Mosaix Blogs Full http://feed.informer.com/digests/LIX0YUF5O5/feeder Mosaix Blogs Full Respective post owners and feed distributors Wed, 11 Sep 2019 10:51:13 -0500 Feed Informer http://feed.informer.com/ It Happened on the Mountain https://davidireland.org/blog/2022/08/08/it-happened-on-the-mountain/ David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:1a461379-383d-7b50-6d93-453f4b195cbf Mon, 08 Aug 2022 05:46:52 -0500 (scroll to the bottom to watch this message) There are times and seasons in our lives that require us to set aside specific times of seeking the Lord. Times that... <p><em>(scroll to the bottom to watch this message)</em></p> <p>There are times and seasons in our lives that require us to set aside specific times of seeking the Lord. Times that need us to press into God’s presence to receive His revelation and wisdom.</p> <p>In today’s article, you’ll learn the three things that happen in your life as you close off the distractions of life and seek God diligently.</p> <p><strong>Prayer Starter</strong>: Dear Father, I ask you to do something transformational in my heart. I ask that you would teach me and reveal what it means to press in and experience You in a new way. In Christ&#8217;s name, Amen.</p> <h3>It Happened on the Mountain.</h3> <p>I would like to tell you about a recurring theme in the Bible. The mountain of the Lord is a subject mentioned around 19 times in Scripture, and as I dive into this topic, I want you to know that the mountain of the Lord is a symbolic place of change. It is a place of breakthrough and where we encounter God.</p> <p>Having encounters with God not only defines who we are but also clarifies who God is.</p> <p>In Scripture, we see that Moses went to the mountain of the Lord, and there he had an encounter with God. When he came down from the mountain, he had the Ten Commandments, etched by the finger of God, on two stone tablets.</p> <p>Jesus also went to the mountain of the Lord, and when He came down, He had the names of the twelve apostles. It was also on the mountain of the Lord that Elijah heard the voice of God, and He chose his successor, Elisha.</p> <p>I wonder what awaits you when you go to the mountain of the Lord.</p> <p>In Genesis, it says, <em>&#8220;Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love— Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you” <strong>(Genesis 22:1-2, NIV).</strong></em></p> <p>I don&#8217;t know about you, but I hate taking tests. You just don&#8217;t know what the professor or examiner will throw at you, and God was giving Abraham a test. Abraham and Sarah had been waiting for a son, and when they finally got one, they were madly in love with him. Then God decides to give them a pop quiz. God wants to know that He, God, is the first in Abraham’s life. When God tests us, He always focuses on our allegiance and loyalty.</p> <p>So, I have a question for you, why go to the mountain of the Lord?</p> <h3>I Meet With God.</h3> <p>We go to the mountain of the Lord to meet with God. When Abraham went there, that’s what happened.<br /> I want you to see that God always calls us to do something exceptional if we want to see transformation take place. When you go to the mountain, go with the purpose of meeting with God. He desires to talk with you and discuss your life, allegiance, and destiny. Isaiah puts it this way when he says:</p> <p>In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, <em>“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem <strong>(Isaiah 2:2-3, NIV)</strong>.</em></p> <p>This is just one of the 19 times in the Bible where that phrase, mountain of the Lord, invites us to go and meet with God.</p> <p>Sometimes you feel like your life is on pause. You may feel disconnected from others, and you’re frustrated. Even though you may seem like you don’t have control over things, you DO control your attitude and desire for the Lord.</p> <p><strong>Ask yourself, do I hunger and thirst for God?</strong></p> <p>If you are hungry for the Lord, go to God&#8217;s mountain. Go and meet with Him. When you connect with God, He will bring you a fresh perspective and a new intimacy with Him.</p> <p>Before I go to the mountain, I prepare my heart and start fasting. When you fast, you are turning your plate over to God. You’re letting God know that you are ready for Him to awaken a deep appetite for Him within you.</p> <p>If you&#8217;re serious about going to the mountain of the Lord, I want you to pray and fast.</p> <p>John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, said, “Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason, and others have utterly disregarded it.”</p> <h3>I Find Relief.</h3> <p>What happens on the mountain of the Lord? You find relief.</p> <p><em><strong>Genesis 22:9-14 (NIV)</strong> says, &#8220;When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” He said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”</em></p> <p>As Abraham walks up the mountain, can you imagine what he’s thinking? Maybe he thinks, “If I slay my son, how will I face Sarah?” “How can I even deal with this in my own heart?” And as he walks up the mountain, we see that he finds relief from his internal conflict when he decides to trust God.</p> <p>Nothing beats having a personal encounter with God. Abraham walked up that mountain filled with grief, chaos, and confusion. And as all the stress was coming to a head, Abraham heard the voice of God, and the test was over.</p> <p>Don&#8217;t let anything take the place of God. The Lord wants to be first in your life, in every dimension, and with all your affections. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength.</p> <p>Something happens on the mountain.</p> <p>When you go to the mountain of the Lord, carrying your Isaac, carrying the things that you love, you&#8217;re saying, “God, all that I have I am willing to lay down at your feet.” When you go to the mountain, you will find financial, relational, or physical relief when you go to the mountain.</p> <p>When Abraham felt confused, and there was chaos around him, he went to the mountain and found relief.</p> <p>What relief are you asking God to give you on the mountain? Let&#8217;s believe in God for breakthroughs in every dimension of our lives.</p> <h3>I Gain Rewards.</h3> <p>What happens on the mountain of the Lord? I gain rewards.</p> <p><em><strong>Genesis 22:13 (NIV)</strong> says, &#8220;So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”</em></p> <p>Did you know that phrase “the Lord will provide” is where we get that Hebrew term to describe one of the dimensions of God? Jehovah Jireh—the Lord who provides.</p> <p>The God that we serve is a God that rewards and provides.</p> <p>The Bible says, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided,” and that’s what God did for Abraham. God provided the ram in the thicket so Abraham wouldn&#8217;t have to sacrifice Isaac.</p> <p>When we go to the mountain, the Lord will provide.</p> <p><em><strong>Hebrews 11:6 (GNT)</strong> says, &#8220;No one can please God without faith, for whoever comes to God must have faith that God exists and rewards those who seek Him.&#8221;</em></p> <p>I don’t want you to become spiritually anemic. I don’t want you to be someone who praises God but doesn’t pray to Him. I want to encourage you to go to the mountain of the Lord, seek out what He has for you, and get the rewards.</p> <p><strong>Prayer</strong>: Dear Father, I pray we will have a tremendous encounter with you. I pray that you will bring relief and rewards as we seek you. I ask you these things in Christ&#8217;s name, Amen.</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/edHrkhWI4J4" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> How to Get Perspective and Power https://davidireland.org/blog/2022/08/01/how-to-get-perspective-and-power/ David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:8ee542db-414a-17f7-cc26-2bebfda79a37 Mon, 01 Aug 2022 06:31:12 -0500 (Please scroll to the bottom to watch this powerful message on perspective and power.) We all need the right perspective in order to thrive, not just survive. You see, we... <p><em>(Please scroll to the bottom to watch this powerful message on perspective and power.)</em></p> <p>We all need the right perspective in order to thrive, not just survive. You see, we all face challenges daily. From family struggles to issues with a co-worker to sorting through feelings surrounding a health issue.</p> <p>It can all become overwhelming. It can be discouraging.</p> <p>So, how do you maintain a proper perspective during trials? And how do you find the power to press on in what may seem like impossible circumstances?</p> <p>If you’re asking these questions, God’s Word has the answer.</p> <p><strong>Pray this before you keep reading:</strong> Dear Father, I pray that you would cause a transformation to take place in my heart today. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear what you have for me, in Christ&#8217;s name, Amen.</p> <p>Let’s talk about <strong>standing on top of the hill.</strong></p> <p>You may think this is a strange subject, but you gain perspective and power when you stand on top of a hill. The phrase “Mountain of the Lord” or “Mountain of God” is found over 19 times throughout the Bible. Each time we see this, someone got on top of the mountain and started to cry out to God. Then powerful things happened. A key example is when Jesus went on top of the mountain. There He gained perspective and power and was then able to choose His 12 disciples.</p> <p>I want to challenge you to begin drawing closer to God and to go to His mountain.</p> <h3>Do you want to go to the next level with God?</h3> <p>The Book of Exodus shows us that Moses was in charge of the children of Israel. He led a group of over one million people, most notably leading them out of Egypt. Afterward, as they headed to the promised land, they were attacked, causing Moses to take off the spiritual-leader hat and put on the military-leader hat. Why? Because he wanted and needed to have perspective and power.</p> <p>In <em><strong>Exodus 17:8-15 (NIV) it says,</strong></em> “The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.’ So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses&#8217; hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady until sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.’ Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner.”</p> <p>I&#8217;m always fascinated when I read the exploits of spiritual champions. As I pick apart and analyze what they do, it encourages me and assures me that if they can do it, so can I.</p> <p>It also raises questions within me like, “Why did Moses stand on top of the hill? Why didn’t he go and fight alongside Joshua?” The answers are found in Scripture, which reveals that Moses knew the tension between the natural and spiritual.</p> <h3>Keep a healthy tension between the natural and spiritual.</h3> <p>If Moses would have looked at life simply through the lens of the natural, he would have never been victorious. Often we fall into the trap of viewing things through one lens because we don&#8217;t realize that life has two clear dimensions—natural and spiritual.</p> <p>The natural is <strong>human</strong>, while the spiritual is <strong>divine</strong>.</p> <p>The Apostle Paul weighs into this conversation in the Book of Galatians.</p> <p><em><strong>Galatians 5:17 (GNT) it says,</strong></em> “For what our human nature wants is opposed to what the Spirit wants, and what the Spirit wants is opposed to what our human nature wants.”</p> <p>Paul clearly states that our bodies may want one thing, but the Holy Spirit may want something totally different. We need to be conscious that both of those realities exist. There is a difference between the natural and the spiritual.</p> <p>We must <strong>work</strong> but not omit <strong>worship</strong>.<br /> We must <strong>think</strong> as well as <strong>trust</strong>.<br /> We must use our intellect (natural) <em>and</em> faith (spiritual).</p> <p>Are you someone who gravitates toward thinking or do you put your faith in God?</p> <p>Admittedly, I often gravitate toward thinking, but then I catch myself and say, “God, I trust you.” Moses climbed to the top of the hill because he realized that the battle would be more than <strong>temporal things</strong>, but also <strong>eternal things.</strong> He needed to win the battle, not for the temporal dwelling but for the eternal.</p> <p>Sowing the seed for the next generation was on the line.</p> <p>I challenge you today that if you want to make a difference in your future, then you need to go to the mountain of the Lord in this season. When you are on top of the hill, you must remember the natural and the spiritual. You cannot just live in the spiritual, and you cannot just live in the natural. There needs to be a healthy tension between them.</p> <h3>Honor the power of fighting battles alone and together.</h3> <p>When you are on top of the hill, two things will call you: being alone and being together.</p> <p>We see this in <em><strong>Exodus 17:9 (CEV),</strong></em> “So Moses told Joshua, ‘Have some men ready to attack the Amalekites tomorrow. I will stand on a hilltop, holding this walking stick that has the power of God.’ ”</p> <p>There is nothing wrong with wanting to have your own spiritual life, but there is also a danger. Why? Because sometimes you’re going to face battles, and you’re not going to be able to do it <strong>alone</strong>. You need to understand the tension between being alone and being <strong>together</strong>.</p> <p><strong>The need for community is highlighted in</strong> <em><strong>Exodus 17:12-13 (NLT),</strong></em> “Moses&#8217; arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. That&#8217;s how Joshua defeated the Amalekites.”</p> <p>We see Moses, the mighty guy who stood before Pharaoh and performed many miracles, and he now needs help. He can no longer deliver and protect on his own. The Scripture shows the correlation between him holding up the staff and the Israelites winning the battle and how they would begin to lose when he dropped the staff.</p> <p>Aaron and Hur could see this connection between the natural and spiritual. They got a stone for Moses to sit on, holding up his hands. Moses needed the reliance and support that he received from his brothers.</p> <p>Who holds up your hands?</p> <p>I know you&#8217;re gifted, educated, and talented. I know that you may feel strong, but what happens when something comes along that you never expected? Who is your Aaron and your Hur? You need to have community. This is not just an Old Testament truth but also a New Testament one.</p> <p>The beauty, power, and fruit of living in Godly community are captured in <em><strong>Acts 2:46 (CEV)</strong></em>: “Day after day they met together in the temple. They broke bread together in different homes and shared their food happily and freely, while praising God. Everyone liked them, and each day the Lord added to their group others who were being saved.”</p> <p>The Christian faith is not an individualistic faith but a communal one.</p> <p>We must understand the tension between having a personal relationship with Christ and the power of standing in agreement with one another. You may be praying on the mountaintop, and a big battle comes, so you think about inviting someone to battle with you. But how can you when you’ve never built a relationship with them? You need to build relationships with people so that they will go in the trenches with you when it&#8217;s battle time.</p> <p><strong>Here’s another way to look at it:</strong> “Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It&#8217;s not something you learn in school. But if you haven&#8217;t learned the meaning of friendship, you haven&#8217;t learned anything.” —Muhammad Ali.</p> <p>I want you to understand the value of bringing your strength into a friendship and your friend bringing theirs. One of my favorite proverbs is a Zambian one that states: “When you run alone, you run FAST, but when you run together, you run FAR.”</p> <p>We all must learn to run far, not just fast.</p> <p>Know that what you do today will impact tomorrow.</p> <p>We see the necessity for the natural and spiritual and being alone and together, but we also need to see the tension between today and tomorrow. What you do today has implications for what will occur tomorrow.</p> <p>In <em><strong>Exodus 17:14-15 (GNB) it says:</strong></em> “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write an account of this victory, so that it will be remembered. Tell Joshua that I will completely destroy the Amalekites.’ Moses built an altar and named it ‘The LORD is my Banner.’ ”</p> <p>When something happens in your history, write it down. If we don’t write it down, you will forget it. Something about capturing what&#8217;s happening today will impact your tomorrow. Moses wrote down what happened to him so that future generations could see it, and it would electrify their faith. When your grandkids want to know how you were powerful in different seasons of your life, you will have a written account, and you will be able to show them how you were able to battle on the hilltop.</p> <p>You are making history when you go to the top of the hill. Remember, keep a healthy tension between the natural and spiritual, honor the power of fighting battles alone and together, and know that what you do today will impact tomorrow.</p> <p><strong>Closing prayer:</strong> Dear God, You&#8217;re so amazing. Thank You for putting this challenge in front of me. As I rise to the occasion, I ask that You would take all the excuses away and give me the kind of fortitude that I need to pursue You. I thank You in Christ&#8217;s name, Amen.</p> <p>Remember this, precious child of God:</p> <p>Today you&#8217;re an acorn, but tomorrow you&#8217;re an oak tree. Let&#8217;s go to the hill of God.</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/foRNJXD9LAU" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> God Answers Prayer https://davidireland.org/blog/2022/07/25/god-answers-prayer/ David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:8b18245e-c18e-115e-392f-b9a4e7ea96b3 Mon, 25 Jul 2022 05:03:26 -0500 (watch the video of this message by scrolling to the bottom) From Genesis to Revelation, God emphasizes the power of prayer because He wants us to understand it. He values... <p><em>(watch the video of this message by scrolling to the bottom)</em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">From Genesis to Revelation, God emphasizes the power of prayer because He wants us to understand it. He values it. He wants us to internalize the fact that He answers prayer.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For this reason, thousands of books have been written, and tens of thousands of messages have been preached on the topic of prayer. If it matters to God, it should naturally matter to anyone trying to know God better. In fact, I have even written a few </span><a href="https://davidireland.org/books/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">books</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> on the vital subject of prayer.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This message simply centers on this powerful truth: God answers prayer. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Before you dive into today’s teaching, pray this:</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dear Father, help me to hold onto Scripture and apply my faith so I can see the fulfillment of Your word in my life. I ask you this in the name of Jesus, Amen.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <h3><b>God answers prayer. </b></h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Bible is firm on the promise that the God we serve answers prayers. </span><b><i>Hebrews 5:7 says this (GNT): </i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">“In His life on earth Jesus made His prayers and requests with loud cries and tears to God, who could save Him from death. Because He was humble and devoted, God heard Him.” </span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">The reason why God heard Jesus was because Jesus had a relationship with God. He was committed. He also had the right attitude when making requests to God. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You see, many individuals don&#8217;t recognize the value of prayer. Many also don’t recognize that prayer has specific rules. When you realize the rules surrounding prayer, and you use those rules, you can have confidence that God hears you and answers you. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Chronicles, we read how Solomon had just finished dedicating his palace and temple to God. That night God visited him in a dream. </span><b><i>2 Chronicles 7:13-14 (NIV), </i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” </span></i></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Here you have</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> a roadmap for the rules of prayer. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This passage of Scripture also reveals how God answers prayer and the prerequisites He needs for it. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Notice how God is essentially saying, “prayer is for </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">my people.” </span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Are you one of God&#8217;s people? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The phrase “my people” talks about God&#8217;s covenant relationship with </span><b>His people</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">. It means that you have accepted Christ as your savior. It’s when you’ve invited God into your heart to be your heavenly Father. That’s when you become one of His people. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Know the </span><b>rules of prayer. </b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You can be confident that God answers prayer. Think about how sweet that is. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you think about prayer, I invite you to also consider the guidelines God calls us to abide by when we pray. God’s answer to prayer depends on our </span><b>actions</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">. Our actions are CRITICAL to prayer. </span><b><i>2 Chronicles 7:14 (CEV) puts it this way: </i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">“If my own people will </span></i><b><i>humbly pray</i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and </span></i><b><i>turn back to me</i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and </span></i><b><i>stop sinning</i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">, </span></i><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">then</span></i><i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> I will answer them from heaven. I will forgive them and make their land fertile</span></i> <i><span style="font-weight: 400;">once again.” </span></i></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are two sides to this particular Biblical passage. Let’s zoom in.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One part identifies with your actions, while the other part identifies with God&#8217;s reactions. </span></p> <h3><strong>What role do my actions play in prayer? </strong></h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are three actions the Bible instructs us to do after becoming one of God&#8217;s people in order to have our prayers answered. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">First, God says that you must humble yourself. Prayer requires humility. To be humble, you must make yourself low in prayer. You need to trust God and His judgment. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Second, turn back to Him. This means you need to renew your devotion to God. It is also saying that God needs to be first in your life. When you turn back to Him, you are positioning yourself for answered prayers. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Third, stop sinning because sin hinders prayer. It sounds simple, but this requires repentance. </span><a href="https://davidireland.org/blog/2022/07/10/the-power-of-repentance/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Repentance</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> is when you turn away from your sin and toward God. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">These are the three steps you must take. Watch God show up when you go through these actions.  </span></p> <p><b>Your actions trigger God’s reactions. </b></p> <p><b>Check out the following portion of Scripture one more time, this time through the lens of focusing on God’s reactions to our actions.  </b></p> <p><b><i>2 Chronicles 7:14 (CEV), </i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">“If my people will humbly pray</span></i> <i><span style="font-weight: 400;">and turn back to me</span></i> <i><span style="font-weight: 400;">and stop sinning, </span></i><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">then</span></i> <b><i>I will answer</i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> them from heaven. </span></i><b><i>I will forgive them</i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and </span></i><b><i>make their land fertile</i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> once again.”</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Here we see that God will give three reactions. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">First, He will answer you. God says, “I answer when you pray.” When you pray, recognize with faith and expectation that God answers you. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God&#8217;s second reaction is to forgive your sins. One of the most beautiful things is to know that you don&#8217;t owe God anything and your sins have been forgiven. No news is better!  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The third reaction is that He will make your land fertile again. In today&#8217;s context, when God heals your land, He&#8217;s healing your family, church, and nation. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It’s so helpful to know that when you look at </span><b><i>2 Chronicles 7:14</i></b><span style="font-weight: 400;">, we have the roadmap to having God answer prayers. In summary, God&#8217;s reactions will follow if you do your part. Don’t fall into the trap of never offering your prayer. God is ready right now. You have access to your Heavenly Father right now. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Do your part. He is faithful to do His. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let’s close with this prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I want to be a member of your family. Come into my heart today, Lord. Please wash away my sins, change me and help me live for you so that you may be glorified in me and through me. I ask you this in the name of Jesus, Amen. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LOSSbvWro0I" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> Why Get Water Baptized? https://davidireland.org/blog/2022/07/17/why-get-water-baptized/ David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:3be10b20-e6a8-b06e-f706-59f3ebfaa553 Sun, 17 Jul 2022 15:20:05 -0500 (watch this message by scrolling to the bottom) Water baptism is not a hot preaching topic these days. Even though this powerful public act of commitment is highlighted throughout the... <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><em>(watch this message by scrolling to the bottom)</em></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Water baptism is not a hot preaching topic these days. Even though this powerful public act of commitment is highlighted throughout the New Testament in the Bible, it seems to have taken a back seat to other topics.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When the Holy Spirit changes and transforms your heart when you practice </span><a href="https://davidireland.org/blog/2022/07/10/the-power-of-repentance/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">repentance</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">,</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> the next step in following Christ is water baptism. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let’s pray this before you keep reading: Dear Father, thank you so much for your incredible kindness. Today, let the power of the Holy Spirit allow change to come in. Come and rearrange our lives so we may please you in a greater way. I ask you, Father, these things in Jesus&#8217; name. Amen. </span></p> <h3><b>Why get water baptized? </b></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When I got baptized, back in 1982, it was a month after I had prayed to give my heart to Jesus. I remember how I overflowed with excitement because a month earlier Jesus had done something so deep and real in my life. I knew I had changed and water baptism was a public way to tell everybody that God had changed me. He brought me out of a life of atheism and transformed me from the foul-mouth person that I was. Water baptism is a public sign of inward change and that is why I was so open to it. Jesus has changed my life and I publicly communicated how proud I was to be a believer. </span></p> <p><b>Do you know how critical water baptism is? </b></p> <p><b>The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18 tells us that we ought to go and preach the gospel to every nation, make disciples and </b><b><i>baptize</i></b><b> them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  </b></p> <p><b>Do you know how to water baptize someone when you lead them to Christ? </b></p> <p><b>If not, keep reading. </b></p> <h3><b>Are YOU water baptized? </b></h3> <p><b>If not, keep reading. </b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What we&#8217;ll learn from the Scriptures is that God is in the business of changing lives, no matter where you are in life, how old you are or what your race is. Whether you&#8217;re rich, poor, educated, uneducated, religious, irreligious, morally good, or morally bankrupt—God has the power to transform people. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In fact, water baptism is an indication of that.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let’s jump into the Book of Matthew, chapter three. There we see God loves to transform people by specifically using water baptism. In </span><b><i>Matthew 3:1-6 (NIV) it says: </i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ”  </span></i></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">John&#8217;s clothes were made of camel&#8217;s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were </span></i><b><i>baptized </i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">by him in the Jordan River. </span></i></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">John was saying that God is in the business of changing lives and He wants to change your life. People came from every direction to get baptized by John. Why? Because they needed to experience God’s great forgiveness. His forgiveness says, “I&#8217;ll remove your sin when you ask me to. I&#8217;ll wash you clean and take that heavy load of shame from you.” When John was baptizing people in the Jordan River, people kept coming. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The people were overwhelmed with their sin so they asked God to forgive them and John baptized them. </span></p> <h3><b>God wants repentance.  </b></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The crowd continued to build and John took a break. In </span><b><i>Matthew 3:7 (MSG) we see it captured this way: </i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">When John realized that a lot of Pharisees and Sadducees were showing up for a baptismal experience because it was becoming the popular thing to do, he exploded: “Brood of snakes! What do you think you&#8217;re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to make any difference? It’s your life that must change, not your skin!” </span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">John was angry at these two Jewish groups. These people were strict, self-righteous and religious. However, they were not right with God. They had never experienced the </span><b>power of a transformed life</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">. This is why John yelled at them when they wanted to be baptized too. We see clearly here how </span><b>God needs REPENTANCE. </b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">John the Baptist was saying to the Pharisees and Sadducees, “What God wants is repentance.” He was telling them that religion doesn&#8217;t mean right-standing with God. In other words, he&#8217;s saying, “Look, we&#8217;re all sinners in need of salvation. No matter how good you may be, don&#8217;t deceive yourself. Your goodness is not good enough. </span><b>You need salvation.</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">John was helping these religious leaders try to understand what it means to repent. When John chewed out the religious people, the rest of  the crowd started to ask him questions. </span><b><i>Luke 3:10-14 (NIV) says this: </i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">“What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Even tax collectors came to be </span></i><b><i>baptized. </i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don&#8217;t collect any more than you&#8217;re required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don&#8217;t extort money and don&#8217;t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” </span></i></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">John said the same thing to the regular rank that he did to the religious leaders. He made it clear that </span><b>God wants repentance</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">, which applies to everyone, everywhere. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">John was saying we&#8217;re all sinners in need of salvation. You need salvation. Repentance means that you don&#8217;t play with your eternal destiny. Heaven is real and so is hell. There&#8217;s one or the other, no in-between.</span></p> <p><b>I need a SAVIOR! </b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">John the Baptist was clear on one thing: He was not the savior, Jesus was. The Scripture says in </span><b><i>Luke 3:15-16 (CEV): </i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Everyone became excited and wondered, “Could John be the Messiah?” John said, “I am just baptizing with water. But someone more powerful is going to come, and I am not good enough even to untie his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” </span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">John was the forerunner of the Messiah. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus is the only one that can save you. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Baptism doesn’t save you; it is simply a sign that declares you’ve been saved and have asked for forgiveness.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But baptism is more than just a ceremonial experience. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Apostle Paul gives us the richness of what it truly means to be baptized in </span><b><i>Romans 6:3 (CEV): </i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Don&#8217;t you know that all who share in Christ Jesus by being </span></i><b><i>baptized </i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">also share in his death? When we were </span></i><b><i>baptized</i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">, we died and were buried with Christ. We were </span></i><b><i>baptized, </i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">so that we would live a new life, as Christ was raised to life by the glory of God the Father. If we shared in Jesus&#8217; death by being </span></i><b><i>baptized</i></b><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">, we will be raised to life with Him. We know that the persons we used to be were nailed to the cross with Jesus. This was done, so that our sinful bodies will no longer be the slaves of sin.”</span></i></p> <p><b>Let that sink in.  </b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Paul is saying that when you get water baptized, you&#8217;re associating yourself with the death and burial of Jesus. When you come out of the water, you&#8217;re then aligning yourself with the resurrection of Jesus. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You see? Baptism is not an empty ceremony. As we publicly demonstrate that we have experienced forgiveness because we recognize we need a savior, Jesus meets us in the water. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let’s close with this prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for changing lives. I ask you now to change my life. Wash away my sins and transform me so that I may walk with you every day of my life. I ask you this in the name of Jesus, my Savior. Amen.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yfguVAHYttA" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> The Power of Repentance https://davidireland.org/blog/2022/07/10/the-power-of-repentance/ David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:d06f951f-113a-5d6d-13c7-c75693ec6a55 Sun, 10 Jul 2022 14:32:15 -0500 (scroll to the bottom to watch the entire message)  Repentance can be a heavy topic. It can stir up many emotions and reactions, largely leaning on the negative side. Despite... <p><span style="color: #000000;"><em>(scroll to the bottom to watch the entire message) </em></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Repentance can be a heavy topic.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">It can stir up many emotions and reactions, largely leaning on the negative side. Despite its reputation, I invite you to reconsider what repentance is. It’s actually a beautiful word that helps us change our hearts and minds.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">It means making a U-turn, which steers us in the direction of renewal to our lives.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Today’s article is centered around helping you understand the power of repentance.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>A prayer before we begin:</strong> Lord, today, as we open our hearts wide to you, we ask that you perform heart surgery on each of us as you see fit, so that we can be able to be the kinds of people you&#8217;ve called us to become. I ask you these things in Christ&#8217;s name, Amen.</span></p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;">What does it mean to be renewed? </span></h3> <p><span style="color: #000000;">The definition of renew is: to grow up, to sprout, to begin again. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Imagine it is springtime. A beautiful moment during this season is when birds start to chirp and sing. It’s also awe-inducing when flowers poke their heads above the ground and display their beauty. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">This is a picture of renewal. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">When you experience renewal, something is transformed inside of you. You bloom anew. The song of your life sounds different. Renewal makes your relationship with God exciting and passionate again. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">But to get to renewal, you must first go through repentance.</span></p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;">Repentance </span></h3> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Acts 3:19 (The Passion Translation): “And now you must repent and turn back to God so that your sins will be removed, and so that times of refreshing will stream from the Lord&#8217;s presence.” See here God&#8217;s big-heartedness towards us. </span><br /> <span style="color: #000000;">God says, “If you want to experience renewal, where times are refreshing, it happens when you practice repentance.” Repentance is a game-changer. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">The Greek word for repentance is metanoia. It means to turn around. It&#8217;s as if you are going north, then suddenly realize it&#8217;s the wrong moral direction, and you repent to go south. You totally shift where you’re headed. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Author and pastor Bruce Wilkinson puts it this way: “Repentance means you change your mind so deeply that it changes you.</span></p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;">Are you hungry for renewal? </span></h3> <p><span style="color: #000000;">It starts with <strong>repentance</strong>. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Let&#8217;s look at what it means to repent and why normative Christianity is passionate Christianity. You cannot be a Biblical believer and be bored with God. You can&#8217;t be someone who walks with Jesus and be apathetic. God calls us to be fiery servants and have fiery faith. That&#8217;s why <strong>repentance is a game-changer</strong>. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">The Book of Psalms was written by David, who is also known as Israel&#8217;s Psalmist. He was also the King of Israel and a warrior. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Despite his status and accomplishments, however, David fell into hard times. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Why? He made the wrong moral choices. He had an affair with a married woman by the name of Bathsheba. She became pregnant with his child, while her husband, Uriah, was at war fighting against the Ammonites. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Then David tried to cover up his sin, so he had Uriah brought back home from war. He got Uriah drunk twice, hoping that in his drunken state, he&#8217;d go home and have relations with his wife. However, Uriah wouldn&#8217;t do it. He stayed right outside of the palace all night. David then sent Uriah back to war and he made sure that the Ammonites killed him. After that, Bathsheba grieved for the loss of her husband, and </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">David soon married her. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">This scandal was a big deal and deeply damaging against the character of God because David was supposed to be a man of God. Then here was David in a dry, disillusioned and backslidden state, and Nathan, the prophet, visited him. He skillfully confronted him, causing David to repent and pour out his heart to God, asking for forgiveness.</span></p> <p><strong><span style="color: #000000;">We see this moment here: </span></strong><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Psalm 51:1-4 (NIV)</strong>: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. </span><br /> <span style="color: #000000;">For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.” </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">I admire David, not because he sinned, but because he repented authentically and truthfully before God. I admire him because he did what was necessary to get right with God. As a result, he was on his way to renewal. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">This is where God wants you to be too. So, how do you get renewed? </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Scripture teaches us that repentance precedes renewal. There may have been something that made you dry. Maybe your spiritual temperature has dropped because you missed time with God or became distracted. Or maybe, like David, it was sin. Whatever the reason, whatever caused your heart to change, I want you to know it&#8217;s not God&#8217;s will that you stay dry. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">It&#8217;s God&#8217;s will that you get renewed. </span></p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;">Do you need to repent? </span></h3> <p><span style="color: #000000;">This question is a call to search your heart. It challenges you to reflect: “Is there a problem between you and God?” </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Has God whispered to you? </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Has He nudged you or prompted you in some way? </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Has he made you realize that there&#8217;s some sin in your life that you’ve not dealt with? </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">The question “Do I need to repent?” invites us to investigate and interrogate our hearts. When we do this, we can look over our past actions and our past attitudes to ask ourselves this question: </span></p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;">Am I right with God? </span></h3> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Is there something in your life creating a problem between you and God? If there is, then you&#8217;re going to need to repent. Sin hardens our hearts, makes our conscience callous and creates a divide between us and God. Repentance bridges that gap. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Have you ever asked God the question, “God, have I done something to I violate your moral code or your standard?” </span><span style="color: #000000;">If not, try it. I suggest you go there with God because sin will make the Christian walk tiring, taxing and tough. But that’s not what God had in mind for us. There should be passion, zeal and enthusiasm as you walk with God. Conversely, if you&#8217;re serving God and feel dry, apathetic and devoid of zeal, it means something&#8217;s wrong. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">When you sin against God the relationship on the human side has been harmed. There&#8217;s a break in the fellowship between you and God. Please know God&#8217;s love and care for you hasn’t changed. His kindness towards you is also still the same, but your sin hardened and harmed your relationship with the Lord. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">So, again I ask you: <strong>Do you need to repent? </strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Next, allow me to ask you this:</span></p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;">Have you FULLY repented? </span></h3> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Full repentance happens through a comprehensive inspection of the heart. It happens by cleaning out the junk that’s in your heart. </span><br /> <span style="color: #000000;">Going back to the Bible story mentioned earlier, David was excellent when it came to repenting and repentance.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Remember the meaning of repentance—to turn around. It&#8217;s when you repent so deeply that it changes you. You then get back to the place of cleanliness, purity and right-standing before God. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">This takes a process. You don&#8217;t just say “I repent.” David couldn’t just say, “I repent.” He had a man killed and had gotten a woman pregnant who wasn&#8217;t his wife. He not only deceived the nation, but also himself. We see in Scripture (2 Samuel 11) that in the nine months Bathsheba was pregnant, David never repented. Then, the baby was born and the child died. We can then conclude that it was almost a year before David made his relationship with God right. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">So again, it’s important to know repentance is a process. </span></p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;">Here are the four stages of repentance: </span></h3> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Stage 1:</strong> You realize that you&#8217;ve done wrong. </span><br /> <span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Stage 2:</strong> There are feelings of remorse about your sin. </span><br /> <span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Stage 3:</strong> You renounce your sin or turn away from it. </span><br /> <span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Stage 4:</strong> You&#8217;re restored. That&#8217;s when repentance takes place. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Let’s apply this to David. In Stage 1: David realized he was going in the wrong direction. In Stage 2: David had remorse for his sin. In Stage 3: David renounces his sin. In<strong> Psalm 51:1-2 (NIV), it says,</strong> “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me of my sin.” Finally, in Stage 4: David is restored. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Early Church Father, John Chrysostom, captures the heart of repentance like this: <em><strong>“Repentance is a medicine which destroys sin, a gift bestowed from heaven, an admirable virtue, a grace exceeding the power of laws.” </strong></em></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">When you repent it&#8217;s as if God has dispensed His medicine into your soul. The dryness you were feeling in your heart vanishes and the fire of passion is rekindled. Repentance is a game-changer, and it brings healing to you.</span></p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;">I’ve repented, NOW WHAT? </span></h3> <p><span style="color: #000000;">What should you expect after you repent? </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">David has the answer. Psalm 51:12-13 (NIV) says, “Restore to me the <em><strong>joy of your salvation</strong></em> and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then <em><strong>I will teach transgressors</strong></em> your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.” I want you to see that when you repent, God restores you. The joy of your salvation and walking with Jesus will be passionate again. You will be renewed and refreshed in your relationship with God. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Don’t miss how David also said, “One of the signs that I&#8217;ve repented is that I want to teach transgressors your ways, God.” Your burden for lost souls is one of the greatest indicators of you being renewed. So you see here that being renewed is not just about you. David essentially says, “I now feel the burden for those who don&#8217;t know you.” Let that value soak in. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Another verse that sums up repentance can be found in Acts 3:19 (NIV), where it says, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">You now have a Biblical basis for expecting refreshing and renewal. You have a guide to grow in passion. You have an effective tool to experience the fire of the Holy Spirit. And you have a pathway for a zeal for the Lord. Your basis, your guide, your effective tool and pathway is repentance. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">One of the schools I graduated from was Alliance Theological Seminary. Long before I attended, in 1906, when it was called Nyack Missionary Training Institute, a revival broke out. Interestingly, it all started because someone publicly confessed their sins. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Here is an account of the revival: “For three weeks, preachers, teachers, and students were lying on their faces. Awful confessions were made. It began at 12 o&#8217;clock noon and went on until the next morning. God had struck with mighty conviction. Some tried to escape because they didn&#8217;t want to confess, but they had to return and go through with it. I declare unto you that when the confessions were over, the mighty presence of God filled the place. We walked on tiptoe. The atmosphere was so holy. We were afraid to hear the sound of our heels in that school. If you ever heard thunder rolls of intercession, they went forth from that school. You could have heard the body of students a mile away. They prayed as one man and everybody as loudly as possible, but they knew God was behind those prayers.” </span><br /> <span style="color: #000000;">When the students confessed their sins before God and cried out to God in prayer, not only did they experience renewal, it led to revival. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Again, I ask you: </span></p> <p><strong><span style="color: #000000;">Do you need to repent? </span></strong><br /> <strong><span style="color: #000000;">Have you repented fully? </span></strong><br /> <strong><span style="color: #000000;">What can you expect?</span></strong></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Let’s close with this prayer:</strong> Heavenly Father, I want to experience renewal and times of refreshing. I want the Holy Spirit to visit me in a brand-new way and transform me. So I confess my sins before you now. And I ask you to forgive me for each one. God, may this begin a series of times of confession and repentance until I experience personal renewal. This I pray in the name of Jesus, Amen</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dEsLIMpaxx8" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> The Fire of God https://davidireland.org/blog/2022/07/03/the-fire-of-god/ David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:489dbf92-762a-2845-6a35-1407b61c3fc1 Sun, 03 Jul 2022 13:53:57 -0500 Are you tired of feeling stuck? Has complacency gotten the best of you? Are you ready to have your heart set on fire for the Lord? The American church, as... <p><span style="color: #000000;">Are you tired of feeling stuck? </span><br /> <span style="color: #000000;">Has complacency gotten the best of you? </span><br /> <span style="color: #000000;">Are you ready to have your heart set on fire for the Lord?</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">The American church, as you may have noticed, is running low on passion. It may be difficult or even embarrassing to admit, but maybe you find yourself feeling a sense of dryness or lukewarmness, apathy and complacency toward the things of God.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Don’t feel ashamed. It can happen to anybody, but what we need is for God to renew us.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">In the Bible, we see the word “fire” 474 times. We also see this phrase, “fire of God” that captures moments when God wants to demonstrate His power and His presence. He either shows up in the fire, initiates fires or causes fire to burn in our hearts so that we can be on fire for Him.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Remember the burning bush encounter that Moses experienced? God spoke from within the burning bush. God wrapped Himself around the fire.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">The “fire of God” speaks of enthusiasm, excitement, zeal and passion. As believers, we should all desire to be on fire for God. In fact, you’ll see the theme of the fire of God all throughout Scripture.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">In Exodus 19:10-11 (NIV) it says, “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.’ ”</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Now let&#8217;s go to verse 18 to see when God comes down. In Exodus 19:18 (NIV) it says, “Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently.” God wrapped fire around Himself and came down on Mount Sinai in fire.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>See? God and fire.</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">But it&#8217;s not just in that passage. You&#8217;ll find it also in Exodus 13:21, where it says, “By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.”</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">The Lord led His ancient people by a pillar of fire then. And I want you to see He leads us now, His modern-day people, by allowing the fire of the Holy Spirit, the zeal of God and the enthusiasm of the Lord to burn within us. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Let’s be clear: The fire of God is not just an Old Testament metaphor. There, also in the New Testament, in Revelation 1:12-15 (NIV) it says, “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.” I want you to see how John, the apostle, captured this image of Jesus. Again, we see this recurring theme of fire in connection with who God is and certainly who the son of God is.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>When we catch a glimpse of God, we must understand that God is a consuming fire.</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">The Bible describes God in Exodus 24:17 (NIV), “To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.” When you think and hear about the word “glory” or “the glory of God,” it means the abiding manifested presence of God. It’s like God says, “When I show up, I show up with fire. I show up with enthusiasm, zeal and power.”</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">I want you to see that when you walk with Jesus—the one with fiery eyes and whose feet are bronze, as if they&#8217;re in a furnace—that is the God we serve.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">When you walk closely with Jesus, He burns up complacency in your heart. He burns up apathy in your heart. He burns up lukewarmness in your heart because we serve a God who&#8217;s a consuming fire. The prophet Zechariah affirms this. In Zechariah 2:5 (NIV) it says, “ ‘And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’ ” Here he’s talking about the city of Jerusalem. We see here how again, God points to the fact that His glory is a shield and safeguard around us. Take that in: His fire is a shield and safeguard around us.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">God wants to make sure you are someone who&#8217;s walking with Him. The zeal of the Lord, the fire of God, will burn away the coldness of your heart and the complacency of your heart.</span></p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;">Consuming Fire.</span></h3> <p><span style="color: #000000;">May we always remember we serve a God who is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). May we also be people who not only understand that our God is a consuming fire, but seek to experience the fire of God.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>God ANSWERS by fire!</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">In 1 Kings 18, Elijah is dealing with the false prophets or the prophets of Baal. He was incensed and impassioned because the nation of Israel had turned wayward. They had become so dull, dry and despondent about the things of God that God spoke to Elijah and said, ”I want you to utter a command over the nation, that there should be no rain in this nation until I say so.”</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">For three years, there was no rain, and famine ensued. The king at the time was a wicked king, Ahab. Ahab put a hit out on Elijah, but God hid Elijah from this evil king and no harm came to him. At the end of three years, God told Elijah, “Go and reveal yourself now and call for a showdown on Mount Carmel.” Elijah told King Ahab, “You bring the 450 prophets of Baal and meet me on Mount Carmel. Bring the nation with you because there we&#8217;re going to choose who we will serve. We&#8217;re going to serve God, or we&#8217;re going to serve Baal.”.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">There must come a time when you decide either you&#8217;re going to be on fire for God, or you&#8217;re going to be complacent. You can&#8217;t have one foot in complacency and one foot in a desire for the fire of God. It doesn&#8217;t work that way.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>God is calling us to be a church that understands that He answers by fire.</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Baal was an idolatrous figure. It was considered the fertility god or lord of the earth. The word Baal means “lord” which meant he was lord over the sun, the rain, nature and certainly lord over the fire.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Elijah essentially said, “So you think that Baal is lord? You think he’s supreme? Let&#8217;s meet on Mount Carmel.” By the way, historians tell us that on Mount Carmel a temple was established for the worship of Baal. Interestingly, Elijah said, “Let&#8217;s meet on your home turf. I want you then to see who God is. Either the one and only God is or Baal is god.”</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Let’s jump into the text. 1 Kings 18:21-24 (NIV) says, “Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’ But the people said nothing. Then Elijah said to them, ‘I am the only one of the LORD&#8217;s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let Baal&#8217;s profits choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire on it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.’ Then all the people said, ‘What you say is good.’ ”</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Then the false prophets started to cry out to Baal from morning till midday. Nothing happened. The Bible says in 1 Kings 18:29 (NIV), “Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.” When you read through the text, it says that Elijah started to taunt them. He said, “Call louder. Maybe your god is asleep. Wake him up.” Elijah kept on taunting them. Elijah then says, “My turn.” </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">When we talk about the fire of God, we’re talking about going before the Lord and saying, “God, it’s my turn to ask You to do mighty things. It’s my turn to seek Your face, to engage in faith, to pursue you in powerful prayers.” </span></p> <p><strong><span style="color: #000000;">You see, the God we serve is not only a consuming fire. He answers by fire. </span></strong></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">1 Kings 18:36-39 (NIV) says, “At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I&#8217;m your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.’ Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God.”</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">We are in a season, as a church, where we need to start praying bold prayers. We&#8217;re living in a day and age where Christianity is looked at in a negative way. </span></p> <p><strong><span style="color: #000000;">Right now, many Christ-followers have become lukewarm, complacent and apathetic.</span></strong></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Today I want to challenge you to go before God and say: </span><br /> <span style="color: #000000;">“God, I&#8217;m coming before you so I can have you answer by fire. </span><br /> <span style="color: #000000;">Fire up my heart so I can pray fiery prayers. </span><br /> <span style="color: #000000;">Fire up my heart so I can pursue you.” </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">We serve a God who&#8217;s not intimidated by this world. He&#8217;s not intimidated by the challenges that we face. He&#8217;s not intimidated by all the brokenness in our society. What God is looking for are men and women like you and me. Simple men and women willing to get baptized in the fire of the Holy Spirit, so we can turn our world upside down. </span><br /> <span style="color: #000000;">God is looking for the Elijahs of today to step up on Mount Carmel. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">I thank God for the boldness and the courage of the prophet Elijah. May you also be filled with boldness, courage and confidence. Know that God is not afraid to douse and empower us in the fire of the Holy Spirit so we can do great and mighty things for His glory. