Category Archives: Grace

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?

Leave a Comment

Filed under Articles, Grace, Teachings

The Flea and the Acrobat: A Spiritual Lesson in Stranger Things

(Spoiler Alert – Stranger Things Season 1 Details Below)

image

On the Netflix hit series, Stranger Things, an over-eager middle school science professor, Mr. Clarke, explains to three of his young pupils about the nature of dimensional travel. He reveals that our current dimension is like a tight rope and mankind is like an acrobat carefully walking the line. Limited by our nature, we are only able to walk across the line in a single direction. But he reveals that a smaller creature, like a flea, might be able to walk along the line, moving freely, forward and backward, and even “upside down”, where it would then enter a sub-dimension. But that’s a flea? What about humans? Humans, according to Mr. Clarke, could only ever experience this “upside down” sub-dimension if there was some tremendous release of energy that opened a portal to this other world.

image.jpeg

Hmm, that’s interesting.

This morning while studying I read Ephesians 2:6 that reveals that “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”. This got me thinking.

In the beginning, God created us in a world of perfection; that we know as the Garden of Eden (or the top side of the tight rope). But when we fell, a tremendous amount of energy was released, and we were forced through a portal into a lesser reality – a sub-natural existence, much like the upside down world of Stranger Things.

Sadly though, upside down begins to feel “right” after you’ve stayed that way for so long, so that now many who are still trapped in this upside down post-fall world are unaware that they aren’t right side up. I’m confident that even for the believer, as we finally enter into the full reality of eternal life, that only then will we realize how very sub-natural we actually were.

But according to Ephesians, we don’t need to wait until we die to enter this world. For the believer, we are there now – seated with Him! Through the power of the resurrection, a new and living portal was reopened by which all who believe on the name of the Lord Jesus may pass freely from darkness into light. What an awesome truth! (And a pretty cool comparison for all of the Stranger Things geeks out there like me.)

What do you think?  Any other connections between Stranger Things and faith?

4 Comments

Filed under Articles, Grace, Uncategorized

The Final Secret: Part 5

2 Corinthians 6:2

For he says,

“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”[a]

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

The key to this is just putting Him first.

We talk about the timing of God. You’ve heard it before.

“In God’s time…”

“In the Lord’s timing…”

Basically, it’s a way of people saying they really don’t believe in you, but if God wants it to happen he’ll surprise me. That’s the undertone. That’s the condescending, “In God’s timing.”

In reality, God is a present God. His timing is now. Today is the day of salvation.

I believe heaven is actually – fully – a present environment. Meaning you are fully in the now.

We talk about it, but seldom do we grasp that God wants us to experience everything he has for us right now.  That’s not how we think. We talk about it, but what we’re actually saying are words from a heart filled with doubt.

I ask people what they want to do and some want to be surgeons, musicians, to teach children life skills…yet, they’re doing something entirely different. So then I ask, “What are you doing today to work that out?”

“How are you putting God first to see it come to fruition?”

But, we compartmentalize our will and God’s will because we think they’re two different things. We think “I want to do this, but if I seek God’s will – his will for my life is going to suck.” So, we wait to do God’s stuff because we think it’s going to suck. But, the Bible says today is the day of salvation.

And, you know what? I realized this: God made you. And God made all the desires of your heart. And when you walk in them he fulfills them.

God’s not going to take you to a place that’s miserable. That’s not spirituality. I’ve met a lot of Christians who think being miserable is spirituality. But my guess is they’re not actually doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

The church I grew up in allowed me to become more involved the older I got. I helped out, led studies, and took offering, helped with communion. One day I asked one of the ladies how long she had been helping set up for communion. She told me she had been doing it for 18 years. I asked her what she liked about it and she shocked me with her reply. “Nothing.” Because she had to get up early to set up and she was miserable. And some would say she was doing God’s will when in fact she was just going through religious calisthenics. She thought she needed to be a slave for Jesus. There’s no reason to return to bondage. He has set you free.

When you are doing what God wants for your life it should produce love. And love should produce an individual expression of how youy can use your time and talent and energy for God. It’s going to be something you love.

God’s timing is not about all the spiritual stuff. God’s timing is now. The question is – do we have the intention to actually do it some day? Because a lot of dreams and callings we have – we want God’s blessings and his wisdom. So, why aren’t we doing it today?

