Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Reformation Day!

Perhaps the title of the blog may throw you, with much attention going to Halloween today. But, please, let's not forget the significance of this back to many ages gone by. On October 31, 1517 an Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed a proclamation "95 Theses on the Power of Indulgences" to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. This was the normal practice in that age for those who wished to announce a public debate. Yet, little did Martin Luther realize the impact his actions would have not only on him, but on the entire world for hundreds of years to come.

The thesis directly confronted the misuse of practices such as indulgences in the Catholic Church. It challenged the authority of the Pope and would eventually be remembered as the start of the Protestant Reformation. Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic church, lived amidst constant threat of death and even remained hidden for a season, during which some of his most popular writings were penned.

For everyone who worships in any branch of the Protestant church today throughout the world, it is because of this one man that we may thank God for the knowledge we have of our priesthood as believers, of our ability to approach God without fear and most of all for the revelation that salvation is by grace through faith. None of those truths previously mentioned were the commonly accepted norms of the day and age Luther lived in.

For those so inclined to read the 95 theses, it is available at Recommended reading about Luther and his life may be found in the book Here I Stand by Roland Bainton (online versions are available).

So, Happy Reformation Day! May we not take for granted the freedom we have to worship God and may we remember those like Luther who stood against all opposition to hold firm to the truth that "the just shall live by faith".

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Fatherless

James 1:27 - "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (KJV)

It's Father's Day weekend and I'm a daddy, so I enjoy the Holiday. My kids (with my wife's assistance) are taking me out somewhere on Sunday and I'm looking forward to it. But, let's face it, Father's Day is not pleasant for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons.

Some have grown up in sexually and/or physically abusive households. Others have grown up not knowing their real father. Even more were devasted by the divorce of their parents as they grew up. And then there are those whose father died years earlier. No, it's not a joyous occasion for many people.

Several years ago, I preached a message called "Are You My Father" from the scripture above (and modifying the title from a Dr. Seuss book called "Are You My Mother"?). The bottom line was this, scripture exhorts us to take care of the fatherless and widows and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. Visit means more than just 'drop by the house'. Combining Thayer and Strong's definitions, it implies 'to inspect, examine with the eyes, to look upon in order to help or benefit'. It is an action word. You don't just pity them. You do something to help them.

The amount of single mothers in our country is staggering. And the amount of boys that grow up not having any male role models is equally unencouraging. But that's where all of us can be a blessing. Start to visit the fatherless (and widows) and ask yourself 'what CAN I do to help'. Then go out and do it. And especially if you are someone who grew up with an absentee or ungodly father, don't allow your past to dictate your future. Be the blessing to someone else that you always wanted someone to be for you.

I pray that on this Father's Day all of us will open our eyes and examine the need around us. We truly live in a fatherless generation. But for us there is one God and Father of all, who is above all and in all and through all. And it is Him that everyone needs to know as their very own heavenly father.

Now, I once again have to go and kick myself for writing yet another blog that I will now be forced to apply in my own life. Perhaps next time I'll choose a more personally advantageous topic, like 'The God Who Rewards Openly" or "10 Bible Reasons Why Bloggers Need Government Grants (or Bailouts)". God bless everyone and Happy Father's Day.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Striving To Get Some Rest

Hebrews 4:11, 3 (ESV) - "Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience." V. 3 - "For we which have believed do enter into rest."

I am an extremely light sleeper. I can hear a leaf blow in the back yard, and all of my conspiracy theory studies make me confident that it is surely an attack from a group of neo-nazi satanists, intent on infiltrating my peaceful domain and disrupting the order of the space-time continuum. Well, maybe not. But, it means I only get a few hours of sleep a night.

Rest naturally can sometimes be hard for people to obtain. But rest 'spiritually' seems next to impossible for some to achieve. The difference in obtaining spiritual rest is found in this passage, and yet it seems very paradoxical. We are to strive to enter into rest. Huh?

Other translations of this verse say we are to labour, to be diligent and to do our best to enter into rest. So, obtaining rest is not automatic. It takes effort. And what is the primary ingredient in this rest? That answer is found in verse 3, where it states "For we which have believed do enter into rest." If you want to rest spiritually, you have to believe God.

