Saturday, March 21, 2009

Parting of Company

In the spring of 2008 acclaimed author and theologian Dr. J.I. Packer, handed in his license from the Bishop of New Westminster. Not long before that, the church of which Packer attends, St. John's Shaughnessy Anglican church in Vancouver, voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada because the St. John's church believed that the ACC is no longer teaching in accordance with scripture. The church later joined the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone of America.

What in the world does that have to do with me? Nothing much, but it is an interesting bit of religious trivia that is indicative of the shifts that take place in the name of doctrinal purity (or the lack thereof). Churches and people from around the world, in the name of aligning more perfectly with scripture move and shift at almost regular intervals. But why?

My thoughts on the subject: Because humans tend to move away from God, even the once best of redeemed communities of faith may also do the same; all in the name of Christian liberties and modern scriptural interpretation – namely religious relativism and the quest for cultural relevancy. All of which should bring about an apostolic chagrin to those of us who are leaders in the Church.

I’ve blogged about many things. I have many complaints and convoluted views. But the one thing that I’m most concerned with is biblical integrity, literacy and lifestyle. Frankly I don’t give a rip what everyone else is doing, what does the Bible have to say about it? If the Bible is silent, maybe I should be? If the Bible is clear about something, maybe I should be? That seems fundamental to me. Hmmm… does that make me a fundamentalist? I never really did like Jerry Falwell. I was a Democrat in the 1980’s so he would have hated me. But you’ve got to give him credit for being tenacious in his values.

If and when we find ourselves in opposition to the scripture may we take heed and repent. May we once again find common ground with the Apostles and Jesus; regardless of who we may offend!

Often a Parting of Company is necessary for the purity of ones faith. Is there someone or some church you need to Part Company with, in the name of doctrinal purity and faith?

Last thought: Most people in America don’t leave churches over doctrine. They’re usually just ticked off and hurt about something. I can understand that and I hope to be able to help people like that. But, oh that more people would leave churches over impurity in the pulpit and the lack of biblical core values in the congregation. That is worth a Parting of Company.

Love and Blessings… now go read Packer. You’ll be glad you did.


I borrowed the title to the last blog from the POLICE. YouTube the song King of Pain, then Google the lyrics. They're very curious in keeping with the discussion of pain.

Later and thanks Sting...


Before I express my thoughts on Pain as a cause for sin, let me first cite the definition of pain as according to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

¹pain n 1: PUNISHMENT, PENALTY 2: suffering or distress of body or mind; also: a basic sensation caused by harmful stimuli and marked by discomfort (as throbbing or aching) 3 pl : CARE, TROUBLE.

²pain vb : to cause or experience pain.

At first for the discussion herein, I will use the word pain as a verb. My hypothesis being: a lie believed to be true, caused pain, which caused disobedience, resulting in sin. Sin separates us from God and sin without remedy results in eternal death. Sin can and often does cause all sorts of pain (used as a noun) which can ultimately result in an appeal to God to abate said pain, i.e. salvation (physical, emotional, spiritual, and eternal, etc.). But pain is not always a result of sin or deception, but is part of God’s created order by which He establishes boundaries between life and death, health and affliction.

In Genesis 1 we see God creating the cosmos as we know it (notwithstanding any of you old earth theorists). In Genesis 2 Adam and Eve are introduced to the habitation of earth, specifically Eden.

Any idea that would suggest that pain was not a part of the original creation, including our fore parents’ time of residence in Eden, would then have to subscribe to the idea that Adam and Eve had different nervous systems than we do today. I find it implausible because our human body systems rely on pain as an indicator, signal or trigger for boundary and protection. Pain is also part of the process of memory retention.

It seems apparent to me that the “tree of life” mentioned in 2:9b was not only to sustain their physical lives indefinitely (ergo the grace of isolating them from that source later in the narrative), but also as a plant nutrient that when applied to a wound or ailing body would bring accelerated healing (Revelation 2:7; 22:2). Unless one believes that Adam and Eve were supernaturally protected from injury or affliction. That is not necessarily apparent from the text.