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">That day when Elijah called fire down, God heard him. </span></p> <p><strong><span style="color: #000000;">He responded, and fire fell. </span></strong></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">The water, wood and the sacrifice burned up. And the nation turned their hearts to God. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">One of the best ways to get backslidden people, wayward people and unbelieving people to find their way to the cross and to come to Christ is when YOU become fiery for God. It&#8217;s when YOU, a child of God, step out of complacency, step out of lukewarmness and say, I want to be baptized in the fire of the Holy Spirit. THAT is when God will cause fire to come down on your heart. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">When that happens, give yourself over to prayer. Give yourself over to worship. Give yourself over to evangelism. When you do that, you&#8217;ll be surprised how many people you&#8217;ll win to Christ. You&#8217;ll be surprised how your attitude will change on your job. You&#8217;ll be surprised how the atmosphere shifts in your school. You&#8217;ll be surprised how the spiritual temperature transforms in your home. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Change happens when the fire of God comes into your heart. </span></p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;">Flames of Fire </span></h3> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Not only is God a consuming fire, and a God who answers by fire, but God makes YOU flames of fire. It may be surprising to read, but that&#8217;s what He promised us! </span><br /> <span style="color: #000000;">We see this promise in Matthew 3:11 (NIV), where it says, “ ‘I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I&#8217;m not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’ ”</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">This passage of Scripture says that God promised to baptize you in fire. The Greek word baptize is baptizo, which means to immerse—to submerge. God is saying, “I&#8217;m going to put you into the fire.”</span></p> <p><strong><span style="color: #000000;">But get this:</span></strong></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">The fire won&#8217;t harm you. The fire will help you. </span><br /> <span style="color: #000000;">The fire won&#8217;t burn you. The fire will empower you. </span><br /> <span style="color: #000000;">The fire won&#8217;t scar you. The fire will captivate your heart. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">God is not a man who lies. God is not someone who needs to repent. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">God promises to baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. You don&#8217;t have to live a life of complacency and compromise. You can be renewed and refreshed. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">This promise is reaffirmed in Hebrews 1:7 (NIV), where it says, “In speaking of the angels He says, ‘He makes His angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.’ ” </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">That&#8217;s my prayer for you. That God would make you, His servants, His flames of fire. I want you to know that to become flames of fire you must spend extended times in prayer. You must spend extended times fasting. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Ask God to baptize you in fire. </span></p> <p><strong><span style="color: #000000;">Ask Him to drive out the dryness of your heart and fill you with the power of the Holy Spirit.</span></strong></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">What would happen if you became on fire for God? </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Your family and this generation, I have no doubt, will be transformed. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">I invite you to pray this: I pray, Lord, that the fire of the Holy Spirit will fall on the hearts of everybody around the world. Burn up the dryness of our hearts. Burn out the complacency of our souls. Capture our hearts, once again. Mesmerize us with your beauty. God do it again. Change us. In Jesus&#8217; name. Amen.</span></p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0-Sacfju8Bs" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> Do You Need To Be Renewed? https://davidireland.org/blog/2022/06/25/do-you-need-to-be-renewed/ David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:b4776a54-7114-5e32-7c79-ae55822e04f3 Sat, 25 Jun 2022 16:06:47 -0500 Do you feel exhausted? Is your heart heavy? Are you weary from the battle? If you find yourself in this place, don’t lose hope, God has a plan. He wants... <p>Do you feel exhausted? Is your heart heavy? Are you weary from the battle?</p> <p>If you find yourself in this place, don’t lose hope, God has a plan. He wants to renew you and breathe life into your spirit, soul and body.</p> <p>I invite you to pray with me before you continue reading.</p> <p><strong>Pray:</strong> Father, thank you so much for how You love us. I ask that You would tamper with my heart today in a masterful, memorable and meaningful way. Let this teaching spark and renew life in me. In Christ&#8217;s name. Amen.</p> <p>We&#8217;re in a global community where people are tired and there’s a lethargy among those in the Christian Church. There&#8217;s a sense of exhaustion in their hearts.</p> <p>Nevertheless, I believe we can have an experience like what Jeremiah, the prophet, talked about in Lamentations 5:21, “Bring us back to yourself, O Lord, so that we may return to you; renew our life as in the days before.”</p> <p>To <em><strong>renew</strong></em> means to <em><strong>spring up, sprout and move forward again</strong></em>.</p> <p>What would happen if you prayed that prayer Jeremiah prayed hundreds of years ago? What if you prayed for God to renew an affection for spiritual things, a hunger for your devotion to God, and a deep thirst for your growth as a disciple of Christ?</p> <p>In the book of Revelation, chapter three, we can see God&#8217;s heart in regards to being personally renewed. Revelation 3:14-18 says, “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God&#8217;s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.’ ”</p> <p>Jesus is intimately concerned about your spiritual strength and where you are in your level of passion and zeal for God.</p> <p>The message to the Laodicean congregation is still appropriate for us today. Let’s walk through each layer of the words he had for this community of believers.</p> <h2>What was God&#8217;s complaint?</h2> <p>The church had become lukewarm in its devotion to God in its spiritual disciplines. The church was experiencing a sense of apathy. And Jesus was speaking to the Laodicean church that there should always be a sense of zeal, passion and excitement for the things of God.</p> <p>When Jesus said, I am the Amen; He was saying it&#8217;s a done deal, and I&#8217;m not changing my mind or the relationship I want with My church. My church must be a passionate and zealous church that&#8217;s on fire for God.</p> <p>And so the question is, “What was God’s complaint?”</p> <p>God&#8217;s concern was that the gospel in that church at Laodicea had gotten to the place where it was lukewarm. And Jesus was saying, I can&#8217;t tolerate lukewarmness.</p> <p>The temperature of the gospel is supposed to be fiery hot. That means the temperature of Christ-followers is supposed to be red hot. And when our spiritual thermostat is set on something different than that, God has a complaint.</p> <p>To the Laodiceans and to us today, God wanted to make it undeniably clear that salvation is too amazing to produce apathy. It&#8217;s too captivating to create complacency. The majesty of God is too beautiful to foster boredom. God&#8217;s major complaint was that the church had become lukewarm.</p> <p>He essentially said “I wish you were either hot or cold. I wish you were hot, fiery and zealous for God. I wish you were passionate in your pursuit of Christ. I wish you were being renewed to grow up, sprout and move forward.”</p> <p>Coldness says you&#8217;re distant and disconnected. You are in a place where you&#8217;re like an unbeliever. Cold means you make no claims that you&#8217;re a Christ-follower. It’s being frigid towards God. You are unrepentant, unmoved and living in unbelief about the things of God.</p> <p>God has a big problem with this.</p> <p>Jesus became upset and used language that seems so antithetical to the nature and character of God, but it wasn&#8217;t. He was blunt. He said “you guys are lukewarm, and I will spit you out of my mouth.” He made it clear he was allergic to lukewarmness. He despised it.</p> <p>We live in a day and age where we must model authentic Christianity. We have to get on fire for God. We can&#8217;t allow our hearts to become cold, distant and disconnected from the things of God.</p> <p>Jesus was very clear.<br /> He said I wish that you were either hot or cold. In saying that, He was saying, at least I know where you stand. Lukewarmness, complacency, indifference and apathy lead to being faithless and fruitless.</p> <p>Are you complacent in your walk with the Lord?</p> <p>Are you pursuing God with a dogged tenacity?</p> <p><em><strong>If not, God is registering a complaint against you today.</strong></em></p> <p>I love what Francis Chan, noted author and pastor, says about lukewarm people. He says, “Lukewarm people tend to choose what is popular over what is right. Lukewarm people don&#8217;t really want to be saved from their sin; they want to be saved from the penalty of their sin. Lukewarm people rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers, or friends. Lukewarm people are thankful for their luxuries and comforts, and rarely consider trying to give as much as possible to the poor.”</p> <h2>Are you guilty of being lukewarm?</h2> <p>It can happen to anyone. It doesn&#8217;t happen all at once, but slowly over time. We miss our time with God and don’t engage in spiritual worship. We miss being a part of the community experience of being a Christ-follower. It&#8217;s when we ignore the convictions of the Holy Spirit. When we push and suppress when God is whispering to us; we allow disobedience to be rampant in our lives. All those things become symptoms of what will lead to lukewarmness.</p> <p>Being lukewarm warps you into being a professional Christian. And a professional Christian is someone who is not a good model of the Christian faith. A professional Christian is comfortable and never ruffles feathers. A professional Christian lets many things go by because they want to fit in and don’t want to rock the boat. They don&#8217;t want to offend anyone.</p> <p>Jesus was always in the business of offending. Not in a disrespectful manner, but God&#8217;s righteous anger would occasionally rise up in Him.</p> <p>Look, I&#8217;m not suggesting you need to walk around your job as this angry Christian. No. I&#8217;m suggesting that there should be such a fire in your belly for God that you wouldn’t act like the world. There must be a distinction between you and those just saved in name only.</p> <p>Let your belief and your behavior exude passion for God.</p> <h2>How did the Laodiceans respond?</h2> <p>They didn’t repent, and there was no remorse. They were not pursuing God. Instead, their response had three parts to it.</p> <p><strong>One</strong>: They said we are rich and focused on accumulating earthly funds. They had lost their zeal to acquire heavenly fortunes. It’s lukewarmness when you are only concerned about filling your pockets with money. There should be other goals you pursue rather than monetary goals. What about souls? What about your family coming to know Christ as savior? What about your calling? The Laodicean response was basically, “I’m good, I&#8217;m rich.”</p> <p><strong>Two</strong>: They said they had it made. Their desire for creature comforts made them pitiful and powerless for God. A life of spiritual comfort lacks fire and passion in pursuit of God. It cannot deliver people from the enemy&#8217;s powers and entrapment.</p> <p><strong>Three</strong>: The Laodiceans said they didn’t need anything from anyone. In other words, independence and self-sufficiency drive you further away from God. Lukewarm people believe success is measured by sufficiency.</p> <p>God is calling each of us to be renewed in our zeal for Him.</p> <p>He is calling us to be hot in pursuit of Him.</p> <h2>What was God&#8217;s counsel?</h2> <p>God never corrects us without offering counsel. He never challenges us without advising us on what to do to meet His expectation. God&#8217;s answer to how we can become renewed and move on the road towards fiery Christianity with zeal for the Lord is this:</p> <p>We must hold to the conviction that normative Christianity is not tepid Christianity. Our default setting should be burning with passion for the things of God.</p> <p>Our minds must be firm, locked in and resolute so we don’t fall into apathy. We can’t allow ourselves to rationalize and accept lukewarmness. We must hold to the promise of Hebrews 1:7, which says, “God makes his servants flames of fire.”</p> <p>Our prayer must always be for God to make us a flame of fire, to be baptized in the fire of the Holy Spirit. We must ask God to move us to where we are burdened for souls. We must ask God to break out hearts for what breaks His.</p> <p>Lukewarmness is not true Christianity. It is a distortion of the Christian faith.</p> <p>God is trying to help us reframe our thinking and understanding that normative Christianity is a fiery zeal for God. Allow me to give you a visual to anchor this idea:</p> <p>Christianity is not like a cruise ship, it’s a battleship. We&#8217;re in a war to advance the kingdom of God. We&#8217;re in a war for the souls of men and women. We&#8217;re in a war to fulfill our destiny and God&#8217;s plans for our lives.</p> <h2>Do you want renewal?</h2> <p>If you want renewal, your heart must declare:</p> <p>God, I will not give you some lame excuse.<br /> God, you got me.<br /> God, you found me.<br /> God, you pulled me out of the pit of indifference I was in.<br /> God, you pointed to my complacent heart.<br /> And God, I&#8217;m asking you to forgive me and turn me around.</p> <p>Think about how powerful it would be if you were on fire for God.</p> <p>I want you to see that God is doing something deep inside you. He’s doing the work of clearing out what doesn’t belong. And I want to invite you to join me on a journey towards personal renewal.</p> <p><strong>Let us not be cold. Let’s be on fire for God.</strong></p> <p>I encourage you to close this time of study and reflection with this prayer: Heavenly Father, let the power of the Holy Spirit fall on the dry parts of my soul. Renew my affection for You and sacred things. Help me pursue you with zeal and ruthless tenacity. God awaken in me a hunger and a thirst to commune and connect with you. In Christ&#8217;s name. Amen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H_P33tN-PKY" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> Incarnational Hermeneutics https://specs12.wordpress.com/2022/06/24/incarnational-hermeneutics/ perSpectives 12 urn:uuid:f6579f5f-a66e-68b4-7b34-a3360dc3d94d Fri, 24 Jun 2022 12:42:29 -0500 As a field of study, hermeneutics features the science and the art of Biblical interpretation to determine understanding and meaning &#8230;<p><a href="https://specs12.wordpress.com/2022/06/24/incarnational-hermeneutics/">Continue reading <span class="meta-nav">&#8594;</span></a></p> <p>As a field of study, hermeneutics features the science and the art of Biblical interpretation to determine understanding and meaning of Scriptural text. From the Greek <em>hermeneuo</em>, it purposes to explain and translate. Hermeneutics bridges understanding from the reader to the intent of the original author whom God inspired to write His Word.</p> <p>Genesis 1:26-27 speaks to the first mention of the Incarnation. The expression image and likeness initially gives a composed portrait of God and a man united in a singular person, the Incarnation of God in Christ. This portrait continually builds upon itself throughout Genesis and ultimately the Bible, revealing both the Creator and the Seed of the woman. Further, as Scripture progressively reveals its meaning, this perspective emerges into the background for interpreting and unifying God&#8217;s word. The Christo-Centric view increases knowledge of the Incarnation from Christ&#8217;s birth until His ascension and current standing in Heaven. In turn, the perspective renders the Incarnation’s historical, doctrinal, and theological purposes. </p> <div class="wp-block-image"> <figure class="aligncenter size-large is-resized"><a href="https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/7706a91b-66e5-4d57-8872-9bb5e057abf2-1.jpeg"><img loading="lazy" data-attachment-id="6185" data-permalink="https://specs12.wordpress.com/2022/06/24/incarnational-hermeneutics/7706a91b-66e5-4d57-8872-9bb5e057abf2-1/" data-orig-file="https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/7706a91b-66e5-4d57-8872-9bb5e057abf2-1.jpeg" data-orig-size="764,592" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{&quot;aperture&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;credit&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;camera&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;caption&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;created_timestamp&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;copyright&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;focal_length&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;iso&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;shutter_speed&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;title&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;orientation&quot;:&quot;0&quot;}" data-image-title="7706a91b-66e5-4d57-8872-9bb5e057abf2-1" data-image-description="" data-image-caption="" data-medium-file="https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/7706a91b-66e5-4d57-8872-9bb5e057abf2-1.jpeg?w=300" data-large-file="https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/7706a91b-66e5-4d57-8872-9bb5e057abf2-1.jpeg?w=529" src="https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/7706a91b-66e5-4d57-8872-9bb5e057abf2-1.jpeg?w=764" alt="" class="wp-image-6185" width="346" height="268" srcset="https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/7706a91b-66e5-4d57-8872-9bb5e057abf2-1.jpeg?w=346 346w, https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/7706a91b-66e5-4d57-8872-9bb5e057abf2-1.jpeg?w=692 692w, https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/7706a91b-66e5-4d57-8872-9bb5e057abf2-1.jpeg?w=150 150w, https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/7706a91b-66e5-4d57-8872-9bb5e057abf2-1.jpeg?w=300 300w" sizes="(max-width: 346px) 100vw, 346px" /></a></figure></div> <p></p> <p>The incarnational hermeneutic biblically defines the Incarnation in light of Scriptural truth. It breaks out the meaning of the mystery revealed&#8211;the Incarnation prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New. In 1 Tim 3:16, its author defined the Incarnation taking into account God made visible in the flesh as Jesus without controversy, seen by angels, pronounced righteous by the Spirit, received up in glory during the Ascension. The revelation brings to bear critical three points regarding the incarnational monotheistic belief, identity and mission of God and the Messiah, and bridge between testaments.</p> <figure data-carousel-extra='{"blog_id":12269709,"permalink":"https:\/\/specs12.wordpress.com\/2022\/06\/24\/incarnational-hermeneutics\/"}' class="wp-container-2 wp-block-gallery-1 wp-block-gallery has-nested-images columns-default is-cropped"></figure> <p>First, it affirms the monotheistic belief of Scripture of one God, the Creator and Father of all without personal distinctions in His nature (1 Cor 8:4-6; John 17:3). The Old Testament teaches belief in the one true God. He alone created earth and governs heaven.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Second, Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, embodies the human incarnation of the one God, the complete and personal revelation of what all Scripture says about God (1 Tim 3:16; Jn 10:30; Col 2:8). Jesus, as God manifested in flesh, fulfills in both identity and mission all the Word of God says about God and the Messiah. The Bible attributes all divine titles Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Yahweh, etc. to Him (1 Tm 2:5). </p> <p>Third, an incarnational hermeneutic as a periscope to interpret Scripture leads to a greater knowledge and understanding of God manifested in Christ, thus, bridging the divide between both testaments. It enables greater recognition of the truth, greatness, and sufficiency of Jesus’ person and redemptive work allowing application to various circumstances under the new covenant age. The bridging process allows recognition of Him in the Old Testament to connect with the teachings of His apostles.&nbsp;</p> <p>On a final note, Scripture defines the incarnational hermeneutic as a belief and understanding of God’s manifestation in flesh to reveal the person of Jesus and His mission giving an essential understanding that leads the people of God to the unity of the faith.</p> <p>June 24, 2022</p> <p>Pastor Daryl Cox</p> <p>Jan Paron, PhD</p> The Kindness Factor https://davidireland.org/blog/2022/06/18/the-kindness-factor/ David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:d8a4f813-13f3-f1e0-0e4d-41165a50e8c8 Sat, 18 Jun 2022 17:25:24 -0500 (this teaching can also be watched by scrolling to the bottom and clicking play) There seems to be a shortage of kindness these days. When looking out for ourselves is... <p><em>(this teaching can also be watched by scrolling to the bottom and clicking play)</em></p> <p>There seems to be a shortage of kindness these days. When looking out for ourselves is the primary basis for every decision made, it’s hard to care for and be kind to others. In this article, I want to lay out God’s plan for kindness and how as followers of Christ, we can be a light to the world by practicing kindness.</p> <p>Before you read today’s article, I encourage you to pray this prayer with me.</p> <p><strong>Prayer Starter:</strong> Father, thank you so much for how kind You are. I pray that as I read this article, the power of the Holy Spirit will minister to me personally. Open my heart to receive what you have for me. I ask you this in Christ&#8217;s name. Amen.</p> <p>We live in such an unkind world that acts of kindness seem odd, random, and out of place. The incredible thing is that normative Christianity is kindness.</p> <p>In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were visiting the city of Philippi. God used them powerfully, so much so that they cast a demon spirit out of a young slave girl that was a fortune-teller. When the demon came out of her, she could no longer use this divination or any acts of fortune-telling.</p> <p>Needless to say, her masters became enraged (the girl’s deliverance meant a financial loss for them), and they appealed to the local government there. As a result, the officials beat Paul and Silas, stripped them of their clothes, and threw them in prison.</p> <p>Acts 16:25 says, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once, all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We’re all here!’</p> <p>“The jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.”</p> <p>Instead of getting angry and scheming and coming up with a plot to break out of jail, these guys start singing and praying. Card on the table: I may have been scheming and plotting to escape somehow, but I&#8217;m humbled at their devotion to God.</p> <p>We see in this passage how the Holy Spirit used Paul and Silas, who were praying and singing at that midnight hour. Then the jail shook, cells opened, and cuffs fell off their hands and feet. This sent the jailer into such distress that he was about to kill himself because he knew the unspoken rule: If the prisoners escape, the Roman government will kill the jailer.</p> <p>So the jailer is about to commit suicide, but instead of committing suicide, he commits his life to Christ.<br /> That was a greater miracle than the jail cells opening and the cuffs falling off the hands and feet of the prisoners. It was the miracle of a changed life. Paul acted with kindness towards the jailer. To prevent the jailer from committing suicide, he shouted to the jailer that they were all still there.</p> <h3><strong>Kindness is a redemptive tool. God uses kindness.</strong></h3> <p>The kindness God calls His people to demonstrate has a more significant benefit than earthly benefits.<br /> It has a heavenly benefit. It redeems people. It turns them Godward. It opens up their minds to start having them ask you, why are you being kind to me?</p> <p>So, here&#8217;s this hardened jailer. He&#8217;s seen all kinds of criminals get incarcerated. Some on trumped-up charges, others legitimate thieves and murderers. And he saw individuals like Paul and Silas with bogus charges thrown at them. He&#8217;s seen all those things.</p> <p>He&#8217;s heard the clamor and the cries. He&#8217;s listened to some inmates sing secular songs. He’s heard people pray desperate prayers, but he knew there was a difference when Paul and Silas were praying their prayers and singing their songs to God.</p> <p>They prayed as if they knew God heard them. They sang from a place of a relationship with God.</p> <p>The jailer probably didn&#8217;t come to work that day thinking, “I want to find Jesus.” The text says he was asleep. That means that he&#8217;d heard them sing, heard them pray, and then somehow still fell asleep. God was not on his radar, but then a miracle occurred, and he asked Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?”</p> <p>God can use anybody at any time. God used Paul and Silas to help a hardened and apathetic jailer meet His Creator.</p> <p>When that jailer gave his life to Christ, he became more human. He started to recognize that his faith brought new feelings, and all of a sudden, the things on the inside of him became uncomfortable. Before, he had no problem dragging Paul and Silas into the prison, bleeding, broken, and beat up. They had been stained with blood, blood dripping down their faces and all over their bodies, and these facts did not affect the jailer one bit. It didn&#8217;t bother him because somehow when you are steeped in sin, sin numbs your soul and senses.</p> <p>Sin makes you no longer compassionate. Sin takes away your feelings of empathy about care for human beings.</p> <p>But when this jailer got saved that night, he knew that salvation was real. He experienced what it means to accept Christ, and he experienced God. It wasn&#8217;t a religious fad or an ideology.</p> <p>This jailer got set free from his numbness of soul and his lack of empathy. He got delivered and began to feel. And when he looked at Paul and Silas, he no longer saw people who deserved to be there. He looked at them and he was moved. He was driven to take action and began to wash their wounds.</p> <p>Kindness exploded in his heart.</p> <p>Kindness stems from the fact that you care.</p> <p>Do you have empathy?<br /> Do you see people?<br /> Do you feel their pain?</p> <p>Kindness is about compassion. It&#8217;s not about checking off a box that says you did a kind act.</p> <p>Kindness starts with the fact that your feelings change towards people even if they don&#8217;t share your faith or reciprocate your kindness. It’s about caring.</p> <h3>Kindness also challenges us to believe and feel differently.</h3> <p>Jesus challenges us in Luke 6:35, “But love those who hate you. Do good to them. Let them use your things and do not expect something back. Your reward will be much. You will be the children of the Most high. He is kind to those who are not thankful and to those who are full of sin. You must have loving-kindness just as your father has loving-kindness.”</p> <p>Jesus is saying your loving-kindness shouldn&#8217;t be segmented or limited to your family, friends, kids or cute little grandkids.</p> <p>Your loving-kindness should extend even to those who don&#8217;t treat you right, can&#8217;t reciprocate or may even owe you money. Your loving-kindness should be a lifestyle. Jesus is saying it should be drastic, transforming, and to the point of shocking others.</p> <p>I love what the award-winning and best-selling American author Og Mandino said, “Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight, extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward.”</p> <p>Do this, and your life will never be the same again.</p> <p>For more resources about reaching out to others and practicing kindness, visit our church website— <a href="https://christchurchusa.org/othersday/">ACCESS HERE.</a></p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/k5Bt-_JPCQA" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> What Would Jesus Say About Second Chances? https://davidireland.org/blog/2022/06/12/what-would-jesus-say-about-second-chances/ David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:4c00b046-60d4-a25a-718b-d15ada2adf62 Sun, 12 Jun 2022 07:20:58 -0500 (this teaching can also be watched by scrolling to the bottom and clicking play) Everyone needs a second chance in some area of their life. It makes for a great... <p><em>(this teaching can also be watched by scrolling to the bottom and clicking play)</em></p> <p>Everyone needs a second chance in some area of their life. It makes for a great comeback story, and who doesn’t love an inspiring narrative about a second chance?</p> <p><strong>Well, get this: Today can be the start of your comeback story—the beginning of your second chance—if you’re open to it.</strong></p> <p>I invite you to pray this before you read on: Father, thank you so much for how awesome you are. I pray that the power of your greatness will invade my life. Would you meet me at the point of my need? Meet me at my point of pain. I ask you this in Christ&#8217;s name. Amen.</p> <h3>What Would Jesus Say About Second Chances?</h3> <p>Let’s journey back to 1998, where there was a major scandal that blew up between President Bill Clinton and a young woman named Monica Lewinsky. It was a sex scandal, and Clinton was so passionate in his statement, insisting he “did not have sex with that woman.” Then the truth unraveled, and President Clinton had to come clean.</p> <p>Eventually came this apology in his confession: “I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I mislead people, including my wife. I deeply regret that.”</p> <p>When you dissect president Clinton&#8217;s statements, you&#8217;ll find that there was an apology and a confession—two key ingredients of a second chance. When President Clinton left office, surprisingly, his approval rating was 66%—higher than any other modern-day American president.</p> <p>Why is this relevant? What am I saying?</p> <p>I&#8217;m certainly not approving of his behavior. What I am pointing to is this—America loves a good comeback story.</p> <p>Everything about the Gospel message is a comeback story. It&#8217;s a great second chance story of God&#8217;s redemptive love and desire to restore. Think about it this way—if you have ever experienced a sense of brokenness, loss and fragmented relationships, you’ve likely felt like your life was falling apart. Maybe you’re in that place now and it’s causing you to wonder: “God, can I ever be restored?”</p> <p><em>His answer for you is an absolute “YES.”</em></p> <p>It’s like God has a defibrillator, except His defibrillator doesn’t use electricity to jump-start your heart. God&#8217;s defibrillator is repentance, then restoration. You repent, and God restores. Here’s the heart of this: God wants to jump-start your heart today so you can experience a second chance.