Tag Archives: grace

Arrogance Perpetuates Ignorance

When I first became passionate about sharing my faith with others, I had a prepared presentation I would give anyone who would listen. If you were with me for more than a couple minutes, I was asking you questions to try and spark an opportunity to share the good news of Jesu with you. 

This zeal was fun, but it wasn’t balanced with humility. 

I had God’s plan of salvation, and I was certain it was the only way. I had it figured out, and there was nothing more to know concerning salvation. Because of this attitude I often became harsh, judgmental, and sometimes even angry when people challenged my ideals. 

Boy, did I have a lot to learn!

I still agree with much of what I tried to cram down people’s throats back then, but now I have a much more full view of the gospel message. The significance of Jesus is deeper than I knew in my early 20s. Baptism is so much more than a momentary ritual. Salvation means so much more than forgiveness of sins.

I now realize that to claim that I have full knowledge regarding Jesus and religion is arrogance that blinds me to further truth. 

I believe many of the things I did when I started into ministry, but if I had stopped my studies then, I wouldn’t understand grace and live the way I do now. I would have more experience, but I would be just as ignorant.

To know Jesus, and to walk in Him is to live a life of growth, learning more every day of the goodness that comes from life in Him. We should be ever striving to better ourselves through a more intimate relationship with the Father. We should be hungry for His words to help us know Him more and help us change to become more like Jesus. 

When I settle in my arrogance to think I know it all, I put myself above my brother. Pride brings about destruction. Many places in the scripture speak of this. The word is living and active. As I grow as a man, it shows me new things concerning my life and ministry. 

I hope to continually grow in my knowledge of the goodness of God, His grace and love. I pray you hunger for the same kind of growth. May we never become conceited, thinking we know all we need. May we never become arrogant, looking down on a brother who understands differently than us. May we choose love and grace over division based on understanding. 

May we be defined by our oneness in Christ as we seek to be more like Him every day. 

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Destination Determines the Journey


I’ve never been much for organized sports. (Some of you may want to stop reading after that statement, but please hear me out.) I see the value in all kinds of sports, but my interests have alway been in the outdoor sports like hunting, fishing, hiking, climbing, mountaineering and the like. This is one of the reasons I love living in Northwest New Mexico – there is a myriad of outdoor opportunities all around waiting to be experienced.

So I hike as often as I can. Sometimes I hike to summit a mountain. Sometimes I hike to see a grand view or special place. Sometimes I hike to get to the place where I can find my rock hounding goals. Each time I hike there is a goal in mind. I must overlook the discomfort in order to reach the goal. I must be willing to carry the necessary equipment to achieve success and keep from harm. I must be willing to take step after step no matter how tired I get for the sake of success in the end. It is in the journey to the destination that I grow stronger. Growth is rarely found at the destination.

It is like this in our spiritual life as well. We are given certain goals in our life as followers of Jesus. One of these goals is to be transformed into the likeness of the Son, Jesus himself. It is the goal to live a righteous life expressed in love to one another. 

Back to hiking…

What if I gave in to my discomfort? What if I wasn’t willing to take the necessary supplies? What if I constantly lowered that goals I have set? Would I grow? No!

But this is what the church has done over the centuries. 

In Christianity today there is a lack of desire for the word of God (we aren’t willing to carry the right supplies). There is a justification for our continuation to sin using grace as a license more than as a gift (we have lowered the goal) which gives us an excuse for our lack of righteousness. We choose personal pleasure (the lake, sleeping in, shopping, hobbies, etc.) over spiritual disciplines like gathering with the beloved and celebrating communion and many other such disciplines. 

When you read the New Testament you see a high bar of expectation for the lifestyles of those who claim to be followers of Christ. When you look at churches today you see people with the moniker “Christian” but their lifestyles don’t look anything like the church of the bible. 

Why is this so? 

As a minister, I see the need for the church to come together in community. We have gathered for study for so long that we have forgotten that the study was supposed to teach us how to live in community better. We choose to come together to open our bibles and look at the preacher while ignoring the spiritual needs of the person sitting next to us. 

There was a lifestyle of accountability in the New a testament as the church did life together, coming together in the larger gathering as often as they could – eager to do so. This accountability helped them stave off the temptations to fall back into a lifestyle that looked just like the world. They were encouraged to save one another from falling back into sin(Jude 22-23). They were warned that a person could lose his or her salvation by continuation in sin (Hebrews 6 and 10). Their standard of lifestyle was that of Jesus, and they were warned not to use grace as a crutch excuse to continue to sin (Romans 6).What if our churches went back to the desire for righteousness we find in the New Testament writers? We would lose some people who want Jesus while continuing their lifestyle of sin. But the church would become stronger as lives changed for the better, and conversions would actually be conversions rather than just professions of faith. If the church looked more like Jesus she would love everyone – even her antagonists. If the church looked more like Jesus every member would be an evangelist. If the church looked more like Jesus there would be more joy and celebration of the forgiveness and grace that came through his sacrifice. If the church looked more like Jesus it would be a place where sins were forgiven, but change would be cultivated so that sin could be exterminated. 

