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“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

Rick Warren builds bridge to Muslims | muslims, warren, saddleback – Life – The Orange County Register*

Let me say up front that I love Muslims. Jesus called us to love all people (see Matthew 5:38-48) but also called us to be discerning and speak the truth. Love and truth are connected in Scripture. We see this in the person of Christ Himself (John 1:17) and in Paul’s admonition to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). And speaking and doing the truth is one of our greatest acts of love. With that in mind, let me make a few comments on this article (link above).

First, on a positive note:

  • We call called to pursue peace with all men (Psalm 34:14).
  • We are called to treat others with respect and dignity (Matthew 7:12).
  • We are to be reconcilers in the name of a reconciling God (2 Corinthians 5:18).
  • We are called to befriend and aid even our enemies (Luke 10:25-37).
  • We should avoid being adversarial and antagonistic in sharing Jesus (Colossians 4:5-6).

Second, a critique:

  • Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God (Exodus 20:3-5).
  • Only the Bible (not the Koran) is the inerrant, inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16).
  • We are mandated to teach all people and make disciples/evangelize (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • Telling people the truth of the Gospel, because we believe it is their only hope, is the most loving thing we can do for them (2 Corinthians 5:20).
  • Jesus’ boldly confronted those whose religion was false with the truth of God (Matthew 23:13-36).

Am I contradicting myself? I don’t think so. Loving means showing respect and caring for others, even those who hold divergent views on religion and faith. We are also commanded to love them so much that we tell them that God is love and has ultimately demonstrated this in Jesus Christ, our sacrifice and our Savior; “the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.” He is our hope and the only hope for all, including our Muslim friends.

And I believe this is what our focal text is telling us. Reconciliation is not just cooperation, finding commonalities, and getting along (although, in and of themselves, these are not bad things). Our ministry of reconciliation has, first and foremost, reconciliation to God as its foundation and platform. Reconciliation to God can’t happen apart from Jesus Christ (John 14:6). If we want true, biblical reconciliation we have no choice but to lovingly and graciously tell them of them about our God of love and grace. The only true God, the One who will reconcile to Himself all those that put their trust in Jesus and surrender to His Lordship.

Anything less, in my opinion, is compromise. So…what do you think?

*Please note that I didn’t say Rick Warren was necessarily in error here – these were just my comments on the article above as I read it. To be even-handed, I must add this link to Rick Warren’s rebuttal (we actually may be in total agreement…who knows) – Rick Warren: Report ‘flat out wrong’ (

Ohio School Shooting Victim’s Mom Forgives Gunman, Christian News

Grab some Kleenex and click the link above. What an incredible testimony! One which could only be born out of genuine faith and a rich understanding of God’s grace! Doesn’t this make the Gospel look glorious and Jesus look beautiful? In the midst of suffering, here is hope…here is joy…here is peace. All coming from trusting a sovereign God who is worthy of our surrender and praise, One who is always working all things together for His own glory and our eternal good!

Let me share some biblical situations that remind me of this woman’s heart and witness:

  • Joseph, after being sold into slavery by his own brothers and then being wrongly incarcerated for 12-13 years, said to his siblings, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20). 
  • Peter, who was to deny Jesus in cowardly fear, was told by the Master who eventually restored him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me” (John 21:18-19).
  • Paul and Silas’ compassion on the jailer who had shackled them in Philippi: “When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family” (Acts 16:27-33).
  • Paul, who was beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and eventually martyred for his missionary zeal and faithfulness to his Gospel calling, ministered to the very guards who would eventually lead him to his death: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14).
  • And, of course, sinless Christ, bearing the awful weight and burden of our sins, scourged and crucified, looked at the henchmen who had just mocked him and pounded nails through his hands and feet, lovingly said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments” (Luke 23:34). 

All of this begs some seriously reflective questions. Would we react as this grieving mother has so graciously done? Would we image forth the beauty of Jesus and His Gospel with such a powerful and profound proclamation of our faith? Would we “turn the other cheek” and “love and pray for those who persecute us and spitefully use us?” 

