Least of These

Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, “When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?” The king will answer, “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.”

Matthew 25:37-40

One thing I love about Jesus is he identifies with the poor: the hungry and thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned.

What can make one uneasy is Jesus equates how you treat the poor with how you treat him personally. In other words, when you are good to the poor you are being good to Jesus. When you are being bad to the poor, you are being bad to Jesus, the king of the universe, the Lord of all.

My forthcoming book will discuss Jesus’ scathing woes he pronounces over the religious leaders of his day. He calls them show-offs and blind fools. He says the religious leaders are greedy and selfish withholding food and drink from those who need it most. I believe much of the Church today has turned into these religious leaders.

We’ve lost sight of exactly who we are to be seeking after. Jesus identified himself with the poor time and again in the gospels. He was born poor, lived poor, and died a poor man. The apostle said, “He became poor so that we could become rich…”

Jesus now asks the Church to live like he lived – helping the ministering to the poor. He calls upon us to feed the hungry and thirsty, give shelter to the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned. He promises here that when we do these things we are doing it for him.

Really, if you want to see Jesus, experience Jesus in a way you’ve never have before, seek out the poor. You’ll find him already there ministering in ways you do not know. Imagine what the Church could do to this world if only we’d be his hands and feet.

Who Would Bow?


Jaffa Serpent Guard from Stargate SG-1

I don’t normally dream. At least I don’t usually remember my dreams. But this dream was so weird I couldn’t help but remember.

I was standing in an elaborate church building similar to ones I’ve seen in movies – large and very ornamental. In the front laid a large creature with a head like a cobra (I blame my recent viewing of Stargate SG-1 for the creature’s looks) and a large body. Some priest was putting the creature together in some fashion and brought it to life. When the creature stood it was twice the size of a man in height. The cobra’s hood spanned 6 feet wide, golden, and was encrusted with jewels.

Once the creature stood the priest led him through the crowds of people announcing his arrival, his awesome power, and the need for everyone to bow before the creature. In my dream I was thinking, “There’s no way any Christian here will bow before this creature.”

My dream ended before my thought could be proved.

This dream reminds me of the golden calves Jeroboam created and placed in Bethel and Dan (1 Kings 12:25-33) The kingdom of Israel was split into two kingdoms after the death of Solomon. Rehoboam ruled Judah to the south and Jeroboam ruled to the north called Israel. The center of Jewish worship was Jerusalem. So the problem for Jeroboam is Jerusalem resided in Judah to the south. He thought the people going there to worship would be persuaded by Rahoboam and turn away from his rule. So he brought worship into Israel. He himself set up idols, golden calves, set up feasts and places of worship. Of the calves he said to Israel, “Behold your gods who brought you out of Egypt.” And Israel fell into idolatry and worshiped the golden calves.

How can a people be so deceived? If Israel can turn away from God so quickly would Christians today be so easily persuaded?

In my dream I was sure no one would bow before this new god created by the priest. However, after thinking about it I am not so sure anymore.

Many go to churches seeking out a god of their own making. If we are convicted in one church we are sure to find a church that will be less convicting. If we are too challenged I am sure we can find one that does not challenge us. If we aren’t “fed” enough or challenged enough in the areas we feel we should be challenged we can find a church to accommodate our itch.

I, along with many others in the Church today, have lost what it means to deny one’s self and bare our crosses.

What about you? Would you bow before a creature that is seemingly all powerful? Able to destroy you?

Why I Deleted Social Media Apps From My Phone

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

I pulled the plug from social media. I deleted all my social media apps from my phone. The moment I did it I felt an ease come over me. I didn’t want to feel the constant pull to check the feed. I didn’t want to be bombarded with the constant up and down each post forced upon me. Maybe you should do the same.

I couldn’t totally delete my accounts though. Because I manage The Refuge Homeless Shelter I also manage the social media accounts for this ministry. Facebook is a huge tool when it comes to communicating with our volunteers. So I can’t totally unplug. But, I can limit my access.

Why would I limit my access? Isn’t everybody on Facebook? I too look at people weird when they tell me they are not on Facebook. But, I kind of envy them too. It seems social media is constantly screaming, “Look at me!!!”

