had many followers who followed him around for a long time. They loved his teaching.

He had a large number of disciples. More than the 12. He sent out 72. They wanted to do the works like he did and be close to him. Intimate.

But he was careful to select out only 12 in whom he would invest himself so they could do the equipping to do the ministry later. And one of them didn't make it.

Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2 advises his spiritual son Timothy NOT to try to spend time equipping every single one for the ministry. It would only frustrate him. He says, "the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." In other words be selective and invest in only the ones who really want it and who you believe will bear fruit.

If Jesus did it, Paul did it, then what about us?

We must get people as high in the call of God as we can but some people will only go to a certain level. Even in life not everyone becomes fully self actualized according to Maslow. We wish they could be. Not all will. We must try.

I believe the high calling of God is best when churches and fellowships are constantly sending our pastors, teachers, evangelists, prophets and Apostles created in their midst. Sometimes a painful church split happens because people are convinced they are equipped and ready. Some are, some are not. If they leave they leave. If we are going to error, let's error on the side of equipping and hope they grow before they split. Churches made up of followers and believers seldom split, they fracture and disintegrate. It is churches made up of Disciples, Ministers and Equippers that are more in jeopardy.

Francis Frangipane calls church splits unintentional church plants.

But that's another topic. If you are the leader of a Church, ask yourself the hard question. What is my church made up of, Believers, Followers, Disciples, Ministers, Equippers. Let's hope you have a steady flow of all 5 as they respond to the call of God. But if you have people permanently stuck on levels 1 or 2 it's time to ask yourself a hard question.

Am I answering the High Call of God in my life? Because, Dear Pastor, Like Begets Like. If you are generating immature fragile believers, what does this mean? Who are you? What are you replicating?

You can't impart what you don't possess. 1 Thessalonians 2:8

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Nice Others Noticed, God's Warrrior Flawed Moral Relativism

Dan Abrams at MSNBC was pretty tough on CNN and Christina Amapour's slash piece on Christians and Jews and the puff piece on Islam.

This from the same person who was singing high praise of Bin Laden last year about this time.

Read the whole thing, comments and all.