Sky Links, 7-29-17

Photo credit: Spacebridge, by longobord, C.C. 2.0
Haddon Robinson recently died.
I became acquainted with Haddon Robinson through the Radio Bible Class program and thoroughly enjoyed his winsomeness, brilliance, humility and obvious love for communicating the book.

Quotes from the Preaching Today eulogy, Honoring Haddon Robinson:
"Have you had any new insights about preaching recently?" He replied, "I've discovered that our brain works on a ten-day creative cycle. So, if a person wants to prepare their best sermons, they need to begin their preparation at least ten days in advance. This will ensure a person will hit their creative peak somewhere in that cycle."

“One who can explain a passage clearly and apply it to life accurately gets credit for being a genius.” He didn’t want to be considered a genius, of course—in fact, he once said that he felt akin to the donkey on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem—but he was brilliant at explaining the Bible clearly and applying it to life accurately. 

“Land the plane! The sermon should be just long enough to get the necessary thing said … If the congregation knows you will quit when you’re finished, they will put up with a great deal.” 

Probably my most-quoted Haddonism: “A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew. You must understand an idea to explain it clearly.” 

Haddon Robinson taught me the primacy and, ultimately, the sufficiency of the text. The question to be answered was not how to say my big idea but how to preach that of the author. It was a lesson I learned well and have dedicated my life to practicing and promulgating.

Someone in the class asked, "With so many different styles of preaching what is your view as to the most beneficial?" Haddon said, "Well …" and then paused for a couple seconds while looking at the ground to gather his thoughts. It became clear to me over time that this is classic Dr. Robinson. He was a master with words and was never in a rush to say something after one second what could be said better after two. After a thoughtful pause, he said, "There is no such thing as styles of preaching. There is effective communication of God's Word and ineffective communication of God's Word. If you want to call them styles, be my guest, but I'd rather call one preaching and the other talking to yourself."

Our job is to offer the truth in the text as a gift to the people of God, and stay as close to the ground as possible along the way. Haddon reminds me that it I need to be aware of how and when my own personal insecurities might seek to hijack the sermon.

Expressing simple truths in clever ways or profound truths in difficult ways is not particularly difficult. But expressing profound truth in simple terms is the mark of homiletical genius and the great contribution of Haddon Robinson to the field of evangelical preaching.

This post is from a Leadership Journal interview by Ed Rowell, entitled: The Hersey of Application.
Haddon Robinson: Preachers want to be faithful to the Scriptures, and going through seminary, they have learned exegesis. But they may not have learned how to make the journey from the biblical text to the modern world. They get out of seminary and realize the preacher's question is application: How do you take this text and determine what it means for this audience?

Sometimes we apply the text in ways that might make the biblical writer say, "Wait a minute, that's the wrong use of what I said." This is the heresy of a good truth applied in the wrong way.

The Key Elements to a Good Sermon:

The Gathering of The Church

Molong Nacuua wrote about gatherings:

"There is another kind of ‘church meeting.’ It’s Hebrews 10:24-25. It’s a kind of meeting that came out of relationship. It is the by-product of our relationships.
It’s guilt-free. “Is Monday night fine with you?” A brother ask.
“No. Tuesday would be fine” was the response.
“Ok. See you then.” That’s it.
Not based on schedule or routine. “We should always meet on Wednesday night at 7pm.” And if we could not for some reason then we cancel it and do it next week, same day and time and place.
Not based on program, “Our topic tonight is about Grace….next week is Love.” But our God-life itself becomes the topic. “You know I read something this morning,…and it makes me think…” someone might share.
“A brother talk to me about what I did is wrong” another sister opened up, “and it help me see myself how selfish I am…”
“You know what, earlier today as I went walking to the market I almost hit by a car,” one exclaimed, “but thank God it didn’t hit me at all.” A testimony, but you know it’s not the ‘religious way’ like “I want to thank God that I almost hit by a car,…(put up a smiley face with a little bit of reluctance to speak because you have to find the right words and phrase and yes religious terms) praise the Lord, I want to give all the glory to Him.” The person cannot normally speak.
“I had a vivid dream last night,…” a single mother said, “what do you think is the meaning?”"

Molong Nacua: Gatherings

Worship Times and Singing With God

Dan Wilt wrote a post about the state of worship in the church, from an Evangelical American perspective.

"There was a time when people were singing about God, and the great shift in congregations and individuals was that they began to sing directly to God in their songs. Enter the contemporary worship movement of the 70s (almost 50 years ago), 80s, and even 90s. While that was a precious and important shift, he suggested that something else is emerging with the younger set raised in the environs of the 90s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s (we’re almost there).

These people represent what I will call Worship Immersion Culture, and I strongly identify with this group as well.

