Be Alone, It Won’t Kill You…

Sometimes I run into a great piece of writing that is so true, so beautiful, and so real I want to share it with you. I did not write the piece below, but it touches me deep inside. It was written by my friend, Kenny Howard. Kenny sent it to me in response to an article I posted on Facebook. I share his response with his permission:

The original article that triggered this response is here: “The End of Solitude.” It’s a great read. Here’s Kenny’s Response:

Great article on being alone. It came to me at the same time when I was looking up a way to disable the wifi on my 10 year old’s Ipod Touch. Stupid me thought that he would actually use it to listen to music! Nope. It is like a crack addiction and he brings it into the bathroom with him. This was a “gift” from grandpa for Christmas and it has been taken away for periods of time and has been the root of bad moods for him as well. I’d like to throw the thing in the trash. I know this is the modern age and that is how kids communicate, but what happened to books? My kids live 3 blocks from a lush green wooded paradise, yet they have never set foot in it! “Go climb a tree, skin your knee, break an arm, I don’t care, just go be a BOY!!!” Why? Why USE your imagination and build a treefort when imagination comes to me free of charge or effort right over my handheld device 24/7? I found out today how to disable the majority of his usage for this time-robbing device.
You’re old like me so I can use this phrase: When I was young… we lived in a canyon that held all sorts of boyhood mystery and we LIVED in the creek that ran through it. We’d dam it up, build a ropeswing, poke sticks at dead, stinky animals, race stick-boats down the creek, swim in it when it was summertime and the list was endless because we had the TIME and the IMAGINATION. Today children have neither. They are never alone and they never get to know themselves or become comfortable in their own skin. They expect to be entertained around the clock because there is always a screen of one sort or another that will provide entertainment. My wife likes the fact that he can text her on this device and thus stay in touch, but beyond that feature I find these and other such devices pure and simple robbery of the childhood experience.

I have a computer in the office at work and have gotten rid of the one at home; don’t miss it and have more time for my family, more time to read, more time to play with my dogs, go for a walk, work out, play my guitar, etc. I found out that FB is another addiction and I soon found myself with way too many “friends” that I would never invite over for dinner who needed to share with me every intimate detail of their lives and I in turn became the voyeur who had to read all of this useless trivia in order to “keep up”! Screw that. I probably hurt some feelings, but it was out of control so I pruned my friend list from over 200 to somewhere around 30 which is a more accurate count of my true friends. If we’re such good friends, then why don’t we know each other’s email adresses which is all FB is in the first place; another way to email someone.

I am comfortable in my own skin. I know my skin. I know my strengths and more importantly, my weaknesses. I lived alone for YEARS before I met my wife and knew she was the one. No one does this anymore. What’s wrong with being alone? How can you ever know yourself if you never spend time with yourself? How can you ever be in a healthy relationship and expect someone else to know you? They say good counseling hurts. Living alone will also show your warts and this is important information to know. Getting in touch with your human weaknesses will allow you to work on those weaknesses and to someday become a better person, father, husband, neighbor, etc. I hear people talk after they break-up with someone and swear that they will not date anyone else for at least a year as they want to focus on themselves and just be alone. GREAT! Never happens. We have become relationship tree monkeys who swing from one relationship to another as we are so terrified of “being alone”. These people will never find “the one” if they are constantly settling for whoever comes along because when the phone call of destiny finally rings, their line will be busy with mediocrity…

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The Apocalypse

I woke my dear wife up by snoring, and she returned the favor by shoving! So now I’m up at 3:00 and decided to tackle one of the topics suggested for my blog on Facebook (find me on Facebook and let’s be friends!).

I jumped on what I consider the toughest topic there: the Book of Revelation.  A couple Facebook friends suggested it. DISCLAIMER: There must be something about blogging in the wee hours of the morning that impairs one’s judgment, so you’ve been warned.

PS: when I use revelation with a small “r” I mean the concept of that which is revealed. With a big “R” I mean the book, unless begins a sentence, in which case you’re on your own.

PPS: read the blog, because at the end there’s an awesome project for you try.

I would not attempt to blog the whole book chapter by chapter, nor would I attempt to make a case for any particular eschatological scenario from this book.  I’ll do something better. I’d like to point out what I consider the baseline truth of the book; something you have to come to grips with before you should ever bother counting the toes on the beast or the horsemen of doom.

The book opens with these three words in Greek:  Apokalupsis Iesou Christou. A Revelation of Jesus Christ.