You might ask, 'what exactly are we to believe?' (go ahead...ask). In the context of this passage in Hebrews 4, we are to believe His promise. Which one? A promise of rest (Hebrews 4:9). You must not be slack in trusting God. You must guard your faith and quiet your heart before Him. If you never fully trust God with your life, you will never be at rest. And, consequentially, you will strive after the WRONG things to give you peace and rest. Our rest is found in Him. Christ is our refuge.

So if you're gonna work on something, work on rest. Believe God is who He said He is, will do what He said He will do and that He is faithful to watch over His word to perform it. You won't have to strive after everything else to give you confidence and assurance. You will be at rest in Him.

May God guide your steps to enter into rest. Now...if you'll excuse me...I think I need a nap.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Don't Forget The Important Stuff

1 Peter 3:15 says "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:". The theme of 1 Peter deals particularly with 'suffering' (that's the "S" word none of us like to hear). But, when we suffer, one of our tendencies is to become so self focused that we forget the opportunity we have to be a light to others.

Peter says that every man will ask you of a reason for the hope that you have in you. When we suffer as believers, to an unbeliever the fact that you have hope is rather perplexing and can be disturbing. But it is also a great occasion to allow the Gospel to go forth to others. The Greek word for "answer" in this verse is the word 'apologia', from where we derive our english word apologetics. It means a defense or a speech in defense. And from here the concept of defending the faith finds one of it's support texts.

To defend the faith, you don't have to be defensive (or offensive for that matter). You simply have to have a reason for your hope. What is your reason for hope? Jesus is alive. He lives in you and will take you to Himself one day. These light afflictions are but for a moment, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4. No one FEELS like these afflictions are but for a moment when going through them, and no one specifically enjoys pain. But, knowing that it is temporary makes it easier to ednure.

So the next time you're going through a trial, remember to look for opportunities for the light of the Gospel to go forth that you may have otherwise missed. And the next time I'm in one, feel free to send me the link to my own blog, so I can ask myself 'why did you have to write that' as I make the decision to be a doer of the word and not a hearer only, in the midst of any temporary moments of displeasure that lead to a far more exceeding and eteral weight of glory.

Friday, March 20, 2009

How Do You Explain That?

Recently, I've been outlining the Gospel of John in preparationn to use the material in the near future (more on that in the weeks to come). During my studies, I came across this verse in John 6:70, where Jesus says to the disciples "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil." Notice that He doesn't say 'one of you has a devil', but rather 'one of you is a devil'. Yet, the beginning of the verse says that He chose them. So, how do explain that Jesus would choose a devil for one of his staff (and the treasurer nonetheless)?

One explanation, popular among some circles (though not mine), is that 'we simply can't understand God's mysterious ways'. But, I can't buy that; not because we can't understand Him (though there are times we can't, just because He is God), but because it's too easy to just pass it off. Perhaps I won't offer a definitive conclusion on the 'why', especially since the text doesn't tell us. But, there are principles we do know that we can apply in each situation.

First, God knows all things. This includes the death, disease and destruction that will wreck the world in the future. But, His foreknowledge does not equal His approval of such tragedy.

Second, Judas apparently did his job well, because we never see Jesus filing for bankruptcy. Judas was even a thief and the ministry showed no signs of struggling financially.

Third, God gives everyone the same chance. We all make mistakes, do sin and fall short of the glory of God. But the same grace is offerred freely to all of us if we'll repent and do the right things. Judas and Peter both sinned, but one chose to run to God in repentance and the other chose to run away from God and eventually took his own life.

So, I ask 'how do you explain that?'. You don't explain it. But you do recognize that if God chose people as wicked as Judas, he surely has a plan for someone he has made righteous by His blood, set apart by His Spirit, and called according to His purpose.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Ephesians 1:6 says "To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved." Everybody wants to be accepted. Often people will join groups, form bonds and build relationships just to be accepted. Unfortunately, people also form toxic relationships for the same reason. They choose people who don't treat them well, just because they 'accept' them. Bad friendships and marriages develop this way. I have known the Lord Jesus Christ for over 20 years and had struggled with acceptace for many, many years prior to submitting to the Lordship of Christ.

