Friday, December 30, 2011

Genesis Chapter 3: The Fall of Man

Genesis Chapter 3 is about the fall of man. Historically this has been taught as man’s punishment for disobedience to God by eating the apple, and some churches say the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was about sex.

Hawgwash! I heard all these stories growing up and as I started this commentary I was excited about learning some new things about it.

It begins with the crafty old serpent. The original Hebrew word for serpent is “nachash” and is best translated as something that signifies to view or observe attentively, divine or use enchantments. It also involves something that is “brass or brazen”, and of course it signifies a “serpent, but of what kind is not determined.” (Clark’s Commenary on the Bible). There is some evidence that the ancient Hebrews considered this serpent to be a crocodile. What is known is that many early civilizations had advanced snake/serpent worship such as Thoth in Egypt, or the god’s of the Phoenicians, as snakes were sacred to most of the Heathen worship of ancient times. Many Jewish scholars and early Christian leaders identified the serpent as Satan. Some state that Satan used the serpent.

Of course there are also many arguments about if this is a historical story or an allegory. The Essential Bible Handbook says, “The writers of Genesis did not produce objective, footnoted, cross referenced documents with specific dates for the people and events they describe. They had a very definite perspective from which they wrote the book, and this perspective is that all reality, and specifically the reality of the community of faith, is grounded in the will and power of God. They wrote a theological history that seeks to preserve the experiences, remembrances, and beliefs of this earliest community.” What is agreed upon by all is that God created the world and everything on it. That it was good. And that man, with free will, broke the relationship with God.

The serpent, whatever it was, was crafty and subtle. First he approaches Eve, when she is alone and perhaps vulnerable, and asks her a simple question, “Has God told you not to eat of any tree in the Garden?” It is an ambiguous question designed to bring about doubt and to get her to question the divine goodness of God. Eve responds that God has said not to eat of the one tree, and even adds “nor shall you touch it or you will die.” This little addition is not what God had said and may show that she was already considering what was to happen.

The serpent sees this vulnerability and seizes upon it and tells her that she would not die, that God simply does not want her to be as wise as God and know good and evil. This question raised doubts as if God is good and righteous you would not die by eating fruit of the tree. He uses this logic to subtly contradict God. Remember, Faith leads to obedience, and doubt leads to disobedience. The seed of doubt was planted.

When Eve looked at the fruit she saw that it was pleasant to the eye (wants of the flesh), good to eat (food for the body), and held wisdom (religion). These are the same three temptations of Christ by the Devil.

What the serpent had said was only a half-truth, as Eve, and later Adam, didn’t die by eating the fruit, but it did not turn out like they had hoped.

So she ate it and then gave some to Adam, who also ate. Their eyes were opened and they felt shame at their nakedness. They tried to hide from God, knowing that they had done wrong, and attempting to hide their nakedness by sewing fig leaves together. Dr. Magee points out that the fig tree is the only tree mentioned that we have today. He says, “This is man today in religion. We go through rituals and churches in an outward form. We become very religious. It is interesting that Christ cursed the fig tree and denounced religion right after that.”

God sought them out; they did not seek out God. This is important because it shows the prevenient Grace of God. He seeks us out even when we run from Him or turn away from Him, and when we finally learn that we cannot live according to the Law, He takes it upon Himself to come to earth, live as a man, and to die, so that the sins of all may be forgiven. Man cannot save himself. Only God can save man. “It is the call of divine love that recovers man from sin and into relationship with God.” (Dr. Magee)

Salvation is God’s search for man, not man’s search for God.

When confronted by God, they do what all human beings do, they sought to blame someone else. Adam first blames Eve and God. “The woman you put here with me.” Eve blames the serpent who deceived her. But the truth is both chose to eat the fruit. They had freewill and they chose to be disobedient to God. John Wesley saw this as their determination to seek happiness “not in God, but in the world.”

God banishes them from the Garden into a world of work and pain, but not, as Wesley points out, a world of eternal torment, which could have been their fate. Again this shows God’s divine mercy and forgiveness.

He even gives them animal skins to wear; this clothing is to protect them and is again an expression of His love for them.

The issue now is that since mankind has the knowledge of good and evil, has freewill to chose, will he chose to be obedient to God, or to himself. Sin has been introduced, and the wages of sin is death.

Final Thoughts: I lean toward this being an allegorical tale that shows how mankind fails to be obedient to God, makes the wrong choices, and how man cannot possibly restore the relationship with a God who is perfect truth and love. A God to which sin is an anathema. This is why God had to design man’s salvation through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. We can blame the devil, but truly all the blame lies in our own hearts, and the choices we make.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My First Sermon

I've been invited to preach at Reagan and Kosse Texas Methodist churches this Sunday. Here is the sermon I've prepared for the occassion and pray that God uses me to say what He wills.

Good Morning.

I am so blessed to be here today and to celebrate this New Year with all of you. For me and my family it has been a wonderful Christmas season. And as to celebrating the New Year, I think Bill Vaughn said it best. He said, “Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s eve, Old age is when you are forced to.” So bless all of you for coming to Church this morning to worship our blessed Savior, especially if you stayed up to celebrate the New Year.
New Year’s celebrations always remind me of our rebirth in Christ, how we are renewed by His grace, and sustained in His love for us. I also often think about those New Year’s Resolutions we so often make this time of year.

You know, things like going on a diet, losing all the weight we gained from Thanksgiving to New Years, getting more exercise, being a better friend, father, mother, grandparent, or son or daughter.

I teach US History to 8th graders and my favorite historical American is Ben Franklin. He said, “Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man.”

As Christians I think we can agree with old Ben Franklin. What can we do to “be at war” with our vices, have peace with our neighbors, and become a better person?

To do this we must hear the word of God and allow it to change our hearts and our minds, so that we might show Christian Action and represent Christ to others. Only through this growth in the Christian life can we overcome our vices, and live a life of peace and joy.
Our founder, John Wesley was concerned for social issues of his day, the oppressed, the poor, the hungry, the needy. The early Methodist groups in England set out to identify the problems in their communities and then to take action to rectify it.

Now some people get a little nervous when we talk about “social justice.” For some it may sound like we are advancing a liberal gospel based on works. They argue that we should simply preach the gospel. That is true, and I wholeheartedly agree!

However, the power of the Gospel transforms lives. James the brother of Jesus, was very concerned about social justice from a Christian perspective. He instructed that we should take care of orphans and widows, and warned that the rich and powerful could take advantage of those less fortunate. James had a social conscious.

