Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What Every Muslim Needs to Know About the Prophet Jesus (PBUH)


  The Quran clearly points to Jesus Christ, as being a holy man, and a prophet, and so he cannot be a liar. The following essay presents to you, my dear Muslim friends, the words of Jesus himself. I ask you to carefully consider these things and search out whether they be true.

1. Jesus Christ claimed to be God.

In Mark Chapter 2, Jesus is preaching inside a man's house, and a sick man is brought to him. In verse 5, Jesus says 
 "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee."
 Now consider, my friends, what an amazing claim that is to  make in front of other people.Everyone understands that the power to forgive sins belongs to God alone. I would not make the claim to be able to forgive sins, and I  suspect you would not either.  In fact, the assembled crowd responds, saying "Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?"
 Jesus answers them and says:
 " Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk. But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house."
 In John chapter 10, Jesus is being pressed by the Jews to give a plain answer as to whether or not he was God manifest in the flesh. He answers them:
 "I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one."
  The people listening responded by offering to stone him. Jesus asks them why they want to stone him, and they answer "For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God."  
   Now my dear Muslim friend, by Jesus's own words you can see that he claimed to be able to forgive sins, he claimed to be able to give men eternal life, and he claimed to be equal with God. All of these are attributes of God alone. Was this holy prophet telling the truth when he spoke of himself?

2. Jesus Christ Died on the Cross, and Rose again

 Before he was captured and crucified, Jesus Christ predicted his own death, and his own resurrection. In John chapter 10, he says:
"I lay down my life, that I might take it again.No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again."
In Luke chapter 18, Jesus prophesies again regarding his own death, and says:
 "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again."
In Mark 9, Jesus is teaching his disciples and tells them:
"The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day."
 In Matthew 26, Jesus says:
 "Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified."
 After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and told them:
 "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have."
 "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing."
 In the first chapter of  book of Revelation, John encounters Jesus Christ again, and Jesus tells him:
"Fear not; I am the first and the last:I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death."
 Consider these things, friend. By his own words, Jesus knew he was going to die on the cross before it happened. He knew he was going to rise from the dead. He appeared to his disciples with the wounds of death in his body, and proclaimed to John that he had been dead, but now was alive. Was Jesus telling the truth?

3. Jesus Christ is the Only way to Heaven

  In John chapter 11, Jesus is speaking to the sister of his friend Lazarus, and he tells her:
"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?"
 In John 14, Jesus tells his disciples:
"I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
 Jesus Christ, from his own mouth claimed to be the source of eternal life and the only way for men to achieve a resurrection from the dead. He claimed to be the only way for a man to get to God. Jesus Christ claimed that your good works cannot save you, your devotion to God cannot save you; only he can save you from your sins. He accomplished this by paying the penalty for your sins with his own death upon the cross. He displayed victory over death by raising himself from the dead, and he promises the forgiveness of sin to all those who will put their faith and trust in him alone.
  What if the prophet Jesus Christ was telling the truth?
  I beseech you to consider these things in your heart. Are these things true? And if they are, why have you never been told?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mostly Human