Worship Immersion Culture – Surround Us With The Music

Worship Immersion Culture is not primarily drawn to sing about God, nor even do they always feel a need to sing to God. Rather, they are a generation that wants to sing with God. They want to participate in God’s life, and be propelled by worship encounters into a world that is begging them to live out their worship incarnationally – manifesting Christ’s presence in all aspects of life."

Is It Too Loud? Worship Accompaniment Vs. Worship Immersion Culture, by Dan Wilt

Healthy Things Grow?

Sam Luce wrote a post on the ('christianese') saying, "Healthy things grow":

Healthy things grow, is one of the things I used to say to describe something successful. I once thought that something must be healthy because it is experiencing some measure of success. I would see more families come to our church or see and organization flushing and would say: healthy things grow because of their growth I assumed a) they were a healthy organization b) their growth was a sign of God’s blessing. While this may be true in some cases overall assuming healthy things grow is not helpful at all. Here is why.

Roger Olson reviewed Greg Boyd's Crucifixion of The Warrior God:

Have you ever been perplexed about the Old Testament’s “texts of terror” including especially those in which God is reported to have commanded the merciless slaughter of not only men and animals but also non-combatant women and children? If you’re still perplexed and care enough about the problems these texts present for Christian theology (and Christianity’s reputation in a skeptical world), you need to read Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Interpreting the Old Testament’s Violent Portraits of God in Light of the Cross published this year (2017) by Fortress Press in two volumes...

...Ultimately, to make a very long story short (and fail to do justice to it!), Boyd argues that the Old Testament portraits of God commanding and committing extreme violence against even children cannot be taken at face value even as they must be interpreted seriously as “masks” God allows his fallen people to put on him. Just as God allowed people to crucify him, so God allowed even his own people to blame him for their (or invisible, spiritual cosmic powers’) wicked deeds. Although I don’t remember Boyd putting it exactly this way, I think it is fair to describe his view as that God voluntarily “took the blame” just as he “took the shame” on the cross.

I will just mention here one example of the numerous steps in Boyd’s overall argument. According to him, God never commits deadly violence, even when it is deserved, because his nature is love, but he does (often has and will) “withdraw,” step aside, as it were, to allow others (nations, armies, evil men, Satan and his minions) to wreak havoc with deadly force. But God only does this when people reject God’s loving embrace and non-violent defense and protection and insist on disobeying God with idolatry and violence. It is interesting how many examples Boyd mines from the Old Testament of references to non-divine agents actually doing violence the authors then attribute to God!

If you are thinking something like “This whole line of reasoning just sounds implausible” you really just need to read Crucifixion. Boyd masterfully anticipates every counter-argument and deftly deflects it.

Although I have read Origen, I was quite amazed at how much support for his overall view Boyd found in that extremely important church father who seems also to have believed that God never commits violence. But Boyd does not follow Origen’s allegorizing method; he instead argues that “something else is going on” in (behind) Old Testament texts of terror that we can discern only through focusing on the cross as the perfect revelation of God’s character.

Review of Greg Boyd's Crucifixion of The Warrior God, by Roger Olson

Gen Z Will Vote Conservative

Massive change is happening.  A new voting block is coming up: Gen Z.  And they are likely to vote Republican or conservative.  Here is why:

Salena Zito wrote about Jeff Brauer's research on Gen Y:

Generation Z possibly had a major, yet completely overlooked, impact in this historic election. “Generation Z voters were likely attracted to Trump because of his strong stances on national security and economic recovery — the main concerns of that generation,” said Brauer.

“This generation is different, and they are about to have a profound impact on commerce, politics and trends,” Brauer concludes. “If politicians and business leaders aren’t paying attention yet, they better, because they are about to change the world.”

Eric Metaxas also wrote about Gen Z:

Members of “Generation Z” are now beginning to graduate high school, and 2016 was the first time any of them were old enough to vote. At seventy million and counting, they’re also about to outnumber their predecessors.

So, what’s so intriguing about this new brood? Well, according to a growing body of research, they may be, by certain measures, the most conservative generation since World War II—more than Millennials, Generation Xers and even the Baby-Boomers.

The Next Generation of Americans (Gen Z) May Be the Most Conservative Since WWII, by Eric Metaxas

Ben Ford wrote about a new study about Gen Z:

Generation Z — those born between 1995 and 2010 — is rapidly becoming the next large voting demographic, replacing Millennials. This will be the first time members of Generation Z will vote in a presidential election, and they’ll have an impact on our government for years to come.

Findings from one of the first major studies of the generation now coming of age were published in “Generation Z Goes to College” by Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace. According to the authors, Gen Z cares about societal issues and brings a “change agent mentality” as they transition into adulthood. But Gen Z has little faith in Washington.

Despising Jesus

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.
He was like someone people turned away from; he was despised, and we didn’t value him.
-Isaiah 53:3

Do you feel like you are dismissed ('dissed'), considered worthless, unworthy of attention?