So pain by this definition, we will use as a verb or a cause for enhanced security of each human being. In this case it is not a bad thing or the result of sin (yet). [Later in the Genesis narrative (3:16) we find an “increase” of pain during childbirth and physical labor, both after the fall, but pain was a part of their existence (based on the use of the word increase). Pain was to be “increased” because of the fall, indicating that was in existence before the fall. Both cause and consequence.]

But consider the introduction of a lie and things begin to change rapidly. Pain as part of God’s created order (being good) appears to be part of the human existence, but increase that pain by way of a lie, and present little to no abatement from that pain and humans tend to do whatever they need to do to alleviate that pain.

From Genesis 2:9 and beyond we can observe God defining pleasure versus pain. Verse 2:9b is actually the first clear delineation of the inclusion of good and evil. Prior to this only good is represented by God’s actions upon the creation process.

All of which appears to give way to the idea of pleasure versus pain; a clear indicator that these elements were already being part of the created order. Much like the fact of positive and negative ions in molecular structures, there were positives and negatives in all of life here on the earth. Even during the days of Eden.

Further God seems to define things as good versus what… evil. He even clearly defines the role of the one tree that was off limits. It is called the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. As you read through the narrative it becomes clear that God established boundaries and consequences, both of which the enemy will always lie about.

In Genesis 2:16-17a we see the first commandment given to humanity; “…you are free… but you must not…” In verse 17b we see a prophetic consequence; “…you will surely die…” In verse 18 we see the first definition or account of God stating a non-good condition or standing for humanity (only Adam at the time). Further we see God’s first recognition of a level of discomfort, pain or distress for man… i.e. alone is not good [that in itself is worthy of a blog]. So God provides a REMEDY for man’s “alone-ness” or loneliness.


In Genesis 3:1 we see the first vestiges of Satan’s strategies. Twist the truth. It’s kind of like the truth, but not. Craig Groeschel would call it “True-ish” (go to and you’ll find a great sermon series on “it”). “Did God REALLY say, ‘You must not eat from ANY tree in the garden.’?” (Capitalization mine).

At this point Satan was introducing a small and often hard to detect lie to test Eve’s sensitivities and loyalties to God and His truth.

In verse 3 we can observe that Eve’s simply knowing the truth of what God said, was not enough insurance from being deceived and overcome by temptation. “But God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you WILL DIE.’” (Capitalization mine).

By verse 4 of chapter 3 we see the full blown frontal attack of a lie being plied upon Eve. Thus beginning to compromise her faith and trust in God’s word and His provision. Bringing into question the idea that maybe there is something God is keeping from her. Bringing into question the idea that better and more pleasure is beyond God’s command. “You will not surely die.” Really?

In verse 5 the third lie is presented to Eve, thus sealing her doubt in God and introducing the idea that God is ripping her off and therefore producing pain or want in her. “For God knows that when you eat of it…” Satan implying that if she ate the fruit she could attain something she DID NOT already have.

Herein begins the process of pain birthed in the lie. Satan (through circumstances and even other people) will create a feeling of lack or deficit… the feeling that God is somehow withholding some good from us that we deserve… that He is ripping us off somehow! Thus producing a desire for something different that may be “better” than what one presently has at hand… pain. Oh you may not call it pain, but let feelings like this grow inside you and it will produce a pain and a void that you ultimately will attempt to satiate.

James tells us in 4:1-3 that our desires and wrong motives create enormous pressure on us which ultimately causes us to sin. If the enemy can produce some level of pain of want in us… we are well on our way to sinning against God, ourselves and others. Even in 1:14 he tells us that “evil desire” ultimately leads to sin and death. So how does the enemy stimulate evil desires within us? He introduces a lie which introduces some level of pain or discomfort, therefore we have desire to alleviate that pain. And when we do not obey God, regardless of the pain the lie produces, sin takes root and destroys everything.

Back to Genesis 3:6 we find Eve on the threshold of accepting Satan’s lie, that produces want, lust, desire, and ultimately pain. The enemy will do everything possible to utilize facts and truth, but with a slight twist to produce a feeling of lack in the hearts of humans. As a result we tend to embrace the lie that says “God, there must be something better… something that feels better than what I’m feeling right now.”

