He was cru·ci·fy·ed for our sins,

cru·ci·fy ˈkro͞osəˌfī/ verb past tense: crucified; past participle: crucified 1. – to put (someone) to death by nailing or binding them to a cross, especially as an ancient punishment. For as…

Source: He was cru·ci·fy·ed for our sins,

prayer in unity

We went to church in Paterson Sunday and there were three things in this church that I could not help but take note that, 1) there was an over abundance of women in the church, and 2) there was a noticeable lack of teenagers to thirty-something year old folk in the church, and 3) the music in the church was awesome!

As we drove through a blighted neighborhood in Paterson to the way church Sunday, I could not help but reflect on a book by Tom Burrell that I’ve been reading lately titled, “Brainwashed.” In Brainwashed, Burrell encourages his audience to, 1) consider the power of the ancient wisdom that says, “as ‘a man’ thinks in his heart, so is he”, and 2) to consider the horrible impact that generations of negative thinking is having a significant number of our neighbors, and finally 3) to seek significance by reaching for the amazing potential for good that God has placed inside of each of us (and not the destructive and ugly stereotypes far too many have brought into as the “truth”).

As I drove home from church, I could not help but renew my belief in the hope that we have in Christ; hope that is unleashed through the bold proclamation of the gospel, and through the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

In every place, in every culture, at every time, and in every circumstance the gospel has proven to be the difference maker. For this reason, when God used the apostle Paul to reach out to the amazingly messed up Corinthians, He did not empower him to preach religion, nor did he inspire him to lower the lights, plug in the praise band, and rock the house. The LORD empowered Paul to preach the gospel to the Corinthians, and to encourage those that believed the gospel to come together as brothers and sisters and form a new community not based on race, or religion, but based on faith and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  The Bible calls this new community the church, the body of Christ, and it is here where God’s love is displayed in living color to the watching world. As members of this new community, our obligation to one another is to love one another, and to encourage one another to live this life just as He lived it on earth almost 2,000 years ago.  As it is written:

1 Peter 3:8 ¶ Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

FYI – Below is an excerpt from Burrell’s book Brainwashed

Our Family crisis is inseparable from our black male and female identity crisis, and brainwashing has left a great many of us fearful, confused about our
identities, and hopelessly caught in a cycle of relationship underachievement.

To many black men are still stuck in roles ultimately dictated by slavery. Some, living up to the expectation that they are irresponsible, take pride in making babies knowing they can leave without stressing about the outcome of their actions.

Black boys are not the only recipients of the psychological and physical trauma inflicted on their emasculated fathers. Vulnerable black daughters seeking love and validation from the first man in their lives are often left to fend for themselves, relying on their mothers or society to define black manhood for them. Like their mothers, the girls are saddled with feelings of disillusionment and disappointment in black men that often becomes a permanent fixture of their psyches. …. many black women have been brainwashed to be active enablers of irresponsible men, supporting the unhealthy behavior of their mates, leading to future relationships fraught with unnecessary drama.”

“As the saying goes, black men have been brought p by mothers conditioned to ‘raise their daughters and spoil their sons.’ For many black mothers without committed male partners, the son becomes the ‘little man’ whom the omther overindulges and neglects until he gets to an age where she can no longer handle him. Rationalizing that he is indeed a ‘man,’ she submissively allows the boy to come and go as he pleases.

Poor young black women with little education pay the greatest toll. Many are tragically retro, stuck in the past where women had little control over their sexuality. Following in the footsteps of their female ancestors, they are brainwashed into believing that motherhood is the means by which they can validate themselves; having babies with no resources is seen as a way out. ….

THESE DISTRESSING PATTERNS MUST BE ACKNOWLEDGED AND ADDRESSED IF WE EVER WANT AN INKLING OF A CHANCE TO FOSTER STRONG BLACK FAMILIES.” (Tom Burrell, Brainwashed: Challenging the myth of Black Inferiority, p.32-33)

Don’t be discouraged after reading the above citation from Burrell. There is hope! For the Bible says, “Be Ye Transformed!”