The word despised in Isaiah, is the Hebrew word, baza, pronounced "baw-zaw".

Baza means:

To despise, hold in contempt, to be despicable, to be vile, worthless, to cause to despise, to disesteem, contemptible, think to scorn, vile person.

You might ask, "Why would anyone feel this way, respond this way or act this way towards Jesus?"

Gentle, wise, kind, loving, healing, compassionate, honest, godly, and in fact; God.

Why would we despise Jesus?

Two words:

Self righteousness

People who hated Jesus were self-righteous, morally superior.  Self-righteous, morally superior people do not like the message of justification by faith.  That message says we are all bad, only God is good, we can do nothing to save ourselves, and we must wholly put our faith in God, by faith, to be saved, period.

No hamburger helper, nothing good in us that can get us saved or into the salvation box.

Self-righteous, morally superior people hate that.  They do not one bit want to lay down their works, their opinions and their power, and bow to God and be his children.

Jesus may not have looked good to them.  He may have had an accent.  He may have been 'too country'.

He was despised because he was from Galilee (John 1:46) and his followers were despised because they were Galilean (Mark 14:70).

Jesus was also despised because he was poor (Matt. 17:27, 2 Cor. 8:9).  If we despise the poor, we are in danger of despising their savior (Matt. 5:3).

But that is not the core of why they found him to be deplorable, despicable, and a horror show to them.

They hated him and they still hate his message today, because they are self-righteous.

Self-righteousness says I can save myself, help God, or have God help me do it.  And I can judge others, because I am morally superior.

Jesus came as a suffering servant.  And this is part of why people rejected him.  Messiah was supposed to be something different, in their minds.

Jesus said to his followers, who were close to him, "Blessed is the one who does not take offense with me".  Today, we get offended with everyone and with anything.  To not vent offense is a discipline and a blessing for those who control themselves.

Jesus comes in a package they were not expecting.  He comes to call sinners and not the righteous.  And the self-righteous are not righteous but are the greatest sinners!  Because they reject God's grace and do not love God, but idolize themselves and inadvertently serve Satan, who leads the way in narcissism and rebellion against God.

People who get it and follow Jesus are sinners saved by grace through faith.  It's all about the Savior and his faithfulness and grace.  The life of good works comes from that.  After: "Saved unto good works".

They were offended that he was a carpenter's son, who did not even go to seminary (Matt. 13:53-57).  Are you offended or do you despise people who you think are not qualified?

People were so put off by Jesus, that they said he must be demonized (John 10:20).  He was despicable to them.  We play this same "demonized" card against those we don't like or messengers we are not comfortable with.  And in the world, this language is to say, "mentally unstable or ill".

In their despising of him, they kept asking him, in a sense, "Who do you think you are, to say such things?" (John 8:53)

They were highly critical of him, in their contempt; noting that none of the elites followed him (John 7:48).  Elitism is not a good thing!

And they despised Jesus and were prejudiced against him, based on a fake story, unreal and untrue: a misunderstanding a misrepresentation of the facts, that he must have been born in Nazareth (John 7).  He was in fact, as we know today, born in Bethlehem, as prophesied in the OT.  But, not getting their facts right, they despised Jesus, because of where he was from: despising that place and him with it and it's people, when in fact, he was originally from Bethlehem.

The leadership of the day was so corrupt, that they missed Jesus and despised him.  When they could not deny that he was truly casting out demons, setting people free, they said he was doing it by the power of Satan (Matt. 12:24).  That's despising.

The elites and the elitism that rejected Jesus, kicked his followers out of the Synagogues (John 9:22; 12:42), excommunicating them.  That is despising.

Today, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is despised and rejected for similar reasons, as it was in the first century.  Jesus saves completely by grace: the unwashed, uncouth, vulgar, uneducated and 'deplorable' person.  That is offensive to some learned, elite and religious people.

The simplicity of salvation by grace through faith vexes and perplexes humanity that wants to be proud of its achievements and wield power.

See the naked peasant hanging dead, after hours of torture.  Whom God later raised from the dead  And who calls upon us to follow him, as king.  And there is nothing we can bring but ourselves.  We must give up everything to be his followers, including our prejudices, wealth and positions of power.

That is massively offensive to many and they despise that message.  They end up as enemies of the cross, despising Jesus work in the world, of saving sinners through grace and by faith.  Our lives end up being a work of calling people to follow us in our religion after the Bible, by our own interpretation, that opposes the cross (Philippians 3:18).

Being offended is a favorite indoor sport.  We become offended with Jesus when we decide what he should do or what he did was wrong.  We despise him.  But, blessed are we if we are not offended with him (Matt. 11:6).

Let's look at a number of ways that Jesus was despised and consider how we  might despise him or his work in his followers today.