Think of revelation (apokalupsis) as an unveiling. An uncovering. Something is hidden and awaits a Big Reveal, like a statue in a park at its dedication. This book assumes that the person and work of Jesus Christ, in their deepest significance, are hidden from human understanding and require a revelation. This revelation takes two forms: 1) an eschatological, end time, last day physical appearing; and 2) this book itself, which reveals truth about Jesus.

Why is Jesus hidden?  Is God playing hide and seek? Is he holding back on us?

Not at all. The deep things of God are hidden because our minds are clouded by our fallen condition. We’re messed up members of a messed up race.

14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14, NKJV).

Without God’s initiative in sending down his written revelation, would would be stuck in the dark about Jesus, God, salvation, and ultimate reality. If you sat down in a room with the smartest people in the world, you would never create an accurate description of God. You would shrink him. You would distort him. You would never imagine his plan of salvation. You would never concoct his Savior. He is hidden from your eyes, and you need a REVELATION of JESUS CHRIST. An unveiling of his majesty.

We are fallen people whose instincts of God are warped.

Compounding our fallenness, we have the evil genius, Satan, throwing his veil of dumbness over our eyes.

3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4, NKJV).

The “god of this age” dims our corporate understanding of the Lord Jesus. Without a revelation, we’re clueless.

So God, in his great mercy, has provided the revelation we need. He revealed himself, partly,through nature. He revealed himself, historically, through his mighty deeds.  He revealed himself, supremely, through his Son, Jesus.

1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:1-3, NKJV).

If you want to know what God is like, look into the face of Jesus.  And herein lies our problem. How? How can we study Jesus?

Through the deposit of revelation that we call the Bible. The Bible is God’s self-revelation — his self-disclosure — permanently inscribed for all time.  That’s what makes this book so important. That’s why I urge our church week after week to stay in the Word.  There is not and never will be a substitute for the Bible. Not even the Holy Spirit will provide truth for you apart from the Word (Eph 6:17). The Spirit uses the Written Word as his sword; every believer in Jesus has the Spirit, not not every believer has the Word.

How can you love God if you don’t know God, and how can you know God unless you seek his face in the Word? You NEED this written revelation, because you will NEVER, by searching, find out God! You will invariably distort and minimize him.  You are utterly, hopelessly, totally dependent upon God’s self-revelation… i.e., upon Scripture.

When John opens the book of Revelation with the words, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, he wants you to sit up and take notice. He is about to unveil the celebrity of the universe. Yes, Jesus will be revealed, eschatologically in history; but this book is about more than that.

It is about JESUS HIMSELF TODAY.  Who he is. What he has done and will do. What he is like. His names, attributes, qualities, character, agenda, and appearance. The Book of Revelation offers a glimpse into the heartbeat of Jesus.

If you want to know your Savior, pause your obsession with “end times” stuff (it’s definitely here, you can look for it later) and first look for Jesus.

So here’s your project of awesomeness.  Open the book of Revelation with a pencil in hand, and as you read, UNDERLINE COOL STUFF ABOUT JESUS.  Look for Jesus, not headlines. Jesus, not signs of the end. Jesus, not Antichrists.  Look for truth about Jesus.  Names. Descriptors. Plans.

When you find them, underline them. Reflect, meditate, think, pray.

You will be AMAZED at the profile that emerges. Here’s my sample from the first paragraph:

1:1* ¶ The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants–things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, 2* who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. 3* ¶ Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. 4* John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5* and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6* and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7* Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. 8* “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Try it, and let me know. Some sections of the book are packed with Jesus-statements. Where else is he the Alpha and Omega, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty?  What a Savior! And what a powerful book!

Before you ever try unraveling the end times in this book, why not sit and contemplate its profile of Jesus first? Isn’t eschatology about the revelation of HIM, anyway?

I thank God that he deigned to UNHIDE himself and his plan through his written revelation; we’d be lost with out him.

I’m going back to sleep now. I hope this was encouraging to you.

Think About Jesus

Here’s what happens when a funky groove meets Jesus-preaching… thanks to Bob G’s creative editing for this.  It’s about 2.5 minutes audio about who Jesus is and what he’s done for you… Just in time for Christmas.  Click the link below.

Look at Jesus

Fundamentals #2: Deity of Christ

pantokratorI’m continuing a series on the fundamental truths of Christianity, as outlined 2 generations ago. The so-called “fundamentalist/modernist controversey” pitted conservative theologians against liberal theologians in the early 1900’s.  Marsden’s book, Reforming Fundamentalism, gives an excellent history.

Today’s fundamental is one of those truths that highlights the nature of theological development.  Theology is clarified and articulated in times of CONTROVERSY. When there’s doctrinal slippage — as in the outright denial of the deity of Christ — the church rightly reemphasizes historic truth.