God’s word tells us how to live, it speaks truth and we can rest in what it says, everything it affirms is true. James holds the same high view of scripture. He states the word should be implanted into our hearts. The word in our hearts should produce fruit. We should be doers of the word. It should have an effect on our lives.

Jesus’ parable about the sower of seeds reflects this idea. In Matthew 13:3-8, Jesus said, “A farmer went out to sow his seeds. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path and the birds came and ate them. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop- a hundred, sixty or thrity times what was sown.” We as Christians, must plant the seeds in fertile soil, this comes from Christian Action.

We must hear the word with humility and seek understanding and be willing to change our ways, our habits, to serve God as He wills, not as we would, but as he wants us to. Christian faith should provide change in our lives that brings about new habits in our lives. Habits that serve him and seek justice, show mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Now if you are like me, you may be a bit of a hothead. I find anger rises pretty easily with me when I am confronted by unexpected or unwelcomed change, or by social injustices. Can we truly spread the love and grace of Christ when we are angry?

In the Book of James Chapter 1 verse 19, James tells us, “You must understand this my beloved, let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” We must learn to confront these things with love, grace, patience, and being effective in our community trying to work for change.

Don’t have worthless religion. Some come to Church but make no changes in their hearts, and do nothing with the instruction of the word within them. If we don’t take this out of the walls of the Church, then we are not doing what we have been called by Christ to do. James speaks in the second chapter of those who profess to have faith, but have no works. Remember works come from our Faith, the change in our lives provided by Christ’s sacrfice and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We do works because we are new creations, acting in joy and love to share th grace of God with others. Christian faith produces ACTION. This is shown in the life of our founder John Wesley. He travelled many miles daily preaching and sharing the good news. Now we are not all called to be ministers, but we are all called to represent Christ to the others we meet in our lives. Our family, our friends, coworkers, and those in our community need us to reflect Christ to them.

It is so important that we walk the walk, not just talk the talk. St. Augustine said we should go preach the good ne ws and use words if necessary.

Jesus told us what to do. Normally He taught in parables and stories, but in this instance he told us exactly what each of us are to do in simple, very understandable words. And when God speaks so directly, we-who profess His love and grace, had better listen and take it into our hearts and let it show in our actions towards others.

Jesus was teaching in Matthew 25 versus 34-45, about the judgment of mankind, when God will divide the people. On his right are the righteous, on the left those who are to be cursed due to His divine judgments. He said, “Come you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for as I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison, and visited you? And the King will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

And those on the left? He said, “You are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food. I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”

Like the righteous, they also plead and ask when was He hungry, naked, in prison? Again he answers, “Truly I tell you just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”

So, what does this mean for us as Christians? This is Jesus telling us to take Action, to make a new resolution to truly serve him by sharing the grace of the Lord with others. Take a moment to reflect on the past year, the year that was 2011. In Texas we saw horrible drought, wild fires, a bad economy. Take a moment and prayerfully consider the following questions:
1. What have we done to help the hungry in our community and state?
2. Have we welcomed strangers into our Church? Our town, our neighborhoods, and our businesses?
3. Have we helped those in need by visiting the sick, those friends who are homebound, bedridden, or dying? Have we done anything to help those fellow Texans who have suffered so much in the summer wildfires, or from the drought?
4. Can someone look at our lives and tell by how we have lived that we were Christians?
Friends these are heavy questions. As for me, I can tell you that I have done some of these things, but not enough, and definitely not all of them. I pray that people will know me as a Christian man, but have my actions shown this to be true?

Remember, we don’t do good works to be saved, we do good works because we are saved! We are called to represent Christ on earth to a hurting world, to share the good news that Christ has paid the costs of our sins, that He is Risen and that through Him we may all have eternal life!
So lets become active doers! Let us act on the Gospel. Don’t simply just listen to the word and go about our normal lives. God is calling. Let us make a change. It could be a big one, or even a small one, but seek what God has in mind for you. James Chapter 1: verses 22 to 25 says, “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves, and on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act- they will be blessed in their doing.”

So, back to our New Year’s resolutions. Only God knows what fortunes and misfortunes await our communities in the coming year, but the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, will provide each of us with everything we need to represent Christ on earth to others. We just have to be willing to step out. Welcome that stranger, feed the hungry, help the poor, visit the homebound, give a smile even when you don’t feel like cheerful, help spread joy. Share God’s grace wherever you go to whomever you meet, as well as you can, for as long as you can.

God Bless you this New Year’s Day and may He bless you throughout the coming year.

Genesis Chapter 2

My wife has agreed to join me in this Bible study. We are using the Message Bible, the NIV study Bible, and the Wesley Study Bible, as well as which is a great website with many other versions of verses, commentaries, and cross references. I also use the Essential Bible Handbook by Abingdon Press out of Nashville, Tenn 2009. I also have many other reference books that I will use from time to time.

The 2nd Chapter of Genesis is about the creation of man in the Garden of Eden and the creation of Eve. It is the second creation story of the Bible and does differ from the first in a few ways. In Chapter One it says that God created men and women and gave them dominion over the earth. This second tale of creation describes the Garden of Eden and the first man and the first woman.

It was a minor revelation to me that Adam was created to look after the earth, to till the soil. I had always believed and been taught that Adam and Eve did not have to work in the Garden, but that is not the case. It was Adam’s role to be the earth’s keeper, which implies work.

Another thing that I had read before, but really didn’t understand was that God created man physically, and then gave him the breath of life (which was the spiritual creation of man). The shaping of man from the dust links man forever to the earth as its caretaker. The breath of God forever linked man’s soul to God.

The name Eden actually translates as “delight.” The garden is described as a place of abundant fruits and animals with two very supernatural trees: The Tree of Life and the Tree of knowledge of Good and Evil. Many different ideas about this have emerged, some believing that the Tree of Life gave immortality and full sustenance to Adam, while the Tree of Knowledge was there so God could experience our obedience to His will.

Adam needed an equal companion to take care of the earth. So God created Eve from Adam’s rib. This forever binds man and woman together as one flesh, one body. It was revealing to me that several commentaries discuss how the original Mosaic writings regarding “helper as his partner” does not imply subordination or inferior rank, but rather another to help cultivate the earth and someone suitable for procreation of the species and marriage. With the creation of Eve, God is no longer a potter, but He rather creates a living work of art out of flesh. Women are definitely works of art to me and I love this reference.