I pray this is the case. For as tragic as this situation may seem, this woman’s grace-filled testimony trumpets all that is great about the Savior we follow and serve. The One who died that we might live such mercy-filled lives. The One who can utterly save the shooter and all who have been touched by this senseless act…and even those who haven’t been.

“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:13-15).

Emergent Church Members Get Tattoos of Jesus’ Death for Lent

I must say this one has me a bit baffled (see link above)…for an opinion, that is. But what about you?

I have no personal distaste for tattoos or suspicion of those who have them, even though I don’t personally have any “ink.” Many of the most devout followers of Christ that I know have some sort of body art, although most of those graphics appeared during a former way of life that was marked by rebellion and making corresponding social statements (ironically, having a tattoo used to be very counter-cultural, but with their rise in prominence it may now be more radical NOT to have a tattoo). But that isn’t the debate here. The question: Is this a viable medium for communicating one’s faith or just another trend in the contemporary Christian community’s efforts to mimic the world’s methods of communicating what we believe (the Christian culture is usually quite late to this kind of dance)? In other words, are we just blending in and thus watering down our faith or is this one more way in which followers of Jesus can engage and redeem our culture? Since I have no definitive opinion about the initiative described in the article (believing this may be more about motives than methods), I’ll let you ponder these questions.

The point I’d like to make is a theological, not necessarily a practical or spiritual, one. What do we do with many of these Levitical laws? A section of this article addresses the dilemma:

“According to Leviticus 19:28, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord.”

When asked how he and his fellow parishioners reconcile this verse with their planned art exhibit, Seay told CP that the context of the verse is important, noting that verse 27 states that a man should not cut the hair on the sides of his head or the edge of his beard.

“The problem was not with tattoos, but with the fact that getting a tattoo or cutting your hair/beard was a symbol that identified you with the worshipof pagan gods,” said Seay.”

Although I would probably not promote this kind of expression, Mr. Seay does have a point. There are many Old Covenant laws we aren’t held to today (animal sacrifice being a big one) and this particular book of the Bible is replete with such rules, as are other writings in the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible which is often call the “Torah” or “The Law”). Now we have correctly kept some (earlier in Leviticus 19 we see a partial restatement of the 10 Commandments found originally in Exodus 20), conveniently kept some of them we like (take tithing, for instance), and banished others. Seay makes reference to the rule against clipping our hair and beard that we certainly don’t practice today (Leviticus 19:27). My favorite is 19:32 which tells us to “rise is the presence of the aged,” yet I see no one standing when I enter a room!

So how do we determine which of these are rules to be adopted today or just principles that help us understand God, His character, and His ways? Clearly there doesn’t seem, at least to me, to be any real consistency in many circles as to how we conclude which of these “laws” remain and which are no longer in effect in the New Covenant.

So I’d like to share my opinion. It may ruffle some feathers or it may cause some reflection – but here it is:

  • First – did Jesus affirm such practices explicitly?
  • Second – did Jesus affirm these laws implicitly? (The implication must not be forced).
  • Third – did the writers of the New Testament affirm these rules either explicitly or implicitly (again, a clear reference) and thereby confirming or elaborating on the teaching of Christ and the New Covenant?

If not, in an extremely generalistic sense, I would suggest that these Old Covenant practices are lessons and principles to help us understand Father God and be guidelines for living. They are not meant to be practiced as “rules,” but, in some cases (like the dietary laws) can be employed as positive observances, object lessons, and spiritual/physical helps. But they are not to replace the sufficiency of Christ – who is He is, what He has done, and what He taught.

So what’s my recommendation? If you feel led by God and are pure in motive, go get a tattoo for the glory of God. But don’t expect me to be standing in line…I do have an aversion to needles. Nevertheless, this side of Calvary we are not bound by the law but have the freedom of grace. As long as it is for His glory, it reflects the precepts of the New Covenant framed by Christ Himself, and is not a compromise that bows down to our culture, then go for it! But leave me to my old-fashioned ways of caring for the temple of the Holy Spirit, which is my body.