</p> <p>I love a quote from author Melody Carlson on second chances—“I have been convinced that God thoroughly enjoys fixing and saving things that are broken. That means that no matter how hurt and defeated you feel, no matter how badly you have been damaged, God can repair you. God can give anyone a second chance.”</p> <p>I want you to know, God wants to give you a second chance.</p> <p>I also want you to understand how second chances work. There are certain things we must do to warrant God&#8217;s second chances. In the same way, there are certain things people in our lives must do to warrant a second chance from us.</p> <p><strong>The Prodigal Son</strong></p> <p>Let’s camp out looking at one of the most powerful comeback stories in all of the New Testament, the prodigal son.</p> <p>In Luke 15:11-24, the Scripture reads, “Jesus continued: ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.</p> <p>After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.</p> <p>When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” So he got up and went to his father.</p> <p>But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, “Father, I&#8217;ve sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let&#8217;s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.’ ”</p> <p>What a moving story in this parable of Jesus. A parable is a story with deep significance and two levels of meaning, earthly and heavenly. As Jesus shared this parable, He made it clear what He has to say about second chances.</p> <p>Here’s the breakdown: In this story, the prodigal son; the younger son; the reckless son; the wasteful son—he&#8217;s representative of you and me.</p> <p>We&#8217;ve been wasteful with God&#8217;s goods. We&#8217;ve been reckless with our lives. We&#8217;ve fallen short of God&#8217;s standards, and for many, we&#8217;ve just sinned and lived sinfully apart from God. The prodigal represents you and me. It represents my story and your story. And the father in the parable represents God.</p> <p>The father is so abundant with his love. He is so madly in love with his son and one way he shows this is through his willingness to give his son a second chance. Now I’d like you to look closely at how second chances work. Why? Because you might need a second chance or someone in your life may need a second chance from you.</p> <h3>What Would Jesus Have Said to This Boy?</h3> <p>As we deepen our understanding of second chances, another question to explore is: What would Jesus have said to this boy? What we see from the story is Jesus essentially saying the choice is yours.</p> <p>What do I mean by that? The love that the father had for his son was so overwhelming. It was genuine love. Agape love, the God kind of love, so deep that he did not put restraint and try to force his son to stay home. His posture was—“Son, it&#8217;s your choice.”</p> <p>See, love gives free will. Love recognizes that there can&#8217;t be true love if there&#8217;s no freedom of choice. And so here we see something was churning inside of this young man—the enticement of the world, the lore of whatever was out there. He looked and he thought the grass was greener on the other side, and somehow, he thought his father&#8217;s love was restrictive and restraining.</p> <p>When the boy asked his father for his portion of the inheritance, that was one of the most disrespectful things that a young man can do in Middle Eastern society because what it meant culturally was, &#8220;Father, I wish you were dead.&#8221; This is the case because it was only when the father was on his deathbed, that he would give out the inheritance.</p> <p>One-third of the inheritance would go to the younger son and two-thirds would go to the oldest son. The oldest son is supposed to take care of his mother and the other siblings with his inheritance. So the father, because he loved his son so much, had to put up with the disgrace and the shame of hearing his son say, &#8220;Father, give me my portion of the inheritance.&#8221; Why did the father let him go? Because it was the son&#8217;s choice.</p> <p>I love what Dr. R.C. Sproul says, &#8220;Something terrible has happened to us. We have lost all desire for God. The thoughts and desires of our heart are only evil continuously. The freedom of our will is a curse. Because we can still choose according to our desires, we choose sin and thus we become accountable to the judgment of God.&#8221;</p> <p>The prodigal son; the reckless son; the wayward son; the wasteful son—he misinterpreted the father&#8217;s love, which reflected safety and security. He misinterpreted it to be stifling and suffocating, and as a result, he leaves.</p> <p><strong>The Choice Is Yours</strong></p> <p>I want you to see that the choice is yours. Oftentimes when we make choices, those choices can lead us down the wrong path.</p> <p>For the prodigal son, it seemed as if his path was going to be a delight, but all it did was create depression. I want you to see that though we have the choice, sometimes our choices create a spiral that take us down into a hole of pain, and this prodigal son experienced that.<br /> The good news is there&#8217;s always an opportunity to experience a second chance.</p> <p>Are You in a Distant Country?</p> <p>Now let’s take a trip back to 2009. It was then the clean-cut, golden boy image of highly respected golfer, Tiger Woods, was greatly tarnished. Tiger was forced to come clean and address the world because his choices had created a lot of pain.</p> <p>Here&#8217;s what Tiger said, &#8220;I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn&#8217;t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled, thanks to money and fame. I didn&#8217;t have to go far to find them.&#8221;</p> <p>That&#8217;s exactly what happened when the prodigal son got his inheritance. Scripture says he went to a distant country. A distant country is not necessarily a far place where you&#8217;re a foreigner. It&#8217;s a place where God&#8217;s a foreigner to you. See, a distant country is a place where you&#8217;re outside of the eyes and the connections of your family and your faith. A distant country is where you&#8217;re far away from God and far away from faith.</p> <p>My question to you now is this: Are you in a distant country? You may have never left home, but you&#8217;re far away from God. You may have never left the comfort of your family connections, but you&#8217;re far away from your faith.</p> <p>God wants your heart and he wants to give you a second chance. He wants you to be a part of his family. He wants you to be strong, vibrant and flourishing as a follower of Jesus.</p> <p>This young boy, like Tiger, was in a distant country because of his choices. A distant country where family is out of sight, and God is out of mind. I want you to see that in a distant country—that&#8217;s where you lose your creed, your convictions, your credibility, your character.</p> <p>If you&#8217;re in that distant country, Jesus wants to allow you to come home and experience a second chance. But first, I want you to see what&#8217;s necessary for a second chance.</p> <h3>What Is Necessary for a Second Chance?</h3> <p>In Luke, we read that after the prodigal son had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country and he began to be in need.</p> <p>So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.</p> <p>See, sin deceived this young boy. When he went to that distant country, he thought he was about to get all of the pleasures he had been fantasizing about. But instead, the deception of sin makes pleasure seem as if it&#8217;s right around the corner. But you know what&#8217;s really around the corner?</p> <p>Pain.</p> <p>See, sin is deceptive. It promises happiness, but instead, you experience sadness. This young boy lost all of his money with wild parties and sex—that&#8217;s what verse 30 tells us—and that he had all kinds of experiences that he never would&#8217;ve attempted at home. Why? Because home was his place of security and there, through the protection of his family, he was free from those kinds of vices.</p> <p>After he blew his inheritance, this young boy had to work with a pig farmer. Can you imagine a Jewish boy that hires himself out as a servant, so he can work for who? A Gentile pig farmer. In order to do that he had to stuff his feelings down every day. He had to ignore his faith every day. He had to then feed the pigs and this was especially demoralizing because Scripture says that he longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating.</p> <p>Pods come from a Carob tree. Interestingly, it&#8217;s called a poor man&#8217;s food because it has no nutrients. So, he longed to fill his stomach with the pods, the food that the pigs were eating, but no one gave to him. In essence, the farmer had rationed out and knew specifically how much food the pig should eat—and he made sure that no one, not even the boy, would eat the pigs&#8217; food. Not just because the farmer was concerned for his pigs. No, because he was very stingy and limited with his love.</p> <p>So this boy is hungry all the time, he&#8217;s working all the time, he&#8217;s stuffing his feelings down all the time, and he&#8217;s stuffing his faith down all the time. I want you to see how sin is a very difficult thing. It’s emptying. It leads to suffering.</p> <p>Proverbs 13:15 puts it succinctly, &#8220;&#8230;but the way of the sinful is hard.&#8221;</p> <p>If you have been away from God, I know it&#8217;s hard. It&#8217;s hard when you&#8217;re living in sin. It&#8217;s hard when you&#8217;re away from God. But I want you to see God always gives second chances. What would he say to the prodigal son as he&#8217;s there in the pigpen? I believe the thoughts of Jesus, and that the words would be:</p> <p><strong>The door is always open.</strong></p> <p>What door? The door back home. See the boy came to his senses. Scripture says in verse 17, “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!” He was awakened in the pigpen.</p> <p>He had to reframe and take a fresh look at the father&#8217;s love. He recognized—wait a second! My father&#8217;s love is not stifling. My father&#8217;s love is not suffocating. It really brings security, and it really provides safety. I want you to see he reframed his perspective on the father&#8217;s love and he recognized—hey, the door home is always open.</p> <p>The Tiger Effect</p> <p>May I bring you back to Tiger Woods&#8217; story? When he&#8217;s giving his global apology before the media, he continued by saying, &#8220;I was wrong. I was foolish. I don&#8217;t get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me. I brought shame on myself. I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife&#8217;s family, my friends, my foundation, and kids all around the world who admired me.&#8221;</p> <p>He ends his apology in confession, with these words—&#8221;Finally, there are many people in this room and there are many people at home who believed in me. Today I want to ask for your help. I ask you to find room in your hearts to one day believe in me again. Thank you.&#8221;</p> <p>I want you to recognize the power of, and the courage it requires to humble yourself, apologize and confess. We all can be sympathetic to the shame and the disgrace that Tiger and his family went through. But have you ever heard of the Tiger effect?</p> <p>When Tiger Woods plays golf, TV ratings, attendance and general interest in golf skyrockets. When he doesn&#8217;t play, the interest sags. According to Golf Digest, when Tiger returned for the 2018 British Open, TV ratings increased 38% from the previous year. When he returned for the 2018 PGA Championship, ratings increased 69% from the previous year.</p> <h3>Your Comeback Story</h3> <p>What am I saying? I&#8217;m saying that we all love a comeback story.</p> <p>Today I believe is the start of your comeback story. I believe it&#8217;s the beginning of the time when you are going to initiate a second chance. God is going to use His defibrillator on you. As you repent, you&#8217;ll experience restoration. God is going to shock your heart so you can come alive again, bounce back and experience a second chance.</p> <p>I want you to see that you must be able to do the first part, which is repentance. It includes making an apology and confession. They&#8217;re different. See, an apology expresses regret. It may be like this—&#8221;I&#8217;m sorry&#8230;&#8221;, but what you&#8217;ll see missing from an apology is you&#8217;re not taking ownership of what you&#8217;ve done and how it has hurt others.</p> <p>Confession is different. It adds a dimension to apologizing, and a confession is an admission of guilt. It&#8217;s an admission of wrong. It&#8217;s an admission of sin. A confession may go like this—&#8221;I&#8217;m sorry that I hurt you. It was my fault. I sinned. I created a mess.&#8221;</p> <p>That&#8217;s why when the prodigal son was in that pigpen, he started to rehearse his apology and confession. He said, &#8220;I&#8217;m going to go back home. I&#8217;m going to say to my father, ‘Father, I&#8217;ve sinned against heaven, God, and I&#8217;ve sinned against you. In other words—I created a mess.’ ”</p> <p>The prodigal son is owning his sin. He&#8217;s owning his offense. He&#8217;s not blaming. He&#8217;s not deflecting. We have to do the same when we fall short. You have to own your sin. Then you can see you are ready for God to use his defibrillator and jump-start you into that place of a renewed relationship with him. This is how you come home.</p> <h3>What Would Jesus Say to the Young Man?</h3> <p>The young man comes to his senses as Luke 15:20 reads, &#8220;So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.&#8221;</p> <p>Do you know what Jesus would say? Jesus would say, “Welcome home!”</p> <p>I love what Aristotle said regarding the mindset of Middle Eastern thinking. He says, &#8220;Great men never run in public.&#8221; Running in public represented shame, but the father? His actions were insane—because he loved his son with a radical love.</p> <p>That&#8217;s how God loves us. The father pulls up the hem of his garment and runs toward his son. When he sees him, he begins to kiss him. The son is preparing his apology confession. He says, &#8221; ‘Father, I&#8217;ve sinned against heaven and I&#8217;ve sinned against you. I&#8217;m no longer worthy to be your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.’ &#8221;</p> <p>The father stops his speech and says, &#8221; ‘Quick, bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let&#8217;s have a feast and celebrate. For the son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”</p> <p>The father ran toward his son and threw his arms around him. The son apologized and confessed, &#8220;Father, I sinned against God and I sinned against you. My junk, my mistakes, my mess—I own it, father.”</p> <p>The Difference Between an Apology and a Confession.</p> <p>There&#8217;s a difference between an apology and a confession. An apology says I have regret. A confession says I have guilt and shame. I did you wrong and I&#8217;m owning it. An apology is not fully manning up. A confession is when you really own your stuff. When you do that, God puts his defibrillator on your chest. He jump-starts you back into a second chance.</p> <p>The father did that with the son. In Middle Eastern society, the servant would kiss his master on his hand or his feet, but you kiss an equal on the cheek. The father kissed his son on the cheek to say, you&#8217;re not a servant. You are my son.</p> <p>He threw a robe around him. Not because he was naked. He threw a robe around him because the robe represents that you are restored. I cover your sin. I forgive you of your sin. He put a ring on his finger, not to make sure he had jewelry. The ring signalizes trust. The ring signalizes authority.</p> <p>You&#8217;re not a servant, you&#8217;re a son.</p> <p>You&#8217;re not a hired servant. You are my son. Then he was saying to the community in general, this is the way I&#8217;m dealing with my son who has sinned, who has apologized, who has confessed—I&#8217;ve given him a second chance.</p> <p>So he said, kill the fattened calf and let&#8217;s celebrate. In other words, let&#8217;s have a big community-wide party. My son, who is lost, is back home. My son, who is in a distant country, is back home. My son has been given a second chance. The father was essentially communicating to all, “If I forgave him if I restored him and if I&#8217;m celebrating him, then you as a community should do the same.”</p> <p>I want you to see the power of second chances, but the son had to first apologize and confess. When you make a confession, you&#8217;re giving your power back to the person that you&#8217;ve offended. That person now has the freedom to either give you back the power to restore you or not.</p> <p>When that son said to his father, &#8220;Father, I&#8217;ve sinned against heaven and I&#8217;ve sinned against you, make me like one of your hired servants,&#8221; he was giving the power of sonship back to his father. The father then gave it back to him What Would Jesus Say to Defend You? https://davidireland.org/blog/2022/06/05/what-would-jesus-say-to-defend-you/ David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:4e49c93d-597a-187d-0e1a-42f08637d5c5 Sun, 05 Jun 2022 05:43:06 -0500 (this teaching can also be watched by scrolling to the bottom and clicking play) If you had to stand before God and ask Him if heaven could be the place... <p><em>(this teaching can also be watched by scrolling to the bottom and clicking play)</em></p> <p>If you had to stand before God and ask Him if heaven could be the place where you live eternally, and God says, “Why should I let you in?” What will be your defense? May I suggest to you, rather than you trying to concoct something, have Jesus defend you.</p> <p><strong>Prayer Starter:</strong> Father, I thank you so much for your eternal kindness towards us. As I receive your word today, let it be as if I were sitting at the feet of Jesus. As I’m learning and growing, teach me how to be more like the person you’ve called me to be. I pray this in Jesus&#8217; very name. Amen.</p> <h3>What would Jesus say to defend you?</h3> <p>If you needed to be defended before others, by someone who can defend you passionately and persuasively, what would their argument be? What would be their line of reasoning?</p> <p>I read a most interesting legal case back in 2009. The attorney was defending a guy being accused of murder. His defense attorney used the argument called the “fat defense.” The attorney argued that his client could not have killed his son-in-law because he was too fat to have killed him. The guy was 5’8, 300 pounds.</p> <p>He said that for him to drive 21 hours from Florida all the way to New Jersey, to be able to shoot his son-in-law in the leg, run up the steps behind his son-in-law and then shoot him in the back, was simply impossible.</p> <p>The attorney continued, saying, my client has all kinds of medical problems, sleep apnea and diabetes. There&#8217;s no way he could have gone to the landing of the steps and then shot him with good aim. No way.</p> <p>Can you guess what happened? Unsurprisingly, he got arrested. Why? Because the defense was weak.</p> <p>There&#8217;s a story in The Bible that tells us the line of argument that Jesus used when he was defending people.</p> <p>In Luke 19:1-10, the Scripture reads, “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’ But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’”</p> <p>Let&#8217;s go back and stand in the crowd that was flanking the road in Jericho to really understand how Jesus defended this man named Zacchaeus and won the case.</p> <p>The Jordan trade route was very popular, and it allowed for a lot of commerce to take place. As a result, Jericho was considered a very popular and wealthy community. The Roman government stationed tax collectors throughout the route to make sure they would be able to get their piece of the pie, as individuals were traveling along the trans-Jordan route.</p> <p>The tax collectors at the time had to wager with the government as to how much tax they&#8217;ll give the government. So if the government says the taxes are $20, the tax collector can try to get $25, $30, $35, $40 from the people, give the government $20, and pocket the rest. Because of this, tax collectors were considered to be frauds.</p> <p>Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. He&#8217;s getting a piece of the pie — not only from the people but from the other tax collectors. Essentially, he became wealthy as a result of his defrauding people. He was a short man and he couldn&#8217;t see Jesus, so he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed the sycamore tree.</p> <p>He&#8217;s perched in the tree like a bird, and when Jesus comes to the spot where he was, Jesus looks up and says, Zacchaeus come down immediately, I want to go to your home. In other words — I want to spend the night there, have dinner and be able to recharge myself in your company. The moment that happened, the problems started.</p> <p>The crowd knew who Zacchaeus was. They thought this guy was no good. They started to mutter, just whispering out loud under their breath. They couldn&#8217;t even hold themselves back. They didn&#8217;t call his name. They just said he&#8217;s gone to be the guest of a sinner. There are two problems that arise in the text.</p> <p>How could Jesus be so foolish to go and be in the home of a guy who’s just a rank, no-good sinner? He&#8217;s a defrauder! How could Jesus allow himself to get duped? Does Jesus not know that he&#8217;ll be polluted by Zacchaeus’ behavior?</p> <p>How could Zacchaeus have the gall to entertain a rabbi, a teacher, a good man — Jesus, who purports to be the savior of the world? How could he entertain someone like that, knowing that he&#8217;s so base?</p> <p>The crowd muttered, but something happened to Zacchaeus up in that tree. He had experienced something in the tree, but I want you to see the transformation and how Jesus defended him.</p> <p><em><strong>What are the charges?</strong></em></p> <p>Before He defends, Jesus would first ask, what are your charges Zacchaeus? What&#8217;s your crime? See, in the first century, these tax collectors were placed on the same social totem pole as harlots and sinners. Zacchaeus was charged with two crimes — the first extortion, the second a moral crime, which is being a sinner.</p> <p>Extortion, because he had despised his own countrymen and his own Jewish people, being Jewish himself. He’s a sellout to the Roman government. He&#8217;s working for the oppressive government, and he&#8217;s oppressing his own people with coercive shakedowns to be able to extort money from them. How could he do something so reprehensible?</p> <p>That was the accusation being leveled against Zacchaeus. The second one was that he&#8217;s “the sinner.” They didn&#8217;t even call him by his name. They just used a pronoun and adjective to describe him as, “the sinner.”</p> <p>The Greek word, “amarantos,” means unfading. It’s where we get the English word “amaranth,” like the beautiful flower. Amaranth means unfading because the amaranth flower is so bright. It&#8217;s so picturesque. It&#8217;s so robust in its color that when you see the red version of the amaranth, it&#8217;s flaming red.</p> <p>That was Zacchaeus’ second charge — that he is a flaming sinner. He doesn&#8217;t sin quietly and under wraps. He’s bold and audacious with his sin. He&#8217;s public with his sin. Now I don&#8217;t know about you, but before I came to Christ, I was a good sinner.</p> <p><strong>Sinner vs. Rank Sinner</strong></p> <p>Let me explain — I didn&#8217;t sin publicly. People would ask about David Ireland and they might say, he&#8217;s such a nice guy! But I sinned with finesse, I made my sin look nice and polished, with a bow and all. They didn&#8217;t know what my heart was. They didn&#8217;t know the filthiness of my mind. They didn&#8217;t know my ethics. They didn&#8217;t know any of those things. All they saw was the outward thing. I was happy to admit I was a sinner, but not a rank sinner.</p> <p>If I were there, I would’ve been charged with the same moral crime as Zacchaeus — being a sinner. Paul gives us his perspective on the topic of being charged with the crime of being a sinner in Romans 3 verse 23. Paul says, “Everyone has sinned and is far away from God&#8217;s saving presence.”</p> <p>See, most people don&#8217;t compare themselves in that way. We’re always comparing ourselves to someone that&#8217;s worse than us. I want you to understand the need for us to be able to recognize what it means to be a rank sinner, and that rank sinners are just as damaging as polite sinners.</p> <p>The crowd thought Zacchaeus was no good. They thought he was a defrauder of people — a reckless, flaming sinner. Before Jesus could defend Zacchaeus, he must have first asked him, “What are your charges? The second question Jesus would ask is, “How do you plead?”</p> <p><strong>How do you plead?</strong></p> <p>Are you being charged with this crime of extortion? Are you guilty or not guilty, Zacchaeus? Now I understand extortion. That&#8217;s pretty easy. That&#8217;s a money issue, and he will deal with that. But the moral crime, that&#8217;s where most people don&#8217;t realize. Because again, if you stand before God, you&#8217;re gonna have to give an account.</p> <p>When He says, and you have to answer His question, how do I let you into heaven? Why should I let you into heaven? You can&#8217;t use a flimsy defense because it won&#8217;t work with God — He sees everything. He knows everything. He has everything under wraps. It&#8217;s like trying to outrun a bear. You can’t outrun a bear. You can&#8217;t outswim a bear. You could swim, you could climb, you could run, but the best thing you can do is just lay down.</p> <p>A sinner is someone not only whose life misses the mark but is someone who&#8217;s separated from God. When you&#8217;re separated from God, God&#8217;s not on your mind. He&#8217;s not on your radar. He&#8217;s not in your thoughts — that&#8217;s where Zacchaeus was.</p> <p>So Zacchaeus had a choice. How do you plead, guilty or not guilty? Let&#8217;s be clear, Jesus knew Zacchaeus was guilty. There was no question. The idea that Jesus wanted to go and dine at Zacchaeus’ home was not a message to say that He agreed with Zacchaeus’ behavior. It wasn&#8217;t that at all. He just wanted to minister to Zacchaeus behind closed doors, in a private setting, with him and his family.</p> <p>But the matter was interrupted because the crowd started muttering and making this a public issue. Now, if Zacchaeus pleaded not guilty to the crime, the moral crime of being a sinner, there&#8217;d be a huge problem.</p> <p>John 1:8-9 says, “If we say we have not sinned, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth isn&#8217;t in our hearts. But if we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.“</p> <p>I want you to see that anyone who thinks I&#8217;m a nice person — you may be, but you have to see yourself as a nice sinner? You sin with the best of them. It looks almost polished and choreographed your sin, but it&#8217;s still sin.</p> <p>Zacchaeus did not plead not guilty. He pled just the opposite — guilty — the moment his feet hit the ground. When Jesus stood there under the tree and said, “Zacchaeus come down immediately. I must go to your home,” then the people started muttering, “He&#8217;s gone to be the guest of the sinner.” When Zacchaeus heard their words, his guilty plea filled the air.</p> <p>Zacchaeus began to say out loud, look Lord, now I give half my possessions to the poor, and if I&#8217;ve defrauded anyone out of anything, I&#8217;ll give them four times the amount I owe them — that was Zacchaeus’ way of showing repentance. Something had happened in his heart. The guilt and shame of Zacchaeus’ behavior were eating him up inside.</p> <p>When he saw Jesus, something began to deal with his heart. The Holy Spirit began to chip away and he saw the shame of his actions, the guilt of his actions. Just like that, Zacchaeus knew he wasn’t in right relationship with God and he began to be transformed.</p> <p>As Jesus approached that tree, before he could even say, “Zacchaeus come down immediately. I must come to your home,” you know his mind may have gone back to remember how Jesus had been sympathetic to other tax collectors throughout His ministry. Matthew is in the crowd; one of Jesus&#8217;s 12 who used to be a tax collector, who was guilty of defrauding people. And he&#8217;s saying this man has been changed. He&#8217;s with Jesus. He&#8217;s one of the inner circle. He&#8217;s one of Jesus’ 12 apostles. That&#8217;s Matthew, and if Jesus can change Matthew, there&#8217;s grace there for Him to change me.</p> <h3>You’ve been Pardoned!</h3> <p>I want you to know no matter how far away you are from God, what sin may have clogged up the arteries of your soul, how guilt-ridden you may be, there’s a key. Something happened in Zacchaeus’ heart because the man that was perched on that tree was dead in God. The moment his feet hit that ground, he became alive in Christ. The man that was sitting on that tree was greedy. The man standing on that ground was generous. The man who was sitting in that tree, the people saw him and they saw his behavior. Jesus saw him and saw his beliefs. I want you to know Jesus is interested in your beliefs —that you believe in Him.</p> <p>Scripture says, believe in me and you shall be saved. God wants to defend you and pardon you, just like he did with Zacchaeus. The key is that Zacchaeus pled guilty when he recognized I need the Savior. There we see Zacchaeus change his heart. He saw Jesus on the ground. He knew Jesus. His repentance was there. He said, look, Lord, look Lord here. Now I give half my possessions to the poor. If I&#8217;ve cheated anybody out of anything, I&#8217;ll pay back four times the amount. Now we see clearly, what would Jesus say to defend you?</p> <p>He would&#8217;ve asked Zacchaeus, what are your charges? How do you plead? Assuming Zacchaeus pled guilty (and he did with his next words), Jesus would utter that you&#8217;ve been pardoned. Hallelujah. I want you to see Zacchaeus has been pardoned. When Zacchaeus hit that ground, the people started muttering under their breath. They&#8217;re saying He&#8217;s gone to be the guest of a sinner. How could He do that? But they didn&#8217;t know because they were looking at external past behavior.</p> <p>They didn&#8217;t recognize the change that Jesus did. The key? He had had a touch from the living God in the tree. So when his feet hit the ground, he was not the same man. He was alive in Christ. His heart had been changed. I want you to see the people wanted his hide, but Jesus wanted his heart.</p> <p>I want you to see when you&#8217;re saved, the moment you&#8217;re saved, a transformation is clear. Your worldview changes, and the way you see yourself changes. Your sins have been pardoned. Jesus had no doubt, no question, no hesitation — Zacchaeus, I pardon you.</p> <p>I want to ask you a question, “Can Jesus stand up confidently without any hesitation, can he defend you and pardon you before the throne of God?” If Jesus has to look the other way and hang his head, if he has to say, “I&#8217;m not sure if your name is written down in the Lamb’s book of life” — Jesus cannot pardon you. He pardons those who have been saved. He pardons those who&#8217;ve repented. He pardons those who&#8217;ve asked for forgiveness.</p> <p>If you’ve been transformed, Jesus doesn&#8217;t want your money. He wants your heart. He doesn&#8217;t want you to be religious, He wants you to be transformed. What Jesus wants is a relationship with you. I want to ask you a question, “Are you guilty or not?” If you plead not guilty, you must save yourself. If you are guilty, Jesus stands ready.