My One-on-One Interview with Will Graham

You’d be hard pressed to find someone more influential in the Christian world than Rev. Billy Graham. He’s led millions to Jesus, advised multiple presidents, and has a longevity in ministry that spans 70 years and counting.

But his legacy is bigger than that. It’s also been passed down in his children – and their children.

Recently I had the opportunity to meet Will Graham (Franklin’s son and Billy’s Grandson) on the set of the upcoming film, Unbroken: Path to Redemption, which is a continuation of the Louis Zamperini story first brought to the screen by Angelina Jolie. In the film, Will plays his own grandfather, Billy, in 1949 as he preaches at the famous Los Angeles tent meeting where Louis finds Jesus.

I was on set when they filmed the tent scene and the atmosphere was just surreal, especially considering this isn’t some small, low budget Christian film. This is Universal bringing Louis’ real life story to the big screen. But I digress…

After meeting Will his team informed me that they were going to be holding a crusade in Ft. Wayne, Indiana the next week and they invited me over to spend some time with them and to interview Will for my podcast, The Lucas Miles Show.

And so I did. We talked Jesus, growing up a Graham, his transition into ministry, his love for aviation and more. I enjoyed every second of our time together and I know you will too.

And with that…here is my conversation with Will Graham.

Or listen on ITunes at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/will-graham-aka-billy-grahams-grandson-talks-about/id1243573732?i=1000393615724&mt=2

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The Christian’s Guide To Marriage and Divorce

Let me begin by stating that by writing this I am not trying to create a law for the church, and neither am I trying to state an opposing argument to the teachings of others on the subject of marriage and divorce.  Instead, I’m responding to a need.  Divorce is epidemic.  I’ve heard statistics of anywhere between 35 to 50% of marriages end in divorce (though the exact figure is actually harder to calculate than one might think).

 

Additionally, this article is not intended to bring condemnation on you, regardless of your past decisions or the situation with which you are currently in.  Likewise, this article isn’t intended to help justify getting a divorce.  After all, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7:17 (All scriptures are NIV unless otherwise stated) that “each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him.”  This means that you shouldn’t abandon your marriage or change your family status simply because of new information.  Instead, keep seeking the Lord and make the best of your situation.  The grace of God is sufficient for your circumstance.

 

With that being said, my audience for this piece is Christians considering divorce, Christians who have gone through a divorce in the past, and believers who are considering entering into a relationship with another previously divorced individual.  This is obviously a sensitive subject, so I encourage you to read and stay with the article all the way through to the end.  I truly believe that this message will be good news for the hurting — especially my conclusion!

 

TO THE DIVORCED AND THOSE CONSIDERING DIVORCE     

 

In Malachi 2:16, God clearly says, “I hate divorce.”  I think this is important to point out right from the beginning.  God is not for divorce.  It isn’t the best option.  If you are considering divorce, I believe that you should do whatever you can to reconcile your marriage.  Most at this point say, “I’ve tried that and it didn’t work!”  If this describes you, then perhaps you won’t like what I have to say next.  There are circumstances where scripture permits divorce, which we’ll discuss shortly, but never does scripture permit divorce for the following reasons:

 

    1. Because you aren’t happy.  It isn’t the job of your spouse to make you happy.  Happiness is a choice.  Even in prison, Paul was able to operate in the joy of the Lord.  Seek out biblical help to gain insight and principles to positively affect your marriage and restore joy in your life and relationship.
    2. Because you fell in love with someone else.  According to scripture, this is called adultery, and it’s one of the greatest enemies to marriage.  Every single one of us, at some point, must confront evil desires that try to draw us away from our mate.  James admonishes us to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) Likewise, Proverbs 27:20 states, “Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man.”  If you just allow yourself to follow every single feeling or attraction that you have, you’ll always be blown around like the wind.  If you leave this relationship, because you “fell out of love,” you’ll leave the next one the same way.  Love is a choice and marriage is a commitment to choose to love your spouse, even when it’s hard.
    3. Because it’s challenging or difficult.  People seem to have this misconception that the problems in their marriage are the result of being with the wrong person.  This isn’t the case.  Regardless of God’s original intent, your spouse became the right person the moment you said, “I do.”  Difficulties in marriage, and all relationships, stem from self-centeredness.  Proverbs 13:10 in the KJV states that “only by pride cometh contention.”  This means that pride is the cause of the contention and strife in your relationship.  This shouldn’t condemn you; instead this understanding should encourage you and equip you with the power that you need to end strife forever in your marriage.  Get it at the root by partnering with your spouse to eradicate self-centeredness on both of your parts.
    4. When your spouse wants to stay married to you.  This is assuming that your spouse isn’t or wasn’t unfaithful and is not potentially harmful to you physically.  1 Corinthians 7:12-13 says, “If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.  And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.”  If your mate is willing to work and live with you, you shouldn’t leave or divorce him or her, even if your mate is not a believer. Obviously there are cases when the situation is unsafe due to substance abuse or violent abusive tendencies.  In these situations, it might be necessary to separate for the sake of safety, but still I believe God’s best would be to pursue your mate’s emotional well-being and to seek reconciliation and healing if possible.  Divorce in these situations should be an absolute last resort. (Please note, both parties’ physical safety in a marriage is paramount. If you are unsafe or undergoing physical abuse, seek a safe harbor immediately.  I personally don’t believe that God would ever require someone to stay in a situation defined by abuse.  Don’t wait!  Surround yourself with godly counsel and people who can help you walk through the difficult decisions related to your situation. You don’t have to go at it alone.)