 I have sitting, in my yard, a  broken green 1995 Geo Metro. We'll get back to that in a moment.
  When I got saved  in 1995, I was 21 years old, and without any undue embellishment, take my word for it, I was a hard man.  I had seen tragedy and heartbreak and death, and although others have doubtless seen worse, the experiences of my brief life thus far had hardened me. I understood rage, and I understood anger, but I had done my best to jettison from my  soul everything else. I walked around in a human body, but the affections and sentiments that are supposed to be common to the human experience were, from my vantage point, something that happened to other people.  I had no friends, and I was OK with that. I had no close affections, and I was OK with that. You could hit me, but you could not hurt me, and that was on purpose. I don't say this to make myself sound like a tough guy, but rather to lay the groundwork for what God has done.
  Of course now I sit here, more than 20 years later a new creature in Christ. I look at the man I used to be with  a certain amount of detachment, and with two decades of experience on him.  He's gone but not gone. That hard-hearted brawler still roams the hallways of my mind, and his influence bubbles up from time to time, but God has helped me in ways I could never explain.  God has patiently stripped away the dross and is preparing a vessel for His use.
  When I got saved, God gave me friends, or at least people who endured me for the ministries sake.  I'm still not the life of the party, and I'll never be voted Mister Congeniality (thank God) but God has, over the years, placed some people in my life, and used those people, whether they knew it or not, to help reassemble the broken man that He redeemed.  Of course, that sort of thing comes with a price.
  Doug is one of those friends.  I wish I could say that I had been the help to him that he's been to me, but that simply wouldn't be true. Really, my association with Doug has always struck me as pretty unlikely, but somehow it's worked. A few years back I was in a bind car-wise, and I bought this 1995 Geo from Doug and his wife.  The car has always been sort of moody, and it's always been prone to failures that defy explanation and that come and go on their own, but I took that little car with its unmatchable gas mileage and put around 100,000 miles on it in the last  3 or 4 years.  In that time, as I've worked through one issue or another (often with Doug's guidance or muscle) , many people have wondered why I didn't just get another car. My extended family have questioned my very sanity as to why I would  strive over and over again to keep this one car on the road.  I have bought other cars in this time, but it always comes back to this Geo.  This time around, it has sat still for several months plagued with a host of symptoms that have the best and brightest shrugging their shoulders. People ask me, "What are you going to do with that thing?" I'm sure I could muster up a handful of practical reasons to keep the car. It's paid for. I know it inside and out. It gets 50 miles to the gallon. But that's probably not the real reason.
  Look, I'm a smart guy. I can understand intellectually that this car is simply a 2,600 pound pile of metal and glass and rubber and plastic. I may talk to it, but it does not hear me. I get that.  I understand the concept of 'diminishing returns'. I'm far from stupid. But an unintended side-effect of my restored humanity is that I am, on occasion an irrational, pathetically sentimental sap.  I look at this pile of non functioning mechanical parts and I think of how I asked for prayer one night at a Saturday night prayer meeting because I needed a vehicle, and how Doug and his wife sold me that car for less than they could have. I think about Doug's wife, and how I wasn't sure if I was going to like her, but how our family has grown to love her.  She is, like me, a trophy of God's grace, living proof of God's kindness, and a broken thing under divine reassembly. I think about how the newlyweds loaded up her stuff in a trailer and hauled it down here in that Geo, and how they both cast aside their own sentimental attachment to it and sold it to me.  I think about all the time and knowledge Doug has donated to get this car back up on the road; time he could have spent with his lovely bride and his growing family. I think of how nobody would have done that for the cranky scrapper I used to be.  I stand there in my yard with a tool in my hand and the hood up thinking about all of this, and with all the rational arguments to stop echoing in my head, I say to myself "well, let's try this one more thing...".
  Having bared this little piece of myself to you, Oh Internet Reader Person, can you blame me? After all, I'm mostly human.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Superman as a Type of Christ

"There's only about 30 plots in every movie, book or TV show in the world and all these plots are found in the Bible"- Peter S. Ruckman

  It is common , for a variety of reasons, to find recurrent themes in literature that also echo great themes of the Bible.  The simple fact is that the world steals these themes, and twists them a bit to get a good story. When it comes time to create a hero, it's impossible  to write a great and noble hero without borrowing the attributes of the greatest Hero of  them all, the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything that is praiseworthy resides in Him, and if your hero is going to have any redeeming qualities at all, he is going to have to have some qualities in common with the Redeemer Himself.  But these attributes manifest themselves rather explicitly in a fictional character who burst on the scene in 1938 and almost  single-handedly defined the  superhero archetype. I speak of course of the Last Son of Krypton, Kal-El, also known as Superman.  I will go on record and say that I know of no other fictional character with so many blatant commonalities with Jesus Christ., and that these commonalities are most obvious in the two movies, Superman and Superman II. These films,  both starring Christopher Reeve in the title role, were originally conceived as one movie, and taken as one movie show an amazing (though imperfect and somewhat out of sequence) typology of the past, present and future work of Jesus Christ.
  Skeptical? You should be. But let's examine the evidence, shall we?