If you are of a theological mindset, the link below might be of interest to you. As related to this post, pay particular attention to the section “Law/Gospel.” – New Covenant Theology – Theopedia, an encyclopedia of Biblical Christianity

“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness-without it no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many” (Hebrew 12:14-15, HCSB).

As I see it, bitterness and forgiveness are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. One can’t be forgiving while harboring bitterness nor can a bitter person claim to be a forgiving person. It is also my opinion that someone who is clinging to a bitter spirit doesn’t understand or has not fully embraced the forgiveness that comes only from God’s grace. This takes on tremendous spiritual importance in light of Jesus’ words, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37) and Paul’s admonition that we are to be “accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must [forgive]” (Colossians 3:13).

Anyone who has been infected by bitterness knows that it can be so dominating that all of life is influenced by it. All sorts of spiritual, emotional, and even physical symptoms are typically manifested by it. But that’s not all. Bitterness destroys relationships – ours with both God and others. In Ephesians 4:31 Paul makes it clear that bitterness has some ugly cousins: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” None of these enhance our lives, promote the glory of God, or reflect the beauty of Jesus.

So let’s look at what the writer of Hebrews tells us about bitterness in 12:14-15. Given the epidemic proportions of this spiritual malady, I believe his words carry great weight and are well worth heeding. Let’s notice:

  • Bitterness is a severe hindrance to living in peace (v.14). We are commanded to live in peace to demonstrate the peace of God provided through Christ’s reconciliatory work at Calvary (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). We are even called ministers of reconciliation (a true counterpoint to bitterness and its ugly cousins).
  • Bitterness does not promote the pursuit of the holy life that God requires of His children (v. 14). Bitter people tend to do bad things. Ephesians 4:31 reminds us of the other attitudes and actions that inevitably spring from a bitter heart – wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice.
  • Bitterness is evidence that we don’t understand or have not embraced God’s grace/forgiveness (v. 15). Bitter people withhold grace and therefore God, in a real sense, withholds His grace and mercy from them. God’s forgiven people are, by His endowment of grace, forgiving followers. Bitterness blinds us to God’s forgiveness of us but when we bask in God’s unmerited favor we are freed from the sin of an unforgiving spirit and practice forgiveness. Jesus clearly stated this in the Sermon on the Mount in the Model Prayer and afterwards emphasized it: “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15).
  • Bitterness is often an insidious and invisible spiritual flaw (v. 15). Roots are usually unseen but they supply the fuel that produces visible fruit. In other words, while one may not outwardly appear bitter, those infected with this spiritual disease will inevitably show fruit that will be the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22 (which I urge you to read and memorize).
  • Bitterness defiles us (v. 15). Jesus said, “Don’t you realize that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is eliminated? But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a man. For from the [bitter] heart come evil thoughts, murders…false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man, but eating with unwashed hands does not defile a man” (Matthew 15:17-20).

I see 2 applications. The first is practical: Clinging to bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping someone else gets sick. The one who harbors unforgiveness and latent anger is the one who suffers the most, no matter how “innocent” they may be. The target of their inner rage tends to be affected less than the one who is unwilling to be reconciled. Secondly, bitterness shows a serious spiritual void. It suggests that someone who is unwilling to forgive has not been forgiven (by God) or they have refused to fully embrace His grace. Both options are a siren’s warning as to one’s spiritual condition.

So which will we choose; bitterness of forgiveness? Though lengthy, I will leave you with this parable of Jesus. It is well worth our serious consideration:

“For this reason, the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began to settle accounts, one who owed 10,000 talents was brought before him. Since he had no way to pay it back, his master commanded that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt. “At this, the slave fell facedown before him and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything!’ Then the master of that slave had compassion, released him, and forgave him the loan. “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him 100 denarii. He grabbed him, started choking him, and said, ‘Pay what you owe!’ “At this, his fellow slave fell down and began begging him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he wasn’t willing. On the contrary, he went and threw him into prison until he could pay what was owed. When the other slaves saw what had taken place, they were deeply distressed and went and reported to their master everything that had happened. “Then, after he had summoned him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And his master got angry and handed him over to the jailers until he could pay everything that was owed. So My heavenly Father will also do to you if each of you does not forgive his brother from his heart” (Matthew 18:23-35).