We should want to do his will today and walk it out.  In finances, relationships, health…

When we submit our intentions to his way of thinking the result is action. The result is blessing. The result is – we experience just what we desire.

Some people say, “I can’t wait to be a millionaire because I want to give so much money away.”

My question is, “How much are you giving away now? A dollar? Five?” The amount doesn’t matter. What matters is the intention of the heart. And if you’re not generous now – you won’t be generous then. If you are not generous with your time now – you won’t be generous with your time then – when you’re financially free.

If you’re living for yourself now – you’re going to live for yourself later.

The question is – today is the day of salvation. God wants to invade your way of thinking and transform your attitude. And guess what – it’s IN you.

That grace, that seed – it’s been planted. You don’t have to dig it up. It’s there. It’s growing and it might take longer than you thought, but His grace is growing in you.

If you continue to put him first – not out of performance, but out of understanding that his way is the way to a blessed future – to our preferred reality…His path is the path to that if you understand that you will experience the life of your dreams.

Sure, there’s an enemy and he wants to choke you out. But greater is the One in you. And we don’t have to be afraid.

1 Timothy 1:7

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 

God’s wisdom is really simple.

Seek Him.

Seek what he has to say.

Remember when I started this series – I asked you to close your eyes and ask yourself what your life would look like if it was working? Once again I want to ask you to close your eyes. And this time I want you to ask yourself what your life would look like if you put God first. It should look better than the first time you pictured it. Because, now you have the secret. And the secret is simply this: Put God first. 

1 Comment

Filed under Grace, grace teaching, Leadership, Uncategorized

The Final Secret: Part 4

2 Corinthians 3:6

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

I’m a recovering legalist. There was a time in my life when my relationship with God was based on how well I did and how well I performed. But, that’s not the Gospel.

The verse from Ephesians reminds us that the law brings death. It’s taken me a long time to realize that. If something isn’t working in my life there’s a simple reason. I’m not talking about those things that take time. There’s seed time and harvest. Sometimes we have to plant seeds and wait for them to germinate. We have to wait for them to develop and we seek a harvest on that.

I’m talking about things that are flat out not working and you know they’re not working. Whether it’s a relationship, how you’re connected to people, how you talk to people; maybe your financial goals and you realize – this just isn’t working. Weight loss, parenting, a dream… If something isn’t working in my life I’ve found that I’m not operating in grace in that area. Because – GRACE WORKS.

Grace works every single time. It gives life. It increases, it prospers, and it grows. Grace works. There’s life in it. It’s that life giving seed planted in the ground and you know what it will do.

For about three years my wife Krissy and I planted a garden. Before I go any further – you know we’ve all had our dumb moments. We’ve all done stupid things. This was one of those things for me. No joke, the first year I planted the seeds – I’m looking at the back of the package and it says the corn will grow in 6-10 days. Day 6, day 7…I was getting irritated because there was nothing there.

So, I’m serious – I actually went to the garden and dug up the corn to see if the seeds had germinated. And I immediately remembered Jesus’ parable in which He says no one plants a field and then digs it up to see if it’s growing. And I was like, well, this kid does!

And as silly as all that sounds – we do it all the time. We say, “God, you said this was what I was supposed to do. Is it working? Why isn’t it working yet?” And we push and prod and pull.

Bottom line – grace works. And it develops in our lives and we cannot stop that.

What doesn’t work is legalism and law and performance. When we have that kind of thinking and are consistently falling apart in our finances – then there’s legalism. It’s an attitude of lack and performance in our finances that is preventing that area from growing and developing.

Believe that God wants you to prosper and that it happens when we put him first and we worry about him and we let him worry about us. That’s the starting point. We have to start there – in parenting, health – we have to look in the mirror and ask, “Lord, am I doing this through grace?”

There are still those areas in my life as a grace pastor that I’m still open to that I haven’t yet been able to identify. Areas that God is going to show me and he’s going to eradicate those blind spots and I’m going to be able to walk in grace in those areas. And that’s humility that allows us to ask for help.