1. The Trial of Zod
  The movie begins on Krypton, the doomed planet of Superman's birth. We the audience are witness to the closing arguments on a trial of Krypton's three greatest criminals. From expository dialogue we know that  the leader of this trio is Zod, once a great Kryptonian general whose lust for power led him to try to overthrow the  Kryptonian government.  Here he stands, in judgment of his failed plot, on the verge of being banished.  Jor-el the great  scientist , appropriately clad in the black robes of judgment, casts the final vote to imprison the trio into outer darkness. Jor -el describes  Zod after this fashion:
"Finally, General Zod. Once trusted by this Council, charged with maintaining the defense of the planet Krypton itself. Chief architect of this intended revolution and author of this insidious plot to establish a new order amongst us. With himself as absolute ruler."

    The Bible says in  Isaiah 14, "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit."  
   Zod had Luciferian ambitions, and suffered the same fate. General Zod is the devil in this story, and as the devil he fulfills the role perhaps even better than the writers intended. Listen to his final words before the imprisonment engulfs him, and consider the words of the devil in Matthew 4;  "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." 

  We'll address his two companions in a few moments.

2. Krypton Itself and the El family

  Jor-el does an interesting wardrobe shift immediately after the sentencing of Zod and company. he casts aside the dark robes of judgment and wears the white glowing clothing that apparently is his usual attire. In fact, everyone on Krypton appears to be clothed in white raiment of some kind. Interestingly, the Bible says, in regards to God; "I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool:" Jor-El is a benevolent father; the wisest among a population full of radiant beings, and if Zod is the devil, then Jor-El neatly fits the role of God the Father, with Kal-El's mother inhabiting a rather sketchy role as the Holy Spirit.  
 As an aside, in the later Superman movie "The Man of Steel" , Kal-El is described as being  the only naturally occurring baby on Krypton in centuries, which would technically make him the 'only begotten' of his Father.   I promised myself I would stick to these two movies, but that's just too good to pass up. 
 In the movie , we don't see much of Krypton, but enough to know that is a place with crystal-based technology and light-based technology.  In this it resembles a certain other place, which the Bible says "And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above." (Ezek 1) and "And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal.." ( Rev 4). The habitation of God is described in Rev 21 as thus "And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof."  Krypton, like Heaven, is a place of crystal and light inhabited by at least  one family whose last name (El) is one of the Hebrew words for God.
  With the imminent destruction of the planet on its way , Jor-el and Laura opt to send their baby to Earth, making him the Last Son of Krypton, as compared to "the last Adam". In this particular telling of the story, they  build not a rocket ship, as in earlier incarnations, but a pod comprised of the crystal technology common to Krypton. The pod, when completed, resembles a star. This is especially interesting when you consider that Jesus Christ refers to himself as "the bright and morning star" in Rev. 22:16.
Image result for baby superman pod 1978
  Just before launching their infant son into the void of space, Jor-el makes a speech. 
 Listen carefully to his speech and then consider the  following statements by Jesus Christ.:
  •  "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." Matthew 10:40
  •  "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me."  John 5:30
  • "..As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father..." John 6:57
  • "..he that hath seen me hath seen the Father.." John 14:9
  • "...the Father is in me, and I in him." John 10:38
  • "I and my Father are one." John 10:30

3. Young Clark Kent
  The Kryptonian pod  makes its way to earth, where its tiny occupant is found by Jonathan and Martha Kent. A simple etymological search reveals that 'Martha ' is a variation on the name 'Mary', which is interesting in itself.  From the very beginning the young Kal-El,(reminiscent of "Emmanuel") hereafter called 'Clark' exhibits a wild variety of unusual abilities including having "eyes as a flaming fire". 

He hides those abilities though, as you can see in this scene.
  As a matter of fact, Clark's self-imposed humility and obscurity reminds me of another Man who the Bible says "made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:"  After the death of Jonathan Kent (mirroring that absence of Joseph in the later life of Jesus), Clark makes his way to Metropolis where he gets a job at the daily Planet,and also soon thereafter, makes his first public appearance as Superman.
Image result for superman headline 1978
She also gives him the name 'Superman', by the way

     At one point in the movie, after Lois Lane scores her interview with Superman , Lex Luthor quotes the article and says that the planet Krypton exploded in 1948. The movie takes place in 1978 which means that Superman is 30 years old when he makes his public appearance!
  For the purposes of this post, we're going to  ignore the whole 'flying backwards around the world to turn back time ' silliness, although it's worth mentioning that, among the Jesus-like attributes that Superman exhibits in that encounter is, technically, the ability raise the dead.
Image result for margot kidder 1978
Lois Lane- dead for now