Genesis 2:24 to 25 refers to marriage being defined as a reuniting of two parts of a single whole

So questions and thoughts that we shared after reading and studying this chapter:

1. I will admit that I do not see anything in Genesis that goes against my ideas of God’s creation, whether he did it by evolution, or by actually mixing clay. Perhaps I’ll grow in understanding but as of today, it doesn’t really matter to me how God did it, but that He did it.
2. The crux of the Gay marriage debate amongst Christians goes back to this Chapter of Genesis. Marriage is for procreation of the species and a reuniting of two parts into a single whole. (BTW I’m not stating my own beliefs about this, just pointing out where Christians get their ideas about Marriage from).
3. Tracey wanted to know about the Lilith story and we spent some time in study about Lilith, which was interesting, but neither of us thought it to be very important.
4. It is awesome to be able to pray with my wife, study the Bible, and learn with the one who completes me.

Until next time,

God Bless all of you.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My study of Genesis Chapter One

I've decided to endeavor into a personal study of the Bible. I will do this by reading the Bible Chapter by Chapter and then all the commentaries I can find on them to better understand the truth, and the lessons we can learn from it. I have no timetable for doing this, and it is a personal journey of faith, but I'm going to post my thoughts and findings here for any to read. I will also include my own thoughts and you may disagree with me, and I hope you will correct me when I'm wrong, or at least be open to debate and prayerful consideration.

Genesis Chapter One begins with the great line, "In the beginning...." This indicates that before existance, before time, before anything, there was God. The Jewish name for how they referred to God was Elohim. This is a plural word, meaning God. Clark's Commentary on the Bible says:

"The original word אלהים Elohim, God, is certainly the plural form of אל El, or אלה Eloah, and has long been supposed, by the most eminently learned and pious men, to imply a plurality of Persons in the Divine nature. As this plurality appears in so many parts of the sacred writings to be confined to three Persons, hence the doctrine of the Trinity, which has formed a part of the creed of all those who have been deemed sound in the faith, from the earliest ages of Christianity. Nor are the Christians singular in receiving this doctrine, and in deriving it from the first words of Divine revelation. An eminent Jewish rabbi, Simeon ben Joachi, in his comment on the sixth section of Leviticus, has these remarkable words: "Come and see the mystery of the word Elohim; there are three degrees, and each degree by itself alone, and yet notwithstanding they are all one, and joined together in one, and are not divided from each other."

The first chapter of Genesis is truly about the soveriegnty of God and the goodness of His creation. How does God create everything? With a single word. Hebrews taught that words have power and that the Word is part of God. Christians believe the Word made flesh is Jesus Christ.

I really like John Wesley's interpretation of Genesis 1. He says that "This is not a scientific explanation of the creation of the universe, and it makes no claim to answer the "how" of creation. Rather the text is focuesed on the "who" and "what" of creation. As Wesley says Gen 1-2 "gives us a surer, and better, a more satisfying and useful knowledge of the origin of the universe, then all the volumes of philosophers." [Wesley Study bible]. With John Wesley we understand, "there are secrets which cannot be fathomed, nor accounted for" yet "from what we see of heaven and earth, we may infer the eternal power and godhead of the Great Creator."

The story continues as God creates light, day and night, the earth and the seas, the plants and animals and humanity which the Bibles states was created, "in our own image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."

So what does this mean? Our physical bodies or our spiritual ones? My own beliefs have always been that we are created in the spiritual image of God, that we are hardwired to seek God, to seek understanding and truth. John Wesley stated that we were created in three ways to be in the image of God. He wrote that we were created in the political, natural, and moral image of God. This spiritual self is where our reason, will, and freedom comes from, but his ideas on the political and moral images of God are thought provoking. He stated that the political image was "man's calling to take care of the earth and the other creatures that inhabit it. Just as God is Ruler over all creation, so himanity is caretaker and "governor" of this world." We are to be the "channel of conveyance" of the blessings of God to our fellow creatures.

The moral image is what lets us know internally when we are out of sync with God's plan for us and his creation. It is man's stubborn disobedience that distorts our reason, will, and freedom, that causes us to "exploit the earth of selfish purposes." The Wesley Study Bible says, "This is why one of Wesley's favorite descriptions of salvation is "the renewal of our souls in the images of God,"recoveromg the calling for which we were created."

Creation was Good because it was perfect in the unfolding of God's will. God is truth, goodness, love, all that is perfection, so his creation was perfect according to His desires.

Now as to historical and scientific accuracy, it must be understood that the stories of the first five books of the Old Testament were written by Moses, who in turn heard them as the oral histories of the Hebrew people passed down for many, many generations and using their understanding of the world and their place in it. For instance the "dome" that separted the sky from the seas is written that way because in antiquity it was a common belief that the sky was a dome above the earth. One of the great issues I have with studying the Bible is that it was written by Hebrews using eastern thought processes that are alien to those of us raised to think in the logical, ordered A-B Greco-Roman thought. Eastern thought processes are more A-C-B-A in a circular pattern. I heard it said that if you asked a Jewish Rabbi what the truth of Genesis is, they might answer you with the relationship of man and woman, a covenant arrangement between husband and wife. Meanwhile the Western thoughts range from was the earth created in seven actual days, was man created from dust, or did we evolve according to some divine plan? Maybe one of the reasons so many disagree about Genesis and humanities origins are that we don't understand the Eastern thought processes.

I can honestly say that I don't care how God did it, but I do believe He did it all according to His plan and it was Good.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Hebrews 13:5

I will never leave you, I will never abandon you.

What a promise from God!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The True Meaning of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day in America is a day of eating turkey, pies, stuffing, dressing, cakes, cookies, green beans with mushroom soup and French onions, sweet potatoes, and more. It is a day for watching football. It is a day to be with family, to talk, laugh, break bread, and celebrate all the good things in our lives. It is a day for reflection on the year that has been, and the promise of the year to come. It is the beginning of the Holiday Season. What a great day!

So, what is missing? Is God invited to your dining room table? Does your family take time to remember Him? Christians know that all good things come from God; that he sees to our needs, and loves us as His children. He loves us so much he became human and died on a cross so that our sins could be forgiven in divine justice, so that we could freely enter into a personal relationship with him, so when he looks at us, he only sees the sinless Christ, sacrificed so that we might have eternal life in Him.

We are so blessed to have been born in such a great nation. So many opportunities and choices are our right, simply due to our place of birth. Some might call this divine providence. But Americans are not alone in receiving God’s love, it is there at our dinner tables, it is with the starving child in a third world nation, it is in the nations that deny His existence as a matter of political discourse. God’s gift of justifying grace is the true reason for celebration, for we are freed from sin and death by it. It is not due to anything we do, but what He did for us.