 

When is it Permissible to Divorce?

 

Under the Old Covenant, Deuteronomy 24:1-4 gives specific instructions on divorce and remarriage under the law:

 

 “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled.”

 

Jesus provided further commentary on this passage in Matthew 19:8, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.  But it was not this way from the beginning.  I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.

 

Jesus’ teaching was so strong on this topic that it caused his disciples to say (in verse 10), “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”  Jesus’ disciples seemed to think, if the rules are this tough, it’s better to never get married!

 

Regarding this, John MacArthur states, “The rabbis had taken these laws and broadened them to permit divorce for virtually any reason.  Under the rabbinical laws, if a wife displeased her husband in any way, he was entitled to divorce her.  Jesus stated that this was never the purpose of Moses’ Law.  In fact, Jesus’ teaching on divorce was given specifically to refute the rabbinical loopholes.”

 

Jesus strategically used the law to expose the sinfulness of the self-righteous Jews of his day.  As Paul says, in 1st Timothy 1:8-9, “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.  We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels…”  Jesus took the Law to the extreme and used it to expose those that were trying to use the Mosaic Law to promote their own selfishness and agenda.  The teaching of Jesus stopped them in their tracks.

 

Paul later clarifies the doctrine of the church regarding marriage and divorce in 1St Corinthians 7:10, “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord):  A wife must not separate from her husband.  But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.  And a husband must not divorce his wife.”  Some might be surprised to find that the commands for marriage and divorce actually appear stricter under the New Covenant.  Paul agrees with Moses by stating that divorce isn’t permissible (except for marital unfaithfulness), but both Paul and Jesus added to the Mosaic law by teaching that if you DO get a divorce, you should remain unmarried.  This instruction, in my opinion, is addressed specifically to the spouse seeking divorce, in order to expose their motives.

 

But what about the finished work of the Cross?  Didn’t Christ die to free us from our sin?

 

Absolutely, but Christ didn’t free us so that we could sin, but rather so that we could be freed from sin.

 

So does this mean that if I get a divorce, God won’t have grace for me?

 

If only I could answer this question that easily, but, ultimately, I believe it comes down to the condition of the heart.  If you are simply looking for a spiritual excuse to divorce your spouse, how can God bless that?  But if you go through a divorce, despite your best efforts to seek the Lord and make things work, why would you think that God’s grace is not present in your life? Many times over the years people have come to me for counsel wanting to divorce their spouse, but they’re afraid of the spiritual ramifications of divorce.  At this point, they’ve already divorced their spouse in their heart, but think that by maintaining the marriage from a legal standpoint that their righteousness is intact.  This is sort of thinking is steeped in self-righteousness, and carries an inherent misunderstanding of law and grace.

 

On the flip side, too often churches have made divorcees feel like second-class citizens in the kingdom of God — this shouldn’t be either. Is divorce greater than any other sin a man might commit? Are couples living in continuous strife and grief any better? Is it better to remain unmarried post-divorce and become riddled with depression, lust, or even sexual sin?  The real question is what’s in your heart? Why do you want to get a divorce? Why do you want to remarry? These issues aren’t as black and white as some might prefer, but I believe being honest with our hearts is the only way that we can really live in confidence before God and man and find wisdom to walk through our present circumstances.