God uses others to speak to us when we can’t see it ourselves. He uses others to share these areas – but I have a rule. I do not let someone who doesn’t understand the Gospel of grace to speak into my life on heart issues, heart level – grace oriented stuff. Other areas – tech stuff, construction – sure. But, not heart matters because it’s the heart of the Gospel of Grace.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Grace, grace teaching, Teachings, Uncategorized

The Sign of the Rainbow: Grace and the Homosexual Community

I regularly receive questions regarding issues of what I call “practical” grace.  Lately some of the most common questions have dealt with grace and homosexuality.  Many pastors have chosen to shy away from answering similar questions, due to the immense controversy, but I personally believe that as this issue continues to gain increased attention both socially and politically, it is likewise important that churches and individual believers know how to respond to such questions.  More specifically, I believe that it’s important to know what the Bible teaches regarding faith and sexual orientation/sexual identity, no matter how controversial the answers may be.

Additionally, I think this topic is important to address, because many homosexuals are in fact seeking a relationship with God, but have been isolated and segregated in the past, or simply made to feel this way, from the church due to hate speech, bigotry, and religious thinking.  My hope is that by addressing properly and clearly what the Bible teaches about homosexuality, sin, and most of all God’s grace, that the church might once again be restored as a place of refuge and healing for all who are seeking a Savior.

With that being said, I would like to acknowledge from the start that issues of gender, sexuality, and identity are quite complex and usually trigger strong emotions on either side of the debate.  In no way, especially in so few words, am I able to adequately answer all questions related to sexual orientation, but hopefully the below questions and answers will serve to give initial insight into what we teach and also provide much needed biblical perspective to readers wanting to understand a gospel oriented view of grace and homosexuality, etc.  I trust not all will agree with my responses, but I very much hope that all will at least see this as a positive step in furthering the discussion.

Q: Are homosexuals welcome at your church?

Assuming they aren’t coming for nefarious reasons, absolutely everyone is welcome at any one of our Oasis’ churches.  At Oasis, we aren’t focused on sin management or trying to uncover everyone’s deep, dark secrets, rather we focus on love and identity in Christ.  People are very safe at Oasis to engage, learn, grow, and ask questions relevant to their lives.  Our assumption is that every single person who attends one of our churches has “issues” to some degree; shortcomings, secret sins, or character flaws.  It isn’t that we look at these struggles as if they don’t matter or aren’t important to God.  Our character matters deeply to God, because it affects the quality of our lives and the lives of those around us.  The difference though at Oasis is not in what we believe about sin or character, but rather in what we believe about God’s grace.  Titus 2:12 says that grace “teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age”.  At Oasis, we understand that the secret to life transformation and healing is experiencing God’s love and grace, and doesn’t come through finger pointing, fault finding, or condemning words – what unfortunately many people are used to finding at church.  Grace doesn’t mean that we approve of homosexuality, but simply that we believe that every person, regardless of their behavior, has value and worth.  Sometimes people hearing this will ask, “So you believe in going easy on sin?”  My response is always the same, “No, I just believe God went hard on Jesus.”  Make no doubt about it, sin can kill you, but Jesus is greater than our sin.  The Bible teaches that Jesus became sin at the cross and received in himself the full payment and penalty for our sin through his death on the cross (Isaiah 53:11, 54:9-10).  This is what we call the “Great Exchange”; that he took our sin and exchanged it for his righteousness.  As a result, we now have peace with God and walk in his grace.  In this way, we extend this grace to others, regardless of their struggles, because we trust God’s grace to lead people into truth and godliness.

Bottom line, if someone is coming to Oasis to hear the message and to explore their faith – that person is always welcome.  If someone else, gay or not, is coming simply to cause problems, that’s a different story and a person like this, assuming they refused to stop whatever issue they were causing, would be asked to leave until their attitude or agenda changes.

Q:  Nature versus Nurture?  How does grace respond to this debate?