Jesus was despised because he ate meals with 'sinners'.  You could make the case that this is what got him killed, because it was so offensive to the religious leaders.

Jesus continually ate and drank, shared meals, with the social outcasts.  How much do we do what Jesus did and how much do we despise those Christians today who actually spend table fellowship time with people we deem to be sinful?

The temptation of Jesus by Satan was a sort of invitation to Christ to take the easy way: make bread, leap off religious towers and worship Satan to leverage influence.  In a nutshell, avoid suffering, avoid the cross.

Jesus did not take up Satan's offer or follow his suggestions.  Instead of the easy way, Jesus goes the hard way, that turns out to be the redemptive way.

Satan's words were echoed later by the masses of people, who taunted Jesus when he was dieing on the cross:  "If you are the Son of God, come down from there".  Suffering is despised.

The cross, Jesus on the cross, is foolishness to those who reject him and despise him.  The cross and the gospel of Christ says that you need the cross, you need Christ, whether you are rich or poor, educated or ignorant, moral or immoral.  We despise the cross because it lays humanity flat: everyone equally needs the cross and salvation by Christ.

Christians who preach the gospel, that comes from Jesus and goes through his cross, will be loved and hated.  We will make some people glad and some people mad.  That is what the real Jesus does.

When no one ever gets mad at you for your message, we have to question whether you have been sharing the good news.  Jesus lives in the paradox of being love, wisdom, mercy and grace; while making some people furious.  That is the life he will live through you, if you are a Christian.

Today, we also despise weakness and suffering.  We live in the paradox of our loving all-powerful God and suffering.

The ultimate suffering was God himself suffering on the cross to atone for the sins of all humanity.

The cross, Jesus on the cross, is offensive and something to be dissed, dismissed and despised.  The reason it is so offensive is that Jesus on the cross says that there is no good in you and me outside of him.  We are mortally infected and death sentenced by our sins: utterly corrupt.

And the greatest sin is self-righteousness wherein I either make my own religion, where I am the center and I redeem myself; or I think I am worshipping the God of the Bible, yet I am saving myself or meriting my saving through my goodness.

Today, there is a moral superiority movement, that is human centered and based on human wisdom.  The way, the only and one way of  the cross is despised and dismissed or seen as a human belief that works for some.

They despised Jesus for who he was, what he did, and for the company he kept.  Because he did not follow the 'traditions of the elders', they despised him.

He was the author and the source of the very word of God.  Yet, tradition was preferred and assiduously adhered to, rather than following the God of the word (Mark 7, Matt. 17 and 23).

Today, we can either despise Jesus or embrace Jesus.  To embrace Jesus fully, we have to embrace the cross, a life of suffering, a life lived in and under radical grace, and a life of love.

When we leave out the cross, his cross and ours; we are despising him.

When we avoid suffering, try to skip it, cast it out, believe against it, and live a pain-free, pain-avoiding life; we are despising him and not walking with him, miserably going it alone or living in victorious denial.  The authentic Christian life is a life where we share in the sufferings of Christ.

When we add anything to God's grace, for our salvation, we are despising Jesus.  Nothing I do merits favor or makes me better.

The story of God, his story, is the love story.  God loves people.  They despised Jesus because he really loved people.  He sat with people, was always willing to be interrupted by people, always had time for people.

The cross life, suffering embraced in fellowship with Christ, radical, nothing more and nothing less grace; and a life of lived in love, being loved and loving people.  That is the life that does not despise him, but highly values and honors him always; as king.


Robert Newton, Messiah
Charles Spurgeon, The Offense of The Cross
Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew
Patrick Henry Reardon, The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ
Herbert Anderson and Edward Foley, Mighty Stories, Dangerous Rituals: Weaving Together the Human and the Divine
David Baron, The Servant of Jehovah: The Sufferings of the Messiah and The Glory That Should Follow

I Saw The Lord

For David says of him: I saw the Lord ever before me; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

I always let the Lord guide me.  Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and the hem of his robe filled the temple.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man. He laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid. I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades.
-Acts 2:25
-Psalm 16:8
-Isaiah 6:1
-Revelation 1:17-18

Have you seen the Lord?  Do you live in the reality of seeing him?  Does he see you?

Seeing the Lord changes your life.  It changes how you see everything and everyone else.

Have you seen him?

When I have seen him, it changes how I see others.  Seeing him transforms me.

Seeing the Lord is not something abstract or something for later.

Seeing the Lord is not something that only a limited number of people in the Bible got to experience.

Seeing the Lord is something you and I get to do.  Have you seen him?

Do you see the Lord?  Do you know that he sees you?

Can you hear what he is saying to you?  Do you know what he thinks about things, about other people?

Have you been cultivating your relationship with him, seeing him?

When you saw him did it change you?

Do you know his love?