 

Many times people seem to want me to answer their question, “Can I get a divorce or not?” It is so hard to make blanket statements about this though, because situations do vary considerably.  Those looking for a “rule” in the New Testament won’t find it; much like the rich young ruler, Jesus will simply answer, “There’s one thing you lack.”

 

Even in writing this, I’m well aware that someone might try to twist certain liberties or permissions to justify doing what they want to do.  At the end of the day, I can’t be responsible for that; neither can the Word.  This is just one of many reasons I believe aspects of Paul’s writings are vague on the subject — the new covenant was never intended to become law, but rather principles based upon love.  My intention in writing this is to speak to those who are trying to do the right thing, to follow God’s word, and to break free from the guilt and condemnation associated with their past.

 

If you are married and considering divorce, seek solid biblical counsel, and more importantly, seek God for strength and hope.  Remember, it took time and effort to create the hurts in your relationship and in the same way, it’ll take time and effort to bring healing and to regain intimacy.  Don’t give up early, don’t rush the process.  Give it time and healing will come in your life — regardless of the final state of your marriage.  God is faithful!

 

 

 

When is it Better to Remarry?

 

First Corinthians 7:8-9 provides additional insight into the question, “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.  But if they cannot contain, let them marry:  for it is better to marry than to burn.

 

Paul says that if you’re unmarried or a widow, it’s best to remain that way, but if you cannot, it is much better to marry than to be bogged down by feelings of lust, loneliness, and dissatisfaction.  The word for “unmarried” in the Greek, means simply that – unmarried.  It’s different from the word for “a virgin,” and doesn’t seem to take into account the person’s history or past.  Essentially, Paul is stating that regardless of your past, it is better to marry, than burn with lust and passion.

 

DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE

 

First off, if you haven’t yet, read the section above, as I believe it will give some biblical insight into the nature of divorce and God’s perspective on the issue.  Beyond this, it’s important to note that divorce in most cases (almost always) is the result of two people’s shortcomings and failings and not just one party.  More often, when one party has an affair or files for divorce first, they typically are seen as the “bad guy” (or gal).  But in divorce, everyone loses; no one leaves unscathed.

 

Also, let’s be honest — no one really knows what goes on inside of a relationship between two people and we need to be careful of making quick judgment-calls as to fault, etc.  As the saying goes, “It does take two to tango.”  Often one’s behavior is simply a response to the other’s behavior.  You treated me like this, therefore, I’ll do this, and so on it goes.  As marriage counselor Emerson Eggerichs calls it, couples enter the “crazy cycle,” spiraling downward until someone eventually can’t take it anymore and the relationship is inevitably dissolved.

 

You need to be honest with yourself and with your spouse or significant other.  If you’re divorced, it’s okay to take ownership of your short comings and your mistakes in the relationship.  You’re human – and we all make mistakes.  Some mistakes have greater impact and consequences in our lives, but as Paul shares with the Roman church, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  Take ownership and learn from the mistakes of your past.  In fact, simply blaming the entirety of your divorce on your ex does little to help your new husband or wife.  They would be much better off knowing realistically what caused the problems in the relationship.  If they really love you, they’ll want to understand and work with you through these struggles or past tendencies.

 

Except in extreme cases, there are most likely things that both parties could have done differently to salvage the relationship.  The exception would be in extremely abusive relationships, either physically or emotionally, where one party is being victimized.  As tragic as these situations are, many of them (note not all) could have been avoided all together by not rushing into a relationship without taking time to really know the other person and their past.  In no way though does this excuse the abusive person from their behavior.  Rather, it should serve as a warning as to the danger of rushing into relationships or just naively assuming that “once we get married they’ll change.”  In entering marriage, you should assume that the person will never change and in fact, their problems are likely to get worse.  After all, while dating we are all on our best behavior.

 

Often times, I’m asked if as a Christian, it’s okay to marry someone who has been divorced. (Earlier I dealt with if it’s okay as a divorced Christian to get remarried, which in some ways is the same answer.)  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV), “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord):  A wife must not separate from her husband.  But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled from her husband.  And a husband must not divorce his wife.”  For obvious reasons this teaching isn’t very popular.

 

Paul starts off in this passage and tells the church, as a charge from God, that husbands and wives should not separate from each other.  This is God’s best.  Marriage is supposed to be a picture of God’s love towards us.  He never leaves us nor forsakes us.  Unfortunately, in today’s world, many have ignored this charge or been unable to live under it.  But Paul (and the Lord) anticipates this, and states, “But if she does”.  And then he goes on to give instruction that if someone does divorce, that she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.