 4. Meanwhile in the Phantom Zone
Image result for superman ii phantom zone
The Phantom Zone doubles as an album cover
  At the beginning of Superman II, the Man of Steel has been on the scene for some time. In fact, the movie came out in 1980, which means the case could be made that  Superman has been a public figure for almost 3 years at the outset of the movie, making him almost 33.  All this time the three greatest criminals of Krypton have been trapped in the Phantom Zone, and are only released when a nuclear explosion in space shatters their prison.  Unbeknownst to the Last Son of Krypton, the three of them  land on the moon and begin making their way to earth.
  When they land on Earth, they discover that they have amazing powers; the same powers any Kryptonian enjoys under the  glare of earth's yellow sun.  Much like the devil is able to duplicate the miracles of God via "lying signs and wonders", Zod and company are able to do things like walk on water.


Zod as Jesus
  But the comparison doesn't stop there.  It's telling that there are three of them, making them the perfect movie counterparts to the "devil...beast..and false prophet" of Revelation. Once on the scene Zod quickly establishes himself as the head of a one-world government. He clearly isn't opposed to being worshipped and even enjoys being mistaken for "the most High".

5. Where is Superman?
   In the movie, while Zod and his cohorts are taking over the world, Clark Kent has love on his mind; he decides to reveal his identity to Lois and ask the permission of his holographic parents to wed a human.  It's very clearly spelled out by his mother that , in order to attain a bride, he must take on normal human flesh with all its frailties and mortality .  The parallel with Jesus Christ is clear; Christ came "in the likeness of sinful flesh" and "submitted himself unto death" for His brides sake. Superman even sheds his blood before it's all over.

He endured the contradiction of truckers against himself

  Lex Luthor, ever the ambitious quisling, strikes a deal with Zod and reveals key information to the General; the son of his enemy Jor-el is here on earth.  Meanwhile , Clark and Lois see how the world has fallen under Zod in his absence and Clark heads back to the Fortress of Solitude in order to try to regain his powers. The movie is really unclear on how exactly he reverses the irreversible , but here's the parallel; the world thinks Superman is dead, and only his bride knows he's still alive and is coming back for her. 
  Carrying the analogy forward, even Lois begins to despair when suddenly, just when his enemies appear to have the victory, her hero returns, with his powers restored.  The battle goes from Metropolis to the Fortress of Solitude where the Man of Steel dispatches his enemies by placing them in "a bottomless pit".

 The natural order of things restored, and the bully vanquished, the movie ends with Superman helping rebuild the white House and promising to never let the President down again. Or, as the Bible says it "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."

  There, presented for your consideration, from His birth to His death to His resurrection to His eventual victory over His enemies, is the greatest typology of Jesus Christ in  secular literature.  What do you think?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What Now, Church?

 Well church, it's over.  One reprobate won over the other reprobate.  The dust is still settling, but it's over.  Mr. Trump rode to victory on the backs of evangelicals and I'm certain that he will now treat us as his kind have always treated us, with disdain and contempt until we are needed again.  I hope you're happy. I hope you did what you thought was right.   But either way, it's over.  Now, as your brother in Christ, let me beseech you to get back to what we should have been doing all along.
   You've gone door knocking for Trump, now go door knocking for Jesus. You put a Trump sign in your yard; now put a scripture sign out. You familiarized yourself the intricacies of both candidates and their positions; now you should make yourself just as familiar with your Bible.  You were zealous and passionate and concerned about the turnout; now be just as devoted to the souls of men.  You contended for Trump; now you should contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.
    And while you're at it, it might be time to apologize to those brothers with whom you disagreed.  It might be time to apologize to those that you said were helping the opposition by voting their conscience, or by not voting at all. It might be time to 're-friend' that fellow saint that you 'un-friended'. It might be time to remind yourself that no matter how this had turned out, we are all in this together.
  For my part, I didn't vote. Instead I  stood out in the open air and preached the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ just like I have done for  over 2 decades now.  I passed out tracts just like I always have. I gave the way I always have. If Mrs Clinton had won, I would have continued on, laboring not for the GOP, but for the Lord Jesus Christ.  For those of you who, by God's grace, didn't get distracted over all this, now is your chance to be gracious to your brethren.  To those of you who got off track and off-message, we love you and we want to see you do right.  Come on back, we need the help.
  What now, church?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Trap of the Dishonest Skeptic