After I deleted my apps I stumbled upon a podcast describing how social media works and how it preys upon our worst emotions. What you see in your feed, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and even your search results on Google, are determined by an algorithm. The algorithm is designed to give you content that is catered to you and your interests. It seems like a perfect model to give you what you want. However, the down side is every post you see, every advertisement you see, is made to elicit an emotion in you. When you respond to posts you tell the algorithm you want to see more of this same content. So it feeds you more of the same content to your feed.

The problem with this is the most easiest emotion to elicit is the fight or flight response. In social media it turns into anxiety and rage. The end result is you see many things that you’ve responded to with anxiety. You respond, which changes the algorithm to give you more of the same, you respond again, which changes the algorithm to give you more of the same, rinse and repeat. Soon you find yourself anxious all day due to the constant barrage of anxiety ladened posts from people and advertising. Social Media Anxiety Disorder is a real disorder. The number of people diagnosed rises daily, and many more go undiagnosed.

Perhaps I had the disorder and didn’t know it. I do feel less anxious just in the three days I’ve deleted the apps from my phone. I have resolved only to go on social media once a day from my computer. I also resolve to only be on social media for ten minutes at the most.

If you are feeling anxious, distracted, and have that constant feeling to always be checking your feeds, perhaps you need to think about unplugging for a while.

Faith Healing a False Gospel?

Jesus Healing the Paralytic

A headline on Twitter caught me off guard the other day: “David Platt calls out ‘false gospel’ of faith healing; forgiveness of sins is the real Good News.” It would seem at first glance Platt and I are reading a different Bible. Jesus’ ministry was full of healings. People being healed is a sign that he was the Messiah, that God’s kingdom was breaking into this present age. The age to come is breaking forth.

At The Gospel Coalition’s National Conference Platt preached from Mark 2:1-12. Ironically this is the very passage I thought about when I first saw the headline. It is the story of Jesus healing the paralytic who’s friends lowered him down through a roof to see Jesus. Looking at the man Jesus says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the scribes and Pharisees begin to question to themselves how one who is not God can forgive sins. But, Jesus showing that he could forgive sin heals the paralytic.

Platt claims, though the man had two urgent needs, healing and forgiveness, the two needs are not equal. He says, “This man’s spiritual need was ultimate. More important than even his physical paralysis was his spiritual malice… this man was a sinner, which meant that his ultimate need was not healing from God, but holiness before God.” This is why Jesus did not first heal the man but forgave him his sins.

But, the message of this passage is not we need forgiveness of sins. The message is that Jesus has the power to forgive sins. Jesus knowing his audience has scribes and Pharisees in it (See Lk. 5:21) first said to the man that his sins were forgiven. He knew the Pharisees would question it. It was believed then sickness and disease were a result of sin. Even Jesus’ own disciples thought this (John 9:1ff). If Jesus was to prove he has the power to forgive sins, in the eyes of these scribes and Pharisees he’d have to heal the sickness.

Which is easier to say after all? “Your sins are forgiven,” or “Be healed”?

Your particular sin may not have caused your sickness. But, sickness and disease is a result of sin in the world. If Jesus can forgive sin, save us from our sin, then why is it a “false gospel” to say you can be healed by Jesus? After all, healing is a significant part of the atonement (Is. 53:5).

Platt said, ““The Gospel is not going to Africa and saying ‘trust in Jesus and your HIV/AIDS will be gone. The Gospel is not going to America and saying ‘trust in Jesus and your cancer will be gone.’” This I agree with Platt. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not “believe and be physically healed”, but, “believe and be forgiven.” However, to disassociate healing from the gospel all together is not how the Bible portrays the work of Jesus, his ministry, or the ministry of the Church after his ascension. By our saving faith we are healed, either in this age or the age to come. What is there to hope for if we are not ever healed?

Another pastor quoted in the article is Kevin DeYoung. He said the key to Jesus’ ministry is not to “transform social structures,” but to proclaim the good news. He says, “There is not a single example of Jesus going into a town with the purpose of healing or casting out demons… The reason He came out to public ministry was to preach.”