 

I think it’s important to point out that these instructions were given to Christians within the church.  Personally, I believe that if divorce or remarriage happened prior to a person coming to Christ, then Paul’s instruction aren’t applicable.  It is also important to note that Paul was not writing to the person whose spouse divorced them, but rather to the Christian person who filed for divorce and decided to leave.  If they are leaving for reasons other than physical abuse or marital unfaithfulness, then they should remain unmarried.  Marriage should be treated with the highest level of respect and not abandoned lightly.  This charge should make someone considering leaving their marriage for superficial reasons think twice and should be a motivation to try to make it work.  Unfortunately, many ignore this and leave anyway.

 

Throughout scripture, marriage is used as the closet analogy of Christ’s relationship with the church.  Scripture tells us that even when we are unfaithful, that He will remain faithful to us.  We would do well to learn from Christ as to how to love our spouse and have a successful marriage.

God’s Grace in Marriage and Divorce

 Some of you might ask, so where is God’s grace in all of this?  Obviously, as with anything, it is ever present and is sufficient towards us in all ways!  First off, if this is the first time you’ve heard any of this teaching or you’ve recently became a Christian, or you’ve been divorced before and are now remarried, engaged to be married, or are wanting to get remarried someday, I don’t believe Paul’s words are meant to condemn you or to restrict you from enjoying your life as a Christian.

 

Beyond all of this, the Bible teaches that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  Were you divorced and later became remarried?  Stay as you are, there is grace for you.  Did your spouse divorce you?  You are free to remarry.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:15, “A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstance.

 

As a Christian, did you divorce your spouse for reasons other than abuse or their unfaithfulness?  Repent and realize your mistake, God’s grace is sufficient for you.  Of course, the best case scenario would be to restore your failed marriage (assuming they haven’t yet remarried).  If you divorced your spouse prior to becoming a Christian, you are not bound to your previous life, God’s grace is sufficient for you.  Personally, I believe, you are free to marry.

 

Are you considering marrying someone who is divorced?  If, as a Christian, they divorced their spouse for reasons other than what scripture provides, how do you know that they will not do the same to you?  This is not a situation to enter into lightly.  Seek the Lord for wisdom in what you should do.

 

As I think about this, really the only person who might be offended by this teaching is the believer who is currently thinking of divorcing their spouse for ungodly reasons.  And for that, should you not be offended?  If that is you, repent, change your heart, and seek counsel on how to restore your marriage.

 

But if you do get divorced, I tell you the same as Paul states, you are not to get remarried; for you are making that choice now with full knowledge and with rebellion towards the truth.  As James reminds us in 4:6, “But he gives us more grace.  That is why scripture says:  “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

 

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Kenyan Security Officer: Trump is God’s Chosen

For years, Kenya, historically one of the strongest economic centers in Africa, has battled the rise of terror groups, such as ISIS and Al-Shabab, the difficulty of securing their northern border with Somalia, as well as meeting the needs of high volumes of displaced people groups throughout the country. Having spent collectively more than several months in Kenya over the past decade, I’ve had the opportunity to witness firsthand many of the challenges facing Kenya through my work with The Oasis Network For Churches.

This week, the conservative news outlet, Faithwire, released a shocking video from one of my recent trips to Kenya in which I interview a high ranking Kenyan national security officer regarding border safety under the Trump administration.  The story, which can be found HERE, picked up massive national reach after being tweeted by Tomi Lahren, a leading conservative commentator and Trump supporter.

Actually in Kenya we say that, ‘Trump is God’s chosen.’ Because by him being there so many things to do with terrorism and the spirit behind the Islam has been restricted.     -Officer Harrison Gnota

The original interview, which was recorded as part of filming of Miles Away, a new reality documentary that follows my work with The Oasis Network can be found here:

 

Looking for more content from Lucas Miles?  Make sure and head over to http://www.faithwire.com/podcasts/the-lucas-miles-show/ to listen to the newest podcast with world-class influencers, authors, and thought-leaders, like DeVon Franklon, Kevin Sorbo, Andrew Wommack, and more!