Here are some famous quotes about the true meaning of Thanksgiving:

“A sensible thanksgiving for mercies received is a mighty prayer in the Spirit of God. It prevails with Him unspeakably.” John Bunyan

“We ought to shout out our thanksgiving as if every war were over; as if there were no more big taxes; as if there were no sickness, no crime.” John R.Rice

“I preached on the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of faith. While I was speaking, several dropped down as dead and among the rest such a cry was heard of sinners groaning for the righteousness of faith that it almost drowned my voice. But many of these soon lifted up their heads with joy and broke out into thanksgiving, being assured they now had the desire of their soul—the forgiveness of their sins.” John Wesley

Psalm 100:4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name.

1st Thessalonians 5:18 In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

And the one I leave you with to ponder, pray, and praise over:

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule your heats, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

So remember, like the song says, “give thanks with a grateful heart. Give thanks for the Holy One. Give thanks because He’s Risen, Jesus Christ is Lord!”

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends out there. May you all be blessed with family, food, fun, and the love of Christ.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wesley's 2nd Sermon. Almost a Christian

A modern take on John Wesley’s 2nd Sermon
My thoughts on this. Wesley is speaking to Christians, not the unchurched. Today I would say that the “almost Christians” are saved, but they simply haven’t grown in their spirituality and understanding. They are baby Christians. They attend Church every Sunday, and are generally good, but they don’t take the next step. They don’t grow in their Christianity. They are stifled and do not really understand just how wonderful being an authentic Christian can be. These are the “Frozen Chosen.” They go to Church, they profess Christ, but they don’t go any further than that. Wesley was truly on fire for God and tended to preach such sermons that upset the listeners to the point he was rejected and told to “never return.” I have tried to put this sermon into as much modern language as possible, but even then I think you will see why many churches in the mid 1700s would get angry at his teachings. Actually, many churches today would as well. What do you think?

Preached at St. Mary's, Oxford, before the University, on July 25, 1741.

Acts 26:28-29 Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian? Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am.”

How many people go this far, and do not take the final step to accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, to accepting him as their personal savior? Ever since Christ’s sacrifice for us, there have been in every age and nation people who were almost persuaded to become Christians. But if they do not take the next step of acceptance, they achieve nothing by almost becoming a Christian. It is important for us to consider two questions: First, what is implied in being almost? Secondly, what does it mean to be an authentic Christian?

So what good is it to become almost a Christian? Most people in the world are not evil. They are not generally raised to do bad things, or to treat others unjustly; most were not taught to steal, oppress others, to cheat, or defraud other people. Even non-Christians seek justice. Most people do not set out to lie about others, or falsely accuse people of supposed crimes, but this does occur, even in the most civilized of societies today. Most civilized people hold those who commit these types of crimes as criminal and disgraceful, even pests to society.

Most people in the world today expect love and assistance from one another. Many do many good and righteous acts for others such as feeding the hungry, giving aid to those in need. Indeed this is what Christians are called to do, so these almost Christians are not far off the mark, but they are still almost Christians.

Many almost Christians keep to the teachings of Jesus. They do not take the name of God in vain, avoids adultery, sexual promiscuity, and live very moral lives. Many abstain from excess drinking, reveling, and gluttony. Most want to live in peace with others, and they are not brawlers, racists, or thugs. This person would not deliberately due bad things to hurt others and even live by the golden rule, to do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.

The almost Christian may work hard to do good works for others. This person seems to be a Godly person in his actions and life. He may even say that he is a Christian, attend church, partake of the means of Grace, and may even try to lead others to Christ. This person may have a family prayer life, and practice all the forms of religion. We may refer to these people as being “religious”, but there is a problem. They need one more thing to become a true Christian. They need sincerity and the faith to truly accept Christ into their lives. Sincerity is the inward principle of belief in Christ. It is from this faith, this true belief, that our Christian actions flow. For indeed, if we don’t have this crucial faith in Christ, we are just good people, maybe we are only almost Christians. An ancient poet once said, “Good men avoid sin from the love of virtue; Wicked men avoid sin from fear of punishment.” This means that a person who does not break the laws of society, may only be doing it to avoid punishment. If he/she is doing so out of love for others, not just to avoid punishment, then he/she may be an almost Christian. If a person has no real principles in their heart, then they are nothing more than hypocrites.

So an almost Christian may be sincere, may even want to serve God in all things. Of course the question that is now asked is, “Is it possible that any person should go so far as this, and nevertheless, be almost a Christian?” John Wesley answered, “It is possible to go thus far, and yet be but almost a Christian. I learn, not only from the oracles of God, but also from the sure testimony of experience.” He asks that those who are listening (reading this) “suffer me, then, to speak freely of myself, even as of another man. I am content to be abased, so ye may be exalted, and to be yet more vile for the glory of my Lord.” He is about to tell his own personal account of how he was an almost Christian.
He says he went for many years speaking against all evil, and with a hope to avoid offending others, doing good works to all men and using the public and private “means of grace.” He constantly monitored his behavior to appear to be a Christian, and he was sincere in his actions. He desired to “fight the good fight,” and to “lay hold of eternal life.” Yet he doubted his own faith in Christ. He did not have a true personal relationship with God. He was “almost a Christian.” If anyone studies John Wesley’s life they know how he came to America as a missionary, but failed utterly, and soon returned to England. It was only after attending a special meeting at Aldersgate that he came to understand that God died for him, personally, and he felt his heart filled with the Holy Spirit. It was at this point that his life changed, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and became the founder of Methodism.

So what does it mean to be an authentic Christian? First, it means to know the love of God. The Bible teaches, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” Such a love fills our hearts with affection, and fills our soul to capacity. The Christian that truly loves the Lord has a spirit that continually rejoices in God his Savior. This person’s delight is in the Lord, our All-in-All. It is this person’s true desire to serve God in all aspects of their life. Their heart is constantly crying out, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon the earth that I desire besides Thee.” Indeed what can such a person desire more than God’s love and mercy. Not the world, or the things of this world, for he is crucified to the world, and the world crucified to him.” This person attempts to overcome the carnal desires of the flesh, the eye, and pride. The true Christian should be dead to pride of every kind for love is not “puffed up” but “he that dwelling in love, dwells in God, and God in him.”

The second thing that is implied in being an authentic Christian is, the love of our neighbors. For Jesus said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” If any person asks, Who is my neighbor? We should reply Every person in the world; every child is God’s child. This includes our enemies, the enemies of God, and any who stand against us. We are called to love even those who are difficult or hard to love. We should love them as Christ loved us. Paul explained this love for us. He described it as a love that is “long suffering and kind.” It does not envy others. It is not rash or hasty, and does not judge others. It is “not puffed up,” but makes us the least of mankind, a servant to all. This person seeks to do good to all others that they might be saved. “Love is not provoked.” It is not wrathful, thinks of no evil, and rejoices in the truth. This kind of love covers all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things in the name of the Lord.