Romans 12:1 ¶ I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Serve-One-Another-e1363895842157

The Game Changing Gospel

Three Crosses and Silhoutted Person in Prayer at Sunrise

Through the gospel God exerts his power to transform lives and change cultures. I am of the opinion that the church does not need another summit or conference on racial reconciliation or multi-culturalism; what’s needed today are preachers who will prophetically proclaim the gospel.  When the gospel is preached to people whom the Holy Spirit has prepared to receive it, they receive it, and they demonstrate their faith in the gospel by walking in “newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)  Let me suggest that anything short of this (changing or accommodating our music styles, or creating night club like atmospheres in our sanctuaries, etc.) will not bring the needed flame of radical revival, but will produce a mere reshuffling of the same old deck of lukewarm cards.

I love this section from George and Woodward’s book, The Mark of Jesus. Using an example from the history of the church, George and Woodward challenge us to consider afresh the power of the gospel to change our lives. They write:

The Testimony of Justin Martyr

Justin Martyr effectively depicted and defended the lifestyle of Christians. In his First Apology (c. A.D. 155), Justin challenged Emperor Antonius Pius to take a good, hard look at the way Christians lived. Justin apparently did not fear that an investigation by the emperor would find the Christians to be hypocrites: “It is for us, therefore, to offer to all the opportunity of inspecting our life and teachings, lest we ourselves should bear the blame for what those who do not really know about us do in their ignorance.” Then, in a marvelous passage, Justin described how the power of the Gospel had transformed Christians at the very core of their aspirations and desires:

Those who once rejoiced in fornication now delight in continence alone; those who made use of magic arts have dedicated themselves to the good and unbegotten God; we who once took pleasure in the means of increasing our wealth and property now bring what we have into a common fund and share with everyone in need; we who hated and killed one another would not associate with men of different tribes because of [their different] customs, now after the manifestation of Christ live together and pray for our enemies and try to persuade those who unjustly hate us, so that they, living according to the fair command of Christ may share with us the good hope of receiving the same things [that we will] from God, the master of all.

According to Justin Martyr, Christians turned their backs on sexual immorality, on the making of money as a life avocation, and on yielding to racism. Rather, they shared their goods even with those whom they had formerly disdained for racial reasons—those who belonged to other tribes. Many Christians were living in unity and were intent on seeing their non-Christian neighbors come to Christ. They prayed for their enemies with the hope that they might likewise become followers of the true God. They believed that only those persons were worthy to be called Christians who actually obeyed their Lord’s teachings.

As for those persons who did not obey Christ’s teachings (hypocrites), Justin Martyr offered little comfort: “Those who are found not living as he taught should know that they are not really Christians, even if his teachings are on their lips, for he said that not those who merely profess but those who also do the works will be saved. For he said this: ‘Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’”Justin Martyr, therefore, viewed “apologetics”(the defense of the faith) in a somewhat different fashion than we often do, if we limit its scope to the presentation of the “theistic proofs”or historical arguments for the resurrection of Christ. Certainly Martyr made the case for fulfilled prophecies in Scripture, the reality of Christ’s miracles, and the truthfulness of the resurrection. But Martyr was not hesitant also to make the point that many of the Christians he knew obeyed Christ’s teachings. This would mean that any hypocrisy charge regarding them would not stick. He wrote: “Many men and women now in their sixties and seventies who have been disciples of Christ from childhood have preserved their purity: and I am proud that I could point to such people in every nation.”

Justin Martyr’s presentation of how Christians actually lived out their faith received confirmation of sorts from a surprising quarter. Pagan critics, while condemning Christianity as an irrational faith that attracted the weak-minded, on occasion paid backhanded tributes to the Christians by describing them as those who kept their word and shared their goods with each other. Undoubtedly, the early church had its hypocrites who by no means followed Christ in the way Justin Martyr indicated. At the end of the second century, Tertullian complained that he knew Christians, including members of the clergy, who ran after money and church offices rather than seeking to follow Christ’s teachings. For many early Christians, not following Christ’s teachings indicated a person was worse than a hypocrite; the person was a “non-Christian.

The Power of Delight

delight

Deuteronomy 30:19 says,

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life,

that both you and your descendants may live;

Several years ago some scorned our former President for offering what they deemed an overly simplistic answer to the question of why he committed infidelity.  Our President said that he did it because he “could.”