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The Benham Brothers – On Conviction, Commitment, and Courage

As real estate moguls, reality show stars, former pro baseball players, and authors, twins David and Jason Benham know something about accomplishing dreams and fulfilling the call of God on one’s life. Recently I had the chance to sit down with the Benham brothers to discuss how they built their real estate empire, their former show on HGTV, wisdom they gleaned from Phil Robertson, as well as their special connection to Vice President Mike Pence.

Listen to the full interview here:

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The Greatest Leadership Mind in the World

Like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Dr. Dean Radtke may be the only hope left for the modern church as we know it. Yah, yah, I know…our hope is in Christ, but perhaps more than anyone I’ve ever witnessed, Dr. Radtke has harnessed the leadership principles of the Bible, specifically those of Jesus, and developed a usable and repeatable system to train and disciple next generation leaders. In a recent episode of The Lucas Miles Show, I was able to talk in depth with Dr. Radtke, founder of The Ministry Institute, as he shared life lessons derived from his 70 plus years circling the sun, including tales from his time in the US Navy, his favorite former distraction at Grand Central Station, as well as what compelled him to give up millions in retirement stock options for Jesus.

Here is a link to the full exclusive interview with Dr. Dean Radtke:

 

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From Porn to Reborn

 

In 2006, Crissy Outlaw left the porn industry. Now, she helps other women do the same. Crissy speaks out about the harmful effects of pornography. Her story has been featured on platforms, such as, ABC’s Nightline, GQ Magazine, The Huffington Post, CBN, Playboy, and Christianity Today. Recently I had the chance to sit down with Crissy on my new podcast program, The Lucas Miles Show, and discuss the dangers of the porn industry, her journey out of adult entertainment, and how she found Jesus on a film set in LA. (Listen to audio interview here.)

Here are a few things I learned during the interview:

1.)  Stats suggest over 80% of women involved in porn were previously sexually abused.  (In Crissy’s experience helping minister to girls post-porn, she says it’s much higher than that.)

2.)  It’s virtually impossible to leave porn. As we discussed in depth in the interview, Crissy exited porn years ago and is still unable to remove her likeness or image from the internet.  Guarded by bulky and confusing legal agreements, website owners have refused to honor her decision to leave behind her life in adult entertainment and continue to make money off of her to this day.

3.)  Sex Trafficking is defined by involving “coercion” or forcing someone to compromise their own interests.  According to Crissy, coercion is always present in porn and provides a gateway to more insidious forms of sex trafficking.

4.)  There is hope after porn.  I was so impressed by Crissy’s journey back to Jesus, her love that motivates her to help reach other girls like her, and the way in which God’s grace has brought restoration into her life.

To listen to the full interview, or to download past episodes of The Lucas Miles Show featuring other amazing guests, such as DeVon Franklin, Kevin Sorbo, or Lauren Green, click on the image below:

Additionally, Faithwire.com recently featured a story on my podcast with Crissy Outlaw, here is the link:

The Devastating Sin Many Churches are Afraid to Talk About

 

 

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Legalism or Progressivism: Which is Deadlier to Faith?

Since 2002, I’ve been advocating for religion-free Christianity, as well as warning of the dangers of allowing legalism to invade our faith-walk. Over the years, I’ve been accused by fundamentalists of being “soft on sin,” preaching “greasy grace,” and failing to understand the importance of the Law.

I’ve been physically assaulted on two separate occasions, I’ve been labeled a “radical” and a “heretic,” placed on false teacher websites and have been blacklisted from several churches due to my views on sovereignty, the believer’s authority, and faith-righteousness.  Through all of that, I’ve stood strong for the message of the New Covenant, the finished work of the cross, and the righteousness of the believer through faith.

Recently though, I’ve received a new form of opposition. Despite my very public (and considered in some circles to be “radical”) stance on grace, I’ve now been accused of being a legalist. How did this happen you may wonder?  Let me explain.

For the last several years, I’ve been addressing a theological phenomenon known by some as spiritual extrapolation.  Spiritual extrapolation is the process by which one attempts to discover a deeper revelation of the Word by starting with a biblical truth, but over time extrapolating the revelation of that truth, until the end doctrine has progressed beyond what is found in Scripture, and the individual ends up in error.

The main concern of spiritual extrapolation is not simply that one now holds to the error, but that he has let go of the value and importance of the Word in establishing a right belief about God.  This form of extrapolation, rooted in Gnostic thinking, gives preference to reason and logic over biblical inerrancy.  Thoughts such as, “If God is really good, then there would be no hell,” sound good on paper, but they violate foundational truths of the Bible, such as freewill, personal responsibility, and the empowerment of the believer. Don’t be fooled, a God that gives no choice, cannot be truly good.