First off, the homosexual agenda needs for the answer to this question to be nature.  If the answer is nurture, then homosexuality becomes a result of abuse, pain, and distorted emotions and thus something that can and should be healed.  The temptation here is to make homosexuality about this debate, but it isn’t.  Personally, I do believe that the primary cause of homosexuality is nurture, or lack thereof, (i.e. abuse, emasculation, bullying, etc.) but because of how pervasive I believe sin to be, I have no issue conceding perhaps some causality to nature, with the understanding that science is finding, and I believe the Bible confirms this, that our genes pass down programming and emotions on levels that we are just beginning to realize.  (Please note – this is NOT generational curse teaching, which is unscriptural, and something altogether different.)  So, if the answer is nurture, then certainly there is restoration and freedom in Christ.  But if the answer is nature or both nature and nurture, what should this matter?  If Lady Gaga is right, and we were all “born this way”, this still should not be an obstacle, for in Christ we can all be born again into newness of life.  Our nature, that was once dead to God, can be made alive to God and filled with the fruit of righteousness (i.e. God’s kind of life – life as it should be).

As the church, we need to be aware that to many in the homosexual community, talk like this simply sounds like Christians are trying to change people.  In order to be truly effective in reaching people with the gospel, especially reaching a group like homosexuals that have been subjected to decades of hate speech by the religious, we need to demonstrate and carefully clarify that our intentions in preaching the message go far beyond trying to make converts, and that our main goal is to see people renewed, restored, and full of the life of God.  Grace and sincerity, not debate, are perhaps the greatest tools that we possess in reaching this community.

Q:  Is homosexuality worse than other sins?

The short answer here is, yes and no.  From God’s vantage point, sin is sin.  People mistakenly think that the Bible teaches in James 2:10 that all sins are equal, and although this is true in some ways, this is only part of the picture. What it actually states is that “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”  This doesn’t mean that all sin is equal exactly, but that to commit one sin is to be found guilty of all sin.  Obviously, without Christ, the consequencesof this are dreadful.  So in this sense,to commit any sin, makes even a heterosexual man guilty of homosexuality.  Because of this, homosexuality is no worse than any other sin.  This should hopefully wake up some of the legalists out there who see homosexuality as the worst sin imaginable, since in the absence of Christ, they themselves, according to the law, are guilty of the same offense.

On the other hand, it would be foolish to think that horizontally, that is on earth, all sins are equal or that the consequences are the same.  The consequences of lying are typically less than the consequences of sexual sin, but likewise, the ramifications of murder far outweigh those of both deceit and any sexual sin.  In this way, homosexuality does have detrimental effects to one’s emotions, sense of self-worth, and at times, health.

All considering, I think it’s important that we keep in mind that the goal here isn’t to manage sin, rather to lead people into true,unhindered relationship with God.  Sin management is shortsighted and stems from a performance driven view of sin that does little to actually restore and heal those who are hurting.  To truly restore people, at a heart level, regardless of the sin, we must focus on identity in Christ, grace as God’s power for change, and most importantly the love of God.

Q:  If all sins are equal, and we all sin, should homosexuality disqualify you for ministry?

In regards to homosexuality disqualifying a person for ministry, part of the problem here is that the question is flawed.  The question begins by isolating homosexuality as a special class of sin, and thus makes it nearly impossible to answer the question in such a way that doesn’t trap Christians into saying that homosexuality is worse than all other sins. With this in mind, the better question is, does sin disqualify a person for ministry?

To answer that, let me remind us that in the New Covenant we understand that Jesus took upon himself the sins of the entire world and removed the dividing wall of hostility between God and man.   As a result, when approaching God, sin is no longer our problem.  With this in mind, we see that it isn’t sin that disqualifies a person for ministry; rather it is his belief about his sin that does.  If sin disqualified us for ministry or Christian service, then we would all be disqualified, for all have sinned.  To make sense of this, let’s look at 1 John 1:8-10 where it says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make himout to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”  This means that a man or woman who has homosexual thoughts or feelings, but acknowledges these tendencies as sin or desires of the flesh, chooses to honor the word of God and takes responsibility for their own heart.   This person, with time and grace, will find freedom and wholeness and I believe the church should model God’s grace towards them, by embracing them, as they would any other brother.  On the contrary, to deny homosexuality (or gluttony for that matter) as sin and to embrace it as part of one’s nature is rebellion and as John states, “makes him (God) out to be a liar.”  In this case, it is a man’s belief about his sin that disqualifies him, not sin itself.  Referring back to the previous passage, John illustrates this in verse 8, where he states, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