Does seeing him affect how you see others?

Do you have his heart, because you have seen him?

Do you really know that he sees you?

Baptism Notes and Bio

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
-John 1:29

I was baptized by Paul Cox, a Presbyterian Reverend, when I was about 5 years old.  Based on the traditions of that church and my parents wishes, they waited till I was 5, so that I could be baptized the same day as my brother, who is 2 years younger than me.  My father would have also had the occasion to be baptized in that season, because he had just come to faith in Christ; while my mother was already a believer and would have had the opportunity to be baptized either in the Congregational Church of her childhood or the Brethren Church of her teen and early adult years.

Years later, when I was in high school, I was forced to go to confirmation classes, at our Covenant Church.  The class culminated with baptism for those of us who completed it; but was optional.  And I opted not to do it.  

A few years later, I attended a Foursquare Church, and they had an annual baptism, at the beach, with a luau.  One of my close friends got baptized on one of those occasions; which was preceded by a one hour class, at the beach, where they made sure that you knew what you were doing or what the whole thing was about.

Some more years later, I joined the Vineyard Church, which I later found out had Quaker and Calvary Chapel roots.  Quakers do not water baptize, while having a strong belief in the baptism of the Spirit.  And Calvary Chapels do water baptise, having their roots in the Foursquare church.  

A few years later, I worked at the Salvation Army for two years.  They neither baptize nor take communion; but they are not against nor forbid it.  When the Quakers and the Salvation Army began, Christians were very divisive over baptism and for various reasons they formed their convictions to stay out of the fight.

Baptism is not a major doctrine.  Disagreement on the who, how and when of baptism should never be a cause for division.

Baptism is a blessing, a means of grace; spiritually beneficial, a joyful experience, strengthening and encouraging.  Jesus even commanded baptism.  But baptism is not necessary for salvation.

To say that baptism or any other act is necessary for salvation is to say that we are not justified by faith alone.

Baptism is not a major doctrine, a hill to die on.  Major doctrines are:
  • The authority of the Bible
  • The Trinity
  • The deity of Christ
  • Justification by grace through faith alone
To me, it is just silly or foolish and sad for someone to believe that one must be baptized, and perhaps in a particular way, in order to be saved.

I always say, "what about the thief on the cross?"  I recently read someone who said that won't fly because it was still the old covenant time.  The truth is, that the new covenant took effect when Jesus died and he died before the two thieves died, so they died under the new covenant.

Baptism is also not necessary for salvation, because our justification from our sins takes place at the point of our saving faith.  By faith, through grace, we connect with God's faithfulness in Christ and enter into salvation.

The backdrop for believers baptism is that the church is made up of believers, with seekers and pre-christians or children-who-are-not-old-enough-to-believe.

The backdrop for infant or young child baptised churches is that the church is a covenant community, made up of believers and children of believers who are not yet old enough to articulate their faith or have not yet had a personal salvation experience or decision for Christ.

In the NT we have all these occasions of baptism:
  • People being baptised after coming to faith
  • Whole households, including children and slaves being baptised, with no evidence of their faith
  • People being baptised in masses immediately after they say yes, Jesus is Lord
  • An individual being baptized after personal study, tutoring and hearing the gospel
  • People being baptized with water after they were baptized with the Spirit
And, any believer can baptise people.  We really do believe in the priesthood of all believers.  Priestly functions are to pray for, listen to, serve, and administer baptism and communion.

Notes on Baptism From Witherington and Dunn

John replied to them all, “I baptize you with water, but the one who is more powerful than me is coming. I’m not worthy to loosen the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
-Luke 3:16 

Ben Witherington: "it is no wonder that we have been debating baptism for two thousand years now, with no sign of the debating abating.  The New Testament does not answer all our modern questions about baptism, and it especially does not answer questions about what to do with Christian children when it comes to baptism.  As Dunn said earlier, the popular notion that conversion necessarily precedes baptism and should be seen as a seal or testimony or even a confession to conversion and commitment previously made is nowhere clearly stated in the New Testament.

Unfortunately, baptism is one of those contentious issues that pushes us so that we can not and do not allow the silences of the New Testament text to rest in peace.  We fill in the gaps with our own theologies and urgencies, which has led to turning baptism into something it is not: a Christian dedication ritual, or a Christian bar mitzvah or confirmation ritual.  The result is understandable, because the church today is mainly a nurture organization which has a missionary committee or two.  If it were rather a missionary movement that also did nurture, I suspect we would read Acts and other New Testament evidence quite differently, for what we see in the New Testament reflects the missionary situation, not a settled system of church and sacraments.  Most of all, if the New Testament teaches us anything on the subject, it is that we should be prepared for surprises and divine irregularities, and we should accept that Acts tells us that sometimes water baptism comes before, sometimes with, and sometimes after the Spirit has baptized a person into Christ.  God can do it how God wants to."  (Witherington, Troubled Waters, (2010) pp. 111-2)