  •  “I think I did something for the worst possible reason — just because I could. I think that’s the most , just about the most morally indefensible reason that anybody could have for doing anything. When you do something just because you could … I’ve thought about it a lot. And there are lots of more sophisticated explanations, more complicated psychological explanations. But none of them are an excuse … Only a fool does not look to explain his mistakes.” (taken from Dan Rather’s 60 Minutes interview with our President that aired on CBS June 20, 2004)

The truth is: we do what we do because we (sinful creatures) like it.  The question is: What do you like?  Trying to come up with a more philosophically deep or complex answer to the question of why we do something may beg the question, but it will not answer it.  Let me suggest that as simple as this answer may or may not seem, it is the only right answer.  We are as advertised in the Bible: sinful people that delight in fulfilling the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.  Or as Galatians 5:19-21 puts it,

19 Now the works of the flesh are clear, which are these: evil desire, unclean things, wrong use of the senses,
20 Worship of images, use of strange powers, hates, fighting, desire for what another has, angry feelings, attempts to get the better of others, divisions, false teachings,21 Envy, uncontrolled drinking and feasting, and such things: of which I give you word clearly, even as I did in the past, that they who do such things will have no part in the kingdom of God. (Bible in Basic English version)

The key to consistently living a God honoring life is not to suppress our delights, but to refocus our delights from that which is earthly, sensual, and demonic (James 3:15-17), to that which is truly, and eternally delightful.  When the apostle Paul commands the church to “Walk in the Spirit” and not in the “flesh”, he challenges us to consider afresh what it is we delight in.  If our delight is in the flesh (our old nature) we will chose to wallow in the “works of the flesh”.  If our delight is in the resurrection life that we’ve received through faith in Christ, then we will chose and relish in the “fruit of the Spirit”.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.

Against such there is no law.

What we delight in will determine what we do, .  If resurrection life is our delight we will crucify  “the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24)  I like the imagery that crucifying the flesh brings to our minds because it is a fitting image of what growing in the grace and knowledge of God looks like.  what makes crucifying the flesh, as opposed to simply killing it, a fitting image of spiritual development is because crucifixion was a painfully slow process by which the power of the flesh is broken and drained away.

Let me also suggest that our walking in the Spirit is more than an  “I”  will or will not chose to do this or that thing.  Walking in the Spirit is delighting in having intimate fellowship with God; it is relishing in the resurrection life of Christ that God has immensely bestowed upon us through our faith in Christ.  When our delight is resurrection life, than the fruit of our delight (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) will be seen is us, as Jesus Christ expresses His divine life through us.

God wisely created us with the freedom to chose, and freedom is what makes choosing to love God so delightful.  Our freedom to chose God is also what makes receiving His love so satisfying.  (By the way, here is a question for the deterministic out there: Do robots do not delight in doing what they are programmed to do, or find satisfaction in being made on an assembly line?  Just asking.)

I like Sweet and Viola’s thoughts on this.  I have shared them with you below:

We have been given God’s Spirit, which makes Christ “real” in our lives.  We can actually now, as Peter puts it, “participate in the divine nature.” (see 2 Peter 1:1-4)  How, then, in the face of so great a truth, can we ask for toys and trinkets?  How can we lust after lesser gifts and itch for religious and spiritual “thingies”?  We’ve been touched from on high by the fires of the Almighty and given divine life, a life that has passed through death–the very resurrection life of the Son of God Himself.  How can we not be fired up?

There is a vast ocean of difference between trying to compel Christians to imitate Jesus, and learn how to impart an implanted Christ.  The former only ends up in failure and frustration.  The latter is the gateway to life and joy in our daying and our dying.  We stand with Paul–“Christ lives in me”–and we aspire with him to “have the mind of Christ.”  Our life is Christ.  In Him we live, breath, and have our being.  What would Jesus do” is not Christianity.  Christianity ask, “What is Christ doing through me … through us?  And how is He doing it?”  Following Jesus means to “trust and obey,” as the old hymn goes.  But faith and obedience to Christ isn’t self-effort.  It’s responding to God’s will and living by His indwelling life through the power of the Spirit.

Doing life together with Jesus is a coauthored narrative process filled with many points of crisis.  But the imaginative, tension-filled process of engaging the crisis is what makes a story interesting.