Excuse me Kevin, have you read the gospel of Luke? Because this is what the gospel of Luke is all about.

Both Platt and DeYoung miss the point of Jesus ministry. He himself told us what his ministry is all about in Luke 4:18-19.

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus came to preach? Yes, to preach good news to the poor. And if Jesus did not come to “transform social structures” then how is forgiveness of sins good news to the poor? Especially since people in all social classes has access to this same forgiveness? Also, Jesus was to deliver people, heal people, and set people free. Many want to over-spiritualize this passage. But, how does Jesus fulfill his God given mission? In the real world, during his earthly ministry.

Jesus did go about casting out demons (Luke 4:31-37) setting free the captive.

Jesus did go about healing (Luke 4:38) including the blind.

Jesus preached against the leaders of his day for not considering the poor, and for keeping people from experiencing God (Luke 11:37-54), proclaiming liberty to the oppressed.

Yes, Jesus was sent to preach the gospel, but he was also sent to bring “the good news of the kingdom of God” too (Luke 8:1). He preached the good news AND brought about the kingdom of God by healing, casting out demons, and proclaiming liberty to those oppressed.

My Life in Posts

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

If you were ever on Google+ you got an email recently announcing they are shutting down their platform. Back when it was implemented both Twitter and Facebook had been around for a number of years. Google wanted to be all things to all people and jumped into the social media market. They had a snazzy app that I loved but a small community. It stalled and never grew up to be the force that Twitter and Facebook is today.

I went to my profile today and perused my timeline. The last time I posted to Google+ was August 1, 2016. The first time was July 29, 2011.
It was interesting to see the progression of my life during that time. I posted about workouts, diets, movies, and vacations. I also posted links to my writings that no longer exist in the blogshpere.

I found it fascinating to see the subjects that I wrote about and what interested me. Many of my first posts involve apologetics with titles like, “My Gut Feeling: God is Out There,” and “The Euthyprho Dialog.” Later I wrote about the ministries that I was involved in like Abide, a 20s and 30s group I was pastoring in my church. Also, First Mission, a mission organization that I had started in 2012, one that I recently retired.

Around about 2014 I started to write more about peace and mercy ministries. I started to search out how a follower of Jesus seeks out to live his life according to his teachings. The titles of some were, “What About Self-defense?” and “The Dogs on the Border.”

Looking at my life in these posts I see a progression regarding my thoughts and beliefs through these years. People change, they grow up, and my posts attest to my maturing in life and theology. My 38 year old self is not the same person as the 28 year old I was.

Now, add to this the diverse individuals that are around you in your community. Many of whom you’ve known for years. Are they the same people when you first met? Or did they also grow, mature, and change. It makes you rethink keeping grudges and holding on to resentment.

Knowing people change, knowing we are diverse, and knowing we all are different in many ways, we can approach people with a little more grace, and little more mercy, a little more forgiveness.

Schisms in the Church

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

Schisms are nothing new to the church. There have been many throughout history. Most Protestants know of the Reformation where Luther posted his 95 thesis to the doors of the local church. But, what most people don’t know is most schisms throughout history have largely been a political schism and not a doctrinal schism.

The Great Schism of 1054 is often sited to be about the filioque, a Latin term that was added to the Nicene Creed. It describes the Holy Spirit as proceeding from the Father AND the Son, instead of just the Father. The church in the East disagreed with the church in

the West. Though this is one issue among many. The real issue was authority and control.

In 1054 Pope Leo IX declared that all spiritual authority and rightful head of the church is the pope in Rome. The Eastern church did not take to kindly to such decrees. The pope died shortly there after, but, he had sent his emissary Humbert of Silva Candida to negotiate with the Eastern church. But in the end the Patriarch Michael Caerularius was excommunicated by the pope’s emissary to the East. In turn the Patriarch excommunicated the pope’s associates! He rejected the claim of the papal primacy. This is when the church split between East and West.

It also didn’t help the West sacked Constantinople, the center of the Eastern church, in 1204. The Eastern church became known as the Orthodox Church and the Western the Catholic Church.