James Dunn: "In scholastic Protestantism the Spirit became in effect subordinate to the Bible, and the latter replaced the sacraments as the principal means of grace and inspiration.  Where Catholics fastened on to the objectivity of the sacraments, Protestantism fastened on to the objectivity of the Bible (see Brunner, Truth as Encounter, (ET 1964) 77f.).  Though the Spirit was regarded as the principal participant in the work of salvation, he was still hardly to be experienced apart from the Bible (see H. Watkins-Jones, The Holy Spirit from Arminius to Wesley (1929) 170f.; G.F. Nuttall, The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience (1946) 23f., 31-33, B. Ramm, The Witness of the Spirit (1959) 64, and J.I. Packer, 'Fundamentalism' and the Word of God (1958) 119.) 'The Bible only is the religion of Protestants', and conversion is essentially justification by faith alone.

Like earlier 'enthusiasts' Pentecostals have reacted against both these extremes.  Against the mechanical sacramentalism of extreme Catholicism and the dead biblicist orthodoxy of extreme Protestantism they have shifted the focus of attention to the experience of the Spirit.  Our examination of the NT evidence has shown that they were wholly justified in this  That the Spirit, and particularly the gifts of the Spirit, was a fact of experience in the lives of the earliest Christians has been too obvious to require elaboration (eg., Acts 2:4; 4:31; 9:31; 10:44-46; 13:52; 19:6; Rom. 5:5; 8:1-16; 1 Cor. 12:7, 13; 2 Cor. 3:5; 5:5; Gal. 4:5; 5:16-18, 25; 1 Thess. 1:5; Titus 3:6; John 3:8; 4:14; 7:38; 16:7 - the presence of the Spirit was to be better than the presence of Jesus).  It is a sad commentary on the poverty of our own immediate experience of the Spirit when we come across language in which the NT writers refer directly to the gift of the Spirit and to their experience of it, either we automatically refer it to the sacraments and can only give it meaning when we do so (1 Cor. 6:11; 12:12; 2 Cor. 1:21; Eph. 1:13; Titus 3:5-7; John 3:5; 6:51-58, 63; 1 John 2:20, 27; 5:5-8; Heb. 6:4), or else we discount the experience described as too subjective and mystical in favour of a faith which is essentially an affirmation of biblical propositions, or else we in effect psychologize the Spirit out of  existence.

The Pentecostal attempt to restore the NT emphasis at this point is much to be praised, but it has two unfortunate aspects.  First, the Pentecostal has followed the Catholic in his separation of Spirit-Baptism, from the event of conversion-initiation (represented in water-baptism), and has made the gift of the Spirit and experience which follows after conversion.  This is quite contrary to NT teaching....

The second mistake of the Pentecostal is that he has followed the Protestant in his separation of faith from water-baptism...

If the NT is to be our rule, therefore, the rite of water-baptism may not be given the central role in conversion-initiation.  It symbolizes the spiritual cleansing which the Spirit brings and the finality of the break with the old life; it is a stimulus to faith and enables commitment to come to necessary expression; it is the rite of acceptance by local Christians or congregation as representative of the world-wide Church; but otherwise is not a channel of grace, and neither the gift of the Spirit nor any of the spiritual blessings which he brings may be inferred from or ascribed to it,  A recall to the beginnings of the Christian life in the NT is almost always a recall not to baptism, but to the gift of the Spirit, or to the spiritual transformation his coming effected.

In short, in the beginning, no Christian was unbaptized, but not all those baptized were 'ipso facto' Christians.  The NT teaching at this point may be expressed epigrammatically thus:

  Faith demands baptism as its expression;
  Baptism demands faith for its validity.
  The gift of the Spirit presupposes faith as its condition;
  Faith is shown to be genuine only by the gift of the Spirit.

...What is a Christian?  What is the distinguishing hallmark of the Christian?  Our study has given us the NT answer to this question with some precision; with remarkable consistency the answer came:  That man is a Christian who has received the gift of the Holy Spirit by committing himself to the risen Jesus as Lord, and who lives accordingly."  (Dunn, Baptism in the Holy Spirit: A Re-Examination of the New testament on the Gift of the Spirit (1977), pp. 225-229)

God Arises

God arises. His enemies scatter, and those who hate him flee from his presence.
-Psalm 68:1

God is a warrior God, who does battle against his enemies and it is happening today.  Psalm 68 speaks this message and tells the story of how God is a warrior God.  When we read this psalm, we are invited to join in on this reality.

The Bible is not just a history book and a book on how to live.  The Bible is full of invitations in to the reality of what God is doing today.  Our lives are not disconnected from the history and the story of God.  