I understand the attraction to this line of thinking, especially by my grace brothers and sisters, many of whom have been deeply wounded by denominational thinking and Pharisaical Christianity. Like many in the grace community, I too, have experienced firsthand the negative effects of legalism, adherence to tradition, and the damage that a faulty view of God can cause to one’s emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.

It makes sense to me that those of us who have been wounded by religion would have the tendency to set sail for greener and freer theological pastures.  And in many cases, this has proven to give birth to wonderful theological renewal.  New insights into the meaning of the cross, a greater understanding of the purpose of the Mosaic Law, and powerful personal revelations of the unbreakable and everlasting covenant with our God through Christ abound. But not all “so called” revelations are good, as is the case with progressive thinking that inevitably leads to extra-biblical extrapolation.

Think of doctrine like a buoy floating in the ocean. Fixed to the bottom of the ocean floor by a strong cable, the buoy is free to float along the surface of the water. It can float a little to the left or a little to the right, but ultimately, it remains safely anchored to the seabed.

In the case of doctrine, our opinions regarding specific scriptures may float, if you will, between various individual interpretations and theological variations, but assuming we are still connected to the Bible and the Lordship of Jesus, we can remain fixed within the broader bounds of orthodoxy, free from the devastating effects of heresy.

However, if our belief and connection to the infallibility of the Word of God is somehow lost, like a buoy ripped from its foundation, we, too run the risk of floating out into the life-threatening waters of false doctrine. This is exactly what happens in the case of spiritual extrapolation and it is the trademark of progressivism.  (For more on spiritual extrapolation, click HERE.)

Verses that used to serve as the final authority on a given topic, are now treated with contempt – marginalized, criticized, or suggested to be inapplicable to a New Covenant believer in the modern era.  All this is just a vain attempt to justify holding onto false doctrines and man-made opinions over the Word of God.

Furthermore, since our new doctrines inevitably violate the Word of God, our belief system creates a tension in our heart.  The need to resolve this tension only further propels us into distancing ourselves from the Bible.  If we begin to hold to a particular belief and wrongly elevate it over the truth of the scriptures, eventually, something has to give.  Unfortunately, our pride usually prevents that from being our own belief system, so by default, our dependence on the scriptures is often the first to detach.

“But isn’t progressivism better than legalism?” I was asked recently. To be completely honest, I had to think about that question for a minute, until I eventually found myself answering it with a resounding, “No!” Here’s why.

In Romans 3:19, Paul writes, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.”

Additionally, Paul adds in Galatians 3:23-24,

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.”

According to Paul, the purpose of the Law was to silence man before God and to reveal his need for a savior.  In fact, any real effort at attempting to fulfill the Law, should eventually lead a person to a deep surrender to the lordship of Jesus.

If man were truly to attempt to fulfill the whole law, he would quickly realize that he could not, and therefore, would call out to God for help.  In reality, mixture is infinitely more dangerous than adherence to the Law, because the worshipper falsely believes that with just a little bit of law and a little bit of God’s grace, he could accomplish righteousness on his own.

But in the case of progressivism, the worshipper must reject allegiance to the written Word of God, which is supposed to confirm and validate the person of Christ and the truth of God. Through humanistic thinking, a progressivist simply follows his own vain imaginations and theological ponderings.  Floating detached from truth, he begins interpreting Scripture with what feels like divine inspiration, yet with each new wave of “revelation,” he floats closer to the shores of agnostic skepticism, before eventually running aground on the rocks of atheism.

These theological drifters have exchanged the Holy Spirit’s prompting for the comfort of their own wit, and by doing so, have lost the opportunity to be reined in by spiritual conviction and God’s rebuke.  Though once enlightened, the tether that was at one time attached to their source of truth has been severed – cut by their own egos.  As a result, progressivists exist in an extra-biblical world, outside of the covenants and separated from the Word of God.

For example, some progressivists suggest that the apostle Paul had only a partial revelation of grace, thus, “his words can’t be fully trusted.”  Anyone who adheres to this thinking is like one who makes the “doctrine of the month” his new authority. His own lack of confidence in the word testifies against him.

Contrast this with the legalist, who, even though he preaches a “ministry of death,” remains loyal to the very law that was intended to lead a man to Christ.  Ironically, through this strict adherence to the Law, there’s actually an opportunity for faith to lead such a person to the hope found in the Gospel.