The fact that the enemy achieved his goal by causing Eve to believe the lie; “You have need to gain something and God is withholding it from you, so just take what you deserve,” was the beginning of the end for life as they knew it. And it was the beginning of a strategy that Satan has not yet rested from using against God’s children.

The problem of pain is introduced when we believe a lie to be true and the lie produces a sense or feeling of lack, deficit, void, need, want, desire etc. etc. all equating forms of PAIN. At this point our impulse is to eliminate that bad feeling or pain. And all too often, we seek to GAIN something that God has not ordained for us to rely upon, but because we believe the lie as truth… we act.

The saddest part about this whole process is it works. We buy it lock stock and barrel. Because of the way our pain sensors are designed (regardless if it’s physical, emotional or spiritual pain), we try to abate the pain. Even when we get temporary results, as soon as the pain returns, we tend to seek out the source that once helped alleviate the pain. All well and good until the pain returns and grows.

Pain as cause leads to pain as consequence, yet God in His redemptive plan uses pain as a foundation to launch His answer. Namely Jesus Christ and His Truth spoken to us.

So the next time I start to talk about people’s pain, don’t stop me just yet. Ask yourself if you’ve acted upon an impulse to alleviate some sort of pain in your life, which may not have been of God’s leading, but temporarily abated the feeling of pain. I know that I have and many other Christians find themselves doing the same thing. There are varying degrees of abatement used to alleviate feelings of pain (and varying degrees of consequences too), but nonetheless all are powerless to alleviate the original lie which ultimately causes PAIN to return and sin to be birthed.

I encourage you to consider these thoughts. We humans do all sorts of things in the name of pain relief (ask Dr. Jim Blessman what he did for many years in the pursuit of alleviating human pain and suffering), but there is only one thing that can and always will alleviate the pains of life caused by lies we believe to be true… and that is the Voice of the Living God speaking truth to the hearts of the deceived (all of us included).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sound Despite 'Mess'

Oh here I go again. An AP online headline reads: White House says economy is sound despite ‘mess’. I wonder if that line would fly anywhere else except in Washington? Would it fly in the trade business that I work? My work is sound, despite the mess I leave. My church is sound, despite the mess it’s in. My family is sound, despite the mess it’s in. My finances are sound, despite the mess their in. Tell that to my retired neighbor lady who has lost over 25k of her retirement assets in just this short year alone.

Who is kidding whom? Just a small little wake up call; a mess is a mess. Something is drastically wrong and all we’re doing is putting “shine-ola” on it. Please somebody get a clue.

I’m glad I paid off my expensive Hawaiian shirts before this economy took a belly flop in the Birdland pool.

Captured in the Collision

When we become acutely aware that Jesus is near in a particular moment, we stand on the threshold of encountering something far greater than visible need or expediency – we encounter the Living God. We stand pensively as opportunity knocks at the door of our heart. We volley in the moment between good and best. But how often do we miss it? For me, it seems very often. May God forgive me for missing the opportunity to be Captured in the Collision.

Much has transpired in the life and ministry of Jesus over the 3 years He has been traveling and bringing the Kingdom of God to bear upon the lives of people He met. And the characters in this scene are no exception to that rule.

Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9 begin to set the scene for these very pronounce opportunities. John 12:2-11 reveals another view of the pending Collision.

As we watch the story unfolding there are SEVERAL THINGS to note about pending Collisions that God is seeking to Capture us in… let’s look.

1. Jesus hangs out with the LEPER’S – Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3
The people who were ceremonially unclean and socially ostracized – the dregs not typically invited to church

2. Jesus hangs out with the ONCE DEAD – John 12:2, 9
The people who have an incredible testimony of once being dead in their sins – but whom Jesus raised to life

3. Jesus commends those CAPTURED in the COLLISION of a decision made that HONORS Him above ALL ELSE – Matthew 26:11; Mark 14:7; John 12:8
The people stuck between a rock and a hard place – but who tend to discover His presence in the moment and choose best over good.

The key thing for us to NOTE is obedience in the moment. It’s about being keenly aware of when Jesus shows up in your midst or proximity. At any given moment, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus may show up. Are we developing an awareness that realizes Jesus is here?