On the other hand, in verses 9 and 10, John reminds us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all righteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make himout to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”  The Greek word used here for “confess” literally means “to say the same thing”.  Commonly, people think of the word confession as having to do with rehashing all of your secret sins to a priest or even to God, but biblical confession really has little to do with this. Biblical confession actually entails agreeing with God about our sin; saying the same thing about it that he does.  Yes, we do this when we acknowledge that our sins are in fact truly sins, but we only fulfill the true definition of confession when we agree with God that our sin has also been covered by God’s grace and is no longer counted against us.  One who either fails to acknowledge sin as sin or fails to confess their sin as forgiven in Christ, both fail to “say the same thing” as God and really have no business ministering to others, when they themselves are still not walking in God’s grace.

So to the person struggling with sin, but who desires to live for God, I would say:  Simply agree with God that your sin was covered and paid for on the cross and receive his grace in your life.  Jesus is your qualification, both now and forever.

Q:  If you could share one thing with the Homosexual or LGBT community, what would it be?

To those in the homosexual and LGBT communities, I want you to know that at Oasis, our message is simple – God loves you and he’s better than we think he is.  I also want you to know that God’s not mad at you, but crazy about you.  In the book of Genesis, God gave Noah the sign of the rainbow in the sky, as a testimony of his promise and faithfulness towards all of creation.  Isaiah, the prophet, takes this a step further in Isaiah 54:9-10, where God says, “To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.  So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again.  Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”  In all of this hopefully it’s clear, God wants a relationship with you – with all of us.  He wants to fulfill your hopes and your dreams.  He wants to give you wisdom, truth, and his abundant grace.  He wants to show you the real you.  Not the person you see when you look in the mirror, but the real you; the deep reality and beauty that is in your spirit, beyond the sum of your sexuality and your outward behavior – the person you’ve been searching for all these years.  He wants to show you who you were created to be.  God is extending to you the greatest offer that there ever could be – to be made truly alive.  But understand this, he won’t force himself on you, he won’t make you receive him.  That is your choice – you must invite him into your life.

Let me close by leaving you with the words of John in John 3:16-21:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

If you are interested in ordering more life giving resources from the Oasis Network For Churches or to receive additional information about starting a relationship with Jesus Christ, please visit www.oasnet.org or call 574.247.9800.

4 Comments

Filed under Articles, Grace, grace teaching, Leadership, Lucas' World, OasNet, Teachings, Uncategorized, Videos

Introducing…..Living Grace!

I am very excited to introduce to you the brand new book, Living Grace, by New Nature Publications.  This book is a joint project put together by New Nature and 13 like minded authors, including, yours truly!  My chapter is titled, Unstoppable Grace, and parallel’s the lives of Jonah and Saul/Paul while looking at grace as a modern reformation/movement.  I really believe in the revelation that I shared in this book and I would highly recommend it for anyone who is part of the “Gospel Revolution”.

Here is a list of the authors and chapter titles:

Chapter   1 – Union by Benjamin Dunn.

Chapter   2 – Totally Forgiven, Totally United, Totally Filled by Ryan Rufus.

Chapter   3 – Guilt Free Living by Arther Meintjes.

Chapter   4 – The Grace Hating Spirit by RobRufus.

Chapter   5 – Grace and Leadership by Fini deGersigny.

Chapter   6 – Ministering in the Glory by Joshua Mills.

Chapter   7 – Dealing with the Demonic by Cornel Marais.

Chapter   8 – Grace and Finances by Andrew Wommack.

Chapter   9 – The Place of Grace in Balanced Preaching by Chad Mansbridge.

Chapter 10 – A Case for Divine Complacency by John Crowder.

Chapter 11 – The New Covenant in a Nutshell by Paul Hernandez.

Chapter 12 – New Covenant Motivation by Wayne Duncan.

Chapter 13 – Unstoppable Grace by Lucas Miles.

