Backsliding or Unsteady Foundations?

A Tree and Its Fruit
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

The Two Foundations
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes (Matthew 7:15-29, NASB).

Backsliding…

It’s a term that I was introduced to when I moved to the Southeastern United States—also known to many as the Bible Belt. The term’s use is not on par with the phrase bless your heart, but probably falls somewhere in that next tier of Christianese, alongside phrases such as help my unbelief and create a hedge of protection. For those not familiar with the word’s use in Christian vernacular, backsliding Christians are true followers of Christ who are allowing sinful habits to move them away from their Lord. For Christians, to be backsliding is a serious matter, as it deters sanctification. Continue reading

A Well-Placed Faith

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NASB).

Whether we acknowledge it, we all possess faith. We all worship someone (e.g. ourselves) or something. For most of us—possibly all of us—we worship that which we perceive as truth; thereby, placing our faith in it. Our faith in that truth is what establishes our beliefs; subsequently, driving our actions.

How does it establish our beliefs?

Glad that you asked 😉 Continue reading

Seek Him More: The Zacchaeus Narratives

Zacchaeus Converted
He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Zacchaeus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:1-10, NASB)

ZACCHAEUS’ STORY: TWO NARRATIVE PERSPECTIVES 
During the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Zacchaeus is the chief tax collector for the city of Jericho. We read about him in Luke’s gospel (Luke 19:1-10) as he encounters Christ. The common interpretation of this scripture—the one that I’ve heard from pastors on multiple occasions—serves as a powerful message of our Lord’s grace and salvation for the repentant.

There is another narrative perspective, however, that warrants consideration. This second narrative involves group prejudice, and the subsequent societal discrimination of a righteous man. If adhering to this alternative perspective of Zacchaeus’ encounter with Christ, we receive a cautionary tale of how group prejudices negatively shade our perceptions of reality.

These two narratives are distinctly different interpretations based upon our presuppositions of Zacchaeus’ character and integrity, with theologians and pastors offering compelling arguments for each. From what I can discern, both narratives appear to offer complementary messages that follow scriptural hermeneutics. Thus, both are shared herein. Continue reading

Prejudice

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48, NASB).

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:254, NASB)

THE INCREASINGLY COMMON PRACTICE OF EXHIBITING GROUP PREJUDICE
The intense hatred and divisiveness that is commonly seen whenever checking the news or conversing through social media is harrowing. Much of it seems driven by group prejudices towards various classes and ideologies. Regardless of our race, ethnicity, gender, social class, educational background, or ideological worldview, we’re all susceptible to prejudicial thought and behavior.

None of us are immune. Continue reading

The Narrow Path

Lukewarm people feel secure because they attend church, made a profession of faith at age twelve, were baptized, come from a Christian family, vote Republican, or live in America. Just as the prophets in the Old Testament warned Israel that they were not safe just because they lived in the land of Israel, so we are not safe just because we wear the label ‘Christian’ or because some people persist in calling us a ‘Christian nation.’ ~Francis Chan

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I’ve come to believe that how we respond to our circumstances—whatever they may be—is highly correlated with our identity. Continue reading

Like A Child

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1-4, NASB).

But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great” (Luke 9:47-48, NASB).

INTRODUCTION
My mother has often told me that I was born an old man. When I finally asked her for clarification, she answered, “You were a serious kid, and very aware of your surroundings.” Continue reading

An Unimaginable Relationship

In Power Evangelism, Wimber spelled out his understanding of the impoverished framework that is so basic to Westerners that they cannot even see the assumptions as assumptions but rather as fundamental truths about the world. Westerners, he said, assume that we live in a truth only through empirical study and rational thought. We feel confident in our ability to control our environment, and we feel little need for any help from anything outside ourselves. We assume that only that which has been tested and proven is true. And finally, we accept reason as the only and highest authority in life. This secular, self-reliant, materialist, and rational culture is, Wimber argued, the greatest impediment to a Christian’s personal encounter with Christ. Now, he argued, we live in a world in which most intellectuals have abandoned the hope that we have a purpose for being, and we live in a moral crisis and a miasma of existential doubt (Tanya Luhrmann, When God Talks Back, p. 317).