I grew up with an alcoholic father who was extremely verbally abusive and demeaning. I grew up with friends who I didn't realize weren't really friends, and missed discovering those who could have been friends indeed. When I was 16 I repented of sin and submitted to Jesus' Lorship of my life. I found someone who knew everything about me and accepted me (mess that I was). But, we all still live with people and want acceptance.

One of the reasons I love my wife (Jane) is because she accepts me. She knows everything that there is to know about me, has known me for 22 years and has accepted me at all stages of life. Many people struggle with deep and intimate friendships their entire lives, claiming that they don't have even one person they consider a close friend. Others frequently bemoan the fact that everyone judges them and no one accepts them. In order to have a friendship, there has to be trust and in order for there to be trust, we have to be accepted.

Ultimately though, our acceptance comes from Jesus. Though no one understands, listens, cares for us or even acknowledges us, God accepts us. One Strong's Concordance definition of acceptance is "to make lovely or deserving of love" None of us deserve love. We are sinful from birth. But, God has made us accepted in the beloved. Go forward and live like somebody accepts you, because they do!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Charismatic Hermeneutics - An Oxymoron

The title of this post alone would confuse most charismatic church members. The word Hermeneutics, as used in a Biblical context, can best be defined as bible inerterpretation, or 'how to study the Bible'. I wonder why people have to use big words and simply don't say it. But, anyway, after the last post inspired comments from both ANDVisionary and Mwitowich (hmmm, I don't remember writing that one), I wanted to see if DOC actually reads my posts for this one.

The charismatic community of which I've been a part for over 23 years seems to pride itself on shying away from indepth bible study (ie - verse by verse from people who actually know Greek and Hebrew). The defense of this behavior is 'the Holy Spirit teaches me everything'. Expanding on what one Bible teacher commented "when did the Holy Spirit teach you the alphabet, science, math or how to drive". We all have to learn from somwhere.

2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to "study to show thyself approved unto God". One of the things I've done in the last few years is begin verse by verse expositional studies of scripture and it has opened a new world to me. I encourage you to learn scripture and LIVE it. There is nothing more important to your spiritual life. Be a charismatic scholar...that'll mean you stick out like Paris Hilton on the streets of Harlem. Say 'Amen' DOC.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What Is Community?

Community is the new buzzword that is particularly popular among young, emerging churches. The concept to most people, from what I've ascertained, is something like 'we all in live close proximity, eat chicken wings at alternating houses, wear matching robes and watch each other's screaming kids while pretending to enjoy it' (perhaps I'm exagerating). But I don't think the Apostle Paul liked chicken wings or watching other people's screaming children (he liked to scream himself). Facebook and other online social networks, for instance, have helped to redefine community for many people. I, for one, am a HUGE fan of facebook. It allows me to reconnect with people I haven't seen or might not otherwise see at a time that is conveient for me (like 3am. Now who would I chat with then...hi to the only follower of the blog so far). So, what is community? Biblically, it is Acts 2:41-47. In society at large, it is anywhere you can connect with people and interact, whatever form that takes. Jesus called us to make disciples of all men, but you can't do that if you don't connect. Spoken from an isolationist like myself, that's strong language. So, get connecting...and pass the chicken wings.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hey, We Finally Got A Blog Again

For those of you reading this, it is assumed that you know who we are, or that you have too much time on your hands and enjoy searching for random blog sites. But by way of introduction, Jane and I have previously Pastored in both Illinois and Pennsylvania, served in church leadership, taught in a Bible school, ran a church bookstore and did a host of other things. At our last Pastorate, The Refuge, we had a blog on our web page and are glad to be back in business blogging. This blog will serve as the portal for teachings, Jane-isms (aka - pithy Jane thoughts), rantings about religion and anything we deem relevant enough to post (cause that's what a blog is for...right?). So, until I post again, thank you for reading. We hope to contribute to your life in some way that can bring you perspective, peace and purpose (that was so 3-point preacher-ish of me. GAG!) which will help you to grow closer to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.