</p> <p>If you want to be forgiven, pray this simple prayer: Look, Lord, I plead guilty to being a sinner. I need your pardon. Come into my heart. Lord Jesus, wash away my sins. Change me and help me to live for you every day of my life. Starting right now. I ask you this in Jesus&#8217; name. Amen.</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/CEU9DhHSdXs" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> Mediator for the Marginalized, 4 http://thefrontporch.org/2022/05/mediator-for-the-marginalized-4/ The Front Porch urn:uuid:dd646ad5-1e30-c905-7e35-86221896287c Mon, 02 May 2022 06:36:00 -0500 <p>As we consider Jesus’s mediation for the marginalized, we see the Serving Sovereign, who “raises up the poor from the dust."</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/05/mediator-for-the-marginalized-4/">Mediator for the Marginalized, 4</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p>Does absolute power corrupt absolutely? We’ve heard the saying time and time again. Even worse, we’ve seen so many examples of corrupted power we now take its truth for granted as a sort of social law. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Indeed, the Preacher in Ecclesiastes told us, “…there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9). He saw oppressions, with power on the side of the oppressors and the oppressed having no one to comfort them (Ecc. 4:1). It seems like this corruption infects all authority. However, the source and standard for all authority, Jesus Christ, gives us a different picture. As we consider Jesus’s mediation for the marginalized, we see the Serving Sovereign, who “raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap and makes them to sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor” (1 Sam. 2:8).</p> <p>As King, Jesus upholds the cause of the poor and organizes a beloved community of mutuality. In doing so, He mediates the reign of God, which brings shalom to all. The reign of God appears at the outset of biblical revelation. In Genesis 1-2, God is a King who rules reality by His word.  Under His rule, creation flourishes as a harmonious kingdom. He places mankind at the center of His creation, in Eden to exercise dominion as His vice-regents.  However, Adam’s sin vandalizes shalom, so that sin and death reign (Romans 5:17, 21). Satan becomes “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4), the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). Under sin, humanity walks in ruin and misery and practices violence (Ro. 3:10-18). What’s In a context where hostility and ruin characterize human society (Tit. 3:3), the poor and weak suffer the most (Ps. 12) because they don’t have the means to protect themselves.</p> <p>As King, God rescued His people from oppression in Egypt (Ex. 20:1, Ps. 114, 135:8-12) and created a beloved community. By “beloved community,” I mean a community of God’s beloved children (Dt. 7:7, 33:12, Eph. 5:1) where the focus of all relationships is love (Dt. 6:5, Lv. 19:18). This love manifests in mutuality, a conviction that everyone’s flourishing is interconnected and interdependent. Under God’s rule, Israel was so concerned with this sort of love that they were to build their houses with their neighbor’s safety in mind (Dt. 22:8). If they found an enemy’s stray animal, they were to return it (Ex. 23:4-5). They understood that the poor had a right to their possessions, in a sense (Lev. 19:9-10). As King, Yahweh formed a community that was to embody His concern for the poor (Ps. 12:5-6, 82:1-8, 146:5-10). After establishing a human monarchy in Israel, the Prophets and Writings hope for the ideal king who will defend the cause of the weak (Ps. 72, Pr. 31:8-10). Unfortunately, Israel’s authorities fall woefully short, instead devouring the poor (Jer. 23:1-4).</p> <p>Because of this, the prophets look forward to the king who will “faithfully bring forth justice” (Is. 42:1-4). The Branch of Jesse, the Son of David, will “decide with equity for the meek of the earth (Is. 11:4). Jesus arrives on the scene as the Son of David (Matt. 1:1, Luke 18:38) who redefines authority. Rather than “lording it over” those without power (Matt. 20:25, 1 Pet. 5:3), Jesus the King uses His authority to serve (Mk. 10:45, Php. 2:5-8). Such an authority alleviates the poor and weak from being left to the insufficiency of their own resources. The King of Kings stoops to serve and care for them, calling His people to do the same (Matt. 25). As King, Jesus makes war on the most tyrannical of all authorities oppressing the poor, namely sin, Satan, and death (Ro. 6:6-7, Col. 2:11-15, Heb. 2:14-15) and defeats them. He also judges unjust earthly authorities (Psalm 7:2-4, Psalms 58 and 82), symbolized as Babylon in Revelation.</p> <p>All of this happens as Jesus establishes the kingdom of God. Since Jesus is God, His kingship restores the dynamic reign of God over the world, thus re-establishing shalom. This reign, though not fully consummated, is realized in this age primarily in the church, the beloved community of mutuality Jesus establishes. In the church, “all are one in Christ” (Gal. 3:28), serving love is the ethic (Ph. 1:28, Gal. 5:6, 13-15, Ro. 13:8-10), and those in need receive impartial care (Eph. 4:28, Ja. 2:1-13, Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-37). This love so defines Christ’s kingdom that Paul calls churches to provide for the church in Jerusalem financially without qualification (2 Cor. 8-9, Rom. 15:22-29). Christ the King exalts the lowly (Lk. 1:51-53, cf. 1 Sam. 2:7-8) and brings shalom to poor and weak.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/05/mediator-for-the-marginalized-4/">Mediator for the Marginalized, 4</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> Mediator for the Marginalized, Pt. 3 http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/mediator-for-the-marginalized-pt-3/ The Front Porch urn:uuid:0c61d6fa-bfe7-2356-4f8d-96ececd7fdbc Tue, 29 Mar 2022 05:48:25 -0500 <p>Does the gospel we preach declare dignity and deliverance while denouncing oppression for all people?</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/mediator-for-the-marginalized-pt-3/">Mediator for the Marginalized, Pt. 3</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p>There are some words that once carried force in their original context, but now they’re used so freely that they’ve lost their edge. It’s like a stench in a room, it nearly takes your breath away at first, but then you find yourself accustomed to it and barely notice it. The word “awful” strikes me that way. “Thy goodness to thy saints of old an awful thing appeared,” F. W. Faber once said. “Awful” conjures images of a splitting sea, sounds of rolling thunder and earthquakes. Now, when you say “That’s awful,” it doesn’t strike you that way, does it? Another word that has lost its sharpness? “Prophetic.” It still carries undertones of uncanny prescience or insight, but it doesn’t come with the weight of “thus saith the Lord.” Perhaps this is due to our general neglect of authoritative statements, but the fact stands. To be “prophetic” often just means “saying what my tribe says but others disagree with.” Not so with Jesus’s prophetic ministry. Every time Jesus speaks, it’s “thus saith the Lord.” How then, does His prophetic ministry benefit the needy? Before we answer that question, we need to consider the office of prophet more broadly.</p> <p>The prophetic office finds its paradigm in Moses, the man of God (Dt. 18:15-22, 34:10). If the primary role of the priest is mediation concerning <em>representation</em>, the role of the prophet is mediation concerning <em>revelation</em> (Heb. 1:1, 2 Pet. 1:19-21).  Through the prophets, Yahweh frames reality in light of who He is and in light of His covenant with His people. For our purposes here, <strong><em>the prophets’ ministry benefits the marginalized in that they declare the good news of dignity and deliverance while decrying oppression.</em></strong> These aspects are abundantly clear in the ministry of Moses, although they are not exclusive to him. Through Moses, Israel hears that all humanity is in God’s image, whether rich or poor, powerful or weak, male or female (Ge. 1:26-27, cf. Ge. 9:6, Ps. 8, Ja. 3:9). This dignifying declaration contrasted the Egyptian story of Israelite inferiority, like the rooster’s crow that breaks the morning stillness. One of the core values that Moses emphasizes is the equal treatment of the poor, widow, sojourner, and orphan (Ex. 22:21-24, Dt. 10:16-21). Because of this, the authorities are to show no partiality in judging (Dt. 1:17, 16:19) and those with resources should not seek to profit from the vulnerability of those in need (Dt. 23:17). On the contrary, those with resources ought to use them to seek the flourishing of those who lack them (Dt. 23:18-22).  As Israel descends into idolatry and drifts from embodying the heart of God revealed in His law, later prophets often function as covenant prosecutors, condemning Israel for her exploitation of the vulnerable (Is. 1:16-17, 5:8-10, 10:1-3, Jer. 7:5-14, Ez. 18:1-32, Am. 4:1-3, Mi. 2:1-13, etc.).</p> <p>The prophetic ministry for the marginalized is most clear in the Exodus and declaring Jubilee. In the Exodus, the prophet Moses confronts the oppressive tyrant Pharaoh and demands that he let Israel go (Ex. 5:1). In the Jubilee, Moses demonstrates God’s desire for there to be no permanent underclass in Israel.<a href="#_ftn1" name="_ftnref1">[1]</a> Every 50 years, there would be an opportunity for those who were poor to start over. Jubilee was a socioeconomic reset, a sort of civil exodus for those stuck in poverty. It makes sense, then, that subsequent prophets, in speaking of Israel’s deliverance from exile, speak in terms of exodus and Jubilee. This is abundantly clear in Isaiah 61, the passage Jesus takes up as the thematic overtone of His ministry in Luke 4.</p> <p>As the Prophet greater than Moses, the one who truly reveals God, (Jn. 1:1, 14-18., Heb. 1:1-2, Acts 3:17-26), Jesus declares the good news of freedom to those under Roman oppression (more on that in a bit) in Luke 4:16-30. Jesus confronts abusive authorities (Mk 11:15-19, 12:41-44, Matt. 23:23-24). He calls people to give to the poor (Matt. 19:16-22, 25:31-40 cf. Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-37, 2 Cor. 8:1-15, 9, 6-15, Gal. 2:10). Jesus also reveals the dignity of the poor by identifying with them (Lk. 9:58, Mt. 25:40, cf. Php. 2:5-10, Ja. 2:5-7) and rebuking those who degrade and exploit them (Mk. 11:15-19, Mk. 12:41-44). As Prophet, Jesus reveals the just God, who expresses solidarity with the poor against their exploiters and honors them as image-bearers and heirs in Him.</p> <p>Now, you might say, “If Jesus came to liberate those under Roman oppression, how come He didn’t overthrow the government? How else could He bring freedom?” Jesus declares freedom from Roman oppression in at least three ways: 1) Jesus declares that Rome is not the decisive authority in the lives of those who follow Him. To belong to Jesus means God has the ultimate and final say on one’s circumstances, not Rome or any other authority (see Heidelberg 1). This is why the Psalmist speaks of God’s justice overcoming the sinister intentions of those seeking to overwhelm him (Ps. 56, 11, 12, etc.). 2) As a global superpower, Rome is another kingdom that seeks to oppose the rule of God in the world (Dan. 2:31-45, 7:1-28). Therefore, Jesus, in declaring the arrival of God’s kingdom, is declaring the eventual, but real overthrow of Roman supremacy, like Babylon in Revelation. 3) Fear is the ultimate tool of oppression, though it is not the only one. The primary instigator and object of fear is death. Rome instigated fear through its various death sentences, especially crucifixion. In His death and resurrection, then, Jesus disarms Rome’s greatest weapon (I owe my thoughts to Howard Thurman and Esau McCaulley here). Jesus implies all these senses of freedom in Luke 4:16-30.</p> <p>The implications here are legion, and I will explore some in greater detail in another post. For now, we need to ask some questions: Does the gospel we preach declare dignity and deliverance while denouncing oppression for all people? Would those who don’t care for foreigners in our midst find their apathy accommodated? Does our discipleship see relational presence with the poor as Christian extra-credit? Can we discern the faces of Pharisaical and Roman oppression in our midst today? These are the sorts of questions we’ll have to answer if we will reveal and reflect the Prophet for the poor, Jesus Christ.</p> <hr /> <p><strong>Notes</strong></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref1" name="_ftn1">[1]</a> “…the land reverted to its original owner. This practice ensured that no citizen would remain poor or a slave forever.” <em>Year of Jubilee</em>, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/mediator-for-the-marginalized-pt-3/">Mediator for the Marginalized, Pt. 3</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> TIU, Will, Jada and Chris http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/tiu-will-jada-and-chris/ The Front Porch urn:uuid:28cb9a8f-70d8-8421-3b11-b87176e1f54f Mon, 28 Mar 2022 12:44:53 -0500 <p>Black people, we do have to ask ourselves if this is us. It may be that the healthiest answer is all of this is us. And, this is all of us.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/tiu-will-jada-and-chris/">TIU, Will, Jada and Chris</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p class="p1">Last night my wife and I caught up on last week’s episode of &#8220;This Is Us.&#8221; After watching and discussing the Kate and Toby marital breakdown, we flipped over the socials. The firs thing we saw was video of Chris Rock joking Jada Pinkett-Smith and Will Smith slapping Christ on national TV during the most highly-anticipated awards show in America.</p> <p class="p1">So, last night was a lot! Like a lot of people, we spent the next hour trying to figure out what happened and how to feel. I still don’t know completely, but I have reactions.</p> <p class="p1">I hope this isn’t a “think piece,” because it seems evident most people don’t need or want one of those—whatever they are. But I do have thoughts, reactions really. “Thoughts” suggests too much. I’m still processing these things. In no particular order, here are some of these still-in-process reactions.</p> <ol> <li><strong>We don’t need to be cruel to be funny.</strong></li> </ol> <p class="p1">I’m tired of the cruelty of the world. It’s exhausting. Hurtful. Embarrassing. And it ain’t funny. Chris Rock took a cheap shot—whether or not he knew of Jada’s medical condition. He was taking an aspect of her appearance and making it the brunt of a joke—in front of the watching world! That’s cheap. That’s personal. That’s cruel. We all know that most women—in fact, most men, too—struggle with body image and the host of things connected with body image. So, any man that has even a passing familiarity with women knows we don’t joke them about their appearance unless we are being cruel. It’s wrong. We need to stop sanctioning cruelty by calling it “a joke.” It ain’t.</p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><strong>2. Most of the time, we don’t need to be violent to be protective.</strong></p> <p class="p1">So, I ain’t mad at Will. That’s his wife. They are supposed to be one. Another man clowning his wife in from of a watching world calls for a response. Now, I put the line in a different place. You probably draw the line someplace different as well. But, hopefully, every husband has a line and crossing it requires a response. Should it have been a slap in that context? I don’t think so. There’s still such a thing as, “Meet me outside.” And there are more meaningful ways of protecting those we love than grand-standing fisticuffs. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if Will had used the acceptance speech time to check Chris in a way that pointed out the cruelty, empathized with people with illnesses and disabilities, and honored his wife for something praiseworthy? He could have still found Christ and said, “Meet me outside.” But, in any case, most of the time we don’t need to become violent to be protective.</p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><strong>3. We don’t have to be embarrassed about being “street.”<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></strong></p> <p class="p1">A lot of the reactions I say made jokes about West Philly, about being sent to live with your aunt and uncle, etc. I get the humor, but I wonder if we get the mild disdain that humor trade in. Most of it turns on a stereotypical notion of being “street,” which is to say uncouth, undignified, unable to engage people without tawdry acts. I suspect that folks dissing being “street” may have forgotten that being “street” has a lot to do with honor, respect, protecting space and family. There are places where “street” is less welcome, viewed as hostile, and rejected as subhuman. But we need to be careful that those places are getting away with dehumanizing, misrepresenting, and bigoted stereotyping. In the final analysis, a place like The Oscars is a cross-cultural setting. We know it. We admit every time we say #OscarsSoWhite or we can’t believe a certain film we didn’t even see won the award over a film we loved. In cross-cultural settings, clashes of values happen. Seems to me that happened on some level last night. What concerns me are the number of African Americans whose instinct was to criticize the scene as “street” and thereby express disdain not just for the violence but for the underlying codes and cultures of all the poor, inner-city “West Philadelphias” out there. I felt a lot of things last night—but embarrassment about something being “street” wasn’t one of them. If you did, it might be worth examining the roots of that embarrassment and where you learned it from.</p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><strong>4. Black women are so rarely publicly protected and almost only against other Black people.</strong></p> <p class="p1">For a couple of seconds, it looked like things would be laughed off despite Jada’s obvious and justifiable reaction. She didn’t appreciate Chris Rock’s joke. The eye roll was murderous. I don’t know what happened between the time the camera catching Jada’s look and panning back to Chris.<span class="Apple-converted-space">  </span>Did will see her facial expression? Did she say something to Will? I don’t know. But the next thing we know Will strides down the aisle and throws the blow. What’s remarkable is he did at all. Normally, our women appear defender-less in situations of public slight and insult. On some level, I’m glad will stood up for Jada. But on another level, this seems to only happen when we square off against each other. Why is that? Why do we find it easier to knuckle up when the face in our crosshairs belongs to another Black person? Would Will have done this if it were a white, Asian, or Hispanic comedian telling the same joke? I don’t know. But I think our sisters and wives deserve our alliance and our public protection no matter who crosses them this way. Can we get more of this while remembering #2 above?</p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><strong>5. The narcissism needs to be identified and rejected.</strong></p> <p class="p1">When I first saw the video, I thought it was staged. It looked fake, from the swing itself to Rock’s reaction. And then there was the walk back to his seat followed by the acceptance speech. I may be too critical here. Please forgive me if I am. But it seemed to me there was a lot of Will in all of it. A speech about protecting women when you haven’t done that in some significant ways in your marriage. A speech about you, Will, and Richard, that merely mentions the women but doesn’t actually talk about the whys and ways they ought to be protected. It was Will’s stage and it felt to me he used it for Will. Yes, Satan does attack us during mountaintop moments. But was that comment thrown in there to bring more attention to Will, to justify his actions, to make him a victim of more than a bad joke but also Satanic attack? It all seems rather self-centered, the way narcissists and abusers find a way to make everything about them while the person abused (in this case, Jada) gets pushed to the side. We didn’t need an essentially self-valorizing speech. We needed comments that centered the mistreated.</p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><strong>6. Maintaining personal dignity is hard.</strong></p> <p>Everyone involved last night&#8211;not just Will, Jada and Chris, but also every person in that room and viewing it on TV or online&#8211;had their dignity challenged last night. Jada had to decide how much to react to a personally insulting joke. She held herself together with a facial expression that let you know. Will had to decide whether and how to respond to someone very publicly dehumanizing his wife. Chris had to respond to being slapped in a very public and dehumanizing way. All of us have to decide how to talk about what we saw. It&#8217;s a test of both our understanding of human dignity and our understanding of how to preserve it. I don&#8217;t know how I would have responded were I in anyone else&#8217;s shoes. If I&#8217;m Jada, do I merely roll my eyes or do I say something? If I&#8217;m Will, do I cross the stage to deliver a blow or do I shout from my seat or do I comfort my wife or do I escort her out of the room in protest? I don&#8217;t know. If I&#8217;m Chris, do I swing back or just say, &#8220;Wow&#8221;? Do I apologize to Jada and Will and the audience? As a viewer, do I tell jokes about people&#8217;s pain, or bring up their personal indiscretions, or write think pieces (like this one?)? Dignity is an objective value subjectively negotiated with others. That negotiation gets really complicated really fast sometimes. Because sometimes when you &#8220;do the right thing&#8221; (say, refuse to retaliate), you don&#8217;t feel all that dignified. And sometimes when you fight for dignity (say, punch a guy who insults you), you actually prove undignified. The lines are fine but crossing them has significant consequence. So, maybe we should all recognize that, no matter what, we ought to extend dignity to one another. Perhaps that&#8217;s our first duty to God&#8217;s image bearers.</p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><strong>7. Community is important&#8211;but we have to sanction the right things and console the right people.</strong></p> <p>That&#8217;s my take-away from Denzel and others trying to comfort Will. I thought it was pretty great that some people found solace and counsel in the aftermath of that event. It was good of Diddy to try defusing the situation and pointing to a possible redemptive encounter later. Perhaps more people found the community&#8217;s support than we saw on TV. But I found myself wondering whether Jada had much support. Whether other women in the room who have suffered the same kinds of indignities (and worse) had people to turn to. I also found myself wondering if Will and Chris had anybody check them&#8211;not just side up with them. They were both wrong and they were both right in different ways. I&#8217;m hoping we&#8217;re not simply sanctioning one-sided responses instead of seeing whole persons and delivering to the whole person all that they should receive in appropriate balances and time. We can&#8217;t just say to Will, &#8220;That&#8217;s right; protect your wife.&#8221; We also have to say, &#8220;Bruh, you were out of pocket, owe a lot of people an apology, and there was a better way.&#8221; Isn&#8217;t that what we try to get children and teenagers to understand all the time? At the same time we can&#8217;t just say to Chris, &#8220;Man, it was amazing to see you keep your poise.&#8221; We have to also so, &#8220;While it was good that you didn&#8217;t respond, you should never have joned Jada that way to begin with. Maybe you should&#8217;ve gotten slapped, but you definitely owe her an apology. Make it right.&#8221; We most of all need to say to Jada, &#8220;That was wrong. We are sorry. We won&#8217;t tolerate that anymore. Here&#8217;s how we&#8217;re going to sanction Chris.&#8221; The community&#8217;s message can&#8217;t be one-dimensional; it has to be layered, proportional, and targeted.</p> <p><strong>Conclusion</strong></p> <p>Anyway, Black people, we do have to ask ourselves if this is us. It may be that the healthiest answer is <em>all</em> of this is us. And, this is <em>all of us.</em> So, we shouldn&#8217;t over-attribute anything to blackness or shy away from expressing those things that might be labeled &#8216;street&#8217; by others but represent cultural codes and ways of beings to us. We understand all of this, even if it dismays us. We&#8217;ve probably experienced a lot of this, even if it&#8217;s no longer our daily reality. Keeping in touch with all of this is a way of keeping us.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/tiu-will-jada-and-chris/">TIU, Will, Jada and Chris</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> Mediator for the Marginalized, Pt. 2 http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/mediator-for-the-marginalized-pt-2/ The Front Porch urn:uuid:87077ca4-35ee-5ac1-1517-c7fd7b62ac49 Fri, 11 Mar 2022 05:48:42 -0600 <p>Where society offers apathy and rejection, Jesus offers cleansing and welcoming love. As His church, Jesus calls us to embody this reality, to offer the cleansing welcome of the gospel.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/mediator-for-the-marginalized-pt-2/">Mediator for the Marginalized, Pt. 2</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p>I remember a particular homeless person my wife and I spent time with for several months. Let’s call him Lawrence. A few years ago, my wife met Lawrence at a gas station near the apartment complex where we stayed. My wife has a heart for homeless people, and on the Wednesday afternoon she met Lawrence, they talked so long she was late for Bible study that evening. When she arrived, she had Lawrence in tow. His clothes had a light brown tint to them, and Lawrence talked and walked with a sort of hesitation. But, we could tell he was glad to be amongst people. As we talked later that evening, Lawrence intimated, “I don’t know the last time I actually talked to someone. I mean, you know, like beyond asking for money or whatever. Nobody really talks to me.” Though he said this with quiet gratitude, Lawrence’s statement jarred me as if he’d just shouted. He’d just illumined one of the constant realities of marginalization: being an outcast, having an abiding sense of alienation from others.</p> <p>In this series, we’re considering the intersection between Reformed and Liberation theologies, specifically through Christ’s threefold office of prophet, priest, and king. Last time, we defined who “the marginalized” are, namely those who are: 1) particularly vulnerable to injustice, and 2) who lack the resources and influence to protect and promote their own flourishing because of their position in society. However, Lawrence’s statement above shows us being marginalized isn’t just about social power. It’s also about relationships, or, in Lawrence’s case the lack thereof. This was just as true in the days of the Old and New Testaments as it is today.</p> <p>So, the question is: How does Jesus and His salvation meet the outcast?</p> <p>My answer: In His priesthood, Jesus cleanses the outcast, making them fit for life with God and His people.</p> <p>In scripture, the poor and weak are not always so due to mere economic misfortune or financial irresponsibility. Often times, poverty occurred because of disease or a bodily defect. This is especially clear in the Gospels and Acts. There are beggars who are blind or lame (Mt. 15:30-31, Mk. 2:1-12, Jn. 9:1-12). Their physical limitation would make work difficult, if not impossible, such that they could not even benefit directly from the gleaning laws that protect the poor (Dt. 24:19-22). Disease and defects not only meant health problems and economic insufficiency, but also social and religious alienation. No person with a physical defect could come into the temple for worship (Lev. 21:16-21) because they were deemed unclean. The gospel writers also at times point out the social and economic circumstances of these unclean ones. The blind and lame are “beggars” (Lk. 18:35-43) and the woman with the issue of blood had spent all her money on ineffective doctors (Lk. 8:43). Certain diseases, especially leprosy, meant separation from the people outside the camp. Therefore, the uncleanness of disease and defects brought with it the potential for poverty, weakness, and alienation. Not only that, but riches carried with it the assumption of God’s blessing, implying poverty as a manifestation of God’s displeasure. So, even if there was not the uncleanness of disease or defect, poverty itself brought with it a sort of alienation, a social exile.</p> <p>In the law, cleansing uncleanness and satisfying God’s displeasure only came through sacrifices offered by the priest. The role of the priests was one of representation. They represented the people to God (Heb. 5:1) and represented God to the people. Through the prophets, Yahweh promises to cleanse His people (Eze. 36:24-25, Is. 53:5) and given the connection between cleansing and sacrifice, this implies the work of a priest. When Jesus came, such a priest arrived on the scene (Heb. 7:11-22, 10:11-18). Although the central focus of His priestly work was to offer Himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for sin (Heb. 9:11-14), we also see His priestly work in His healing ministry. The first miracles in Matthew, Mark, and Luke all mention uncleanness (Matt. 8:1-4, Mk. 1:40-45, Lk. 4:31-37), whether it is the uncleanness of demon possession or leprosy. Not only that, but Jesus heals the blind (Mk. 8:22-26, 10:46-52), lame (Jn. 5:1-17), paralyzed (Mk. 2:1-12), and a woman with menstrual dysfunction (Mk. 5:21-34). It seems the writers go out of the way to depict the cleansing power of Jesus because they point out that Jesus touches the unclean ones (Mk. 1:40-45, 5:21-34). This ought to have rendered Him unclean, but the efficacy of Jesus’s holiness as priest is so invincible and infectious it cleanses those He touches. These were penultimate cleansings, as he would accomplish the ultimate cleansing on the cross. When Jesus cleansed these vulnerable, unclean ones, they could now experience inclusion with God and His people.</p> <p>Not only that, healing removed the primary cause of their social and economic vulnerability, making it possible for them to flourish as God intended. In this way, Jesus’s priestly mediation delivers the downtrodden from the vulnerability and alienation caused by their uncleanness. Earlier, I mentioned a homeless friend, Lawrence. Not everyone is homeless. Not everyone experiences the severity of alienation from people Lawrence experienced. But people who are homeless serve as a fitting example of those who would receive the cleansing welcome of Jesus the Priest because we often treat them like outcasts. Many people in our societies don’t want them around at all, much less be willing to love them, hug them, and welcome them. As minorities in America, many of us know what it is like to experience a sort of “outcasting” on a more subtle level. But where society offers apathy and rejection, Jesus offers cleansing and welcoming love. As His church, Jesus calls us to embody this reality, to offer the cleansing welcome of the gospel and the experience of that cleansing welcome through intimate, relational love towards all society’s outcasts.