*This is an excerpt from my book “Captivated Anew: Restored to Pursue Him.” It can be found on virtually any major on-line bookstore in both digital and hardcopy formats.   

All who’ve received Christ inherit a marvelous gift: spiritual freedom. In Jeremiah 33:8 the Lord says, “I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion.” Quite literally, He lifts sin’s stranglehold. In John 16:8 Jesus explains the role of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter who dwells in all believers: “[He] … convict[s] the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” Though believers are no longer bound to sin, we still require a counselor to guard our ways. The Holy Spirit checks the heart of each Christ-follower, gently prodding him or her to stay in tune with the Lord. This He does not to condemn us, but to guide us in the abundant life Christ offers. 

I’m constantly amazed at the number of professing believers mired in a pit of toxic guilt. Rather than accepting the Spirit’s leading with joy, they become despondent and defeated, wallowing in past mistakes and the sins which cause them to experience little motivation to serve the kingdom. We must understand that while the Holy Spirit does convict us of sin, He does not paralyze us with shame. Everything He does guides us closer to Jesus, the source of all truth (John 16:13).  

The Holy Spirit does not condemn us. He merely convicts us of the reality and guilt of sin, thereby reminding us that we are sinners in need of Christ’s salvation. We can’t get by without Him; righteous Jesus is our only hope. Conviction is meant to nudge us closer to the source of life and mercy. When we focus on our guilty feelings instead of reaching out to Christ, we quickly become completely self-absorbed. We mentally scold and abuse ourselves until we think not of realigning ourselves with Christ but only of our own failure. This form of self-flagellation causes us spiritual paralysis and a morbid and lifeless disposition. Those entranced with this cancerous syndrome shelve their Christian service and give up on abundant life. In this process Satan gains an upper hand. By deceiving us into a depressing malady of defeat and paralysis, he induces a spiritual coma that sidelines us from our calling and purpose. 

This is not an issue of self-esteem – just the opposite. Believers shackled by shame and toxic guilt share a commonality; they hold too low a view of Jesus! They allow guilty feelings to diminish and demean the power of Christ’s death as if it was not enough to cover all their sins. In wallowing in self defeat, we suggest that Christ’s atonement was insufficient. At that point our feelings of unforgiveness supersede the fact of His perfect sacrifice.  

True, without the Lord, we are all “without hope … in this world” (Ephesians 2:12). We cannot save ourselves or remove the shame of our sin. The beauty of the gospel, however, is that God gave us the gift of Himself and declared us righteous through His Son. Jesus became our perfect high priest and intercessor. Hebrews 2:17 says, “For this reason [Christ] had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” That same pure and exalted high priest intercedes for us before God, arguing for His righteousness as our standing before a holy God (Hebrews 7:25).  

When we receive Christ in faith, He forgives all our sins—past, present, and future. This is not to say we should willfully keep on sinning or become insensitive to the urgings of the Holy Spirit. Instead, we should embrace the freedom Jesus offers as a gift while constantly pursuing Him and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Calvary and His resurrection mark the victory over our failures. When we receive Christ we can live with liberty. His infinitely valuable sacrifice gives us freedom to be and do what He calls us to.  

In accepting Christ’s remedy for our guilt we become motivated to live and speak by His power and for His glory. Second Corinthians 5:17 reminds us that those who are in Christ are “a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” We must turn our attention to the Lord and away from ourselves. Let us pursue Him as the only One with the power and provision necessary to free us. When we daily respond to His urgings, our lives will testify to His transcendent glory and infinite worth.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:9).