Fast forward to today and we see the same issue of politics disrupting church unity. On January 5, 2019 the Ukraine Orthodox Church gained its independence from the Russian Orthodox Church. Issues of politics, nationalism, power, and control, all played out and eventually led to the split of this great church.

I don’t know enough to say this is good or bad on the part of the Ukrainians or the Russians. I do know this is not the church that Jesus had called us to be.

The politics of this world are not the politics of Jesus Christ. The more we blur the two, the more we will be divided. The more we allow the politics to determine our practices, the less we will love our neighbor. We are to be IN the world, influencing it like leaven in bread. We are not to be OF the world having it influencing our practices and faith.

The church in the US will do well to learn this lesson.

New Translation of the Old Testament – How to Read the OT

I highlight some of my favorite passages of  John Goldingay’s new translation of the Old Testament called The First Testament.

Also, I discus a recent article in Relevant Magazine where Andy Stanley says,

“Participants in the new covenant (that’s Christians) are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of their Bibles. Participants in the new covenant are expected to obey the single command Jesus issued as part of his new covenant: as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Article: https://relevantmagazine.com/god/why-do-christians-want-to-post-the-10-commandments-and-not-the-sermon-on-the-mount/

Prepare for Persecution?

By Artist unknown

“ Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” Jn 15:20. (ESV)

Is the American Church ready for persecution? Some people scoff at the idea Christians will see persecution. Some say persecution will never come. We have the Constitution to protect us. There is no way our rights can be violated.

Recent history has shown us the gap that is between this world’s religion and our own faith, Christianity. Several cases have come up that have pitted Christian faith against the laws of this land. And many times the cases have gone through the courts siding on the side of the law and special interest groups against the religious freedom of the defenders. It wasn’t until the case went to the Supreme Court did we see some respite.

The Gospel Coalition has an article that comes out of Australia. The events there are not dissimilar to our own. Campbell Markham argues, in light of certain people losing their jobs over their faith and their beliefs regarding marriage, the church needs to prepare itself for more persecution. He is calling all churches in Australia to prepare their people for persecution. I’d suggest you read the whole article. It paints a picture not only of the grim reality we live in but also of the glory of keeping the faith even during trials and persecution.

I expect, within the remainder of my lifetime, that Christians will be legally restricted in their ability to speak out and live out their faith in the public sphere. ~ Campbell Markham pastors Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Hobart.

Even though Markham is speaking to Australia specifically, I think he speaks to all the Church in the West. We’ve not seen the persecution that the Church has endured in its history. The promise of Jesus is we will see persecution. We in the West have been blessed not to see what our forefathers witnessed and endured.

Will this blessing turn into a curse? Will we bend to the will of our state, our tormentors, when they demand we turn away from our faith, the teaching of our Lord? Will we endure losing our jobs for our faith? Our homes? Our church buildings?

The Second Greatest Commandment

Photo by Mayur Gala on Unsplash

Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29–31 (ESV)

Every follower of Jesus knows these two commandments. They are the foundation of the whole life in Jesus. But what happens when the second commandment gets in the way of the first?

What I mean is what do you do when loving your neighbor would mean not loving God?

In this world we are told to tell someone their sins will keep them out of the kingdom of God is unloving and uncaring. Especially when they love their sin or even identify themselves with their sin. We are branded as hateful and bigots. Therefore, they say we should accept them for who they are, what they do, and that only God can judge them.

But our love for God must come first. Being the “greatest” commandment supersedes all other commands. We must love God first before we can begin to love our neighbors.

In loving God we come to find we are called to warn our neighbors of the coming judgment fo God. He will judge the living and the dead by Jesus Christ who was sinless. Those that continue to practice sin with unrepentance will not be part of the kingdom of God. They will find themselves outside the city walls separated from God and his protection.

Really the most loving thing we can do is warn people of their sin and its consequences. The most hateful thing we can do to our neighbors is not warning them of sin and judgment. To keep quiet is hateful, bigoted, and selfish.

We cannot truly begin to love our neighbors until we have come to love God and his Word.