This is not a call to legalism. Legalism kills. In our rejection of legalism, however, we have reacted to the point of selling cheap grace in the name of Jesus. James, the brother of Jesus, makes it clear that your faith should be showing itself in your life by producing fruit. So let’s come back to the middle – celebrating grace while expecting a higher standard of righteousness. 

Jesus said “you cannot serve two masters.” Let’s remember this as we choose between our sin and the call of Jesus. 


Have You Ever Stepped on a Bindii?

My front yard doesn’t have any grass.  Well, there’s no grass that we have planted.  It is mostly dirt, and I like it that way because it is pretty maintenance free.  In my front yard I have planted some raised beds with fruits and vegetables.  Our family also has some flowers and shrubs and vines. It’s not much, but watering everything in this desert is time spent relaxing each day.

As I water, though, other things tend to sprout in our yard.  We get some grasses and dandelions.  We get some tumbleweeds.  We get some bindii.

Maybe you’ve never heard of bindii.  It’s also know by several other names: bullhead, cat’s head, devil’s eyelashes, devil’s thorn, devil’s weed, and goathead.

People that complain about stepping on legos have never stepped on a goathead.  These plants, once they have formed the thorny seeds, can poke through a flip-flop.  When you step on one barefoot you have to manually remove it from your foot.  They are excruciatingly painful.

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The problem with goatheads is that they pop up randomly throughout the summer – all over the place – and they spread rapidly.  When the plants first appear they seem harmless enough, but by the time they have begun to produce pretty yellow flowers they are already thorny.

I have to admit I’m pretty lax in pulling weeds.  Every day I water the plants and see the goatheads.  Every day I think about how I need to pull them when I’m done.  I think about how easy it is to pull those new plants before they get painful and produce the devilish seeds, but i don’t.

This is what is happening in our churches. It is what is happening in Christianity all across our nation.  We have weeds of sin that sprout up in our lives and in the lives of those we love who share our faith in Jesus, but because of grace we sit back and ignore the consequences of leaving those sins not dealt with.

We are reaping the consequences now as we watch our nation of churches become more and more identical to the world around us.  We revel in our tolerance though we claim outrage when the world continues to spiral toward condemnation.

I believe in grace.  It is the single thing that I have been given that causes me joy beyond joy, but I understand that grace is not meant to be cheapened by my lackadaisical approach to sin in my life or in the lives of those around me.

Paul says, in Romans 6, that sinning because you expect grace is ridiculous and contrary to the nature of the commitment you made when you were baptized into Christ.  “We died to sin.  How can we live in it any longer?”

I am watching as our nation makes decisions that go against the foundation upon which it was established.  I truly am not surprised that a bunch of humanists would make those kinds of decisions.  What I am surprised at is how many faith-professing Christians are endorsing these decisions.  I am surprised at the boldness of Christians to live with blatant sins seemingly without conscience on those matters.  I am surprised that the church is not taking a stronger stand against the invasion of the world into the church.  I am surprised that public repentance is nearly non-existent in most churches.

There is a place and time to be culturally relevant, but a Christian and a church must not compromise morality (emulating Jesus) in order to do so.  We are not even able to condone the lifestyles of those outside the church that contradict the plan and natural order set up by God Most High (Romans 1:32).

The church is supposed to be a place where people can come from every lifestyle and find God, but it is not supposed to be a place that excuses a continuation of sinful behavior in the name of grace.  If you want life change through forgiveness come to Jesus.  If you want your conscience eased while you continue in your sinful ways look elsewhere.

We have watched as weeds of sinfulness have crept into our churches, and we have sat idly by as those weeds became thorns and seeded new growth.  It’s time to call it what it is: sin.  It is time for the church to repent.  It is time to come back to an understanding of the severity of sin and run from it like Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife.   It is time to get real with one another in love as we help each other be rid of the sins that imprison us.

It is time for the church to stop focusing on the nation coming back to its heritage and come back to our own heritage of emulating the One who lived a sinless life.  We will not achieve sinless perfection in this life, but that should not cause us to stop trying and make excuses for what we do.  Grace is not given where sin is not repented of (Hebrews 10:26).