Bible-thumping on Bourbon Street at night barred by ordinance

Have you ever been to the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana? I have on several occasions. Many a business conference has taken me there due to the city’s bizarre drawing power. Bourbon Street is central to the city’s pull on tourists and social rubberneckers. Why? Because, after traveling a large part of these United States, it is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to Sodom and Gomorrah in America (Las Vegas and Key West are a pretty close 2nd). Bourbon Street can be likened to observing a hedonistic car crash – even the purest of heart have difficulty keeping their gaze from the titillating and ostentatious sinfulness and drunken revelry. And the air reeks of the musty, dark odor of voodoo shops, “adult” venues, and alcohol induced vomit.

So what is the city’s answer to the environment that has encouraged the ruin of many lives and souls? Ban the Bible. Never mind the first amendment – let it be noted that every lifestyle known to man (civilized or not) is vociferously promoted and proclaimed on that street. It will both amaze and frighten you. But no Bible…no evangelism? Why don’t we just let the place melt into a pillar of salt? Because God apparently doesn’t want that. And the Bible suggests this.

The most amazing thing to me about the biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah is God’s patience and grace, not His eventual devastation of that perverse and vile city. Read the story for yourself. You can find it in Genesis 18–19. We all know about the judgement and destruction that marks the end of the saga but often forget that Abraham sought God’s mercy on that scandalous town. And God did relent until it became obvious that the townsfolk would not repent. For there weren’t even 10 righteous men to be found there. But I want to leave you with the part that, as I mentioned before, most impressed me – God’s patience and grace. Maybe they should influence the way we view places like New Orleans and the sad and hopeless people who endlessly and godlessly party on its streets:

“The men turned from there and went toward Sodom while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Abraham stepped forward and said, “Will You really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are 50 righteous people in the city? Will You really sweep it away instead of sparing the place for the sake of the 50 righteous people who are in it? You could not possibly do such a thing: to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. You could not possibly do that! Won’t the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” The Lord said, “If at Sodom I find 50 righteous people in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Then Abraham answered, “Since I have ventured to speak to the Lord-even though I am dust and ashes- suppose the 50 righteous lack five. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” He replied, “I will not destroy [it] if I find 45 there.” Then he spoke to Him again, “Suppose 40 are found there?” He answered, “I will not do [it] on account of 40.” Then he said, “Let the Lord not be angry, and I will speak further. Suppose 30 are found there?” He answered, “I will not do [it] if I find 30 there.” Then he said, “Since I have ventured to speak to the Lord, suppose 20 are found there?” He replied, “I will not destroy [it] on account of 20.” Then he said, “Let the Lord not be angry, and I will speak one more time. Suppose 10 are found there?” He answered, “I will not destroy [it] on account of 10.” When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, He departed, and Abraham returned to his place” Genesis 18:22-33, HCSB).

Evangelical Churches Catch Suits From ‘Spirit’ Falls – ABC News

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:29-32).

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry (my first impulse is to cry) at this ABC News story. It seems as if charismatic churches are the target of numerous law suits alleging they are negligent when parishioners, while being “slain in the Spirit,” uncontrollably fall during their fits of ecstasy and injure themselves or other attendees.

I know we live in a ridiculously litigious society and decry the stereotypical “ambulance chasing lawyer,” but this is outrageous. Taking a clue, I guess, from the Nebraska State Senator who sued “God” and lost (see State Sen. Ernie Chambers Sues God – Omaha News Story – KETV Omaha), these folks have decided that suing the 3rd person of the Trinity would be considered frivolous by the court system. So they take legal action against churches that practice these types of services, during which they are presumably injured.

Which takes me to our focal passage. Now I’m in no way saying that these claimants are literally “grieving the Spirit” anymore than I’m saying that the defendants aren’t. I’m thinking about the broader context of Paul’s warning to the church at Ephesus. Grieving the Spirit is serious; it’s an affront to God. But the context here has much to do with our attitudes, words, and actions toward others. The Apostle talks about building others up in grace and putting away all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander. He tells us to be kind to others and to be forgivers. Doing, or not doing, these things can grieve the Spirit of God as well.