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/mediator-for-the-marginalized-pt-2/">Mediator for the Marginalized, Pt. 2</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> Rivers of Living Water https://specs12.wordpress.com/2022/03/10/rivers-of-living-water/ perSpectives 12 urn:uuid:8377269e-55fc-807b-073b-9ff0db02ba1e Thu, 10 Mar 2022 18:53:52 -0600 Jan Paron, PhD &#124; March 10, 2022 Themes of water occur throughout Scripture commonly associated with nourishment/refreshment (Ps 1:3); harvest/fruit &#8230;<p><a href="https://specs12.wordpress.com/2022/03/10/rivers-of-living-water/">Continue reading <span class="meta-nav">&#8594;</span></a></p> <p>Jan Paron, PhD | March 10, 2022</p> <p>Themes of water occur throughout Scripture commonly associated with nourishment/refreshment (Ps 1:3); harvest/fruit (Ps 65:1-9); restoration (Ez 36:25); and life (Gen 1:2; Ez 47:9). The Creation story sets the stage for the fuller meaning rivers of living water in John 7. Scripture first mentions water in Gn 1:2 as part of the narrative on day one. When God created the earth (Heb.&nbsp;<em>bārā&#8217;;&nbsp;</em>בָּרָא; meaning shaped something from nothing), the account described it as without form and void. The passage further noted darkness upon the face of the deep. Then, the Creator added light (Gn 1:4 KJV). Water needed light to bring it to life, just as the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ needs the gospel to shine into the heart of man that he might be saved (2 Cor 4:4-6).&nbsp;</p> <p>The Creation story further developed water in subsequent days. On the second day, God made by His word a firmament in the midst of the waters, thus, dividing them (Gn 1:6). Then, on day three, He gathered these waters in one place and let the dry land appear (1:9). He called the water Seas, and the dry land earth (v. 10), What did the waters do in the one land? The gathered waters made the land fruitful, yielding a diversity of vegetation. The water resulted in a life-giving body. That same living water fulfilled in Christ produces spiritual maturity with the infilling of His Spirit. Continuing the Garden of Eden storyline, Gn 2:10 describes a river that ran through it, parting into four heads that flowed outside the garden. The water produced fruitfulness resulting from the four heads known as rivers when spread across the earth. Consequently, the river’s productiveness extended elsewhere. Moreover, God wants the believer to expand its fruitfulness and reach the rest of the world for a bountiful harvest.&nbsp;</p> <p>Jesus in John 7:37-39 picks up the Creation theme of fruitfulness with rivers of living waters during the Feast of the Tabernacles, previewing it in the context of the forthcoming outpouring of His Spirit on Pentecost, thus, launching the New Covenant. Outsiders in the feast crowd, though, did not accept it through their disbelief. However, Jesus manifests the prophesied rivers of living water through His Spirit, bringing forth a new thing from the indwelling of His presence. In turn, He provides a life-giving force to those who thirst for Him. </p> <div class="wp-block-image"> <figure class=" aligncenter size-large is-resized"><a href="https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/03/ffb9450f-76a4-4f36-adca-3dd356648eba-1.png"><img loading="lazy" data-attachment-id="6106" data-permalink="https://specs12.wordpress.com/ffb9450f-76a4-4f36-adca-3dd356648eba-1/" data-orig-file="https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/03/ffb9450f-76a4-4f36-adca-3dd356648eba-1.png" data-orig-size="960,540" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{&quot;aperture&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;credit&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;camera&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;caption&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;created_timestamp&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;copyright&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;focal_length&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;iso&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;shutter_speed&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;title&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;orientation&quot;:&quot;0&quot;}" data-image-title="ffb9450f-76a4-4f36-adca-3dd356648eba-1" data-image-description="" data-image-caption="" data-medium-file="https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/03/ffb9450f-76a4-4f36-adca-3dd356648eba-1.png?w=300" data-large-file="https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/03/ffb9450f-76a4-4f36-adca-3dd356648eba-1.png?w=529" src="https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/03/ffb9450f-76a4-4f36-adca-3dd356648eba-1.png?w=960" alt="" class="wp-image-6106" width="490" height="275" srcset="https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/03/ffb9450f-76a4-4f36-adca-3dd356648eba-1.png?w=490 490w, https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/03/ffb9450f-76a4-4f36-adca-3dd356648eba-1.png?w=150 150w, https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/03/ffb9450f-76a4-4f36-adca-3dd356648eba-1.png?w=300 300w, https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/03/ffb9450f-76a4-4f36-adca-3dd356648eba-1.png?w=768 768w, https://specs12.files.wordpress.com/2022/03/ffb9450f-76a4-4f36-adca-3dd356648eba-1.png 960w" sizes="(max-width: 490px) 100vw, 490px" /></a></figure></div> <p></p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center has-vivid-red-color has-text-color"><strong>Feast of the Tabernacles (Jn 7:37-39)</strong></h3> <p>On the last day of the Feast of the Tabernacles (Heb:&nbsp;<em>Sukkot</em>) Jesus made the statement, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.&nbsp;<sup>38</sup>&nbsp;He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (Jn 7:37-38). Those who thirst for Him (or believe in Him) would receive rivers of living water, meaning the indwelling of His Spirit. The outpouring on Pentecost initiated receiving the Spirit of God to dwell in one’s life to those who believe and repent (Jn 7:37-39; Acts 2:38). His indwelling also requires humbling and surrendering our will to His purpose (Acts 4:35). Once filled, He takes up residence within, making the believer His tabernacle with the rivers of living water providing nourishment. His rivers continue to do a good work and&nbsp;will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6). As with the feast, God wants His children to remember their dependency on Him and His provisions for them.</p> <p>John 7 took place in Jerusalem. Quite likely, men, women, and children were there and possibly Gentiles, too. Jews from all corners of the Roman Empire and beyond converged for the feast. Adult males had to travel to the feast as the Lord required and at a place, He chose (Ex 23:17; Dt 16:16). Women and children went to the feast voluntarily. Luke 2:41 cited Mary and Jesus as a young male accompanying Joseph for the Passover Feast Jerusalem on an annual basis.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Jews gave burnt offerings to the Lord to signify a&nbsp;total commitment or surrender to God. Numbers 29:13-38 laid out the compulsory remembrance sacrifices and free will offerings for each day of the feast. The eighth would be a holy convocation unto the Lord. This feast required more sacrifices than the others. Schorsch concluded that it connected to the generosity and thanksgiving from the earth’s bounty.<a href="//8229289A-EF0A-43DE-BA27-8D02F5967D1C#_ftn1"><sup>[1]</sup></a></p> <p>Water additionally played an important role here. Every morning during that joyful feast, a priest would take a golden vessel to the pool, fill it with water, and bring it back to the altar amid the shouts of the people. On the feast&#8217;s last day, the priests poured out water from golden vessels over the altar drawn from the Pool of Siloam. (The same place where Jesus healed the sight of a blind man.) Aside from the feast, the Jews used it for ritual cleansing and purification.<a href="//8229289A-EF0A-43DE-BA27-8D02F5967D1C#_ftn2"><sup>[2]</sup></a>&nbsp;Located southeast of the Temple Mount, it held importance as the only location for freshwater. Physically, it served as their river of living water. Niles explained&nbsp;as&nbsp;“the crowd chanted a special prayer from the Book of Psalms– that priest poured out the water on the west side of the altar, and another priest poured a drink offering of wine on the east side of the altar.”&nbsp;<a href="//8229289A-EF0A-43DE-BA27-8D02F5967D1C#_ftn3"><sup>[3]</sup></a>&nbsp;Much grandeur accompanied the ritual. Israel did not take the upcoming winter rains for granted since it supported a good harvest for the next year (Zec 14:16-17).&nbsp;Eisenstein explained the tradition according to R. &#8216;Ena confirming the water ritual may have illustrated Is 12:3, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”<a href="//8229289A-EF0A-43DE-BA27-8D02F5967D1C#_ftn4"><sup>[4]</sup></a></p> <p>During the final day of Sukkot, Jesus went to the temple in secret and began teaching. His doctrine caused a stir among the people. Later, He stood among them and made the statement about coming to Him for rivers of living water: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (Jn 7:37).&nbsp;Perhaps, Jesus made this declaration just as the priest poured out the water.&nbsp;The implication must have stunned those who heard His appeal. In essence, He proclaimed that Israel’s hope in a man-made ritual such as the water ceremony did not suffice for new life. His words&nbsp;foreshadowed Spirit baptism. What followed for many arose in Israel’s rejection of it.</p> <p>When Jesus revealed Himself as the well of salvation, He partially fulfilled prophecy in Is 12:3. In Him, the thirsty who seek Jesus as the Messiah would find&nbsp;water. Further, His statement also addressed Is 44:3&nbsp;“For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:” However, His time had not yet come. The outpouring of His Spirit would occur after His glorification.</p> <p>Based on the hostility Jesus faced from the Jewry, it comes with no surprise that His statement caused&nbsp;division among them. However, no man laid hands on Him at this time, nonetheless (7:44). Ultimately, though a false conclusion, the chief priests and Pharisees deduced with a prejudicial attitude that no prophet could come from Galilee. Thus, their disbelief presented a two-fold irony. First, their conclusion resulted in them&nbsp;erroneously rejecting Jesus as&nbsp;the anticipated fountain of living water (Jer 2:13a).&nbsp;Second, they instead focused their attention on the priests ceremoniously pouring the water (2:13b). They called the water poured at the feast Yeshua&nbsp;– the waters of salvation.<a href="//8229289A-EF0A-43DE-BA27-8D02F5967D1C#_ftn5"><sup>[5]</sup></a>&nbsp;The Law did&nbsp;not require a libation of water during the feast, rather Mosaic tradition incorporated it.<a href="//8229289A-EF0A-43DE-BA27-8D02F5967D1C#_ftn6"><sup>[6]</sup></a>&nbsp;One might compare the priest’s golden vessel from the feast to broken cisterns in the book of Jeremiah (2:13b). A man-made object cannot hold fresh, sustaining and restorative water from the Spirit. Thus, the rulers and Pharisees, too, forsake the fountain of living waters like their forefathers. On the other hand,&nbsp;the Samaritan woman at the well and many in her village recognized Jesus as the Christ.He previously explained to her that drinking of His water from His well&nbsp;would spring forth with everlasting life (John 4:14; Is 12:3).&nbsp;</p> <p>The Jewry’s hardened hearts additionally failed to recognize an eschatological promise standing before them: the Rivers of Living Water prophetically expresses that which would flow from the threshold of the temple in the Millennial Kingdom. The Lord would provide a Sukkot harvest nourished with the clean water from the river of God&nbsp;(Ez 36:25; Ps 65:9). He will make Israel the harvest.&nbsp;Israel would no longer live in a dry place but cleansed and restored anew with the Lord in Zion on the promised land. From creation after the Fall to the creation completed in Zion through Christ, they would thrive where a fountain would come forth from the house of the Lord in the Righteous King’s eternal kingdom (Jl 3:18; cf. Ez 47:1-12).</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center has-vivid-red-color has-text-color"><strong>Disbelief vs. Belief  </strong></h3> <p>As noted, not everyone accepted the river of living water Jesus cried out in Jn 7:37 during the Feast of the Tabernacles. What motivates disbelief? The central issue from 7:25-44 focused on Jesus as the Christ. The passage provides some insight into disbelief among the Ancients that may be applied to contemporary people. Three different groups of people doubted His identity as the Messiah: local Jerusalemites (7:25), Pharisees and chief priests (vv. 32, 47-48), and the crowd (vv. 20, 31). The people of Jerusalem doubted His worth and honor. They thought He came from Galilee (vv. 41, 52) and/or peasant parents in Nazareth (6:42). His origin did not match their expectations.<a href="//8229289A-EF0A-43DE-BA27-8D02F5967D1C#_ftn7"><sup>[7]</sup></a>&nbsp;In this case, the people judged by His appearance. They lacked knowledge of His Davidic lineage and Bethlehem birthplace foreshadowed in the Old Testament.<a href="//8229289A-EF0A-43DE-BA27-8D02F5967D1C#_ftn8"><sup>[8]</sup></a>&nbsp;On the other hand, the Pharisees and chief priests should have known of Jesus from their studies. Was it really prejudice over His origin? Alternatively, did they believe Jesus committed heresy with His statement “I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me” (7:33, 36). Perhaps, Jesus posed a threat to their power. Last, the narrator presents a divided crowd. Some viewed Him as a prophet, others as the Christ (vv.40-41). Division breeds confusion and chaos.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Jesus affirms His identity culminating during the water pouring ceremony when He connected Himself with the origin of rivers of living water. In essence, He verified Himself as the fulfilled Messiah who brings salvation and eternal life. Different interrupters caused disbelief among those present whether discernment, prejudice, power, confusion, or chaos. These same things show themselves today. Natural man cannot receive the things of God (1 Cor 2:14a). However, an open heart can experience God.<strong></strong></p> <p>The metaphor of water indicates that Jesus quenches spiritual thirst (Jn 4:14; 7:38). That living water is God Himself in redemptive activity, Jesus’ Spirit in the union of God and Christ. Jesus made it available to all people upon the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost (Jn 7:39).</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center has-vivid-red-color has-text-color"><strong>Jesus is the Rivers of Living Water</strong></h3> <p>The Old Testament often symbolizes the Holy Spirit through water (Is 44:3; Ez 36:25-27; Jl 2:28). Jesus refers to the rivers of living water as the Spirit in John 7:39a: “But this spake he of the Spirit.” An ample supply of water would flow from His Spirit as the well of salvation (12:3). Jesus gave of His Spirit at His outpouring on the Day of Pentecost. Peter addressing the crowd at Pentecost, explained that the exalted Jesus “poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33c).&nbsp;Jesus made the rivers of living water available not just to Jews but also to Gentiles as Jewish Christians brought the Gospel with them wherever they settled.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The Word of God tells how to access the rivers of living water. In Jn 7:37, two key verbs stated in the imperative form emerge in a subjunctive clause: come and drink. A general application of a subjunctive clause pertains to an action or event as something wanted or expected. However, it also indicates a reality conditioned upon future developments<a href="//8229289A-EF0A-43DE-BA27-8D02F5967D1C#_ftn9"><sup>[9]</sup></a>—the rivers of living water flow contingent upon belief (John 7:38). One must believe in Jesus’ saving power to receive it. The quenching of one’s thirst hinges upon the dual actions of coming and drinking. A person must trust Jesus as the provider of life through His restorative rivers of living water. However, faith precedes belief that Jesus is the Messiah resulting in His Spirit tabernacling within.&nbsp;Acts 2:38 expands belief with repentance (rejecting sins) and baptism in the name of Jesus. It requires a complete submission and surrender to Him (5:32)</p> <p>Rivers of living water also have an eschatological dimension. Jesus spoke from the throne in New Jerusalem announcing Himself as the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. He sits on the throne as the fountain that flows from the house of the Lord, making all things new through His finished work in the New Heaven and New Earth (Is 66:22; Jer 2:13; Rv 21:5-6).&nbsp;He has wiped away every tear from their eyes. Death, mourning, crying, and pain have passed away (Rv 21:4).&nbsp;</p> <p>Prior to His glorified state, Jesus told the woman at the well that those who drink of His water will never thirst again, for it will spring up and gush into everlasting life (John 4:14). That same promise holds during His Millennial reign.&nbsp;The thirsty will gather at the Righteous King’s throne without hunger or thirst. The water flows from&nbsp;the house of the Lord as prophesied in Joel (3:18), for He who sits on the throne shepherded them to living fountains of waters.&nbsp;</p> <p>Jesus remains Yeshua, the Rivers of Living Water, the Waters of Salvation.&nbsp;The prophet Isaiah called Him a new thing (Is 43:18-19). Amid the festivities of the special water pouring rite, Jesus revealed Himself as the rivers of living water-the one making&nbsp;a way in the wilderness&nbsp;and<em>&nbsp;</em>rivers in the desert to give drink to His people (43:20). Will you accept His invitation today? He provides a simple offer: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” Then, “out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (7:37-37b).</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center has-vivid-red-color has-text-color"><strong>Bibliography</strong></h3> <p>Bernard, David.&nbsp;<em>New Birth</em>. Hazelwood: Word Aflame Press, 1984.</p> <p>Brickner, David.&nbsp;<em>Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles</em>. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2006.&nbsp;</p> <p>Eisenstein, Judah David. “Feast of Water-Drawing.”&nbsp;<em>Jewish Encyclopedia</em>. <a href="https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14794-water-drawing-feast-of" rel="nofollow">https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14794-water-drawing-feast-of</a><strong></strong></p> <p>Klett, Fred. “Sukkot: A Promise of Living Water.”&nbsp;<em>Jews for Jesus</em>. <a href="https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/issues-v06-n07/sukkot-a-promise-of-living-water/" rel="nofollow">https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/issues-v06-n07/sukkot-a-promise-of-living-water/</a></p> <p>Moloney, Francis.&nbsp;<em>The Gospel of John</em>. Collegeville: University Press, 1998.</p> <p>Neyrey, Jerome.&nbsp;<em>The Gospel of John</em>. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007</p> <p>Niles, Randall. “Jesus at the Pool of Siloam&#8211;Rivers of Living Wate<em>r</em>.”<em>&nbsp;Drive Thru History</em>. <a href="https://drivethruhistory.com/jesus-pool-siloam-rivers-living-water/" rel="nofollow">https://drivethruhistory.com/jesus-pool-siloam-rivers-living-water/</a></p> <p>Sapphire Throne Ministries. “Celebration of Water Pouring&#8211;Feast of Tabernacles.”&nbsp;<a href="https://sapphirethroneministries.wordpress.com/2017/10/06/celebration-of-water-pouring-feast-of-tabernacles/" rel="nofollow">https://sapphirethroneministries.wordpress.com/2017/10/06/celebration-of-water-pouring-feast-of-tabernacles/</a></p> <p>Schorsch, Ismar. “<em>The Seventy Bulls of Sukkot</em>.”&nbsp;<em>Jewish Theological Seminary</em>. <a href="https://www.jtsa.edu/torah/the-seventy-bulls-of-sukkot/" rel="nofollow">https://www.jtsa.edu/torah/the-seventy-bulls-of-sukkot/</a></p> <hr class="wp-block-separator" /> <p><a href="//8229289A-EF0A-43DE-BA27-8D02F5967D1C#_ftnref1"><sup>[1]</sup></a>&nbsp;Ismar Schorsch,&nbsp;<em>The Seventy Bulls of Sukkot</em>, <a href="https://www.jtsa.edu/torah/the-seventy-bulls-of-sukkot/" rel="nofollow">https://www.jtsa.edu/torah/the-seventy-bulls-of-sukkot/</a></p> <p><a href="//8229289A-EF0A-43DE-BA27-8D02F5967D1C#_ftnref2"><sup>[2]</sup></a>&nbsp;Randall Niles.&nbsp;<em>Jesus at the Pool of Siloam&#8211;Rivers of Living Wat</em><em>er</em>.&nbsp;Retrieved from&nbsp;<a href="https://drivethruhistory.com/jesus-pool-siloam-rivers-living-water/">https://drivethruhistory.com/jesus-pool-siloam-rivers-living-water/</a></p> <p><a href="//8229289A-EF0A-43DE-BA27-8D02F5967D1C#_ftnref3"><sup>[3]</sup></a>&nbsp;Niles,&nbsp;<em>Jesus at the Pool of Siloam&#8211;Rivers of Living Water</em>.</p> <p><a href="//8229289A-EF0A-43DE-BA27-8D02F5967D1C#_ftnref4"><sup>[4]</sup></a>&nbsp;Judah David Eisenstein, Feast of Water-Drawing, Jewish Encyclopedia, <a href="https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14794-water-drawing-feast-of" rel="nofollow">https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14794-water-drawing-feast-of</a></p> <p><a href="//8229289A-EF0A-43DE-BA27-8D02F5967D1C#_ftnref5"><sup>[5]</sup></a>&nbsp;SapphireThroneMinistries, “Celebration of Water Pouring – Feast of Tabernacles,”</p> <figure class="wp-block-embed is-type-wp-embed is-provider-sapphirethroneministries wp-block-embed-sapphirethroneministries"><div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <a href="https://sapphirethroneministries.wordpress.com/2017/10/06/celebration-of-water-pouring-feast-of-tabernacles/" rel="nofollow">https://sapphirethroneministries.wordpress.com/2017/10/06/celebration-of-water-pouring-feast-of-tabernacles/</a> </div></figure> <p><a href="//8229289A-EF0A-43DE-BA27-8D02F5967D1C#_ftnref6"><sup>[6]</sup></a>&nbsp;Judah David Eisenstein, “Feast of Water-Drawing,”&nbsp;<em>Jewish Encyclopedia</em>, <a href="https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14794-water-drawing-feast-of" rel="nofollow">https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14794-water-drawing-feast-of</a></p> <p><a href="//8229289A-EF0A-43DE-BA27-8D02F5967D1C#_ftnref7"><sup>[7]</sup></a>&nbsp;Jerome Neyrey,&nbsp;<em>The Gospel of John&nbsp;</em>(New York: Cambridge University Press: 2007), 145.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="//8229289A-EF0A-43DE-BA27-8D02F5967D1C#_ftnref8"><sup>[8]</sup></a>&nbsp;Jesus fulfilled the&nbsp;prophecies of the seed of David born in Bethlehem conceived of the Spirit and bor Deconstruction or Demolition? http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/deconstruction-or-demolition/ The Front Porch urn:uuid:ab3a61e5-1379-d05b-8ad4-fc33d5cfc668 Thu, 10 Mar 2022 10:37:25 -0600 <p>Remember: There's a significant difference between deconstruction and demolition. In demolition, we tear the entire edifice down, usually in one explosive moment. In deconstruction, as with our favorite shows on HGTV, we remove things with care and with an eye toward designing something better in the future.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/deconstruction-or-demolition/">Deconstruction or Demolition?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p>As a pastor, I have to maintain a healthy interest in the spiritual developments that effect people. Perhaps it&#8217;s a new book really encouraging or upsetting people in their faith. Or maybe it&#8217;s a Christian leader touting a new idea that impacts how people live. It can also be things like community violence, international war, and family dynamics. Anything really.</p> <p>That&#8217;s why I have watched with interest the current work happening with deconstruction. I&#8217;m no expert&#8211;<em>at all</em>. But a few things seem pretty obvious even to a novice like me. First, &#8220;deconstruction&#8221; means a lot of different things to different people. Second, various kinds of things can be &#8220;deconstructed,&#8221; from Christian beliefs to Christian behaviors to church practices to cultural barnacles. Third, &#8220;deconstruction&#8221; can reach really different end points, from a firmer, truer faith to outright rejection of the same. So, as a pastor, I&#8217;m really interested in what a specific person means when he or she says they are &#8220;deconstructing.&#8221; I&#8217;m interested to help them think well about what&#8217;s happening with them with the hopes that they might become more sound in faith.</p> <p>To that end, it seems to me (again, I&#8217;m no expert) that a few questions might be helpful in diagnosing what&#8217;s happening when we feel we are deconstructing in some sense. In no particular order, here are a few I hope might be helpful:</p> <p><strong>Is this deconstruction or “negative learning”? </strong>Deconstruction assumes you had a coherent belief or position. But sometimes people are “deconstructing” things they never actually learned or constructed. They’re gathering objections, critiques, and complaints from others without understanding what’s being critiqued or if the critiques are accurate. That’s why I call it “negative learning”&#8211;the person is amassing a series of often disparate negations to replace an ill-formed belief or practice. Particularly in a society flooded with hurts, allegations and abuses, polarization and bad faith polemics, we need to be careful that we are constructionists in the first instance and that our deconstruction isn&#8217;t mostly a matter of murmuring, complaining, gossiping, and being taken in by every wind or doctrine.</p> <p><strong>Are your beliefs ever really rooted in the Bible?</strong> A lot of people are discovering that what they thought was biblical was actually cultural or political. The ideas of men have been taught to them as if they were the conclusions of God. Those kinds of discoveries <em>ought</em> to result in a kind of deconstruction. We should constantly scrape off the barnacles of cultural and political accretion from the ship of faith. But it also ought to make us wonder whether or not we had been rooting our faith in the word of God. Before we can deconstruct anything in a healthy way, we must go back to the source in a positive way. Can we build our beliefs from the Bible up rather than from a theological system down? Can we construct a position on a doctrine or practice using only the Bible, or are we primarily driven by &#8220;pastor says&#8221;? If we cannot articulate our beliefs with only the Bible in front of us, finding book chapter and verse, then the first order of business is to actually learn the Bible. Forget about deconstruction until you do some construction.</p> <p><strong>What specifically am I deconstructing?</strong> Is it the whole of Christianity or some specific teaching? Am I rethinking foundational Christian teaching (i.e., the Trinity, hell, the resurrection, atonement, etc) or a secondary doctrine (i.e., baptism, gender roles, spiritual gifts, etc)? Answering this determines whether you’re flirting with apostasy or reforming according to the word of God. Apostasy threatens the soul; reforming strengthens it. So, it&#8217;s helpful to do some triage. It&#8217;s also helpful to watch out for any instance where a secondary issue (say, baptism) begins to bleed over into primary issues (say, salvation). Theological and doctrinal ideas often hang together. Changes in one place often effect changes in other places. This, in part, is how some people drift into greater error and unbelief. Keep the questions as specific as you can.</p> <p><strong>Where am I trying to go?</strong> This question can help eliminate spiritual wandering. In the name of “deconstructing,” some people experience a loss of purpose and direction. They don’t know where they’re headed or trying to go. As I watch the conversation, it seems to me a crisis of confidence often travels with deconstruction. Some boast about this; they see their deconstruction as a commitment to ambiguity, not knowing, taking a journey being guided mainly by questions or doubts. I don&#8217;t think such boasting is healthy. As G. K. Chesterton once observed, &#8220;The purpose of having an open mind, like an open mouth, is to close it onto something solid.&#8221; But others who are deconstructing have a more specific destination in mind. They can identify the particular issue(s) that need re-examination in light of scripture, history, practice, etc. I’d suggest specificity actually helps with knowing whether you’re making spiritual progress toward anything healthy or toward anything at all. Again, you don’t want to be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine or taken captive by empty philosophy.</p> <p><strong>Are you being honest about your sin issues and temptations?</strong> It’s pretty easy to begin a deconstruction journey by assuming the rightness of our concerns. This is especially true with regard to our personal temptations and sin concerns. We may be facing temptations and sins for which we want approval, however, the Bible condemns it. So, in the name of “deconstruction,” we begin with a forbidden conclusion and work our way toward finding approval either outside the Bible or by twisting the Bible. That’s often times dishonest. It boasts in man’s wisdom rather than boasting in the knowledge of God. I am not here talking about a healthy acceptance of ourselves, including an honest admission of our sins and temptations, which is necessary to understand and fight them. I’m talking about an unhealthy self-deception, calling light darkness and darkness light. That kind of dishonesty might result in temporary relief or happiness, but it ends with eternal judgment. We must be relentlessly honest with ourselves and others about our sins and temptations so we are not deceived by them.</p> <p><strong>Is your deconstruction driven by hurt or disappointment?</strong> This is anecdotal, but it seems hurt or disappointment fuels a lot of deconstruction. it can be hurt suffered personally at the hands of church leaders. It can be disappointment with the failings of congregations or leaders. It can be a sense of betrayal when we disagree with others on a social or political issue important to us (especially given the hyper-polarization of the last decade). Pastorally, I think it&#8217;s important that we address our hurts and disappointments as constructively as possible before we turn to deconstruction as an answer. I know that many people find that their efforts at reconciliation and healing are thwarted or unfruitful. That compounds the hurt. But sometimes people give the impression they never sought to address offenses or misunderstandings. They left the hurtful relationship and decided to also leave some aspect of their faith and practice. Again, I think leaving a church or leader(s) is sometimes absolutely warranted. And leaving can be the first step in healing. I&#8217;m not cautioning against that. But we must be honest about the difference between when leaving is healing and when we&#8217;re leaving to avoid the hard work of reconciliation. Of course, I can&#8217;t answer that for anyone. But it seems important for everyone to ask themselves that question. In my anecdotal experience, most Christians try in heroic ways to achieve some reconciliation before deconstructing. So, if that&#8217;s <em>not</em> been your story, you might pause to ask why.</p> <p><strong>Are you in a rush?</strong> Sometimes it seems to me people are rushing toward conclusions at the speed of tweets. I wonder, <em>Why be hasty with your soul?