The problem we face is; PRAGMATISM kicks in and we miss the moment. We miss the opportunity that the Savior, the Healer, the Baptizer has shown up in our moment of life. All we seem to be able to do is look at the outward needs or issues of life and we miss that He’s reclining right in our very midst. Right in our own dinning room, living room, car, cubicle, back yard, family room, bedroom, sidewalk, or possibly even our church sanctuary!

How aware are we that our Savior is near? How sensitive are we to His plan and His will for the moment? And are we READY to anoint Him or honor Him for what He is about to do?

My suggestion is that we, much like the disciples and others in the room, fall into indignation about all the OTHER things that NEED attention or NEED funding or NEED helping or NEED fixing or WHATEVER!

Are you consumed with outward EXPEDIENCY and missing the fact that the Savior is honoring you with His presence? That’s a question that you need to be able to answer – honestly. Because your answer may determine WHY you may not have experienced His ultimate favor and commendation?

Now here’s the POINT: God sets up life scenarios where we are CAPTURED in the COLLISION of decision. In the midst of EXPEDIENCY will you FIRST turn to Him and honor the FACT that He is right with you in the moment.

STOP! The next time you are in the middle of making a decision about doing what appears to be a good and right thing… is there something GREATER waiting to be attended to?

“For the poor you always have with you; but you do not always have Me.”
John 12:8 (NASB)

If you will hone your spiritual senses to the fact of His presence in your midst and if you will honor Him and anoint Him… if you will sacrificially apply your love and acknowledgment for what He is about to do and what He has done. He in turn will honor and commend you.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Pain as Cause

Back to my spiritual travel log, I don’t think Gilligan really wanted to go home, because life on his island wasn’t that painful. Are you like me, when I was a kid I used to think it would be cool to live in a hut and sleep in a hammock and run around in the jungle and hang out with pretty girls and goofy science guys and rich people (I still feel that way)?

Gilligan felt little pain once he was marooned. Oh I know maybe he couldn’t hang out with his buddy Dobie Gillis any more, but the island was pretty cushy.

Once we begin to move from cushy to pushy, things change. I just read an AP online headline “Obama: Economy causing many ‘incredible pain.’” Hmmm… I don’t doubt many are feeling the pinch or cinch of less cash or retirement funds, but pain?

Come on… pain? Maybe our president should take a refresher course on what pain IS. Pain is not having a smaller house, or less latte money, or not getting the new plasma TV, or having to drive an older car, or shopping at Aldis, or trolling the Good Will for alternatives in our wardrobe or even brown bagging it every day at work.

Real pain seems more proficient. Real pain seems to be more about things that cannot be altered by coping mechanisms or medicine. Real pain seems more like stuff that sticks in your soul and won’t go away. I think Mr. Obama really means; “incredible inconvenience” but somehow “pain” seems a little over the top.

Most of the reasons we’re in this economic mess is greed and over extension of credit. Kinda like our consumer eyes were “bigger than our stomach”. My mom used to say that to me when I took too big of a helping of something, then I couldn’t eat it all.

In 1980 I remember experiencing pain that altered my life for years. Maybe I’d seen it coming, but when it came… wham! It hit me hard. When I was 17 years old, I knew I heard the voice of God calling me into the Gospel ministry. By the time I was 19 I knew I was to be a preacher of the Gospel. I assumed that being a pastor is what God wanted for my life, until I ran smack dab into grave hypocrisy.

When I saw what appeared to be the most spiritual people on campus, doing very unspiritual things, like hosing each other over at the Zoo, or sneaking out and getting drunk late at night. All the while they were applauded for their outward appearance of holiness; I got scared.

You see, I had no desire to “look” holy, but I sure wanted my heart and life to be holy. I didn’t care if I looked like a sinner, but I sure wanted to repent of my sins and accept God’s grace and forgiveness. Yet as long as I looked like I was a sinner (back then looking punkish’ must have been sinful) I was presumed guilty.

As a result I became very disillusioned. I felt some kind of pain that caused me to run from God (or I thought I was running from God, but it was really Christian hypocrisy I was running from). As I began to run, I said to myself… “I’m not gonna fake anything… I’m gonna do what I want and live like I want and I don’t give a rats butt about what others think.” Because I was sure not gonna be like those hypocrites.