Every crisis raises relational issues: Will you try it and handle it yourself?  Will you find a new partner?  Or will you and Jesus tackle the crisis together?  In tackling the stuff of life together, you’ll see that your relationship with God will deepen.

In pondering Christ, you find that you are in face living His life, and God is living yours.  Christ in you and you in Christ.  God doesn’t lead you through phases or steps.  He draws you to Himself in continuous motion.  What we often have viewed as stages of phases may be a change in music.  But the point is never the music.  It is the dance.  The music is often part of the dance.  But sometimes the most beautiful dance is the one where you and your partner make up the music as you dance together. (Jesus Manifesto, p. 68,69)

live-with-passion

Hello Christian

I am a christian

Acts 11:26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

Acts 26:28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”

 1 Peter 4:16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.

According to a December, 2012 Gallup poll, 77% of Americans say they are Christians. (an ABC News poll said it was 82%, but let’s not quibble.)  However, in the 1st Century this term was rarely used to describe the followers of Jesus, and by taking note of the few places in the Bible where this term was used we can discover why this term was not a common designation for religious people, but a special term used to described true followers of Jesus Christ.  Let’s take a look.

First, followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” in Antioch by non-believers after they observed their faith in action (Acts 11:26).  So, what did the non-believer see?   They saw a faith that brought historic enemies (Jews and gentiles) together; coming together because their love for the LORD, and their love for each other caused them to form one church (the body of Christ – Ephesians 4:4-6)).  Likewise, after hearing Paul give an impassioned defense of the gospel, even defying imprisonment or death to do so, king Agrippa exclaimed, “You almost persuade me to become a   Christian” (or a radical follower of Jesus Christ).  Lastly, Peter admonished the believing community to follow the Lord even to the point of suffering and hardship, saying;

  • “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” (1 Peter 4:16)

So, what does the term “Christian” mean?  Let me suggest to you that the term Christian, used in context, means that the persons thus labeled “Christians”  are distinctively surrendered to, and passionate in love with Jesus Christ (or as Keith Green would say, “Bananas”).   I like the way J. I. Packer identifies a “Christian” below.  Packer writes:

What is a Christian?  He can be described from many angles, but from what we have said it is clear that we can cover everything by saying: he is a man (or woman) who acknowledges and lives under the world of God.  A Christian submits without reserve to the word of God written in ‘the Scripture of truth’ (Daniel 10:21), believing the teaching, trusting the promises, following the commands.  His eyes are to the God of the Bible as his Father, and the Christ of the Bible as his Savior.

If asked, Christians will tell you that the word of God has both convicted them of sin and assured them of God’s forgiveness.  A Christian’s conscience, as Luther observed, is captive to the word and will of God.  Lastly, as noted by the psalmist, Christians aspires to have their lives line up with the Word as “doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).

“O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!”

“O let me not wander from thy commandments.

” “Teach me thy statutes.  Make me to understand the way of Thy precepts.”

“Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies.”

“Let my heart be sound in Thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:5, 10, 26f., 80).

Christians, like Abraham, believe the promises of God,and are looking “for a city “whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10)”.  And the precepts of God’s word guide Christians as they live their faith day by day.

The Christian knows that all things (the good, the bad, and the ugly things) will work together for their good because their sovereign God is in control of their circumstances, and He is doing all things for His eternal glory, and their eternal joy; as it is written:

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

The Christian is an independent person; a person that doesn’t just have a religious bracelet on their wrist that reads “WWJD” (What Would Jesus Do), but they seek to consistently live by faith the WWJD life.

Why does this suggested description the Christian fit so few of us who profess to be Christians today?  I found it profitable to ask my conscience this question, and to let it tell me the answer.  You will too.  (adapted from J. I. Packer’s, Knowing God)

Christian Praying

Are We Servants or Slaves?

Serve-One-Another-e1363895842157

Galatians 5:13 ¶ For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Amazingly, one of the most controversial sermons that I ever preached was based on this verse; particularly the phrase that says, “through love serve one another.”  What made this message so controversial (to some) was when I asked my Christian brothers and sisters this question: “Would you rather be a servant or a slave?”  To which, virtually everyone in the audience answered that they would rather be a servant.  No one wanted to be a slave.  Therefore, when I suggested to by fellow Christian “servants” that the word “serve” in the original language of the N.T. conveys not the image of a servant but the image of a slave, many in the audience got uncomfortable; some even got a little mad.