Quite the opposite is true.  We are invited into the story.  God's story is going on and we can take notice of what God is doing.  The alternative is to shut our eyes, ears, minds or hearts and say with the fools, "There is no God".

A message for today is, "God arises".  Do you see it?  Did you know that?  Are you aware that God is moving?

Did you know that God is not just waiting in heaven?  God is at work and has been at work.  God is at war.

God is coming into places where his enemies and been hanging out and doing their diabolical things.  When God comes, they scatter.

There is a phrase or statement that some of us have said at the outset of ministry time: "Let it come."  We might later say, "There it is", or, "That's it".  And we are talking about the power or presence of God.

Some people have pushed back and said, "God is already here".  That is true.  But God comes with increased presence and in different ways.

After all, Jesus taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come".  He said to ask Father to make the kingdom of God break in more or increase.

But Psalm 68 is about taking notice of what God is doing by His own initiative.  It also catalogues or remembers the story of what God did and says, "Yes, do it again".

Here are some of the other ways that the beginning of Psalm 68 is translated:
  • Let God arise.  KJV
  • Let God rise up.  CEB, NRSV
  • Do something, God!  CEV
  • God, get up.  ESV
  • Up with God!  MSG
  • God springs into action!  NET
  • May God arise.  NIV
  • Rise up, O God.  NLT
  • May the True God rise up.  VOICE
  • God!  Arise with awesome power.  TPT

The Warrior God

God, when you went out before your people, when you marched through the desert,
-Psalm 68:7

God is the Warrior God.  That is what Psalm 68 is all about.  God is at war for his people.  This is something we need to understand.

God is on his way somewhere.  God is leading his people somewhere.

God is leading us out of bondage and into freedom.

God is leading us from death to life.

God is leading us from alienation to becoming a nation.

God is a person who is with his people, standing before them and leading them.

God's people are not ever left alone, but are led by God himself.

This has always been God's way, from the beginning through today.

God is leading each one us us and all of us together somewhere.

This is something to reckon with and understand in your life.

And there is only one who is the True God.  Only one and that one is plural, three in one.

God is at war with all the other false so-called gods.

Only the one True God gives life and saves people.

The face of God is Jesus.

Every 'god' will bow to the One True God, who is Christ Jesus.

Jesus is God and God is at war with every false 'god', who is working to deceive people.

There is only one True God, the plural God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God is The Warrior King who is at war and taking his people to his dwelling place.

This is what God has been doing and is doing today.

The war is on and has been on.  We just need to recognize it and follow behind God who is leading us and making war on our behalf.


ז Zayin

Remember my affliction and my homelessness,
the wormwood and the poison.
I continually remember them
and have become depressed.
Yet I call this to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

ח Cheth

Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for his mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness!
I say, “The Lord is my portion,
therefore I will put my hope in him.
-Lamentations 3:19-24

I have a couple of flower bushes, by the back door, that had a beautiful bouquet of flowers, when I planted them back in February.  Even though I've fed and watered them, I noticed this past week, that there were no flowers.

But this morning, a fresh new yellow flower caught my eye, and then I noticed several purple ones.  Yellow is the color of hope.  Purple is the color of royalty.

You might know the song, "The Steadfast Love of The Lord", which is taken from Lamentations 3.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
His mercies they never come to an end
They are new every morning
New every morning
Great is thy faithfulness oh Lord
Great is thy faithfulness.


You, God, showered abundant rain; you revived your inheritance when it languished.
-Psalm 68:9

God is going to do a new thing (Is. 43:19) in the church (1 Tim. 3:15).  It is going to be a renaissance.  It is going to be completely new.

New birth (1 Pet. 1:32 Cor. 5:17) is going to happen with God's church (Gal. 1:13).  It is going to be so new that we need to get it that the structure has to change or become new, so that we can participate in the new thing God is going to to.  This is Jesus' lesson of the wine and the wineskins.

New wine requires new wineskins.  The new wine will burst the old wineskins.  We are tempted to take our old containers or our old and present structures and go forward, to God, and say, "Yes, fill me up", or "Yes, renew our church".

But Jesus says that we need new containers for the new wine.  The new thing will simply break the old container.  And there will be a mess and the new thing will not work.

Many of us want revival and another great awakening in America.  And it is coming.  But it will be so new and so different, that we need to understand that it's not going to be like God helping us or joining in on what we have been doing.

God is going to do a completely new thing.  It is going to be like when the children of Israel entered the promised land.  God said, "You have not traveled this way before" (Jos. 3:3-5).

The church is going to be reset or reborn.  God not coming to re-model the church, but do something completely new.  It is going to be so different and so powerful and so life giving that it will be a rebirth of everything that God wants to do with the church.  Renaissance.

Renaissance is clearly revival, but the newness makes it clear that God is not reviving the old ways.  God is not going to bring back the past ways and days.  God is going to do a new thing that will be reviving to the body and put it back on the playing field that it was designed for.