So the lesson to us? Though we may be disgusted by those would charge the church with negligence because they couldn’t litigate the Holy Spirit, we must be careful that we aren’t offending God in a different way. How do we treat others? How do we talk to and about them? Are we divisive; ones who harbor grudges? Our answers may indicate if we are potentially grieving the Spirit just as much as those who choose such senseless and despicable legal actions. Maybe the charge God would bring against us is that we grieve Him in our relationships with others, whether we file a suit against them or not.

Think about it!

Oral Roberts’ Son Arrested for Allegedly Speeding, Driving Drunk in Okla., Christian News

No one is a smaller fan of Richard Roberts and his ministry than I am. I consider his theology and ministry to be terribly misguided and a blemish on all that the true Gospel and Scripture stand for. But this is no time to cast stones. I’m praying for him, his family, and all those who follow him. I pray for all of those whose faith might falter due to this news. For, no matter the sin or the sinner in question, I couldn’t be more thankful that our Heavenly Father is a God of mercy, grace, forgiveness, and multiple second chances. And I write knowing this redemptive truth applies more to me than anyone else I know.

“For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body-so also is Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free-and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. So the body is not one part but many…Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. And God has placed these in the church* (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27-28).  

*For the purpose of this discussion, I will use Millard Erickson’s simple definition: The church is “the whole body of those who through Christ’s death have been savingly reconciled to God and have received new life… while universal in nature, it finds expressions in local groupings of believers that display the same qualities as does the body of Christ as a whole.” You can disagree with this premise if you prefer, but at least it is a starting point. 

Our Christian culture, like any other culture, is prone to buzz words. One pertinent one, “Body Life” was popular several years ago. More recently the terms “intentional” and “missional” have permeated our rhetoric. Two others – the subject of this discussion – “unchurched” and “dechurched” are commonly heard in the context of  “the vision of our church is to reach those who are unchurched and dechurched.” Although the intention may not be skewed, these terms concern me. Why? Because one might easily surmise that the goal of reaching the unchurched and dechurched is to get them “churched.” And, to me, that can be a problem, depending on one’s definition of the church. 

You might complain that I am straining at a gnat or arguing over semantics (and I may be) but seeing people “churched,” if that means seeing them become involved (or the ambiguous and sometimes dangerous of concept of  becoming a “church member”) in an institutional organization that bears the name “Christian” alone, then the effort is misguided. We all know that being an active or passive “member” of an institutional church really has little to do with someone being united with Christ or a part of the Body of Christ, His spiritual Bride. And in some cases the label “church member” is an impediment to people actually being united with Christ, being part of His Body in its truest sense. I’ve often said one of the greatest mission fields in America can be found sitting on pews (or other pieces of furniture) on Sunday morning. Far too many have religion (they are churched) but have not been made alive in dynamic relationship with Christ (being a part of His spiritual Body, the true church).  

Now I’m not saying that those who preach a mission of reaching the unchurched and dechurched do not have something more substantive in mind than promoting attendance or participation in an organized “Christian” gathering, but it could be interpreted that way. It all depends on what one means by the term “churched.” For we all know that term, in its most superficial sense, has nothing to do with someone moving from spiritual death to spiritual life, from being lost to being saved, to being adopted into God’s family. These things are not the manifestations of going to a physical (visible) church but an act of regeneration. As Wayne Grudem says, “Regeneration is a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us. This is sometimes called “being born again (using language from John 3:3-9)” (see Grudem’s Systematic Theology, p. 699). 

Although not current, culturally relevant, seeker sensitive (another of those buzz words), or popular, what’s wrong with the terms “lost” and “saved?” Should not the goal of the true Body of Christ be to see people who are spiritually dead come alive in Christ, grow in His image, and be agents and ambassadors of His grace? Only then is one “churched” in the most biblical sense. After all, even Jesus Himself claimed that “[He] came to seek and save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10).

For this reason I will share a passage with you. The first section describes what it means to be “lost.” The 2nd describes regeneration. And no matter if one is unchurched, dechurched, or a “church member” these truths apply. For I believe, in the end, it doesn’t come down to being “churched” in its most shallow definition, but to being redeemed and all that implies.  