</em> The work we do at sanctification, reforming our understanding, deconstructing or reconstructing is the most important work in the universe. We are working out our salvation with fear and trembling. So, we need to do it at a deliberate pace, discerning how God is at work in us to will and do His good pleasure. It&#8217;s unwise to rush spiritual formation. In fact, it&#8217;s pretty near impossible to do so. In many cases, people have believed something all their life and they learned it from the most trusted persons in their life (parents, pastors, teachers, etc). So, their beliefs and thoughts are often multi-layered, subtle in presence, foundational to more than just the practice or belief itself. Deconstruction can be a massive upheaval of an entire life. You shouldn&#8217;t do that unaided by trusted others and you shouldn&#8217;t do that as if it must be accomplished before it stops trending on social media. It may have taken you years or a lifetime to arrive at one understanding; give yourself years or even a lifetime to arrive at a better, more rooted, biblical new understanding. Don&#8217;t rush your soul&#8217;s development or your faith&#8217;s practice. Take your time. Jesus has you.</p> <p><strong>Conclusion</strong></p> <p>These are questions, not answers. They&#8217;re offered in the spirit of helping travelers read some of the signs they may be passing. As a committed Christian and pastor, I would have everyone enter and remain in the faith. But as a long-time Christian and pastor, I know all too well that we Christians and leaders hurt one another. Some do it unintentionally and others intentionally. There are weak sheep in the pews and the pulpit, just as there are wolves in pews and the pulpit. The consequence is hurt, pain, confusion and oftentimes doubt. Deconstruction can be a healthy response to those realities if we are careful to slow down and ask the right questions. Remember: There&#8217;s a significant difference between deconstruction and demolition. In demolition, we tear the entire edifice down, usually in one explosive moment. In deconstruction, as with our favorite shows on HGTV, we remove things with care and with an eye toward designing something better in the future.</p> <p>I hope this helps even a little bit.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/deconstruction-or-demolition/">Deconstruction or Demolition?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> Urban Apologetics: Restoring Black Dignity with the Gospel http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/urban-apologetics-restoring-black-dignity-with-the-gospel/ The Front Porch urn:uuid:5d96ec77-fb25-9ece-60c0-1f30c8522c26 Mon, 07 Mar 2022 12:07:18 -0600 <p>The Front Porch Podcast · Urban Apologetics</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/urban-apologetics-restoring-black-dignity-with-the-gospel/">Urban Apologetics: Restoring Black Dignity with the Gospel</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p><iframe loading="lazy" width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" allow="autoplay" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/1228087705&#038;color=%23ff5500&#038;auto_play=false&#038;hide_related=false&#038;show_comments=true&#038;show_user=true&#038;show_reposts=false&#038;show_teaser=true"></iframe></p> <div style="font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc;line-break: anywhere;word-break: normal;overflow: hidden;white-space: nowrap;text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif;font-weight: 100;"><a href="https://soundcloud.com/pastor-people" title="The Front Porch Podcast" target="_blank" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener">The Front Porch Podcast</a> · <a href="https://soundcloud.com/pastor-people/urban-apologetics" title="Urban Apologetics" target="_blank" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener">Urban Apologetics</a></div> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/urban-apologetics-restoring-black-dignity-with-the-gospel/">Urban Apologetics: Restoring Black Dignity with the Gospel</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> Mediator for the Marginalized (Part 1) http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/mediator-for-the-marginalized-part-1/ The Front Porch urn:uuid:a981f601-405f-2a37-f48d-4c49a762c107 Thu, 03 Mar 2022 09:10:24 -0600 <p>Reformed and Liberation theology can sometimes seem like theological oil and water, incompatible and unmixable. But might there be a way to reconcile them?</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/mediator-for-the-marginalized-part-1/">Mediator for the Marginalized (Part 1)</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p>In an essay titled “Centered Versus Bounded,” Paul Louis Metzger speaks of internal conflict amongst liberation communities: “Divisions easily result…because they emphasize what differentiates them to the detriment of what unites them.” Although Metzger is speaking about communities sharing a devotion to liberation theology, the same must be said regarding the Reformed and Liberation communities, which share a devotion to Jesus Christ.</p> <p>Reformed and Liberation theology can sometimes seem like theological oil and water, incompatible and unmixable. However, Metzger’s solution to the intra-Liberation squabbles is the same for the perceived tension between Reformed and Liberation theology, namely to focus on the center, on Jesus and the Gospel. This series of articles is an attempt to do just that, to regard a classic Reformed understanding of the person and work of Jesus (specifically His threefold office) from the Liberationist perspective of God’s devotion to the poor. I want to demonstrate that scripture presents Jesus as the Mediator for the marginalized in His threefold office in the following ways: 1) In cleansing the outcast as priest, thus making them fit for life with God and His people, 2) in declaring good news and condemning oppression as prophet, and 3) in upholding the cause of the poor and organizing a beloved community as King. However, in this piece, I want to begin by clarifying what I am <strong><em>not</em></strong> saying or trying to prove.</p> <p>I am <em>not</em> claiming that Jesus’s delivering the downtrodden is the sole or central focus of His mission. Paul tells us, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). Paul only echoes what the angel told Mary, that the baby to be named Jesus would “save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Here, scripture is clear. Instead, I am seeking to demonstrate that the saving work of Jesus delivers the poor in specific ways that meet them in their circumstances.</p> <p>I am also <em>not</em> claiming that the socioeconomically poor are the only or primary beneficiaries of the work of Christ (although Luke 6:20-22 would like to have a word). I am saying that the benefits of Christ’s work land on the poor in a unique way. This is an attempt at a theological contextualization of a Reformed theological category on behalf of the poor. In speaking of the poor, I do not refer to them in an unqualified sense, as though merely being poor makes someone a beneficiary of Christ’s work. Rather, I am considering who Christ is for the poor person who would come to Him, and how His mediation meets them in their marginalization.</p> <p>In order to see Jesus’s mediation for the marginalized, we must first clarify who the “marginalized” are. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb “marginalize” as, “To render or treat as marginal; to remove from the center or mainstream; to force (an individual, minority group, etc.) to the periphery of a dominant social group; (gen.) to belittle, depreciate, discount, or dismiss.” The Old Testament spotlights, the poor, the widow, the sojourner, and the orphan as those who are especially vulnerable to marginalization (Ex. 22:21-27, Dt. 24:14-15, 19-22, Zec. 7:9-10). “The widows, the orphans, the resident aliens, and the impoverished were the bottom ones…the lowly…Given their position at the bottom of the social hierarchy, they were especially vulnerable to being treated with injustice,” says Nicholas Wolterstorff. This “quartet of the vulnerable” lacked the resources and influence to adequately protect themselves and promote their own flourishing. Though they may have had the personal agency to pursue their own flourishing, they lacked the social and civil power to secure it. For this reason, scripture also speaks of the vulnerable as the “weak” or “needy” (Ps. 82, 12:5).</p> <p>Ruth is a clear example of one who is poor in Scripture and receives God’s salvation. She is both a widow and a sojourner and therefore vulnerable to exploitation. It is good that Boaz is a righteous man (Ru. 2:1), because if he had not been, he could have treated Ruth cruelly or exploited her sexually. For all her love and ingenuity, Ruth’s (and Naomi’s) flourishing depended on Boaz. That dependence is the essence of being marginalized, poor, and weak. In speaking of the “marginalized,” then, scripture refers to those who are socioeconomically poor and weak. Therefore, when Scripture describes the Messiah’s work in ways that benefit the vulnerable, it is not speaking merely in spiritual, non-earthly terms. It is, in part, using financial poverty and social weakness as a picture of man’s spiritual impotence in sin, but that does not exhaust Scripture’s use of those terms, as seen in the Old Testament theme of redemption.</p> <p>The central story of Israel is the Exodus. There, God takes a people, His people, who are slaves in Egypt, and redeems them to live in covenant with Him. The Exodus is so central to Israel’s understanding of God that the prophets speak of their redemption from exile in terms of a new Exodus (Is. 11:15-16). In both cases, whether exodus from Egypt or from exile, God’s word of salvation comes to those who are socially vulnerable and oppressed. Even though Israel returns to the Promised Land, they are still in exile. The exile follows them back home. As a people, they know the fear of being vulnerable to Roman oppression (see Howard Thurman’s chapter on Fear in Jesus and the Disinherited). So, when God the Son incarnates to save His people, He inserts Himself and accomplishes His redemption in the context of political and economic marginalization. The stories of Ruth and Israel demonstrate that redemption not only carries an undertone of deliverance from poverty and weakness, but is often made manifest in those very social conditions in Scripture.</p> <p>Granting these terms, we’ve effectively set the stage for reflection. Next time, we’ll begin thinking through how Christ’s priesthood offers belonging to the outcast.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/mediator-for-the-marginalized-part-1/">Mediator for the Marginalized (Part 1)</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> Literarily, How Understanding Bible Genres Transforms Bible Study http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/literarily-how-understanding-bible-genres-transforms-bible-study/ The Front Porch urn:uuid:d973bafd-4186-aadc-ec10-de2b2ab4a9de Tue, 01 Mar 2022 11:27:06 -0600 <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/literarily-how-understanding-bible-genres-transforms-bible-study/">Literarily, How Understanding Bible Genres Transforms Bible Study</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p><iframe loading="lazy" title="Literarily, How Understanding Bible Genres Transforms Bible Study by The Front Porch Podcast" width="1080" height="400" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?visual=true&#038;url=https%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F1224565669&#038;show_artwork=true&#038;maxheight=1000&#038;maxwidth=1080"></iframe></p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/03/literarily-how-understanding-bible-genres-transforms-bible-study/">Literarily, How Understanding Bible Genres Transforms Bible Study</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> A New Reformation on Race Relations? A Book Review http://thefrontporch.org/2022/02/a-new-reformation-on-race-relations-a-book-review/ The Front Porch urn:uuid:df86f6d2-1b2d-2972-4d0a-a20911c17e7a Tue, 01 Feb 2022 09:41:59 -0600 <p>If there is to be a reformation in American race relations, the theological sufficiency of American Reformed Evangelicalism will need to be questioned more rigorously and not so easily defended.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/02/a-new-reformation-on-race-relations-a-book-review/">A New Reformation on Race Relations? A Book Review</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p>It has been 20 years since Rodney King famously asked, “can we just all get along?” following the acquittal of the police officers who tirelessly beat him under the watchful eye of an unseen video camera. When it comes to the issue of race, racial justice, and racial reconciliation, that is the question so many want to ask: why can’t we “just” all come together in the body of Christ? Just like in South Central Los Angeles in the early 90’s, the unity question in the church is laced with social complexities, moral contradictions, and spiritual ambiguities. One thing for sure, wherever there is a vexing problem, there is no easy solution lying undisturbed in plain sight.</p> <p>The American church is evidently vexed on race, or ethnicity, as it is called by iconic Christian Hip Hop (CHH) artist shai linne in his ambitious project <em>The New Reformation: Finding Hope in the Fight for Ethnic Unity</em>. Such a lofty aim would seem naïve were its mission not so fundamental to the veracity of the gospel and in so many ways the moral credibility of the church. There is much that shai gets right, there are some vitals he speaks about but never really confronts, but his belief in the eschatological vision of the kingdom professes hope beyond the visible evidence of the American church getting “race right.”</p> <p>Shai’s use of his personal story to profile the experience of late Black Gen X and Millennial Christians whose faith was nurtured on American Reformed Theology is a vivid strength of <em>The New Reformation</em>. He describes his discovery of CHH in the influential genius of the Philadelphia-based Cross Movement. There are many Black Christians who came to Christ through the preaching of hip hop and so the evangelistic force of that movement should not be lost on American church historians. Shai is correct, it was nothing short of an awakening.</p> <p>The early CHH movement and shai’s portrayal of “Lyrical Theology” was largely a rap-based expression of theological ideas that were birth outside of the community in which these young men and women were shaped. Their lyrical theology was not based on a reflection of their communities or even the experiences Shai discusses about his encounters with the police. On page 49, he says, “There was a direct pipeline from the church to our Romans studies (done together with artist Timothy Brindle) to our writing sessions to the recording booth.”</p> <p>Though all of this is simply context for shai’s message, it is some of the most valuable parts of his book, offering a sociologist’s and historian’s gold mine for understanding the conceptual and cultural forces shaping CHH. For example, unlike the Reformation and American literary movements like the Harlem Renaissance, CHH’s core message was not shaped by the cultural lived experience of its artists but was the creative re-expression of the original convictions of others, men such as John Owen and John Piper.</p> <p><em>The New Reformation</em> shines in other ways too. In the chapter entitled “Déjà Vu,” shai highlights the inner turmoil experienced by evangelically shaped Black Christians whose soul distress amid unjustified police killings of Black men was met by confusion and indifference among their white church-mates. These opposing reactions are not only important for describing the divergent cultural realities within American Christianity but also prompts important questions about the nature of the church. Why are there irreconcilable convictions among Christians on ethical matters? How does our pneumatology align with opposing moralities in the church? These are needed questions Shai does not explore.</p> <p>Perhaps the most significant contribution of shai’s project is his resolute convictions about multi-ethnicity and church unity. His chapters on “Jesus’ Desire for the Church” and “We Got Some Work to Do” speak to this God-given multi-ethnic vision that is intended to display the very glory of the gospel in mosaic communities of colors, cultures, and languages. Shai shows the significance of the gospel’s reach to catch anyone without any disadvantage of heritage or history. Though we rightly reject universalism, the universal reach of the gospel does bear witness to its authenticity, and shai uncompromisingly trumpets this in chapter 10. His “new ‘we’” concept warrants more development as I would have expected him to connect that to Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2:9 and unpack the reality of the church being comprised of a new <em>genos</em>. It would have been great if he had argued that such a <em>genos</em> redeems and interprets all ethnicities into a new kind of humanity. He implies it but it would have been helpful to see that idea more developed as Jarvis Williams does in his <a href="https://www.amazon.com/One-New-Man-Reconciliation-Theology/dp/0805448578"><em>One New Man</em></a>.</p> <p>Despite the integrity of shai linne’s pursuit, there are a few glaring absences. He begins the book discussing his experience of police misconduct and never really shows how, if at all, the ethnic unity project resolves racial disparities and possible injustices. Perhaps it’s when he talks about proximity leading to sympathy that many Christians will understand better and then advocate for Black men and women not being killed by police when they are not a threat? Is that where sympathy leads? Or is that the goal of mutual understanding?</p> <p>Instead, shai refocuses from these injustices onto issues of disagreement and how we respond to those with whom we disagree. This is very evident in the chapter “Agree in the Lord” as he opens with his own transparency regarding preaching through Philippians in 2014 overlapping with the killings of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice. Shai colorfully describes the existential nausea of so many Black people by using the term “the Collective Groan,” which speaks deeply to the anguish of a community. He mentions his wife’s own anxiety about the real risk of their son playing with guns, and then he abruptly changes the conversation to the subject of agreement! How does agreement among Christians relate to real lives at risk?</p> <p>This pivot is not only confounding but it depicts what is exactly wrong in this so-called conversation about race. Living and dying is not an issue of conversational etiquette. Ought Christians be concerned about these killings or not? If so, what are they to do about it? To turn the emotional and existential soul crises around racial injustice into a reflection on how Christians should get along with other Christians with whom they disagree is to recenter the problem away from an entire community’s core concern, which is to imply their fears are of secondary importance to the church.</p> <p>Shai’s exhortations for ethnic unity fit well where people in diverse settings simply have different experiences and assumptions about each other. In those settings there’s a need for people to listen to each other and learn, give one another the benefit of the doubt, connect into each other’s worlds, etc. This is good counsel for the church today. But it fails to reach the height of Black existential threats around the issues Shai himself highlights. It also does not connect the unity crisis in the church to broader the racial divide in our society. Whatever our understanding is about how the church should be countercultural to society, racial division is one place the church has not only be in lockstep with the broader culture on racialization, but she has also led in providing moral and even theological cover for the same. <em>The New Reformation</em> chooses not to confront these realities.</p> <p>The grandest reach of Shai’s lengthy project is the provision of a theological framework anchored in the doctrine of justification. This functions in two ways: a) as the ground of multi-ethnicity, i.e., cultural heritage has no presence in our getting right with God, and b) the sins of all, even those we disagree with, are covered under the same justification. Those are true statements but why is justification the key doctrine for undoing the tangle of ethnic disunity and racial injustice? The Black pastors in May Beth Mathews’ <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Doctrine-Race-American-Evangelicals-Fundamentalism/dp/0817319387"><em>Doctrine and Race</em></a> get closer to a theological framework to process these items through reflections on both pneumatology and ecclesiology, i.e., what is the significance of the Spirit’s presence and how he shapes the church of Jesus Christ in a racialized society? How does that inform the church’s authenticity or inauthenticity?</p> <p><em>The New Reformation</em> is a fair depiction of the CHH movements and its own theological developments, but if its ambition is to be realized, the theological sufficiency of American Reformed Evangelicalism will need to be questioned more rigorously and not so easily defended.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/02/a-new-reformation-on-race-relations-a-book-review/">A New Reformation on Race Relations? A Book Review</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> We Go On http://thefrontporch.org/2022/01/we-go-on/ The Front Porch urn:uuid:64f1c884-015e-8de9-9b53-5b3e94d729f4 Fri, 21 Jan 2022 08:06:08 -0600 <p>The Front Porch Podcast · We Go On</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/01/we-go-on/">We Go On</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p><iframe loading="lazy" width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" allow="autoplay" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/1200860917&#038;color=%23ff5500&#038;auto_play=false&#038;hide_related=false&#038;show_comments=true&#038;show_user=true&#038;show_reposts=false&#038;show_teaser=true"></iframe></p> <div style="font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc;line-break: anywhere;word-break: normal;overflow: hidden;white-space: nowrap;text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif;font-weight: 100;"><a href="https://soundcloud.com/pastor-people" title="The Front Porch Podcast" target="_blank" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener">The Front Porch Podcast</a> · <a href="https://soundcloud.com/pastor-people/we-go-on" title="We Go On" target="_blank" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener">We Go On</a></div> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/01/we-go-on/">We Go On</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> This Present Apostasy http://thefrontporch.org/2022/01/this-present-apostasy/ The Front Porch urn:uuid:235ef7f9-de02-38bb-5cf6-aa03b21220c6 Wed, 19 Jan 2022 10:54:02 -0600 <p>Apostasy truly happens. Real people, once professing Christians, truly fall away from the faith. For many younger, more inexperienced Christians, apostasy seems like an ancient situation that rarely happens today....</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/01/this-present-apostasy/">This Present Apostasy</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p>Apostasy truly happens. Real people, once professing Christians, truly fall away from the faith.</p> <p>For many younger, more inexperienced Christians, apostasy seems like an ancient situation that rarely happens today. We see it in the New Testament. The Apostle writes in 2 Tim. 4:10, <em>&#8220;Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.&#8221;</em> Even during our Lord&#8217;s earthly ministry, we read in the Gospels of disciples who &#8220;turned back and no longer followed Him&#8221; (John 6:66). Of course, there are stern warnings against falling away or apostasy throughout the New Testament (for ex, Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26-31; Matt. 13:20-21; Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 4:3-4; and 2 Pet. 2).</p> <p>But this is not merely an ancient problem. It is a contemporary problem as well. It happens in our day and it upsets the faith of some. In the last couple of years we&#8217;ve witnessed former pastors like Joshua Harris and former Christian hip hop artists like Eshon Burgundy and now Phanatik of Cross Movement fame leave the faith. There are many more, both known and unknown. Their particular circumstances and stories vary, but their departures are real.</p> <p>I tremble to say we are living in an era of apostasy. We may well wake up from the sleep of the pandemic to find our churches and Christian friendships significantly depleted because many are leaving or have left the faith.</p> <p>I am particularly concerned for Black Christians disoriented and discouraged by their sojourn in predominantly-white evangelical and fundamental spaces. Many are discovering that their long years disconnected from their native faith communities has left them unrooted. They may over-identify the Christian faith with white Christianity. After nearly a decade of disappointment and even opposition from some white Christians, they struggle to find their way home&#8211;not necessarily to the Black church but to Jesus, the Bible, and a more authentic faith. I&#8217;m not here talking about folks engaged in various forms of &#8220;deconstruction.&#8221; I&#8217;m talking about a more specific group of people who really are apostasizing.</p> <p><strong>The Reasons</strong></p> <p>The reasons for apostasy are many. No two cases are alike. So this isn&#8217;t to say that all of these things happen for any of the persons we know. But these are among the reasons I see in various cases.</p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>1. No Roots in Trouble (Mark 4:17)</strong></em></p> <p>This reason comes from the Lord in the parable of the sower. He tells a story about seed (the word of God) being spread into different soils (the hearts of men) and producing different results. The Lord describes one result like this: <em>&#8220;<span id="en-ESV-24336" class="text Mark-4-16"><span class="woj">these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy.</span></span></em><span id="en-ESV-24337" class="text Mark-4-17"><span class="woj"><em><sup class="versenum"> </sup>And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away&#8221;</em> (Mark 4:16-17). Some people begin well but then turn away because of suffering for the word. </span></span></p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>2. Choking on Worldliness (Mark 4:18-19)</strong></em></p> <p>In the same parable, our Lord tells of another apostate hearer. These are the stony ground hearers: <em>&#8220;<span id="en-ESV-24338" class="text Mark-4-18"><span class="woj">And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word,</span></span></em><span id="en-ESV-24339" class="text Mark-4-19"><span class="woj"><em><sup class="versenum"> </sup>but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful&#8221;</em> (Mark 4:18-19). It&#8217;s not suffering that trips up these professors; it&#8217;s wealth and ease. They desire riches and that desire chokes out the word. The word is unfruitful or ineffective in their lives and they turn away.</span></span></p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>3. Professing Wisdom on the Way to Foolishness (Rom. 1:21-23; Ps 14:1; 1 Cor. 1:20-25).</strong></em></p> <p>Worldly wisdom causes others to turn away. They become deceived by the ideas of the world&#8217;s fallen system and are enticed from the truth. Paul warns of this several times. For example, Romans 1:21-23 says, &#8220;<span id="en-ESV-27936" class="text Rom-1-21">For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.</span><span id="en-ESV-27937" class="text Rom-1-22"><sup class="versenum"> </sup>Claiming to be wise, they became fools,</span><span id="en-ESV-27938" class="text Rom-1-23"><sup class="versenum"> </sup>and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.&#8221; Paul is describing Gentile unbelievers in this passage, but the same process of trusting worldly wisdom and becoming apostate or idolatrous fools with darkened hearts can be seen in apostate Christians. Consider 1 Cor. 1:20-25:</span></p> <blockquote> <p class="first-line-none top-1"><em><span id="en-ESV-28367" class="text 1Cor-1-20"><sup class="versenum">20 </sup>Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?</span> <span id="en-ESV-28368" class="text 1Cor-1-21"><sup class="versenum">21 </sup>For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.</span> <span id="en-ESV-28369" class="text 1Cor-1-22"><sup class="versenum">22 </sup>For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,</span> <span id="en-ESV-28370" class="text 1Cor-1-23"><sup class="versenum">23 </sup>but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,</span> <span id="en-ESV-28371" class="text 1Cor-1-24"><sup class="versenum">24 </sup>but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.</span> <span id="en-ESV-28372" class="text 1Cor-1-25"><sup class="versenum">25 </sup>For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.</span></em></p> </blockquote> <p>Here, Paul writes to a Christian church with some members really smitten by Greek wisdom. But such wisdom was the antithesis of God&#8217;s wisdom, seen most fully in the cross of Jesus Christ. That&#8217;s why he writes in Colossians 2:8, <em>&#8220;</em><span id="en-ESV-29486" class="text Col-2-8"><em>See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.&#8221;</em> Jesus Christ is the Christian&#8217;s wisdom and we are to &#8220;see to it&#8221; that we walk &#8220;rooted and built up&#8221; in Him (Col. 2:6). For worldly philosophy and wisdom sometimes pulls people out of the Church and into the world. Such persons end up joining the fools of Psalm 14:1 who say in their hearts, &#8220;There is no God.&#8221;</span></p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>4. Disappointing Heroes and Communities </strong></em></p> <p>Disappointment tempts others to leave the faith. The disappointment may come from the actions or inactions of faith heroes. Perhaps they hear a John MacArthur or a Wayne Grudem wax nonsensical about oppression and justice and supporting Trump, and the wonder how can someone I&#8217;ve learned so much from be so devastatingly wrong and indifferent on matters that effect me so deeply. Or, maybe it&#8217;s been the opposite problem. They have a pastor that&#8217;s remained silent about justice and righteousness. They longed for the trumpet to make a clear sound, but it never did. Then there are those who have encountered outright opposition whenever they attempt to address race and justice. They are labeled all kinds of things, increasing their marginalization and disappointment. They have been disheartened to the point that leaving the faith seems not only feasible but right.</p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>5. Deciding It’s Too Hard (John 6:60, 66).</strong></em></p> <p>In the midst of the things above and many others, some professing Christians decide that following Jesus is too hard. The requirements of faith exceed their willingness to follow the Lord. We have a memorable example of this in John 6. Our Lord just taught his disciples that He is the Bread of Life and that they must feed on Him by faith if they are going to have eternal life. John 6:60 records the response of some: <em>&#8220;When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”</em> Just pressed in harder. In verses 66-67 we read, <em>&#8220;<span id="en-ESV-26312" class="text John-6-66">After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.