Most conservative theologians hold fast to the deity of Christ; it’s the true humanity of Christ that needs emphasis today, but that’s for another post.

Here are some of the notes I use when I teach college/seminary classes on theology… Be nice… this is more of a fat outline than a well-written article, and it’s more academic than populist…

The Deity of Christ

The deity of Christ “may be called a prime article of revealed theology; effecting not only the subsistence of the Godhead, but the question of whether Christ is to be trusted, obeyed, and worshipped as God, the nature and efficacy of His atoning offices, the constitution of the Church, and all its rites.  He who believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ is a Christian; he who does not (whatever his profession) is a mere Deist.” (Dabney)

We call ourselves Christians.  What do we believe about Christ, or more importantly, what do the Scriptures reveal about Christ?

I.  The Scriptural Texts Testifying to His Deity.

A. Isa 7:14, cited in Mt 1:21-23.

79-Holy Spirit ComingJesus is Immanuel – God with us.  Isaiah chapters 7-12 are often designated the Book of Immanuel and constitute a growing revelation of the person so named.  So, in 7:14 Immanuel is to be born of a virgin.  In 9:6 this same person is specifically named as God. NOTE: the phrase translated “Everlasting Father” is better translated “Father of Eternity” (S.L. Johnson).  In ch. 11, Immanuel is seen as ruler of earth.  This is one and the same individual, later named Jesus in the first gospel.

B. John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word..
en  archee    `een  ho logos
and the Word was with God….
kai ho logos `een pros ton theon
and the Word was God.
kai theos `een ho logos.

This verse sets forth John’s clear teaching that Jesus is God.    The opening phrase, an allusion to Gen 1:1, takes us beyond the beginning of creation.  The word “was”  is durative – it expresses an ongoing period.  The word “in”  is temporal – it expresses a “time when”,-here in language of accommodation.  There is no way for a human to describe the dateless past other than to simply say “In the Beginning…”

Logos is a Jewish-Platonic-Stoic term very familiar in intellectual circles in John’s day.  It had become a technical term just as “Messiah”.  “Neither term is a complete presentation of the Person of Christ, but both are useful.  It is however, very difficult to translate Logos into English because of the double idea in it of Reason and Expression.”  (A.T. Robertson)  John uses the term to indicate the eternal relation of the Logos to God and to outline broad features of the Incarnation.

The Logos “was with God.”  There are two important conclusions from this assertion: 1) that there is a distinction of some sort between God and Logos; and, 2) that there is an intimate, ongoing (the durative verb “was” again) relationship between God and Logos.  Thus, the two are distinct yet possess a certain relationship.  The next phrase states this relationship.

“And the Word was God.”  The literal word order in Greek is correctly rendered in this translation.  Greek word order differs from English word order.  Here is the rule: “In copulative sentences [sentences with the verb “is”], if expressions are convertible, then the article [the word “the”] distinguishes the subject from the predicate, though there are exceptions.”  (Moulton,Howard, and Turner, v.3, pp 182,3).    Therefore, in the Greek word order, the subject of this sentence comes after the verb, but we know that it is the subject because of the article.  So, while Gk word order says “god was the word” the  correct English order is “the Word was God.”

Note John’s use of the imperfect tense of the verb “to be”.  If John had simply stated that the Word “IS” God, using the present tense, he would have set up a confusing equation (God=Word).  But by using the imperfect (ongoing past) tense John avoids a complete equation, which is consistent with the distinction of persons implied by verse one.  Therefore, he says that the Logos is God, but not that all of God is the Logos.  The equation does not work both ways.  To say that Bill is human is not to say that all humans are Bill.  The only conclusion from this verse is that the Logos is eternal God yet distinct from the Father.

The Jehovah’s witnesses display a profound lack of integrity in their exegesis of this verse.  They claim that the Word was “a god”, overly pressing the fact that there is no article with “theos”.    First, this view mis-states the use of the article in copulative sentences.  Second, granting the blatantly false translation that the Word is “a god”, we wonder what this means?  It is inconceivable that there be a plurality of divine essences.  Are there many equal gods?  Or is Jesus the only one who fits in this category?  Or is Jesus an inferior God (which is non-sensical)? John had the option of a perfectly good word for “godlike” – instead of saying “theos”  he could have said “theois.”  Third, how are we to explain the role of the Logos in creation (v. 14), especially in light of the 1st chapter of Genesis?  Finally, how can we deal with the rest of John’s claims regarding the essential deity of this person?  The JW’s distort Scripture to suit their purposes. Continue reading

God’s Power for God’s People, 2

lightning“God’s work, done God’s way, will never lack God’s supply.” So said famous missionary to India, William Carey. We could also say, “God’s work, done God’s way, will never lack God’s power.”  The question on the table, however, is how do we obtain that power?