In the midst of my journey through the back side of the desert (or Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd – in keeping with my life genre) I found people that accepted me and loved me just the way I was. No pretense, no hoops to jump through (except the occasional 6 pack or dime bag that was on me), no membership requirements – except this: chill out dude.

Hmmm… I wonder if that’s how we treat people as they curiously approach the Kingdom? Or do we throw some obstacle in front of them. Some religious obstacle that will prove they are really serious about God, church, neck ties, clean language, no drinking or smoking, and giving lots of money in the plate? Or do we simply say; “Let’s eat, let’s chill out… and I’m buyin’”.

Maybe Gilligan didn’t have it so rough after all? I’m wondering what kind of PAIN will cause us to change. To cause us to draw near to God… so near we can smell the Skin Bracer He put on this morning after He shaved?


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

the FIRST CHURCH syndrome

I thought it was about time that I shared a chapter or two from my spiritual travel log. It’s about a journey I went on several years ago. Kind of like the theme song from Gilligan’s Island, you know; “…a three hour tour… a three hour tour…” I never understood the gravity of my tiny ship being tossed about on the seas of discontent until 41 years later. It was supposed to be a pleasure cruse.

Marooned on a desert island isn’t fun unless it’s Gilligan’s Island. All too often over the years my ship wrecked pleasure cruse, was not like Gilligan’s experience at all.

As I begin to share from my travel log, let me say that as much as I’ve struggled with the persona of my religious heritage, I’ve also spent my life embracing it and loving much of the experience. Friends and my personal relationship with Jesus Christ have made it bearable over the years, but I still have some concerns that need to be released like one of those helium balloons at the funeral of a child.

Those of us that have attended or have been members of any church USA that has the word “first” in its name will hopefully understand what I’m trying to say.

As a child, I was raised to believe that our church was important, very important. So important that it was “first” or “best” in town, so we thought. For most of my childhood and teen years I surely believed that. Sometime in my teen years I realized that a few other churches felt the same way. There were some kids at church camp from another part of the state who thought they were very special too. As a matter of fact, the competition and animosity could often become very stiff and confrontational. I always thought we were “first” so we must be the “best”. Right?

Where did this idea come from? Which one of my spiritual forefathers planned it that way? I ask that because, when I read the New Testament I don’t find that kind of polarity between believers, as a matter of fact I find the opposite.

One thing was for sure, we used love and acceptance like money. If the group liked you, they rewarded you with payments of love and acceptance. If they didn’t like you, you got short changed. You got very little love equity if you were different than the group.

Maybe this happens elsewhere, in other church communities, and communes, and cults, and compounds somewhere out in the Texas desert, but I now realize, that wasn’t the way Jesus intended it to be.

One thing I remember was how the most popular and accepted of the group, had the best clothes, clearest skin, could sing like someone on a record, and were very good at playing group games like Rhythm and Fruit Basket Upset. And most often carried an image that they were very close to God, yet all the while going out after church on Sunday night and sneaking cigarettes at Pizza Hut or making out in their cars behind the church building long after the lights were off and everyone went home.

My personal collision with values or the lack thereof finally reached a pinnacle in the spring of 1980.

I’ll pick up on my travel log later, but one last thought. Being “first” church USA may simply garner being “last” church in HEAVEN. Imagine if we actually took to heart Jesus and Paul’s teaching on love and humility.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Worth of Worship

Never in my entire life have I fully understood the act or life of worship before God, but what I can say is that it seems to entail a wonder and an awe that can only be experienced when we finally realize something is far greater than us.

When we stand at the railing over looking the edge into the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of Niagara, or when we’re present at the birth of our first child, or when we’re at the bedside of a beloved believer who slips over that threshold from this life to LIFE eternal, we can for one small moment begin to experience an interface with TRUE worship.

If worship is about WORTH, and it is, then that tells us quite a bit about what we worship.

Without getting into the specifics of each others idolatry, may I suggest this simple TEST? What is the first thing you wake to thinking about? What is the last thing you think of when falling to sleep? What do you spend your time doing? Who are you communicating with most? Where does your money go? What are you doing with your talents and abilities?