It was a spring day in Savannah Ga probably over 10 years ago.  I was preaching in the park to a scattering of mostly college-age kids  enjoying the lovely weather and the aftermath of the St. Patrick's Day Festival.  They were seated on benches and some on blankets in the grass, lounging around, talking amongst themselves and generally behaving as if I wasn't there.  One of their number, however, decided that he had endured quite enough of me. He rose to his feet and   presented himself between the crowd and myself.  With a loud voice and appropriately dramatic hand gestures he told the crowd "This man's god would burn me for all eternity  simply because I don't believe in him. What kind of god does that?"  He went on to accuse the God of the Bible of being a petty tyrant who would rather destroy his creation than be ignored by it. By this man's reckoning, "God" was the worst sort of monster; an entity who presents man with either  the option of absolute obedience to His every trivial whim, or  unending torment.
  While its true that a good heckler is worth his weight in gold, sometimes a judgment call must be made. Do you engage, or do you ignore?  For reasons long forgotten to me, I opted to ignore him.
  I use that man as an example of what I call 'the trap of the dishonest skeptic'.   There is an honest skepticism that causes one to carefully evaluate the claims of others and not throw your hat in until you have all the facts.  That's not what I'm talking about.  Most people who call themselves skeptics actually deploy a dishonest kind of skepticism; a suspicion or incredulity towards things they already don't like.  A dishonest skeptic will spend a lot of time being a smart-aleck railer involving things he has a prejudice against while telling himself and all his like-minded cronies that he is more intelligent or more logical or more enlightened than his ideological adversaries.  The internet is full of this sort of thing, and  truth be told, all of us do this to some degree, and to whatever degree we indulge this part of our flawed nature, we blind ourselves to the truth.
  Returning to our heckler in the park, his basic premise was that the God of the Bible was somehow unfair or unjust for instituting eternal consequences for unbelief.  Now while it's true that unbelief is a sin, this man in the park took his limited understanding of his predicament, filtered it through the darkness of his own heart, and missed the point.  Let me explain.
  First of all, we must address unbelief. The Bible says "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard."  According to scripture, creation is self-evident across every kindred and tribe and tongue.  A man who rejects creation rejects the evidence of his own eyes.  The Bible goes on to say in the book of Hebrews "...he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him".  Somebody made everything you see, and He can be found, if He is sought on His terms.  It stands to reason then that if a man doesn't find Him, it must be because he didn't look properly. Why would a man not look? The Bible addresses that too, saying in John 3 "light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.". Men don't seek the God of the Bible because they somehow instinctively understand that His very existence is a reproach to their sin, and they love their sin. They would rather walk " the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness."  Job says men drink "iniquity like water" and love it.   Unbelief is a sin because of why the unbelief exists; as a cloak for your sin.  A man who rejects God as he has revealed Himself is a man who has chosen to disregard reality itself and instead embrace the  warm comfort of his own self-centered filthiness.  Unbelief is not just an insult to God, it's a crime against yourself.
  The reasons for unbelief carry a penalty as well. The Bible says "the wages of sin is death". Your lies, your adultery, your pride, your self-centeredness drove you to unbelief, and that same unbelief cuts you off from the solution.  While you pat yourself on the back for what an open-minded skeptic you are, you have closed your mind off to He who is truth itself.  You congratulate yourself on how free you are from the trappings of belief even as you bind yourself up with the cords of your own iniquity and stubbornly refuse the only One who can help you. You carry on, making  little internet memes that poke fun at God and mock Jesus, never realizing that you are destroying yourself.  In fact, according to the scriptures, "... after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds"  
  The God of the Bible looked down at you in  your pathetic, filthy, unrepentant, self-deluded, self-destructive state and took pity on you.  He  took on the "likeness of sinful flesh" and became "as a servant". He went to the cross and bore your sin and your shame  in his own body, and took the punishment for your sins on Himself. He rose from the dead, and has secured your justification and your reconciliation  with the only condition being "repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."  With that sort of unfathomable grace staring you in the face, would you really rather stand in a park and bellow out about how unfair he is?
 You see, the real issue with a  dishonest skeptic is that he's dishonest. The motivations he presents , perhaps even to himself, are so intertwined in his own self-love that he is literally willing to commit intellectual suicide and  earn eternal damnation rather than forsake it. Why should you take a good hard look at the God of the Bible, Mr. Skeptic? Because He's the only hope you have.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Dear Mr. Pastor