Finally, the authentic Christian has faith. John said, “Every one that believes is born to God.” He gives the Holy Spirit to every one of us, all we have to do is believe that Jesus was the son of God who died for our sins so that we may have everlasting life in him. For “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” God declares, “He that believes in the Son has everlasting life; and comes not into condemnation, but is passed from death into life.”

Wesley then warns us not to deceive ourselves. False faith does not bring about true repentance, love, good works, and is not the living faith, but a dead and devilish one. Even devils believe that Christ was born of a virgin; that he performed miracles, declared himself the son of God, and suffered a painful death to redeem all humanity from death everlasting, that he rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will return one day to judge the quick and the dead. Yet for all this faith, they are still devils.

The authentic Christian faith is “not only to believe that Holy Scripture and the Articles of our Faith are true, but also to have a sure trust and confidence to be saved from everlasting damnation by Christ. It is a sure trust and confidence in God, that our sins are forgiven and by Christ we are reconciled with God, and have the loving heart for others, and attempt to obey his commandments. Whoever has this kind of authentic faith “purifies the heart” (by the power of God, who dwells within us) from “pride, anger, desire, from all unrighteousness” from “all filthiness of flesh and spirit;” which fills it with love stronger than death, both to God and to all people, love that does the works of God, that endures all troubles with joy, even when mocked, ridiculed, and despised by others. These folks use the wisdom God gave them that with their true faith and working by love, are truly authentic Christians.

So now we should ask ourselves, looking into our own hearts, “Am I an authentic Christian, or an almost Christian? Do I practice justice, mercy, and truth as God would have me do it? Do I act like a Christian, but do not have true faith? Do I stay away from evil things, and keep the commandments? Do I always look for ways to do good and help others? Do I keep to the word of God and do as Jesus instructed, not to judge, but to love others, to represent Christ on earth to them, so that they might come to know the power and saving Grace of God? Do I do all these things with the sincere desire to please God in every aspect of my life?”

Now, many of us may realize that we have never quite come that far, that we have been good at almost being a Christian, but has God seen true sincerity and faith in you? Do you devote all your words, works, business, studies, and diversions to His glory?

So you have tried, you generally do good works, and have a general desire to be a Christian. Remember that “Hell is paved with good intentions.” The great question still remains then, Is the love of God in your heart? Can you cry out, “My God, and my All!” Do you desire nothing but him? Are you happy in God? Is he your glory, your delight, your crown of rejoicing? Is this commandment written in your heart? “He that loves God loves his brother also.” Do you love your neighbors as yourself? Do you love every person, even your enemies, even the enemies of God, as your own soul? As Christ loved you? Do you truly believe that Christ loved you, and died for you personally? That Jesus has taken away your sins and cast them as a stone into the depths of the sea? That he has blotted out everything bad that you have done in your life by nailing your sins to the cross? Do you believe that you have been redeemed, saved, by his blood? Does you spirit bear witness that you are a child of God?

Jesus knows you. Do not rest until you can proclaim salvation in the name of God. “The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin.” Do not rest short of becoming an authentic Christian. Cry out and pray to him daily until we know in whom we truly believe and can say, “My Lord, and my God!” Remember to always pray until you can no longer lift your hands to heaven, and declare to the Lord, “Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love thee.”

May we all experience what it is to be, not almost, but altogether a true and authentic Christian; justified by His free grace, through the forgiveness of our sins in Jesus; knowing we have eternal peace through Him; rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God; and having the love of God filling our hearts, by the Holy Spirit filling us with His love

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Salvation by Faith

A modern take on John Wesley’s first sermon preached at St. Mary’s, Oxford on June 18th, 1738.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

All the many blessings that God has given us are undeserved. It is a free grace that created mankind in the spiritual image of God, and is the same grace that God gives each of us today. There is nothing we can do or be, or works of our hands, or our minds, that can equal God’s free Grace, the gift of eternal salvation. The truth of Grace is not found in man, but in God.

So what about our sins? Can we do anything to atone for them, to make our personal relationship with God right? No. We are sinful, broken, and no matter how hard we try, remain so. We all “come short of the glory of God.” What could any of us do to equal Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross? He took the sins of the world, throughout time and history, all of human sins, wickedness, vileness, my sins and your sins, upon Himself, and cleansed us, so that when we stand before God, we are pure in Him.

The only way we can have a personal relationship with God is to have the grace to accept His Grace! What else can we do but accept His grace. For “while we were yet sinners, Christ died” to save us “by grace” then “are you saved through faith.” Grace is the source, faith is the condition, of our salvation.

This leads us to two great questions: (Wesley had three, the third being how to argue against those who believe in human works, rather than faith)

1. What does it mean to have faith?
2. What is the salvation we receive through this faith?

Faith is a belief in Jesus Christ. This belief is not a cold, rational thing, but is a condition of the heart. The Bible tells us that “With the heart, man believeth unto righteousness” and, “if thou shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in thy heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shall be saved.” This faith realizes the necessity of Jesus’ death on the cross, and his resurrection as the restoration of us to a eternal life with Him. He was “delivered for our sins, and rose again for our justification.” Christian faith is the full reliance on the blood of Christ; a trust in the merits of His life, death, and resurrection; a belief that he has atoned for our sins, and dwells within us, as we hold to him as our “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,” or in one word, our salvation.

So what is salvation? It is something attainable for all of us, by all those who decide to have faith in Him. This salvation is the Grace of God. The entire world of man is guilty before God. But he paid the price for our sins, we are saved from the divine judgment of God. None of us are perfect enough to attain heaven. In fact we should all be sent to Hell based on our sins. But Christ sacrificed so that we might be saved for eternity, that we can be in communion with God, to have a personal relationship with him. “So God gave his only begotten son, that whomsoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” We are justified by Jesus’ gift of Grace. We have been forgiven in God’s divine court, not by our doing, but through Christ.