If you would like to order a copy, here is the link!  I would love to hear your thoughts.

http://www.oasnet.org/resources-store.cfm#ecwid:category=1466683&mode=product&product=10445086

Leave a Comment

Filed under Grace, grace teaching, Lucas' World, Uncategorized

Making Sense of Marriage and Divorce

Let me start by stating that in writing this I am not trying to create a law for our church, and neither am I trying to state an opposing argument to the teachings of others on the subject.  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.)  In addition, this article is not intended to bring condemnation on you, regardless of your past decisions or the situation with which you are currently in.  Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7:17 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 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 is specifically Christians considering divorce, Christians who have gone through a divorce in the past, and believers that are considering entering into a relationship with another believer who was divorced in the past.  I want to encourage you to read and stay with the article all the way through, I truly believe that the Word is good news for the hurting.

 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!”  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 pastoral help to gain insight and principles in order to positively affect your marriage and restore joy in your 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 has to 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.” (4:7) 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 will, that person became the right person the moment you said, “I do”.  Our difficulties stem from our 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 strive forever in your marriage.  Get it at the root, partner with your spouse to end self centeredness in both of you.  (If this does offend you, it is probably a good indication of where the source of the pride is coming from.)

4.)                When your spouse wants to stay married to you.  This is assuming that your spouse isn’t or wasn’t unfaithful and that they aren’t 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, even if they aren’t a believer, is willing to work with you and live with you, you shouldn’t leave them or divorce them.  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.  Divorce in these situations should be an absolute last resort.

             Under the Old Covenant, in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, the law gives instructions on divorce and remarriage.  It says, “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 added to this 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 thought 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 are actually stricter under the New Covenant, but at the same time, grace abounds.  Paul essentially states that divorce isn’t permissible (except for marital unfaithfulness), but that if you DO get a divorce, you should remain unmarried.  In this passage, God speaks against divorce and then in the same breathe speaks love and hope for those that find themselves caught in the wake of it.  But it’s only when combined with 7:8-9 that we see the full picture of this grace.  The King James Version puts it this way, “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, that 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 than 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. 

            It is so hard to make blanket statements about this though, because situations do vary considerably.  Even in writing this, I’m well aware that someone might try to twist certain liberties or permissions to their favor to do what they want to do.  At the end of the day, I can’t be responsible for that.  My intention is to speak to those that 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.  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.  God is faithful!

 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 typically (almost always) is the result of two people’s shortcomings and failings and not just one party.  At times, when one party has an affair or files for divorce first, they typically are seen as the “bad guy” (or girl).  But in divorce, everyone loses, and no one leaves unscathed.  And really 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 times one’s behavior is simply a response to the others behavior.  You treated me like this, therefore, I’ll do this, and so on it goes.  As marriage counselor Emerson Eggerich calls it, they enter the “crazy cycle”, spiraling downward until someone eventually can’t take it anymore and the relationship is inevitably dissolved. 

            We need to be honest with ourselves and with those that you are in relationship.  If you’re divorced, it’s okay to take ownership of your short comings and your mistakes in the relationships.  You’re human – and we all make mistakes.  Some mistakes have greater impact and consequences in our lives, but as Romans tells us, “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, but 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 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 divorce 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 husband 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 personally think that 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.”  Are 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.  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.  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.”

3 Comments

Filed under Articles, Grace, grace teaching, Teachings, Uncategorized

The Power of a Humble Heart

There is perhaps nothing more powerful than a humble heart.  Humility, the most misunderstood of all virtues, is the ability to accept and acknowledge God’s opinion and perspective in our lives.  This is where the power lies.  The moment I accept and embrace God’s perspective, I share in his strength and am able to flow in his plan.  This level of empowerment is often missed in our traditional understanding of humility.  Typically, when defining humility, most would only associate it with being lowly in spirit, but this is incomplete.  True humility, simply put, is being sensitive to God’s perspective in our lives.  This definition allows variety in our personality while keeping the emphasis on embracing God’s perspective.  Regarding this level of empowerment, Psalm 149:4 states,For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.”  The surest way to victory is to embrace God’s perspective and that is that he “takes delight in his people”.  When we know God’s love for us, we are empowered to be truly humble. 

In this, when I know that I am loved, it becomes quite easy for me to admit fault, acknowledge weakness, and seek forgiveness from those around me.  This kind of humility seems may seem counterintuitive to our minds, but only in reaching this level of security in God’s love for us, can we ever really be free to be ourselves.  To admit fault, seems like such weakness, but in reality, it brings power.  In fact, humbling yourself to those around you, confessing your weaknesses, in actuality is the greatest sign of God’s power and personal confidence working in your life.  A truly great person, one who is fully established in who they are in Christ, should have no complaint in admitting their shortcomings, for regardless of their weaknesses; they know their position in Christ.  Additionally, they know Paul’s confession in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “for when I am weak, then I am strong”.  Like Paul, when we walk in true humility, we gain access to the power of God and begin the road to abundant victory in every area of our lives. 