Wake up church. Quit stepping on the bindii. Repent, so that God can pull the weeds from your life and you can walk fresh in Him again. Forgiveness is available, and grace is given, but repentance is required.


What is the church of Christ?

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For over a hundred years there have been churches that refer to themselves as the Church of Christ. These churches have that sign on the door or out by the street, and many people recognize that there are certain things that make these churches unique.

However, the name that is used was never meant to be a name. It is and has always been a description of the people. The people are the church that belongs to Jesus, the Christ (Romans 16:16).

So what does the church that belongs to Jesus look like? The following is a list of ideas that Jesus presented which should be attributes of his followers. I encourage you to read this with your bible open following along with the passages referred to.

What is the church of Christ?

The church that belongs to Christ understands its need for forgiveness and is anxious to be able to extend that forgiveness to others. It is not a church that holds grudges. (Matthew 6:14-15)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks the Holy Spirit in the lives of each believer. They follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their lives as they live each day – not just on Sunday. This creates within them a fire, a passion, as they experience life in the presence of God who lives within them. (John 14:15-17, 26-27)

The church that belongs to Christ understands that belief in Jesus and connection with Him in baptism (immersion) are essential to salvation. They don’t try to argue this away. They accept it and are willing and eager to follow Jesus’ instructions and example in this manner. (Mark 16:15-16)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that unity with one another is essential to life in Him. They believe that this unity is key to their ability to evangelize to the world. They are not known for their division. (John 17:20-21)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that faith is essential to a person’s ability to follow Jesus. They recognize where their faith is weak and ask Jesus to strengthen their faith through the Spirit at work within them. They understand that without this faith it is impossible to please God. (Luke 17:5-6)

The church that belongs to Christ is a praying church. Prayer is seen as powerful and necessary to the connection and relationship between the church and God. They understand that it is through prayer that much of the power of Christ is released upon the world around them. They follow Jesus’ example of being constantly in prayer. (Luke 5:16; 11:1-13)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that He has called each one of us, no matter our past, to evangelism – to tell others about Him. This is not just the preacher’s job, but it is the role of each follower. A follower excited about his or her Savior cannot help but tell others about Him. (Mark 5:19)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that communion – partaking of the body and blood of Jesus – is essential to the life of the believer. They believe it is in communion with Jesus that relationship with Him is fostered as often as it is taken. (John 6:53-56)

The church that belongs to Christ doesn’t make it a practice to stand in judgment of others. They are accepting of all people because they recognize that all have sinned, and everyone has need for the same Savior. (Matthew 7:3-5)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks the reign of God, His kingdom, in their lives each day. This is not relegated to once or twice a week in a certain building but is shown by a lifestyle devoted to following God in every decision and action daily. (Matthew 6:33)

The church that belongs to Christ is full of flawed people who haven’t got it all figured out. They are broken people who are trying their best to allow God to change them, but it is a daily process, and some days are better than others. This creates an atmosphere of equality among all people regardless of race, age, gender, or class. (Matthew 9:12-13)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks to obey Him in all things. They see their obedience as part of their faith. (John 14:15)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks to show mercy and grace to all whom they come in contact with. They understand that they have been shown mercy and grace by Jesus and seek to reflect Him to others. (Matthew 5:7; 9:13)

The church that belongs to Christ is in the business of disciple-making. They aren’t interested in merely inviting someone to a weekend service. They want to help one another grow in their understanding and ability to follow the teachings of Jesus. (Matthew 28:18-20)

The church that belongs to Christ is compassionate. They seek to show that compassion in the world around them and seek nothing in return. (Luke 10:33-37)

The church that belongs to Christ is generous because it understands that everything it has has been given by the One who owns everything. It understands that the money and possessions it acquires are to be used to glorify God by helping others. It gives generously as an act of worship. (Mark 12:42-44)

The church that belongs to Christ focuses on what Jesus said are the most important ideas: Love God and Love your neighbor. This church is recognized by its love. The world all around knows there is something different about the church that belongs to Jesus because it loves like no other entity does – masses of followers banding together to be an example of love to everyone around them. (Matthew 22:35-40)

The church that belongs to Christ doesn’t worry about names on building or denominational association. This church is boundless. It has no borders. It is found in every church as people claim allegiance to the Savior who died and rose again. (John 10:16)

The church that belongs to Christ follows Jesus. No. Matter. What. (Matthew 10:38; 16:24-26)

This is the church of Christ. It’s not a name on a building but a way of life. It is all people who choose to follow Jesus – his examples and his teachings. Are you a part of that church?