As we have been saved from guilt, we have been saved from fear. We do not have to fear eternal torment, punishment, or the wrath of God, as “They have not received again the spirit of bondage, but the Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, Abba, Father: the Spirit itself also bearing witness with their spirits, that they are the children of God.” We all fall short of the Glory of God, but through the Grace of God “neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate them from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Through our faith, we are saved from the power of sin, as well as from the guilt of it. As the Apostle states, “You know that he was manifested to take away our sins, and in him is no sin. Whosoever abides in him sins not. (1 John 3:5). “Whosoever is born of god, does not commit sin for his seed (Jesus) remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

So this is the salvation which is through faith; a salvation from sin, and the consequences of sin. This means we have been justified by Christ’s sacrifice for us. This implies a deliverance from guilt and punishment by the atonement of Christ’s blood, a deliverance from the power of sin, so that any who believe in Him is justified, or saved by faith. This is what we mean by being born again. We are born again in the spirit, born into a new Christian life in relationship with God.

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, along with God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, all our blessings, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, and might, for ever and ever, Amen.

Thankful and Content

When Paul was in prison in Rome, awaiting his trial with the mad Emperor Nero, he could have given up. Cried out that his life had been a failure. He knew that Christians in the time of Nero would not be given fair trials. Nero had blamed the burning of Rome on the Christians, and enjoyed having them killed for fun and sport. Paul would eventually be killed as well.

One can imagine Paul, huddled in the cold cell, little food, nasty water, bodily waste, sweat, blood, tears, abusive guards and you get a small picture of what his life was like at this time.

How did Paul respond? He wrote letters to help others keep the faith. He testified in Phillipians 1:12-14 that "what has happened to me has actually helped spread the gospel so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ: and most of the borthers and sisters having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldnes and without fear."

He actually used his imprisonment to spread the good news, and heartily testified to others about God's love and mercy. God's Grace.

But what Paul really teaches us, me anyway, in this letter is how to be thankful and content with our circumstances in life. Here he is facing judgement and death in the barbaric court of Nero, and he teaches us that whatever happens in our lives, God is with us. All we have to do to be truly thankful and content is to reocognize God's work in our lives. He writes in Phillipians 4:4-9 that we should "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice. Let your gentlness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplicaiton with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and recieved and heard and seen in me, and the God of Peace will be with you."

What does all this mean? That we should take the time to always see God at work in our lives. To see what is good and uplifting and celebrate that! He is teaching us to not worry about all the hard things in our lives, or things that might or might not happen. We should celebrate all that is good in our lives, to take time to recognize God's work in our lives.

Christ teaches in Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for temorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." My mother said this to me many times growing up when we would discuss my sister Stephanie. The worry of all parents for their children is great, but it is uncertain and consuming when you have a special needs child that may never be able to fully take care of themselves. I know Tracey and I constantly worry that we are doing everything we can to help Kevin. It seems many times that we fail, and that uncertainty and worry creeps in. That is when I think of Paul in that cell facing death with joy and love knowing the Grace of God and remembering to see the great works of God everywhere around him, even in that Roman prison.

Give thanks and be content, for God is with you. If He is with you, who can be against you?

Praise God!

(Inspired by morning sermon of Grandpa Jordan)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Letter from Paul to the 21st Century Christian Churches of America

Imagine if Paul was writing to modern Christian Churches in the 21st Century. It might sound something like this.

Based on the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians.

To the Christian Churches of America,

Hello. I am Paul and I am an evangelist of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing this letter to all the Christian Churches of America, to all those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, and to all those fellow Christians who call on the name of our Savior.

Grace and peace to you all. May you be blessed by our Father and our Savior Christ Jesus.

I praise God that you have all found the Grace and forgiveness of Christ, and I know you have from listening to the sermons, watching your actions, and hearing the wonderful testimonies that have strengthened our faith and understanding of the Gospel. None of you are lacking for any spiritual gifts and God’s plan is constantly being revealed through you. Jesus will give us strength throughout our lives, and all our sins are forgiven through the sacrifice of our savior. Remember that God is faithful and has called us into Christian fellowship through Christ’s love.

I hope that we can all be in agreement and not have any divisions amongst us. We, as Christians, must seek unity of the Church so as to be of the same mind and have the same goal of spreading the Gospel to others.

It has come to my attention that many of you are arguing amongst yourselves. Our doctrines are dividing the body of Christ. I hear people saying that “I belong to the Southern Baptists, or I am a Methodist, or I go to the Church of God, or Church of Christ, or I go to a Bible Church, non-denominational, or Catholic.” Has Christ’s love been divided? Was John Wesley killed for you? Were you baptized in the name of a denomination, or the name of Christ Jesus? I didn’t baptize any of you, and those I did, were not baptized in the name of any Church, but in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Christ sent me, and many of you, not to Baptize, but to proclaim the gospel. It is not about eloquence and good speeches, but the power of God’s Love; Christ’s sacrifice for us. It is about Christ’s suffering and dying on a cross so that we might be saved that is important.

Those who do not know Christ are ignorant of the truth and are perishing, but those of us who know the Savior know the power of God’s love. It was written long ago that “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Who is wise amongst us? Where are the great Christian writers and the great evangelists of our time? Doesn’t God’s grace make foolish the wisdom of our modern, secular world? God tried to teach us with divine wisdom, but we didn’t learn the lesson. God decided that all we have to do is make our proclamation of belief in Christ Jesus as our savior to be saved. It may seem trivial or silly, but there is power in that proclamation. Some demand signs and others want to be taught and know all the facts, but we proclaim that Christ was crucified for us. This is faith. This idea confuses those who do not understand but they still need to know of God’s love. God’s wisdom and love is infinite, man’s is finite. God’s strength and faithfulness is greater than any of us.

Consider your own testimony of the Faith. Not all of us would be considered wise, most have failed in many areas of their lives, most of us are not rich, or come from powerful families. But God chose to use us to show the world His love and faithfulness. He chose the weak to shame the strong. He took those of us who have stumbled and failed in this world, and uses us for the glory of His kingdom. No one should ever boast that it is through their own doing that man is saved. God is the source of our lives in Christ Jesus, who is the truth of God’s love for us. Jesus gives us wisdom for living, righteousness to stay in a relationship with Him, and sanctifies and redeems us of our sins so that if we are to boast, we boast of the Lord’s love, forgiveness, and wisdom.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I recently was blessed to be the Lay Director on Walk 86 of the Brazos Valley Emmaus Community. Here is part of the talk I gave to the pilgrims.


In 1963, my mother, Betty Wetterman gave birth to my older sister, Stephanie Denise Wetterman. Stephanie was born with a major birth defect called Spinomeningoencephalocill. That big words means that her skull did not form properly in the womb and that there was a hole about the size of a .50 cent piece at the base of her skull. Her brain had partially formed outside the skull and there was a sack-like bag of flesh on the back of her head. Very few babies ever survived such a birth defect. The Doctor was blunt to my 19 year old mother, “Mrs. Wetterman,” she said, “forget this baby. It is going to die. You are young, you can have more babies.”