Does this mean that we should stop speaking out about the hazards of legalistic thinking, because it’s not as dangerous as progressivism?  Personally, I’m not even sure that this is the right question.

Whenever legalistic thinking and/or progressive thought present themselves as an affront to the message of the cross, we do speak – but not with humanistic partiality.  As New Covenant believers, our purpose should not be defined in what we are against, but rather in what we are for – and that is the reconciliation of the world to God.  As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

The frequency with which grace-oriented believers are turning a blind-eye to the grievous errors of Universalism, yet vehemently splitting hairs over minor doctrines such as the tithe is appalling.  It is like jumping over a canyon in order to condemn a crevice.

Some might falsely think that I’m proposing that it’s never right to challenge tradition or to distance ourselves from so-called orthodoxy, but anyone who has read any of my past works knows that I often challenge traditional commentaries on various passages and present “new” meanings to verses. True orthodoxy, however, should never be mistaken for deceptive interpretations or a misrepresentation of God’s intentions.

So how can we as believers protect ourselves from the blind oppression of legalism or the subtle deception of progressivism?

Here are a few questions to consider when approaching doctrinal differences, both old and new.

  • Is my understanding of this belief based upon the sum of God’s Word?
  • In order to believe some new idea, am I forced to ignore certain scriptures or invalidate entire books of the Bible?
  • Is my belief based upon scriptural context or shaped by my pre-formed assumptions?
  • Does my embrace of Jesus as the Word of God force me to distance myself from the Bible as the Word of God?
  • Does my view of God’s goodness rob man of his own right to choose?

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Philemon 6: Harmonizing Two Opposing Viewpoints

One of my favorite verses has always been Philemon 6, which reads in the NIV, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” Essentially, Paul is explaining that the more we share our faith, the more understanding we gain into our unique position in Christ.  I take this to mean that evangelism, doesn’t just strengthen the new convert, but also the one sharing their faith.

As powerful as this is, the KJV translation presents a different and somewhat opposing reading of the very same verse.  It states, That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” The KJV reverses the order and describes a different process at work; that as we acknowledge the realities of the finished work in our life, the more effective our faith will be.  For the believer, this directs our focus to the confession of who we are in Christ as a tool in seeing our faith manifest into the physical dimension.

So which is it? Do we share our faith in order to learn more about who we are in Christ?  Or do we speak the truth about who we are in him, in order to see our faith shine?  I say, “BOTH!”  Certainly, the more we share our faith, the more we will grow and learn.  And the more we confess the realities of the new covenant over our lives, the more we will begin to see those realities made manifest.  Instead of battling over which is true – do both and you’ll be blessed either way!

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Biblical Interpretation: 5 Things To Consider When Studying God’s Word

Everyone would like to think that their understanding of the Bible is accurate, but with so many different denominations and doctrinal positions, we can’t all be right. So how can we ensure that our theological conclusions are inline with the heart of God and the truth of the Word? Here are a few tips to help keep you on the right path and prevent you from ending up in a theological ditch.

1.) Study Multiple Translations – Although the original text is infallible that doesn’t mean that the English translations always are. If you don’t speak the original languages of Greek and Hebrew, then I suggest studying the Bible in multiple English translations in order to gain a fuller understanding.  By using multiple translations, you can cross-reference these readings with one another in order to validate your conclusions and to temper your findings.  This prevents extrapolating some misguided truth from one translation that is clearly not intended in the original language nor found in other translations.  Some of my personal favorites to use are: NASB, KJV, AMP, MSG, and the HCSB.

2.) Validated by History – Although Church history certainly has its fair share of abuses and skeletons in its closest, this doesn’t mean that history doesn’t have anything to offer.  After 2000 years of Biblical study, I get a little concerned if I’m the only person to come to a specific conclusion.  Have I challenged the status quo of religion before? Certainly! But it’s important to never do this lightly. When writing my book Good God, I challenged the traditional understanding on the book of Job, James 1, and several other passages, but I wasn’t alone in my findings.  Additionally, I took over a decade before I released my findings publicly to ensure that I had uncovered every theological stone possible.  But don’t fool yourself; we all want to think that we’re right. Recently, I’ve witnessed a tendency by those holding to Christian Inclusionism and Universalism to find support for their faulty theological preferences among obscure Eastern Church Fathers, most of whom were considered heretics by their own peers while they were still alive due to their associations with Gnostic thought and other false teachings. If you search far enough into history, you’re certain to find someone who agrees with you, but this doesn’t mean that you’re right.  History alone should never be the only determination, right or wrong.  Remember, instructing people about the heart of God is a beautiful thing, but its also an awesome responsibility.  Recklessness from the pulpit by sharing poorly constructed doctrines and rushed theological conclusions is irresponsible pastoring and should be avoided whenever possible.