Same Words Different Meanings

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Christianity is a culture with many terms that are used almost exclusively within that culture.  When was the last time you heard the word propitiation used outside a church context (or inside one for that matter)? We often talk about righteousness and grace and justification.  Those words are good English words, but their meaning inside church culture holds great significance.  Outside that culture, however, these words are seldom used.  

We have other words that we use commonly but we’ve given them a different definition than their original intent.  

The term “pastor” is used nowadays to refer to anyone who is in a preaching role in a church.  Usually the pastor is the “head” of that branch of the church.  The bible doesn’t use this term this way.  In fact, I’m surprised that the bible includes this term at all.  It is only used once in English translations and the Greek word that it is translated from is always translated as “shepherd” in the other instances it is used in the New Testament.  A pastor is supposed to be one of a group of shepherds or elders of a church.  

Pastor is a term the church of Christ has tried to avoid for many years, but culture keeps using that term in its new definition, so many churches are giving up on fighting this original definition.  The original definition of “pastor” is being lost on this generation.

There are a couple other terms we use commonly in church culture that we gave up on a long time ago.  We don’t even readily argue for the perpetuation of the original meaning anymore.  

The first is “church”. 

I recently had the blessing of serving with a friend of mine who is living in a missional community with the intention of driving the darkness out of the city in which they live.  They live together – Christians in common – being the church in community.  

At this service opportunity a teenager asked my friend if they all attended church together.  My friend looked bewildered and said, “yes, this is it.” 

He was bewildered because he was living in the biblical definition of the word “ekklesia” that many translations interpret as “church”. Church didn’t become a building until after the Catholic church began to build buildings around holy places as shrines for worship. The english word, “church”, comes from a German word that was used to signify such buildings.  Ekklesia, on the other hand, denotes community.  It is the assembly of saints in every place.  It is the people – not the place, and definitely not a denomination.

The other term is “ministry”.

This same teen asked my friend where they did ministry.  This was still in the context of the previous question about where they attended “worship” (another term that has been redefined throughout the years). My friend looked around again and said “we do ministry by living.”

Christians often think of ministry as a program of the church where they attend where people who have something to offer provide goods or services to those “less fortunate”. This cannot be further from the biblical idea.  Ministry wasn’t intended to be relegated to a specific activity.  Ministry is an outpouring of love to those living all around us.  Ministry is seeing others as equals and treating them as such even if they are drug addicts and prostitutes.  Ministry isn’t enabling dependence on a welfare-like activity.  Ministry is living with those the world sees as less fortunate and encouraging them and respecting them and expecting the same from them.  It’s not a top-down kind of mentality; it is an equality mentality.  Ministry doesn’t feed the poor; it frees the poor.

If you’re reading this chances are you are part of a church that does ministry.  Read the book of Acts.   See how the church functioned.  Imagine what the world would be like if we were actively battling the forces of evil in the spiritual realms while living together in community without need for all the pomp and circumstance.  Could this really be what we are called to? 

This group that my friend is involved with has been actively battling the darkness for at least five years now, and they now have watched Jesus drive the darkness out of two whole neighborhoods that were the most dangerous places in their city.  They are now actively pursuing the darkness into a third neighborhood.  Even the police recommend they don’t follow, but they do anyway – family and all.  God continues to scatter the darkness as the light and salt of Jesus is spread in strongholds of the enemy.  

This isn’t just church talk.  This is really happening.  The book of Acts doesn’t have to be a historical document.  It can also be a playbook for how to live for Christ today, but that would require us to give up on fear and be filled with an unquenchable love and desire to follow the Holy Spirit’s guiding.  It would also require us to remember the original meanings of so many biblical ideas.  It would require a restoration of first-century discipleship. I’m praying for a generation to rise up and change the world, and the generation I’m praying for is mine.  Won’t you join me?


Zombies for Jesus

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This is the time of year that I love to go shed hunting. If you’re not familiar with what that is, then I’ll explain. Every year elk and deer shed their antlers. No one really knows why, but they grow back even bigger the following year. The antlers they shed are beautiful pieces of creation, and hunting them means hiking – a lot.

I love to be in the wilderness hiking along looking for these unique finds. I’ll admit, I’m not very good at it, but I try anyway.

The other day I was hiking along. There was much on my mind, and I was going through the countryside at a normal pace. I wasn’t tripping over rocks or branches. I avoided all obstacles, but after a while I realized I couldn’t recall any of the terrain I had just covered. I knew enough to retrace my steps, but I couldn’t remember what I had “looked at”. I was using my eyes, but I wasn’t seeing. There could have been 100 antlers in that area, but I couldn’t have seen them even if I had been staring at them because my mind was elsewhere. I was so distracted by my thoughts that I couldn’t see what was right in front of me.