Stephanie was given two weeks to live, though the doctors believed it probably wouldn’t be that long.

The family prayed for help to come, but the neurosurgeon in charge waited for several weeks, expecting the child would die. She did not.

Eventually another neurosurgeon became involved. He offered to attempt a radical surgery to replace Stephanie’s brain into her skull, take off the excess skin sack, and to cover the hole in her skull with a wire mesh. The brain’s swelling could be controlled with a shunt that would funnel excess brain fluid into her stomach to be reabsorbed into her body. The prognoses for her surviving the surgery was very low, but there was hope, and the family: the parents, grandparents, and their brothers and sisters in blood and in Christ, prayed. She survived the surgery.

Tom had worked as a mechanic at the time, and Betty had been a legal secretary, but quit her job to stay with the baby at the hospital. Tom took a second job and worked long hours, but it was impossible for the young couple to pay the mounting bills. The family prayed.

A hospital administrator called Betty into her office one day and told her that if she didn’t have anymore insurance, or the money to pay the bills, she would be asked to leave the hospital. The young mother, distraught and overcome with the burdens she faced and the prospect of her baby being kicked out of the hospital and dying due to lack of medical care, was sobbing as the neurosurgeon entered the room to check on Stephanie. He asked her what was wrong. She told him what had happened. He told her not to worry about it anymore, that there was no way the hospital would kick them out, and that he would take care of it.

The administrator never again spoke to Betty, and they were never charged for the surgery or the hospital stay.

The baby suffered through 13 surgeries the first 9 years of her life, 10 of them before she was a year and a half old. The first saved her life, and she was the first such child to live with that birth defect. Unfortunately, the brain had to be separated from the skin it had become attached to, and the scraping of the brain left her profoundly retarded and subject to grand moll seizures, one of which left her paralyzed on half of her body.

Many will hear her story and say for what purpose did this child live? What possible effect could a profoundly retarded child have on our world?

My sister Stephanie had many problems. To control the frequency and severity of seizures she has to take some very hard drugs including Phenobarbitol. She can do little for herself now, but I remember when we were both young, and how she would try to walk in her physical therapy class, how she would laugh at her little brother’s antics, how she would radiate God’s glory as she belted out songs such as “Jesus Loves me this I know” and other children’s songs. She loved her papaw, and he loved her. He had lived a very hard life, but three heart attacks and his love for his grandchildren, especially Stephanie, greatly affected him, and he died a good, Christian man.

I remember our parents in the choir of our church, while Stephanie and I would sit in the pews listening and watching. She would move her hand to the time of the music and smile the greatest smile. She touched many lives including the pastor of our church, many ladies who have had to care and look after her as she got older, extended family members, and many others.

However, the greatest impact she had was on me. From her I learned empathy for others. I learned to see the pure love of the Lord reflected in her. I remember being called a “retard” because she was my sister, but I always loved her and as a child dealt with such teasing the best way a young boy could.

Eventually, as an adult, I became a special education teacher, knowing that I could make a difference in the lives of not only my students, but their families as well. It means so much to have a teacher that has seen such handicaps in their own lives.

In August of 2001, my youngest son, Kevin was born. I knew from the beginning that something was wrong. He could not ever get comfortable or be comforted. He could not look me in the eye. He did not speak more than a few words by the time he was 3, and he was lost in his own world for most of the time. I suspected Autism, but the Dr. continued to say he as only behind developmentally delayed. I remember losing it one day. Yelling at him, begging him to speak to me, to let me know he understood that I was his father. That I loved him. Finally, he was diagnosed as a high functioning autistic. My wife read many books and developed a plan of action. We placed him on the gluten free/casein free diet and used some behavior modification techniques with him. Miraculously, and I do believe it was a miracle, Kevin began talking in days, and stopped many autistic behaviors like hand flapping and screaming underneath tables at school. Everyone saw and were amazed at the difference.

What do these two stories have in common? Faith in God, familial love, and perseverance.

My name is Ed Wetterman and the title of this talk is Perseverance.

What is perseverance?

To persevere may be defined as “continuing with an undertaking in spite of difficulty, opposition, or discouragement. To remain steadfast in purpose.

How can we persevere in the Christian life? We must feed on spiritual food to grow, develop, and function as Christians. We must persevere in the life of grace. Because we have shared in the Christian banquet, we see the need for a continued diet of God’s grace. We must learn how to live in God’s grace and keep it in our daily lives.

A better life is possible. The treasure of a life lived in grace is ours to have. Matthew 13:45-46 compares the “life of grace to the pearl of great price.” It takes effort on our part to receive and maintain that life in grace. Christians cannot live in a vacuum, but must maintain a relationship with God and others. To persevere involves maintaining contact with Christ and contact with other Christians.

How can we maintain contact with Christ? We do this through prayer, meditation, the sacraments, and the living Word. Total security comes from encountering Christ, surrendering to His will, and accepting the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. This is a life-long process, achieved through perseverance and the hard work of remaining open to God’s persistent love. However, there is a difference between the feeling of security and the state of being secure. Only that which is absolute can give absolute security. We, as Christians, have that through Jesus Christ. He is the source of our eternal life (John 15: 1-11). In a personal relationship with Jesus Christ we strengthen the life of God in us. It is by His power, His love, His Holy Spirit that we may persevere and follow His will for our lives.

How can we maintain contact with other Christians? First, we do this by being active in our Church, being Hands reaching out, being His feet willing to go where is needed and to spread the Good News that Jesus lived and died so we may have eternal life in grace. Secondly, in the Emmaus movement, we do this by attending group reunions. Group reunions are a way we help each other live in grace. The groups provide mutual support, encouragement, and accountability. We need mutual Christian-centered sharing. As Christian men we are faced with so much in our daily lives, be it alcohol, sex, or some other addiction or idol, as well as those dark days when those we love are suffering, lost, or in pain. We need to fellowship with others to grow in our understanding and to gain strength to face the difficulties in our lives.

No battle is ever won without cost. The more valuable the prize, the more costly the effort to achieve it. The weekly reunion group meeting is the premium we pay to persevere as disciples.

My accountability group has supported me many times when I have faltered and failed, and there is a lot of wisdom and unconditional love in their words. Perseverance should be our aim, to help one another continue the journey in the life of grace.

Finally and most importantly, stay connected in your local church. Your church is the primary Christian Community in your life. The Emmaus activities are meant to supplement and enliven, never to replace, your local Church.