A portion of believers have missed the move of God, every time, because they were unwilling to move into the new.  Zoom in to any portion of church history or salvation history.  See the portion of people who became flexible, perhaps because of hunger or humility, and moved with God, into the move of God, that was different from the standard bearing people of God around them.

Happy Landings

So, at each stage refreshed, they will reach Sion, and have sight there of the God who is above all gods.
-Psalm 84:7 (Knox Bible)

On the 4th of July, we ran out of gas on the way home.  The gas gauge was reading wrong and it was a complete surprise.

The car sputtered and the warning lights came on.  I had less that ten seconds, more like four or five, to find a spot to pull over.  I pulled right into a spot in the neighborhood, beside the boulevard.

It was the one open spot.  It was as if that spot had been saved for us.  Hours earlier, that neighborhood had been jammed and packed with cars and people, who were there for the block parties.

When something like this happens to me, I don't jump for joy or yell something out.  I just have a calm peace.

You know the one when people say they prayed for a good parking place at Target and there is it, one saved for them, up front, near the entrance?  I think God is with us even more, when we can't find a spot or when we have to take the spot in the boonies.

Life is a journey with unexpected challenges.  We navigate each one, growing stronger and stronger.  And God, where God lives, is our destination.

When we ran out of gas, we were on Del Amo, which in Spanish means, "Of the master".  There's Del Amo Boulevard and just Del Amo, tucked in side-by-side.  So, we ran out of gas on Del Amo Blvd., and then landed the car, on Del Amo, the street, where there are houses, sidewalks and driveways.

The street that we pulled off on was Autry, named after the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.  And our parking spot was right before Hersholt, named after Jean Hersholt, best known as a humanitarian, who set up a medical relief fund for people in the motion picture industry, who needed medical care, when they lacked funds.  He was an actor, famous for his Dr. Christian radio program, directed by Neil Reagan, Ronald Reagan's brother.  And he did six Dr. Christian films.  As a side hobby, he translated 160 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales into English.

I share these things because I like to look up names and their meanings, histories and biographies of people.

Let's just say that I am happy landing on the road of the master, between the streets named after these two men.  My son remarked that it was his best 4th of July ever and that he enjoyed the adventure.

This song clip below captures the spirit of Gene Autry that I love and also carry.

Born Free

For freedom, Christ set us free.  Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.
-Galatians 5:1

Christians are born free.  We are freed to be free.  To be a Christian means to be set free.

We are set free from the bondage to sin and to religion.  When someone becomes a Christian they are set free to be free, in Christ.

Becoming a Christian is not just about believing the Bible, but about believing in Christ.  Being a Christian is being a person in Christ.

The freedom that Christians are born into, is freedom of conscience.  Christianity is inside-out.  Christ in you.

When we participate in the process of someone coming to Christ, to be be born from above, we are all about leading them to him and not to us.  It is wonderful if we are so immersed in Christ that people see Christ in us.  But our goal is never to make disciples after ourselves or our brand, but of Christ himself and let him take this person where he wills.

The freedom that Christ sets us free to is freedom of conscience.  Jesus works within each one of his followers, enabling them and guiding them to do what is right.

Disciplemaking is not about converting people to our opinions, but making them disciples of Jesus.  There is no program, but Christ.

So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.
-John 8:36

The Son of God has set us free.  What that means is that I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but the life I now live is by the faithfulness of the Son of God (Gal. 2:20).  The freedom of having been set free is only in the work of the Son of God.

Outside of what Jesus did on the cross, I do not have freedom.  With centering my life in the cross of Christ and bearing my own cross, I will be selfish and become enslaved again to sin, religion or both.

Some people say, "I just can't do that", or, "It's too hard", and live a life of selfish complaining and victimhood, paradoxically, living as slaves in freedom.

Christianity is lived inside out.  When you look for something on the outside of you to feel better, you are not living in freedom, but are looking for a medication.

Jesus gives you life from your inside.

Freedom in Christ is what Christian salvation is.  Galatians 5:1 is a concise statement of what Paul has written in Chapters 1-4.

The gospel is grace, not 'Jesus plus'.

This is what Richard Longenecker wrote about Galatians, in his closing explanation of chapter 5:1-12:

"Most often Galatians is viewed as the great document of justification by faith.  What Christians all too often fail to realize is that in reality it is a document the sets out a Christ-centered lifestyle— one that stands both in opposition to nomism and libertinism.  Sadly though, applauding justification by faith, Christians frequently renounce their freedom in Christ by espousing either nomism or libertinism and sometimes (like the Galatians) both.  So Paul's letter to the Galatians, though directly relevant to the Galatian situation, speaks also to our situation today."  (R. Longenecker, Galatians, p. 245, 1990)