Last week I was gathered with Christians from the four corners region to sing praise to God. I enjoy singing, but as we sang I began to look at the words to the songs. There were songs about those who were condemned that we sang joyfully. Shouldn’t we be sad about that? Shouldn’t that motivate us to get out there and witness more? There were songs about mansions, robes, and crowns that we want and expect to receive when we get to heaven. Isn’t that selfish? I don’t want that. I want to be in the presence of God forever. Everything else is of no consequence if I just get to be in His presence. We were singing songs that have been sung for ages, but so many times I’ve said the words without paying attention to their meaning.

Many people attend Sunday morning services. They even read their bibles, but they are missing the main messages for the tradition of going through the motions. It’s easy to keep doing what we’ve been doing. It’s easy to sing the songs that we’ve always sung. It’s even easy to find the lists of dos and don’ts in scripture because they are more obvious to a people who think in more concrete terms.

What we do when this becomes our habit is dangerous. We sing songs, but the songs are lip service. We like the tunes. We know the way to say the words, but we don’t know or even sense the heart of the songs. We know the Ten Commandments and many of the other lists of sins and laws in the bible, but we miss the greater meanings behind the laws.

Some concepts hold greater weight in the bible than others. Grace is a message found throughout the story even though it is not always maintained directly. Unity is stressed even more than doctrinal correctness. Faith is the bedrock of all we practice. Love is the greatest concept given to Christians. Each of these concepts can be practiced practically, but so many practice the acts without realizing the heart behind the acts.

We love to get grace, but so many who profess Jesus as Lord don’t give grace as much as they like receiving it – me included. We love the concept of unity – as long as you agree with me in order to create unity. That’s not unity. That’s uniformity. They are not the same. We love the concept of love, but we are so selfish that we have a hard time living in that. In fact, it is easier for us to do the “rules” than to love unconditionally. This is why Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 13. They were going through the motions without love or unity or grace.

It’s time to repent. It’s time to begin again. Let us not be zombies for Jesus – just going through the motions. May we be generous with our grace. May we be diverse in our unity. And may we love unconditionally. The world isn’t attracted to what we do ritualistically unless it comes from a well of who we are, and who we are needs to reflect Christ.


It’s Mine! You can’t have it!

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Grace. Christians talk about it a lot, but what is it? It is NOT simply a prayer. Though a prayer can be said with grace. It is not flawless elegance. It is not even that lady that died 30 years ago in “Christmas Vacation”. So what is grace?

Grace is one of the most beloved concepts in all of Christianity because it truly is what we all want. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve.

It is not getting something worse than we deserve. We wouldn’t use the term “grace” to refer to the times when we got in trouble for something we didn’t do. No, grace is getting something better than we deserve.

Imagine you were driving down the highway – speeding – and got pulled over by a highway patrol officer. What you deserve is a ticket. Grace is like that officer coming to your window and handing you a $100 bill and wishing you a nice day. You deserved punishment but got a gift instead.

We love this because this is the central idea behind the death and resurrection of Jesus. We deserve death because of our sins (Romans 6:23), but instead of death, we not only get forgiveness, but we get righteousness and life in the presence of God forever. We deserve death, but we get life. We deserve prison, but we get freedom. That is grace.

Wouldn’t you want that? Have you received that? It is exactly what Jesus offers.

When you become a Christian – putting off the old self by connecting with Jesus in his death and resurrection through baptism – you receive the grace of God. That grace is never ending. Even when you sin in the future you will still receive grace and forgiveness.

We all want to receive grace, and we praise God for the grace we have received, but do we give it like we’ve received it?

The last time you went to a sit-down restaurant how did the waiter or waitress do? Did you pay him or her what they deserved or did you give them grace?

When someone asked you for assistance on the street corner, did you drive on by or give them grace?

When your husband or wife made you angry did you lash out or love them anyway showing them grace?

We are called to love God and love others. God loves us by giving us grace. Should we give any less to those around us?

“But you don’t understand. They’re so annoying! They keep doing the same stupid thing over and over again. Surely I am justified in my frustration with them. Surely I don’t have to always treat them that way. Shouldn’t I be treated well?”

I have to wonder if God feels the same way about us when we continually sin against him and against others. Yet, he still gives us grace. He still loves us immeasurably. His love never fails. He never gives up on us.

So I challenge you. Love others like God loves you. Don’t keep all the grace for yourself. Give them grace. Be like Jesus. Even when they were crucifying Him He prayed for their forgiveness. May your attitude be the same as His.


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