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1-3). 

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” ( Ephesians 2:4-9).

For an interesting article on this very subject, see Trevin Wax’s thoughts at Unchurched or Unsaved? What Our Vocabulary Reveals About Our Beliefs

*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twenty-nine – Jesus: The Messenger and the Message

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:28-29).

Both the message and the messenger of the Sermon on the Mount prove unique, distinctive, and powerful. The Lord’s discourse is unlike anything ever heard; it completely contrasts ancient teachings and threatened the theological powerbrokers of the time. Not before Christ’s earthly ministry or after it has the world witnessed teaching of such authority, received instruction to prompt such radical change, or found education that so thoroughly challenges and inspires.

Jesus holds the position of the ultimate communicator and was often referred to by the honorable title of “Teacher.” But that designation proves a tremendous understatement. Christ told His followers that as the Messiah, He should be their only teacher (Matthew 23:10). In other words, His message is the only one that truly matters. The Sermon on the Mount, therefore, stands not just as the greatest sermon ever delivered; instead, it serves as the prologue to the incredible sacrifice Christ made at Calvary. It sets the stage for God’s redemptive strategy, proving that God has a plan to change human interactions, to reintroduce selflessness, and to restore fellowship between Himself and man. Two thousand years ago, on a hill outside Jerusalem, Jesus unveils much about His role as King as well as the intricacies of His kingdom. He speaks with divine authority. His words hold life-transforming power!

The Sermon on the Mount reveals Jesus as the Savior of the world. The narrow gate leading to eternal life. Further, Christ fulfills Old Testament Law: only through Him do sinful humans find forgiveness and reconciliation with God. As they sincerely surrender to Jesus, people begin to live by “the law of Christ,” the New Covenant standard (Galatians 6:2). This law of love supersedes, enhances, and deepens the principles of the Old Covenant and sums up the law of the prophets without nullifying them (see Matthew 22:34-40).

To one outside the Christian faith, the standard of living Christ sets in His sermon seems outrageous and impossible. But we must remember that all things—including loving the unlovable, releasing anxiety, and walking in righteousness—are possible in His power (Philippians 4:13). Further, Jesus never asked us to do anything He was unwilling to do. For thirty-three years He lived a mortal life, loving the unlovable, releasing anxiety to the Father, and walking in perfect righteousness. Jesus embodied the message He taught.

As we learn and are empowered to walk in Christ, we live out the mountainside message He shared. What a privilege to follow Him! 

Author’s Note

Not long ago a thirty minute lunch encounter shook my world. On a brief visit to the Wycliffe Bible Translators Ministry in Texas, I met an eighty-year-old translator and missionary who—along with his wife of fifty years—planned a return to the deepest jungles of Africa. I do not remember the man’s name, but I’m certain that God does.

For over ten years the man and his devoted wife worked with a remote and primitive people-group. In that time they translated small portions of the Bible into the villagers’ native tongue—a language for which there were virtually no books. By endearing themselves to the people by giving insight on how to keep the tribe’s newborns alive and free from pestilence, the two earned acceptance and eventually befriended them. Over the years, as they translated the critical New Testament texts and placed them in the hands of those who could communicate biblical truth to the tribe, the missionaries lived in tents and their target audience in huts. Their lives were not easy.

All of this happened several years before I met this devout man. The couple had long ago returned to the States in pursuit of retirement. God, however, gave them a new vision for how to spend their last days: they’d return to that African country to continue their outreach.

“This time we will tell stories of Jesus,” the man explained with a gleam of joy in his eye. “That will be quicker and more effective. The people will pass these stories along to later generations who will never be able to read.”

I asked, as the old missionary rose from the table, when they’d return home to the States.

“Actually,” he quickly replied, “we are going home. We will never return to America. We plan on dying there, in Africa, with our tribe. We have the good news to spread and little time remaining to do so. We have a King to serve and a kingdom to share.”

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form –    

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

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