Simply put, what parts of your life do you subscribe worth to? Granted, people and relationships are of utmost value, but ONE relationship is of preeminent VALUE and WORTH above all else; your relationship with God.

The Apostle Paul teaches us that worship and acknowledgment of God is the primary guardian against lies that invade our lives. He further teaches that when we decide that the things of God are not worthy of retaining in our hearts, minds and lives, we put ourselves in grave jeopardy. We put ourselves in the position to believe lies that will ultimately separate us from the light and life of God.

Even as believers, if we fail to give the proper worth and glory to God in all that we do, we will begin the subtle erosion of defenses that God has established through the life and practice of WORSHIP. (Romans 1:18-32).

So the next time you’re tempted to implement some sort of man made contraption to satiate the voids in your life, STOP. Stop and take a moment to ask God if what you are about to buy, say, think or simply do is an act of worship?

Don’t get me wrong, eating a Wendy’s Double Stack .99 cent cheese burger may not seem much like an act of worship, but stopping and bowing your head and giving thanks for the dollar to buy the food and thanking God for the ability to feed yourself and not need the assistance of a nurse or a feeding tube, or that you can sit at rest and in ease not worrying about your immediate safety, are at least several things you could consider as thoughts of worship and things worthy of thanking and praising God for. You see, even in the simplest and smallest things, you can give God the GLORY and give Him THANKS. For therein are the first and most simple practices of worship found.

If you will begin to worship God in the small things, when it comes time to worship Him in a corporate and public setting, that will come much easier. Don’t just take my word for it, try it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Welcome to My Subdivision

I wonder how many of us live in the burbs? How many of us live in subdivisions? Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of being away from the din and the clatter of metropolitan life (although there is something electric about city life). But I wonder if honeycombed neighborhoods of manicured lawns and cookie cutter houses are really what life is all about? Ask the other two thirds of the planet.

Anyway, as far back as I can remember, kids seemed to naturally gravitate and move in orbits of like values and desires. Some might call them clich├ęs, and maybe that’s what they were. But the funny thing is, when I got older, I thought those things would go away. They didn’t.

Often just like when we were kids, being cool is very important to adults. It just looks different, and usually costs a whole lot more. How often do we sacrifice the reality of self for being cool? How often do we posture and position ourselves for greater advantage, even at the risk of loosing touch with who we really are? You know, fitting in so we can get ahead, or to simply survive?

Fitting into a social structure or community is part of being human. We do tend to be gregarious in nature, but should we ever trade our identity for group conformity?

As I see it, here’s where the idea of community and gregarious nature implodes. When the collective soul of a community (family, church, workplace, school) begins to look and smell all the same, something has gone way wrong (the only homogeneous thing I like in life is milk).

I love the fact that God in His infinite wisdom has created each of us with distinct DNA and finger prints and stuff like that. You know, the stuff that physiologically makes you you and me me. That is a very important teleological precedent. If God made us all different why do we try so hard to be like each other?

My hypothesis is this: most of us have at one time in our lives believed a lie; a lie about ourselves that we believe to be true. Let me give a couple of examples.

If I don’t… they won’t. If they do… I should. If God is… then why am I. I should have… but I didn’t. And so on and so forth.

Most of the lies we believe to be true about ourselves destroy the Imago Dei in us. And most of the lies are found in very big and logical questions. Yet all the while, God tells us that human logic is NOT the logic of God.

Before I digress too much for the one or two readers of my blog, let me say this: Conformity for the sake of fitting in STINKS. It smacks of the original lie plied against our Garden fore parents. It smacks of the addictive void that the suburbs offer to anyone who might just take one puff. It smacks of IDOLATRY at its finest.

I do not want to fit in, just to fit in. Oh I want to get along, but NEVER at the expense of loosing who GOD created me to be.

It’s kinda funny to think that God’s grace is only sufficient for those who are WASP’s and who vote Republican. Or for those who live in the suburbs or the subdivisions of life. They must have God’s favor, right?

Well since I’ve now officially violated my own New Year’s resolution of short posting, I’ll conclude by saying, the only thing I want to reflect is Jesus. And when I don’t, I know His grace is sufficient. And when I do, don’t feel bad, you don’t have to look like me either. Someday there will be no suburbs or subdivisions.