Let me suggest that the reason being slaves to one another make us feel uncomfortable is because of the different way in which we view the status of a servants and slaves.

  • Servants work for wages.  …………….  Slaves work for free
  • Servants can chose where and for whom they work ,,,,,,,,, Slave have no freedom and are bound to their master’s service
  • Servants retain a sense of personal pride or dignity ………  slavery is considered undignified and beneath us

No one wants to be a slave; even the founders of the United States-a slave owning country at the time-recognized:

We hold these truths to be self-evident,

that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator

with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

The idea of becoming a slave is abhorrent to us.  However, becoming a slave was not abhorrent to Jesus, “who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave.” (see Philippians 2:6,7 in the Holman Christian Standard Bible)  Therefore, if being a Christian is to be a follower of Jesus Christ, and if growing in our Christian faith means being transformed in to the image of Jesus Christ, than as Christians the image that we must bear is not the image of the self seeking, self promoting, self absorbed, and the selfish; all of which are characteristics of the old man, but not the new man that God has created in us (Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:8-9).

The image of Christ is a selfless image that loves with no strings attached, that serves without seeking the reward and the applause and the thank-yous of others (our reward is awaiting us in Heaven, and our applause will come from God when He says, “well done, you good and faithful slave”).  The image of Jesus is the image of a slave, as it is written:

Philippians 2:1-8 ¶If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal. Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death– even to death on a cross.

Get Wisdom!

wisdom seeker

Yes, “Wisdom is the principal thing”, and true wisdom is not found in books, discussion and focus groups, gossip columns, Google searches, or Wikipedia. Furthermore, wisdom cannot be found in religion.

True wisdom can be found in the person of Jesus Christ; as it is written:

1 Corinthians 1:30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God–and righteousness and sanctification and redemption– 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”

With this said, read the biography of Dr. Robert Dick Wilson below. Dr. Wilson was a brilliant man, who found true wisdom, not in academics, but in Christ. Enjoy.

Robert Dick Wilson (1856-1930) was fluent in 45 languages and dialects, including all of the Biblical and cognate languages, such as Hebrew, Greek, Babylonian, Phoenician, Coptic, various Aramaic dialects, French, German, and so forth. 45 languages and dialects in all.

Wilson could already read at the early age of four, and by the age of five he had read, among other books, Rawlinson’s Ancient Monarchies. Wilson graduated from Princeton University at the age of 20, and he read the New Testament fluently in nine languages by the time he got to seminary. He had memorized the entire New Testament in Hebrew, along with portions of the Old Testament, and it is said the he could recite the New Testament in Hebrew without missing so much as a syllable.

Dick Wilson demolished the critics of his day, especially the likes of the heretic S. R. Driver and the Graf-Wellhausen School. Wilson’s major publications, in which he not only annihilated the liberal critics, but also fortified the foundations of the study of the Old Testament with brilliant elucidations and conclusions, like nobody before or since, were, The Scientific Investigation Of The Old Testament, Is Higher Criticism Scholarly, Studies In the Book Of Daniel (a two-volume masterpiece, and THE classic defense of the book of Daniel), and a host of papers and treatises in various publications. An example of Wilson’s genius and scholarship can be seen in this short paper — The Veracity Of The Old Testament — which delivers conclusive evidence for the accuracy of the foundation and transmission of the Hebrew Text.

Wilson became the leading professor at Princeton Theological Seminary where he spent many years defending the Bible against all comers, as well as turning out students with a sound foundation of rare learning. Nearing the age of seventy, Wilson nevertheless produced a stirring moment for his students when, after a dissertation on the complete trustworthiness of Scripture, the renowned scholar said with tears streaming down his face —

“Young men, there are many mysteries in this life I do not pretend to understand,many things hard to explain. But I can tell you this morning with the fullest assurance that:

Jesus loves me, this I know

For the Bible tells me so!”

Three Crosses and Silhoutted Person in Prayer at Sunrise