 I've been saved, and in church and in ministry for 21 years now.  I try to be a keen observer of all things ministry and let me tell you, I see some pretty troubling things on the horizon.  Foolishness and excess appears to be the order of the day among 'Bible Believers', and a certain amount of blame for this must be laid at the feet of men who occupy a pulpit. But beyond assigning blame, I think we, as the body of Christ need to  engage in some reflection and self-correction  so that all of us can move forward in the victory God has for us.  I write this, and say this as an absolute nobody. I am not a pastor, and the odds are I never will be. But I do pay attention, and I do consider what I see.  So here, in no particular order, are some things you , Mr. Pastor, ought to keep in mind.

1. Pastors are not the head of the church. Jesus is

  The Bible says, in Ephesians 1 "Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all."
  Make no mistake, pastoring is an important position, but the pastor is not the head of the church, nor should he seek to be, as that position is already taken.   I've seen men strut and preen and swagger and boast about their pastoral authority. I've seen men , under the auspices of  'pastoral authority' order their deacons to stand up or sit down and lift one leg to  to show everybody that they, the pastor, are in charge. It has been awkward and embarrassing every time I've seen it.
  The truth is, the pastor is a servant.  Mr Pastor, the  church of Jesus Christ got along just fine before you came along, and the church of Jesus Christ will still be going strong when you are gone. God has placed you in a position of oversight and servitude for a very brief period of time in the big scheme of things. You are expendable. You can be very easily replaced, and if its been a while since anyone has told you that, somebody needs to.
  I understand a man taking a certain amount of responsibility for the ministry that he is entrusted with, but when you take it beyond that and grab authority that isn't yours, you are acting out of pride, and you are in the wrong.

2. Pastors aren't the  shepherd, Jesus is

 In John 10, Jesus says "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."
  Not much commentary is necessary here.  There is one shepherd, and Jesus identifies this as Himself.   And yes, I am aware that the word 'pastor' is derived from the same word as 'shepherd', but Jesus said that there is one shepherd and that He is it.  Argue with Jesus if it makes you feel better.  Explain to Jesus how you are the 'undershepherd' or 'the shepherd in God's stead'. Let me know how that works out for you.
  Once again I appreciate men who take responsibility for the stewardship of a ministry, but I have heard men say things like "Bless God, son, I'm the pastor here and you aren't. I was here before you came and  I'll be here after you're gone."  The sentiment was clear; I'm the big dog, and you are beneath me.
  Mr. Pastor, please remember that Philippians 2 says "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves."

  3.  Pastors aren't the final authority, Jesus is.

  In John 5, Jesus says  "For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man."
  Sometimes preachers repeat things they hear other preachers say, and  as a consequence, I've heard more than one man make a statement to the effect that if God ever spoke to you audibly, He would sound like your pastor. That is a ridiculous and scripturally indefensible statement.  Plus its a little weird. I mean, do you really think God would condescend to sound like you?
  Mr. Pastor, your opinions, preferences and convictions are absolutely meaningless in the light of scripture, as are mine.  God wrote down how he wants things done, and if you exceed those provisions regardless of your intentions, you are , as the saying goes 'off the reservation'. 
  Keep in mind that the people sometimes make it very easy for this line to be crossed. when you have a congregation that doesn't read the Bible for themselves, and doesn't pray for themselves, they rely heavily upon you.  That's no excuse.  The Bible says "For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself." You sir, are nothing, just like me.