Only a person insecure in their faith, unsure of how God feels about them, would struggle to demonstrate or show weakness.  This ignorance and insecurity causes them to overinflate their abilities, refuse to see their flaws, and make the false assumption that they are always right.  Like Adam and Eve in the garden, they desperately try to cover their shame with anything they can find.   Their self-worth is so low, that acknowledging one more fault, in their mind jeopardizes their personal value more than they are able to bear.  Therefore they stand firm in their positions and behavior, refusing to acknowledge that they are the ones to blame.  In actuality, all of us make mistakes, even the most spiritual of people.  In every situation and conflict, we all play a part.  Resolution comes by acknowledging this.  The sooner we acknowledge our weakness to those around us, the quicker we will begin to overcome our relational conflict.  Breakthrough is as close as our willingness to acknowledge our humanness.  (Please note, in Christ, we are complete in our spirit man.  In our spirit, we are righteous, holy, and perfected forever.   But in our minds and flesh, we are still being renewed day by day; none of us have fully arrived.  To only take the perspective of the spirit, will cause you to ignore areas of your mind that are still in need of renewal.  To only take the perspective of the mind, causes us to fail to notice our fullness in Christ.  So as far as God is concerned, we are blameless through Christ, but as far as our brothers and sisters are concerned, we must acknowledge our faults.)

As we further strive to maintain a life defined by humility, below are a few questions to consider.

1.)     When was the last time that I took even partial responsibility for another’s pain or an incident of relational conflict?

2.)    How often do I ask those around me how my behavior patterns affect their lives?  Would I be able to receive and deeply consider their answer if it was a negative response?

3.)    If humility is embracing God’s perspective, what am I doing in my daily life in order to gain this perspective? 

4.)    Make a list of 10 behavior patterns that you display (i.e. running late all the time, have trouble listening) and how these patterns might affect those around you. 

5.)    Make a list of as many promises as you can think of regarding God’s perspective towards you. 

6.)    Return to these questions often.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Articles, Grace, Leadership, Teachings, Uncategorized

“Courtney Video”

Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to measure up?  Well, you’re not alone. 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Grace, Granger, Indiana, OasNet, Uncategorized, Videos

1 Cor. 10:13

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Krissy and I were talking about this verse earlier tonight and the Lord really brought a lot of understanding regarding it.  We find that this verse, even for us up until tonight, seemed to go in the face of the grace message and what we call the “story of authority”.  In addition, it appears to go in opposition to James teaching on temptation and trial.  Most of us read it as this:  God will allow some testing or temptation into your life, but He’ll step in and provide a way out if it gets to much for you to bear.   This concept causes a mistrust towards God, and uncertainity regarding His actions, or lack thereof.  But this isn’t what it’s saying.  Tonight I explained it like this.  Picture mankind on a track.  Heading towards us, on the same track, is temptation, trial, and evil circumstances.  God is outside of all of this.  James tells us not to be deceived, God doesn’t have a thing to do with temptation or trials.  What happens is this, some temptation or trials, through discipline (reading the word, prayer, watching what you eat, etc.), you are fully able to overcome without a supernatural way out, essentially you are able to bear that temptation, and overcome it fully.  In other instances, God sees that if left alone, the temptation will overcome us, so in His abundance of grace, He provides the grace to escape or overcome the situation.  God isn’t allowing certain temptations and not allowing others.  In fact, He isn’t involved with temptation at all.  Instead, God is involved with victory and providing a way where there seems to be no way.  This means that we don’t have ever have to embrace our trials thinking that perhaps God is putting us through them to teach us something.  God isn’t allowing certain things to happen to you.  God loves you and is constantly working on your behalf, and when you are tempted, He is faithful and will always provide a way of safety beyond that temptation. 

1 Comment

Filed under Grace, Lucas' World, Teachings, Uncategorized