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There appears to be a growing approach to practicing Christianity—particularly in the United States—that concerns me. Maybe this is simply a case of semantics. I, however, believe that it’s much more divergent and deadly. What some would probably argue to be semantics, I consider fundamental differences of core belief; for these semantics lead to differences in how individuals come to know and relate to God. Subsequently, there is a schism in Christian orthodoxy (“correct belief”), which is noticeable when considering Christian orthopraxy (“correct practice”). And—truthfully—it’s always been there… Continue reading

The Weight of the Cross

“We sinned for no reason but an incomprehensible lack of love, and He saved us for no reason but an incomprehensible excess of love.”
~Peter Kreeft, Jesus-Shock

Not too long ago, a friend of mine commented on how it seems as though I’m always wearing a necklace. The comment caught me off-guard; their observation truly came from out-of-the-blue. The regular adornment of a necklace doesn’t seem all that noteworthy to me; particularly given how little of my necklace is typically exposed. It’s never worn outside of my other attire (this is intentional), leaving only a small portion of the chain visible. An inch by half-inch tungsten carbide cross hangs from the chain; but again, rarely do others see it. Continue reading

Feeling Pressure: Fear Versus Faith

The only pressure I’m under is the pressure I’ve put on myself.
~Mark Messier, NHL Hall-of-Fame player (Oilers/Rangers)

Pressure is something you feel when you don’t know what you’re doing
~Chuck Noll, NFL Hall-of-Fame Coach (Steelers)

‘Pressure’ is a word that is misused in our vocabulary. When you start thinking of pressure, it’s because you’ve started to think of failure.
~Tommy Lasorda, MLB Hall-of-Fame Manager (Dodgers)

Courage is grace under pressure
~Ernest Hemingway, Author

Whatever you see—any good results—are all from the pressure
~Ziyi Zhang, Author

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following post intentionally applies a secular position through its majority, eventually applying a Christian perspective near its conclusion. The rationale for this decision is that it will help non-Christians see the general relevance of the topic, while also highlighting my view that a Christian perspective for addressing moments when feeling pressure (or confronting those poorly dealing with pressure) is best. This post focuses on issues that I believe are both prevalent and pervasive within the culture in which I find myself. I attempt to be as thorough as possible in my logic and as reasonable as possible with my justifications. What I do not claim is omniscience or perfect clarity on this issue—or any issue. Therefore, I welcome thoughtful dialogue with anyone who may disagree with any or all of my positioning | Any bold, magenta words within this post are hyperlinks that provide useful, supplemental information. If the magenta hyperlink is followed by (a), for example(a), then there is an available blog or appendix page that allows for a deeper look into the topic hyperlinked.

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INTRODUCTION
Feeling pressure. Who doesn’t feel pressure at one time or another? But for as frequently as we feel pressure, do we even understand why we feel it? And, what is “pressure”—really? Continue reading

bad eyes

To say that a thing is good is merely to express our feeling about it; and our feeling about it is the feeling we have been socially conditioned to have.

But if this is so, then we might have been conditioned to feel otherwise. ‘Perhaps’, thinks the reformer or the educational expert, ‘it would be better if we were. Let us improve our morality.’ Out of this apparently innocent idea comes the disease that will certainly end our species (and, in my view, damn our souls) if it is not crushed; the fatal superstition that men can create values, that a community can choose its ‘ideology’ as men choose their clothes. Everyone is indignant when he hears the Germans define justice as that which is to the interest of the Third Reich. But it is not always remembered that this indignation is perfectly groundless if we ourselves regard morality as a subjective sentiment to be altered at will. Unless there is some objective standard of good, over-arching Germans, Japanese and ourselves alike whether any of us obey it or no, then of course the Germans are as competent to create their ideology as we are to create ours. If ‘good’ and ‘better’ are terms deriving their sole meaning from the ideology of each people, then of course ideologies themselves cannot be better or worse than one another. Unless the measuring rod is independent of the things measured, we can do no measuring. For the same reason it is useless to compare the moral ideas of one age with those of another: progress and decadence are alike meaningless words.

~C.S. Lewis, The Poison of Subjectivism, p. 73

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a world claiming truth found solely in self,
within identities of limitless varieties,
an idol of independence placed upon a most prominent shelf,
while succumbing to sin and its subjectivities, Continue reading

Merely Sharing the Story

INTRODUCTION
I recently heard a sermon where the pastor made a simple, yet profound, point about understanding the Gospel. He said that for individuals to understand the good news of the Gospel, they must first accept the bad news regarding our “natural” state. Expounding further, he said that if individuals can’t see the need for God in their lives, they’ll be unable to see the necessity of the Gospel. In other words, he suggests that for people to see Gospel Truth, they must be aware of their circumstances when they are outside of God’s grace and mercy.
Continue reading