4. Pastors are not above  rebuke or correction 

 "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits." (Romans 12:10-16)
  Romans 12 presents the model of a group of people laboring together as equals, under the same head, taking direction from the same Shepherd, fulfilling their role in the body of Christ.  Does that sound like your ministry, Mr. Pastor?  Or are you above the people, above rebuke, and above correction?
  I heard a pastor say once "The sheep don't correct the shepherd". He was referring to himself as the shepherd, obviously. I've heard men say that pastors can only be corrected by other pastors.  That's an interesting way to  divide up the body of Christ. In fact, it sound like the doctrine of the Nicolaitans to me.
  If you are in the wrong, any brother in Christ ought to be able to take a Bible and present you with the scriptures in regards to this matter. They should do so in a scriptural manner.  After all, just a bit earlier in Roman 12, Paul writes "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." Your office does not put you above anyone else, and it certainly doesn't make you infallible..

5. Pastors have a very specific job description.

 "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." 1 Tim 4:12
  There is so much in that one verse, and you could delve into all of that for weeks, but the core of it is this; be an example. That is your job.  People being what they are, they need a visible physical example in front of them. If you know the Bible says we are all to love the brethren, then you need to be an example of that. If the Bible says we all need to be humble and prefer others above ourselves, then you cannot be an example of that if you  strut around telling everybody how much closer to God you are than them.  If the Bible says we are to go into all the world and preach the gospel, you are to be an example of that. If the Bible says we are to study to shew ourselves approved unto God, you ought to be the example of that.  You are to be an example of what everybody in the body of Christ should be doing all the time anyway.

 6. Pastors have less in common with Moses than they think 

  I wish I had a nickel for every virtually identical sermon I've heard preached out of Exodus 17.  It's always presented the same way; I, the pastor have a really hard job, and you, the congregation are supposed to some along and hold up my arms while I labor, lest we lose the battle.  I've even seen men bring their deacons or whatnot up on the platform to  hold up their arms while they preach with a  broomstick or rod in their hand.  It's a cute application, and it's a visual way to reinforce people's loyalty to you, but that's not what's going on in that text.
  Everybody forgets about Joshua when they read that story.  While Aaron and Hur were up on the mountain with Moses, Joshua was down fighting the battle, and the Bible calls Joshua Moses' "minister".  If you're anybody in that story, you ought to be Joshua, and Joshua wasn't on the mountain; Joshua was down laboring alongside the common soldier.
  The tendency to want to be Moses in the story, I think, has to do with pride. After all, reasons the proud pastor, I go into the presence of God, and bring the word of God down from the mountain and present it to the people.  I labor night and day for the people. I intercede on their behalf to God. Well, umm..thanks.  But you still don't get to be Moses. The battle has already been won, and we're not counting on you standing there with a broomstick for this to work out.  Just a little perspective, Mr. Pastor.
  The 'church in the wilderness' was, for the most part, a one-man show, and I understand the parallels because people are still people.  But if your New Testament assembly  resembles an Old Testament theocracy, then we may have larger problems.
Take a deep breath.
We're all friends here.

7. They arent you're people, they are God's people

 1 Cor 7 says "For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men."
You would think that, since you're not the head, and you're not the shepherd, that this one would be obvious. But once again, I have seen many a man  behind a pulpit proclaim that the people in the crowd are "my sheep" and he sees himself as the man who decides where and on what the sheep will graze.  He sees himself as holding the rod of correction. I have seen men be convinced of a certain truth from the scriptures, but decide to withold that truth from "my people' because after all 'they can't handle it'. And who decides that? Why, the shepherd, of course!
8. We are all on the same team. 

Paul starts out Ephesians 4 saying "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."  This is crucial. We really are all on the same side.
  I've been in church a long time, and I know how church folk can be.  As the 'face' of the ministry, the pastor and his family can live a life of isolation even among the brethren, but it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, it shouldn't be. That's not normal Christianity.
  Another red flag is an 'us vs them' mentality.  If you find yourself regarding every difference of opinion as a foe to be  conquered, you are drifting out of scriptural waters.  If you feel you have to keep your distance from the brethren because after all 'familiarity breeds contempt', then you do not understand the idea of unity of the Spirit of God.
 Look at Phillipians 1; "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." See the order? Saints, bishops and deacons, all working and laboring together, and being addressed by the man who wrote most of the New testament who simply calls himself as "a servant of Jesus Christ". Would to God we would all have that attitude!