</span></em><span id="en-ESV-26313" class="text John-6-67"><em><sup class="versenum"> </sup>So Jesus said to the twelve, &#8216;</em><span class="woj"><em>Do you want to go away as well?'&#8221;</em> The difference between the apostates and true disciples is the apostates &#8220;turned back and no longer walked with him&#8221; while the disciples, like Peter, answer, &#8220;Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the word of eternal life.&#8221; Some find following too hard and turn back. </span></span></p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>7. Overconfidence (Mark 14:29).</strong></em></p> <p>Still others remain overconfident when it comes to the cost of discipleship. The Lord Jesus predicted that even the 12 would abandon him in the hour of his suffering and rejection. But, Peter boasted he would never do that even if everybody else did. The rooster crowed on ol&#8217; Peter and then he knew. With tears he knew that he, too, had abandoned the Lord. Sometimes temptation&#8211;even the temptation to apostasy&#8211;overcomes us because of our sinful overconfidence.</p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>8. Returning to the law (Gal. 5:1-7).</strong></em></p> <p>We&#8217;re seeing in our community some people returning to the Law. That&#8217;s particularly the case for those drawn away by various Hebrew Israelite cults. But it&#8217;s a problem as old as the first letters in the New Testament, like Galatians. In Galatia, the principle issue was circumcision. In our communities, the principle issue is identity. But in either case, returning to the Law is not a solution but a falling. Paul writes to those who go back to the Law, &#8220;<span id="en-ESV-29150" class="text Gal-5-4"><em>You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.&#8221;</em> Severed from Christ. Fallen away from grace. </span></p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>9. Unbelief (Heb. 3:12).</strong></em></p> <p>Last, the Bible points to unbelief as an underlying issue causing apostasy. <em>&#8220;Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God&#8221;</em> (Heb. 3:12). Unbelief never leads to spiritual success. The Bible regards unbelief as an evil and hard heart. The end result is apostasy, falling away from Jesus Christ and the salvation He gives through faith alone.</p> <p><strong>Why We Have the Bible</strong></p> <p>What&#8217;s striking to me about a number of cases of apostasy is that some of the persons leaving the faith attempt to strike a posture of intellectual enlightenment. They speak humbly enough in tone. But they almost always cast dispersions on faith and faithful followers of Jesus, and they almost always invite believers to a conversation with them about truth.</p> <p>The Bible never treats apostasy as an intellectually legitimate or reasonable stand. We need to be careful that we don&#8217;t assign credibility to a spiritual condition and posture that the Bible outright rejects as hard-hearted, evil, unbelieving, worldly, and foolish. And we need to be careful that we don&#8217;t forget that one of the main reasons Jesus came to teach us and one of the main reasons we have the Bible is <em>so that we would not fall away</em>. The Lord says in John 16:1, <strong><em>“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.&#8221;</em></strong></p> <p>It’s no wonder that apostasy usually begins with some kind of departure from the scriptures. A Christian without a Bible intake is a Christian without food. A malnourished Christian is too weak to withstand the assaults from without and the temptations from within. Some will fall away.</p> <p><strong>Why We Need a Local Church</strong></p> <p>We need each other in our local churches to finish this race. We need each other to open the word to one another so that the goal of the word (keep us from falling away) is fulfilled. Here&#8217;s how the writer to the Hebrews put it:</p> <blockquote><p><span id="en-ESV-29991" class="text Heb-3-12">Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, <em>leading you to fall away</em> from the living God.</span><span id="en-ESV-29992" class="text Heb-3-13"><sup class="versenum"> </sup>But <em>exhort one another every day</em>, as long as it is called “today,” <em>that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin</em>. <span id="en-ESV-29993" class="text Heb-3-14">For we have come to share in Christ, <em>if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.</em></span> (Heb. 3:12-14)</span></p></blockquote> <p>It&#8217;s no wonder that, for some, apostasy also begins with falling away from the fellowship of the local church. Who will exhort us every day and help keep us from the deceitfulness sin if we abandon the fellowship of God&#8217;s people? The world won&#8217;t. We must persevere until the end in order to receive the reward of Christ. Persevering is a team sport, beloved. We need each other.</p> <p><strong>Why We Need to Be Sober-Minded</strong></p> <p>Finally, we need to keep in mind how serious all of this is. Hebrews 6:14-16 tells us:</p> <blockquote><p><span id="en-ESV-30032" class="text Heb-6-4">For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,</span> <span id="en-ESV-30033" class="text Heb-6-5">and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,</span> <span id="en-ESV-30034" class="text Heb-6-6">and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.</span></p></blockquote> <p>Apostasy&#8211;genuine falling away&#8211;is fatal. It&#8217;s not something a person can recover from simply because they wish. The writer of Hebrews describes this as &#8220;impossible&#8230; to restore them again to repentance&#8221; and as a &#8220;crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.&#8221; As cordial and even reasonable as an apostate may sound, do not be deceived. They are expressing contempt for the Son of God and crucifying him to their own harm. Be sober-minded about that.</p> <p>But it doesn’t have to be this way. Apostasy doesn&#8217;t have to win. We don&#8217;t have to be victims of the present falling away. Beloved, stay at Christ’s feet. Believe Jesus more than you believe yourself. Believe the Bible more than you believe your doubts. Believe the wisdom of the word more than you believe the “wisdom” of the world.</p> <p><strong>Conclusion</strong></p> <p>Let me end with 1 John 2:18-25 as a kind of benediction.</p> <blockquote><p><span class="text 1John-2-18"><sup class="versenum">18 </sup>Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.</span> <span id="en-ESV-30553" class="text 1John-2-19"><sup class="versenum">19 </sup>They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.</span> <span id="en-ESV-30554" class="text 1John-2-20"><sup class="versenum">20 </sup>But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.</span> <span id="en-ESV-30555" class="text 1John-2-21"><sup class="versenum">21 </sup>I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.</span> <span id="en-ESV-30556" class="text 1John-2-22"><sup class="versenum">22 </sup>Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.</span> <span id="en-ESV-30557" class="text 1John-2-23"><sup class="versenum">23 </sup>No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.</span> <span id="en-ESV-30558" class="text 1John-2-24"><sup class="versenum">24 </sup>Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.</span> <span id="en-ESV-30559" class="text 1John-2-25"><sup class="versenum">25 </sup>And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.</span></p></blockquote> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/01/this-present-apostasy/">This Present Apostasy</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> What Now? http://thefrontporch.org/2022/01/what-now/ The Front Porch urn:uuid:2eece9be-ed79-f9aa-6cb5-36209d74e21d Tue, 18 Jan 2022 08:59:39 -0600 <p>Yesterday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, thirty-five saints gathered on Zoom to read and discuss the &#8220;Letter from a Birmingham Jail.&#8221; We were brothers and sisters of various ages, female...</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/01/what-now/">What Now?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p>Yesterday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, thirty-five saints gathered on Zoom to read and discuss the &#8220;Letter from a Birmingham Jail.&#8221; We were brothers and sisters of various ages, female and male, representing different ethnicities and socio-economic status. There were college professors, security guards, campus workers, stay-at-home moms, IT types, retirees, and entry-level folks. For 2.5 hours we read a section of the letter then shared our reactions and questions.</p> <p>Of all the rich things shared, one question continues dancing in my mind. It surfaced at a couple of points during our discussion, asked with different words each time. The question is this: What now?</p> <p>It&#8217;s a question Dr. King himself dealt with in his own way in his work, <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Where-Do-We-Here-Community/dp/0807000671"><em>Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?</em></a> His answers, over 50 years old, need reply from our own time and leaders.</p> <p>We live in the aftermath of the classic Civil Rights Movement. That means we live in the wake of its successes. African Americans&#8211;and many other groups&#8211;enjoy many more civil liberties than any of our forebears at any point in history. We may own property&#8211;and own it in any neighborhood. We may vote. We may walk down the street without bowing our heads and white people who pass by. We can directly and publicly challenge white Americans without fear of death, Klan raids, burning crosses, or lynchings. We can marry whomever we desire. We can attend public educational institutions or frequent public accommodations. All of these things and many more come to us as a result of the Civil Rights Movement and the work of leaders and foot soldiers like Dr. King.</p> <p>And yet, none of those opportunities are guaranteed or perfectly extended. Many of them are tenuous. We still face discrimination in real estate practices. Voting rights are currently under assault. Reactionary and racist sentiment, leading to mass shootings and other confrontations, is at a high in the post-Trump and post-Obama era. Police brutality was a fact of life during the Civil Rights era and it continues to be a problem today. The laws that opened access to public educational institutions are being rolled back in some cases. We live in the awkward and fragile tension of enjoying Civil Rights successes and having to maintain them.</p> <p>At the same time, our community is more diverse, dispersed, and disagreeing than the Civil Rights generation. This, too, is a blessing and a curse. The segregation and racism of the 19560s and earlier forced nearly all Black people into the same existential condition. Being marginalized almost without exception and through law meant we all simultaneously faced the same problems and perils. There was no way to be Black that did not involve negotiating the daily stultifying realities of Jim Crow. But nearly 40 years post the fall of Jim Crow, we no longer have (or feel ourselves to have) the same existential condition. Gone are the &#8220;whites only&#8221; and &#8220;colored&#8221; signs that quite literally signified the battle. Gone, in most places, are the variety of &#8220;tests&#8221; that took away the right the vote. Gone, too, are a lot of Black communities that were home to teachers, bankers, sanitation workers, riff raff, juke joint proprietors, doctors, lawyers, and the like. A lot of us now live in exclusive gated communities, suburbs, exurbs, and city neighborhoods&#8211;most of them integrated and predominantly white.</p> <p>Success in an individualistic capitalist society tends toward more individualism and less collective concern. So, now, the question &#8220;What now?&#8221; becomes quite difficult to answer.</p> <p>But answer it we must if we would be faithful stewards of the gains Dr. King&#8217;s generation produced. We must attain the same kind of strategic clarity they possessed. We must figure out the moral and symbolic issues that harness and focus our energies. We must rally together in meaningful and substantive ways and sustain a collective consciousness that reminds us that we &gt; me.</p> <p>Answering &#8220;what now&#8221; certainly can&#8217;t be done by one man doing something as banal as writing a blog post. It must be birthed by the community, the people affected. It must originate with our shared sense of need and fragility, hope and opportunity. It must have moral and symbolic resonance; it must be authentic to who we are and what we face <em>now</em>. It needs to be, if possible, an answer that has as much legitimacy with the brother on the block as the sister in the boardroom.</p> <p>And it need not be entirely about what White people did or do to Black people. Perhaps the next iteration of the Black struggle must take more seriously what Black people do to Black people&#8211;not in a way that denies any ongoing tensions between Black and White (or the State), but in a way that accepts responsibility for those problems that are our own making. We need an agenda that comes from <a href="https://thefrontporch.org/2022/01/who-you-talking-to/">talking to each other</a> about <a href="https://thefrontporch.org/2022/01/what-yall-talking-bout/">things that matter to us</a>.</p> <p>We need an agenda that can be seen and felt <em>locally</em>. So much of our discourse today centers on national events and Federal legislation. That has its place, of course. But it strikes me that there was something very local about the work of the SCLC and other Civil Rights groups. They were <em>in</em> Birmingham. They were <em>in</em> Memphis. They were <em>in</em> Chicago. They found those places and others to be very different places, with their own actors, with their own histories and events, and with their own strategies. We, on the other hand, live and serve in a much more disembodied culture of national news, social media, and &#8220;platform building.&#8221; The more disembodied we are, the more abstract and lacking in the earthiness of local color our agendas tend to be. Abstraction rarely produces traction.</p> <p>So, on the day following the MLK holiday, I&#8217;m left asking &#8220;What next?&#8221; I&#8217;m left wondering if we have enough of a sense of community and connectedness to be able to forge an agenda that heals, helps, and holds us together. I&#8217;m wondering if that agenda can be concrete enough locally to matter but compelling enough morally to move us nationally. I know there are better minds than my own thinking about these things. I pray today that their thoughts bear fruit in a new iteration of the struggle.</p> <p>So, what next? What now, beloved?</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/01/what-now/">What Now?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> Resurrecting with a Burning Yellow Fire (Part 2) http://thefrontporch.org/2022/01/resurrecting-with-a-burning-yellow-fire-part-2/ The Front Porch urn:uuid:b607ce9a-15b2-35c9-ab30-cd0165e1ae80 Tue, 11 Jan 2022 05:55:00 -0600 <p>In Hybrida, Brooklyn Poet Laureate Tina Chang writes, “I’ve come to terms with the fact that I never truly confronted the full spectrum of race in my past, at least...</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/01/resurrecting-with-a-burning-yellow-fire-part-2/">Resurrecting with a Burning Yellow Fire (Part 2)</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In </span><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Hybrida-Poems-Tina-Chang/dp/0393358410/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1FJAZQ6AH9MYX&amp;keywords=hybrida&amp;qid=1641589479&amp;s=books&amp;sprefix=hybrida%2Cstripbooks%2C108&amp;sr=1-1"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Hybrida</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, Brooklyn Poet Laureate Tina Chang writes, “I’ve come to terms with the fact that I never truly confronted the full spectrum of race in my past, at least not enough. Race was never a vessel but a land that bled into the tide. It surged, carried me, and then I arrived at my body.”</span></p> <p><b>Awakening</b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">After suffering the worst of the racial trauma and spiritual abuse of my time in white evangelicalism, I increased my own confrontation of race and struggled for flourishing for myself and my brothers and sisters. One of the ways I worked for this was by pushing for more equitable practices and inclusivity of people of color in leadership within the organization. The result was the formation of a “diversity team” along with a Black male colleague and a South Asian female colleague.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There were warning signs from the beginning. After our first meeting, two white senior told me they had issues with how my Black colleague had said some things in the meeting and pressured me to tell him that he needed to change his tone in order to be “trusted” or just not be on the team.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To be clear, </span><a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-identify-and-help-stop-tone-policing-in-workplace-2020-8#:~:text=Tone%20policing%20is%20defined%20as,inclusion%20must%20understand%20how%20tone"><span style="font-weight: 400;">tone policing</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> like this is a function of white supremacy. Further, by going through me for communication, they made me the spokesperson for their anti-Blackness. With deep regret in hindsight, I gave in to their pressure in that situation. It hurt both me and my Black teammate. We repaired our relationship and worked extremely well together after that, but I don’t want to pass by how deeply ingrained anti-Blackness is in much of the Asian American community and how crucial it is for us to resist it. </span><a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/1508-yellow-peril"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Frank H. Wu is right</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">: “If the integration of Asian Americans is not to further the segregation of African Americans, our abundance cannot be used to excuse their absence.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This was a clear manifestation of the way white supremacy has formed racial hierarchy in the United States. Grace Ji-Sun Kim captures the history of this development well in </span><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Invisible-Theology-Experience-Asian-American/dp/1506470920/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=invisible+theology+and+the+experience+of+asian+american+women&amp;qid=1641589876&amp;sprefix=invisible+theolog%2Caps%2C115&amp;sr=8-1"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Invisible: Theology and the Experience of Asian American Women</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> when she says, “From the seventeenth century, American white supremacists (imported from the English, Spanish, French, and Dutch) viewed race as biologically determined rather than socially constructed. Race was based on skin color differences. Asians were labeled </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">yellow</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in the nineteenth century by the West. The color yellow was a racial marker that had been imbued with new meaning in relation to the white norm. Whites were at the top and Blacks were at the bottom of a fabricated, yet enforced, racial hierarchy.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There is a long history of how this has perpetuated a deep wedge between the Black and Asian American communities, perhaps most famously in the </span><a href="https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-la-riots-korean-american-filmmakers-20170428-htmlstory.html"><span style="font-weight: 400;">LA riots of 1992</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in the aftermath of the unbelievable acquittal of the 4 white LAPD officers who had </span><a href="https://www.npr.org/2017/04/26/524744989/when-la-erupted-in-anger-a-look-back-at-the-rodney-king-riots"><span style="font-weight: 400;">brutally beaten Rodney King</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> as well as the </span><a href="https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-03-17/latasha-harlins-memorial-playground-black-lives-matter-south-los-angeles"><span style="font-weight: 400;">shooting of 15-year old Latasha Harlins</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> by a Korean store owner. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There is also a beautiful history of </span><a href="https://www.npr.org/2021/04/02/983925014/the-history-of-solidarity-between-asian-and-black-americans"><span style="font-weight: 400;">solidarity between Asian and Black Americans</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, but for our “diversity team,” the way our white leaders acted was a small microcosm of the white supremacist racial hierarchy of US society. Over 2 years, we submitted five formal proposals, an organization-wide survey on attitudes towards diversity, and had countless meetings, yet our senior white leaders had done nothing substantial, only speaking of their good intentions and trying to use me as a spokesperson to appease my Black and Brown teammates.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Then the </span><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/03/17/us/shooting-atlanta-acworth"><span style="font-weight: 400;">massacre of Asian women</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in Atlanta on March 16, 2021 happened. Even though I</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">—</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">and several other Asian American staff members</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">—</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">spoke up about how deeply the tragedy had impacted us, nothing was done or said by any senior white leader. I had finally had enough. As Tina Chang writes, “I’ve untied myself, uncuffed the arms and neck. I didn’t know I was hurt like that. I didn’t know there was a force pulling me downward toward bedrock, lulling me to sleep.” Soon afterwards, I began my exit.</span></p> <p><b>Ambition</b></p> <p><a href="https://www.iliff.edu/faculty/antony-w-alumkal/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Antony Alumkal</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, Associate Professor of Sociology of Religion at the Iliff School of Theology, describes and laments the complacency of Asian American evangelicals when he says in </span><a href="https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA97217912&amp;sid=googleScholar&amp;v=2.1&amp;it=r&amp;linkaccess=abs&amp;issn=0095571X&amp;p=AONE&amp;sw=w&amp;userGroupName=anon%7Ec3745580"><span style="font-weight: 400;">a challenging essay</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that “many second-generation Asian American Christians do not appear to be interested in developing their own contributions to Christian theology.” Instead, the fruit of our assimilation is that we prefer to utilize theologies articulated by white American evangelicals. Even now, many Asian American Christians continue trying to earn social acceptance through assimilation to whiteness by living under the </span><a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/03/04/515790514/writing-past-the-white-gaze-as-a-black-author"><span style="font-weight: 400;">white gaze</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, making white pastors and theologians their primary teachers, and attending majority-white evangelical churches that do not adequately address the systems and structures that perpetuate racial injustice.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Alumkal continues: “Creating a distinctly Asian American evangelical theology would require Asian Americans to step out of the comfortable certainty that the contemporary evangelical subculture promotes.” In other words, there needs to be an unassimilation that happens. There needs to be a death — to the “model minority” — so that we would resurrect with a burning </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Yellow</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> fire that means joining in the struggle towards collective liberation from the bonds of white supremacy.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I want to acknowledge that there is certainly controversy in thinking about reclaiming “yellow” as something that describes Asian Americans. </span><a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2018/09/27/647989652/if-we-called-ourselves-yellow"><span style="font-weight: 400;">In a thought-provoking article</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, Kat Chow says, “</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">‘Yellow’ has long been considered noxious. To some, it&#8217;s on par with Chink, gook, nip or Chinaman. And yet. And </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">yet</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">. I sort of love yellow. The idea of calling myself yellow stirs in the pit of my stomach, the same place where bellyaches and excitement form. It feels at once radical and specific. Though it&#8217;s a slur — in fact, </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">because</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> it&#8217;s a slur </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">–– I believe “</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">it&#8217;s the type of word that could force people to face its long, storied history of racism and resistance directly, every time they hear it.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Kat Chow calls back to the 1960s when </span><a href="https://time.com/5837805/asian-american-history/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Asian American” was coined as a term of political advocacy</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, which is also a period often referred to as the “Yellow Power Movement” while also acknowledging how “Yellow” is a term that does not solve how Asian Americans are flattened in some way. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, she still says, </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">“In the pinnacle of the civil rights era, activists used yellow as a term of empowerment — a term they chose for themselves. In some ways, I&#8217;m still seeing that today&#8230;I don&#8217;t know if I&#8217;ll walk around in the world calling myself yellow — maybe to people who have similar experiences to mine; certainly not around people who&#8217;ve flung slurs at me.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Even so, having different words to choose from is itself a comfort. Having yellow in my arsenal makes me feel like my identity doesn&#8217;t hinge on just one thing — one phrase, one history or one experience.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So whether it is expanding our vocabulary of empowerment to include “yellow” or intentionally identifying as “Asian American” with its original purpose of political advocacy and solidarity, increasingly more Asian Americans ought to consider these </span><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Where-Your-Body-Essays-Gender/dp/0807067814#:~:text=In%20Where%20Is%20Your%20Body,of%20a%20more%20just%20society.&amp;text=Book%20recommendations%2C%20author%20interviews%2C%20editors'%20picks%2C%20and%20more."><span style="font-weight: 400;">words from Mari Matsuda</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">: “If white, historically, is the top of the racial hierarchy in America, and black, historically, is the bottom, will yellow assume the place of the racial middle? The role of the racial middle is a critical one. It can reinforce white supremacy if the middle deludes itself into thinking it can be just like white if it tries hard enough. Conversely, the middle can dismantle white supremacy if it refuses to be the middle, if it refuses to buy into racial hierarchy, if it refuses to abandon communities of Black and Brown people, choosing instead to form alliances with them.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In taking up Matsuda’s call to resist being the middle of the racial hierarchy, our collective ambition must be to put to death the dream of assimilation and the idol of being the “model minority”. However, the beauty of resurrection is seeing that the God of abundance wants us to join in the beautiful symphony of the collective cry for the flourishing of all peoples and ethnicities. It means divesting from “whiteness” and daring to make our own contributions to Christianity in a prophetic manner.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For Asian American Christians, the irony of no longer centering white evangelicalism is that we find an even larger, global community that has already done the same, including Asian peoples in our countries of origin. Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro unpacks this in </span><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Asian-Women-Muriel-Orevillo-Montenegro/dp/8172681984/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1GFQ0IOX1ODYG&amp;keywords=the+jesus+of+asian+women&amp;qid=1641591910&amp;sprefix=the+jesus+of+asian+women%2Caps%2C106&amp;sr=8-1"><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Jesus of Asian Women</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, declaring that “Christology should not endorse the oppressive structures in culture, religion, and society by being silent and by hiding behind metaphysical concepts while the broad masses of Asian peoples, mostly adherents of Asian religions, suffer poverty, exploitation, and marginalization under the imperial powers of this world.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Tina Chang was right in saying, “Race was never a vessel but a land that bled into the tide. It surged, carried me, and then I arrived at my body.” Our resurrection is, in some ways, a return to the courageous and imaginative spirit of our immigrant ancestors.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">May more of our brothers and sisters be empowered to live into this spirit, captured well by </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Đỗ Nguyên Mai</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in her poem entitled &#8220;Chinatown&#8221;:</span></p> <blockquote><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We are the stars,</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">longing</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">to become signs illuminating</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">our way across every street. Our feet</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">pound red pins into cement cracks,</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">lay down pillars to a home –</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">we are the map</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">coloring</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">itself.</span></p></blockquote> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org/2022/01/resurrecting-with-a-burning-yellow-fire-part-2/">Resurrecting with a Burning Yellow Fire (Part 2)</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="http://thefrontporch.org">The Front Porch</a>.</p>