I’ve suggested there are four sources, they play together nicely, and we need to know how to use them. The previous post identifies the first two: (1) the Holy Spirit; (2) the Word of God built into our psyches.  Here are the last two:

3. CHRIST IN YOU.  This is the beautiful mystery that Christianity offers the world:  Christ in you, the hope of glory.  We are not simply following a set of guidelines, we are also following a risen Savior, who, in a mystical way, has been united with us so as to indwell us.

  • ““I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” John 17:23, NKJV.
  • “And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Romans 8:10, NKJV.
  • “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,” Ephesians 3:17, NKJV.

jesusshipswheelJesus came into us at the very moment of the new birth. We became one with him, in a new identity. For the rest of our lives, he will exert an inward pressure to transform our lives. The goal is to make us Christ-like, not in our personality, but in our character: love, joy, mission, goodness, courage, integrity, and so on.

Many people fear that Christ will suck their personality out of them, and make them Jesus-people robot clones. Not so. He will only add color to your personality, and dig through the mountains of crud that bury the real you. He will make you sparkle. Christ-in-you is the greatest overlooked truth in this generation of Christians.  Only Jesus can live the WWJD lifestyle, and he intends to do it again, through you.

When Christ comes in, he doesn’t come with an off switch. You can’t make him stop conforming you to Christ. You can either fight him–and go crazy–or cooperate with him–and find your life.

You might say, “If Christ is in me, he’s not doing a very good job.” I’ve felt that way too.  How do you get things moving with Christ’s indwelling power?

  • ““I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20, NKJV.

christicon“I live by faith,” said Paul. We should too. It is faith, not magic, not super-piety, not cosmic karma, that makes the difference. Simple trust that when I need Jesus to work, he will. A repeated turning from my own power to Christ’s power. You exchange your power for Christ’s power.

I wrote about The Grace Script in chapter 15 of the Inner Mess book.  As often as you catch yourself doing God’s work by your own strength, you need to recenter yourself on Christ.  You say two words to Jesus: Oops! and Okay!

  • Oops, Lord… I’ve been working in my own strength, and I’m frustrated. I’m scared I can’t succeed. I’m smudging your glory. I’m blowing it…
  • Okay, Jesus… I need your love, your strength, your wisdom here.  So as I go forward, I’ll trust you (faith).

That is what Jesus meant when he told us to “abide in him.” He could have just as easily said, “Confide him him.”

The cool thing is that when you trust/confide/put faith in Jesus — who lives in you now that you’re saved — he NEVER disappoints you.  He never fails you or lets you down. His power immediately goes to work in your present-tense situation.  He works through you, in you, around you. He is there.

And, this is the most important truth… a genuine, bona fide paradox…

His power works in you no matter how you feel.

Because there is no official feeling of the power of God. He works in your weakness, right?

  • “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9, NKJV.

fireworksNotice… the power of Christ rests on you when you feel like crap. Quit looking for fireworks. Quit doubting God because you didn’t feel fireworks.  Even if you feel weak, scared, confused, or doubting… step forward in FAITH, and trust that Christ is at work in you, through you, and around you. He NEVER disappoints.

That moment of faith is your shining moment, especially when you feel at your worst.

It is your glory.

It is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27).

It is POWER.

Okay… so I baited and switched you.  There is one more source of power, and I’ll post that one next time.

The Insanity and Bliss blog is featuring the Inner Mess book today!  So cool. Kim, the author, interviewed me and is giving away TWO FREE BOOKS.  So check out her blog today…  I’m really honored to be featured on her blog.   (She’s posting at noon, her time, so if it’s not up yet, please check again.)

The Power of Jesus’ Name

Sandi sent me this video;  it was too good to pass up.  I’m in the final phases of preparing my Inner Mess book manuscript to send to the publisher.  Please pray for clarity, creativity, and authenticity as I finish writing and rewriting.  March 31 is the deadline.  Yikes! and Yippee!

The Spirituality of Jesus, pt 1

jesus-healing-blind.jpgQuestion: By what power did Jesus exude such compassion, integrity, courage, strength, patience, grace, resistance to temptation, and love? (Multiple choice: pick one…)

A. Duh… of course he did those things, he’s God. His own Divine Power.
B. The authors of Scripture exaggerated his accomplishments; he didn’t have that power.
C. He was born that way; it was an innate power.
D. He grew that way by using the same power available to every child of God today.
E. None of the above.
F. A and C above.
G. C and D above.
H. Enough already.

And the answer is…

Continue reading