3.) In Accordance with the Person of Jesus– The book of Hebrews calls Jesus the “exact representation of God’s being”. This means, if you want to know what God is like, just look at Jesus. As we study the Word, this is an important understanding. If our conclusions about God, derived from the Word, don’t line up with the person of Jesus, then its time to reexamine our interpretation of the scriptures. Did Jesus ever make someone sick?  Give someone cancer? Steal someone’s child? Then neither does God. So when Bible teachers tell you that God will give us trials in order to teach us something, it’s time to find new teachers.  A true interpretation of scripture will never violate the real character of God.

4.) Listen to the Holy Spirit – Although the most subjective, confirmation from the Holy Spirit is easily the most important aspect of gaining revelation from the Bible. Often in my studies, God will first show me something in the Spirit, which will lead me to begin searching out a particular topic or verse. Proverbs 25:2 offers this, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” Does this mean that what you hear is always right? No, but it offers at least a starting point. Sure there are some who have fallen into religious arrogance and rush to claim “God told me” to justify their slanted opinions, but this shouldn’t stop us from seeking the Holy Spirit.  On the contrary, no amount of scholarly study can ever adequately portray and understand the heart of God and the message of the Gospel without a revelation from the Holy Spirit.

5.) Check Your Motive – Perhaps one of the most important considerations in studying the Bible is our own personal motives. Are you studying a particular topic simply to justify your own desires? Does your ego “need” to find something “new” in the Word in order to feel smart? Or are you studying the Word in order to know God and to make him known, regardless of what you discover about him?

What other tips do you have to help ensure that your study of scripture stays on track?

Enjoy what you’re reading?

Make sure and pick up a copy of Lucas’ new book, Good God: The One We Want To Believe In But Are Afraid To Embrace, and don’t forget to download the free missing chapter from the book at www.lucasmiles.org/missingchapter

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Making Sense of Psalm 119:71

In my pursuit to reveal God’s goodness and true character to the world, I often spend more time studying passages of scripture that seem to contradict his goodness, than those that validate it.  To put it another way – I focus on studying what I call the “problem passages”, so that I can understand them in context and help people see that God is in fact, better than we think he is.

In my recent book, Good God, I dealt with literally dozens of these problem passages, such as: the book of Job (yes, that’s right, the whole book), James 1, Hebrews 12, John 9, Romans 9, and so many more.  Although I tried to make Good God as exhaustive as possible in dealing with the questions that people might have about God, every now and then, I come across an additional verse that didn’t make the cut.  Perhaps I’ll release an updated version down the road that might include some of these, but in the meantime, that’s what my blog is for.

One such verse is Psalm 119:71.  It states,  “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.”

Out of context and by itself, it’s easy to spot the apparent contradiction to the character of God that I present in Good God.  It appears that the writer is thanking God for afflicting him, so that he could learn his ways.  If you’re a student of the message of grace, or if you’ve read my book, then you know that this can’t be the true intention of the writer.  So what’s going on here?  What does the passage really mean?

As usual, context is king.

Let’s take a look at the full passage from a different translation.

Before I had trouble, I strayed from the true path, the path of righteousness, but now I live according to Your word. You are truly good, and Your acts are too; teach me what You require. The proud smear me with their lies; I will keep Your instructions wholeheartedly. Their hearts are dull and callous; I am delighted to study Your teaching. It is a good thing that I was humbled because it helped me learn Your limits.
-Psalm 119:67-71 VOICE

In context, the writer clearly states that his pain was as a result of his own choice to stray from God’s path.  Never is he accusing God of doing anything to him, but rather he is simply acknowledging that he was thankful that he experienced humility during his rebellion, otherwise he wouldn’t have turned back to God.  God didn’t bring him through bad things to humble him, but because he went through bad things and humbled himself – he was thankful.

Just another perfect example why context is so important in reading scripture.  Remember, when you come across a verse or a passage that seems to contradict what you know about God; take the time to study it out and see what it really says.

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