A few years ago, I attended Walk 60 as a Pilgrim. That Thursday night, I feared that I had been dropped off in some kind of cult and thought of how I might escape. By Saturday night my Christian life had forever been changed. I have the treasure of God’s grace. I have a personal relationship with Him! I have worked several teams as Assistant Table Leader, Table Leader, Assistant Lay Director, Outside team Coordinator, in the kitchens, and on the Brazos Valley Board of Directors. It has been a most worthwhile journey. My understanding of God’s love, that great gift of Grace, came from my Walk and service. However, it was never me. I never felt so inadequate as when I was chosen to be Lay Director for this Walk. But one of my reunion group said to me, “God doesn’t chose the equipped, he equips the chosen.” That’s a fact, my friends.

Keep the love flowing through friendship and association with fellow seekers; participate in a group reunion and in your local church.

As for my sister, Stephanie, she is now 47 years old, and the pure love she and others like her radiate, are lessons for us all. I have had her caretakers tell me about how she continues to astonish them and how her simple smile can help them through a difficult day.

Stephanie has been one of the greatest influences on my life. Would I be the person I am today without her? Because of her I became a teacher. Because of her I know empathy and understanding for those who live daily with various ailments and disabilities.

As for Kevin, my son, he is a smart, talkative, fun-loving boy who has recently started the 5th grade in regular classes. He loves everyone, and my favorite memory was when he asked me to go to the altar to pray with him one day at my church.

I am blessed.
De Colores.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

God's Love

What is God’s love and what are we to do with it?

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary states that it is a “strong affection for another arising out of personal ties…affection and tenderness felt by lovers…affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests…a warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion…unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another…the fatherly concern of God for mankind…a brotherly concern of others.” Synonyms for Love are affection, attachment, devotedness, devotion, fondness, and passion.

The Wesley Study Bible says on page 830:

“God always acts to redeem and rescue us. We can’t outrun, out-give, outlast, or out grow God’s love….would send the Son to rescue the world. The whole of Scripture captures Gods’ great love affair with humanity. We may try to run and hide, but the arm of God’s love for us is always long enough to reach and rescue us.”

John Wesley’s Teachings on the Loving God:

“Love is such an easy word to say and such a hard thing to do. Ultimately love shows itself not by declarations of affection but by the service we render to the one we profess to love, especially service that inconveniences us or that calls for sacrifice. What is true in expressions of human love is equally true of our love for God. Jesus put the matter quite simply: If we love him, we will keep his commandments. “(John 14:15)

How great is God’s love?

Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

Everlasting means there is no beginning and no ending. Since God is eternal and God is love, the more we discover about Love, the more we know God; and the more we know about God, the more we know about love.

God’s love is infinite. In Eph 3:18-19, Paul writes “I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you many be filled with all the fullness of God. “ The Message reads “And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”

Dr. Barnhouse described God’s love like this. He said we are touched by the edge of this love, bathed in it, but we can’t fathom just how great the love is, even as the sea is beyond the human swimmer to conquer.

Why does he love us? There is no cause why God should ever love us. But as His heart is love, He found his own purpose for his divine love of us.

God’s heart is love. As God is perfect love, he cannot even look upon sin. Sin is anything that keeps us out of our personal relationship with God. Anything that keeps us from knowing God’s grace and forgiveness is Sin. We could not overcome our own sinful nature to love God and reach Him. He had to reach for us, by becoming human, and being a living sacrifice to overcome our sins.

As Jesus was perfection sacrificed, and His spirit dwells in all of his believers, when God looks upon us he no longer sees our sins, but he sees Jesus reflected in us. This is the great and eternal gift of God.

Love was manifested in Jesus Christ. To manifest is the revelation of something that had before been hidden. When Christ was made visible, the eternal, infinite sovereign love was with us. He was to become a sacrificial lamb and to die for all of mankind’s sins, past, present and future. Imagine that. He took every sin upon himself for every one of us, throughout history from the beginning to the end, and died so that we could live in His eternal grace. Think of that. He died for You! Your personally, as well as humanity universally, so we could have a relationship with him. So that we could experience and share in His divine love.

He was the gift of God’s love, he loved us enough to give his life for you. For you personally, and humanity universally.

In John 15:12-13 Jesus tells us “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

So Christians are called to witness through loving acts of Agape, to love one another as Jesus had done. Do we? We should be reaching out to those that are hurting, those in mourning, those that are hungry, suffering, in prisons, addicted, stricken, and ostracized from society. When I hear Christians attacking others such as homosexuals, drug addicts, abortionists with venom and verve, I cry inside, for this is not what we are called to do. That is not the great commission.

The song by Casting Crowns gets this absolutely right:

If we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way
Jesus payed much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the body of Christ

God’s love is for everyone and is so powerful that nothing can come between Him and us, if we simply accept Him into our hearts as our savior.

Romans 8:38 states ”For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor other things, present, nor things to come, not powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In the Message Romans 8:38 reads “None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing, nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable- absolutely NOTHING can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”

God’s love is universal and personal.

No one needs to ever feel left out, as God’s love is open to all. That’s right, all of us. We are all sinners, none stands before God in perfection except through Christ Jesus. God’s love is open to EVERYONE, not just the Frozen Chosen, but the prostitute, the abortionist, the homosexual, the pornographer, the wife-beater, murderer, liar, cheat, adulterer, alcoholic, road-rager, abuser, and yes, even the lawyer-politicians. Every one of us. None of us are reconciled to God through anything we do, but through the Grace of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Many folks stop there, but if you continue into John 3:17-18 you discover “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because the have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

So what do you have to do to know him? Simply accept Him into your heart. Confess that you are a sinner. Ask Him to save you and accept His grace, his sacrifice for you. If you do this, you shall be saved and know the personal love of the God of the Universe.

We are made partakers of divine salvation, and divine love.

God’s love is everlasting, infinite, manifest, redeeming, sacrificial, personal, rebuking, providing, protecting, universal, sustaining, and pure.

Accept it. Accept Him. Then show His love to others by your actions. Good works do not save you, Christ already did that and what can you possibly do to equal that Holy Sacrifice? We do good works because we are Christians. Show it.

(This was inspired by a Bible lesson on God’s Love by Dr. Barnhouse that can be listened to at

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Seeing God

I have a testimony to share. Last month, I received a phone call from one of my very best friends, Mark Ramsey. It was bad news. Mark's mother, Yvonne, had been diagnosed with spinal cancer and had been given no more than three months to live. She had fought cancer seven years or so earlier and it had gone into remission. Two years ago she nearly died when she suffered a stroke. The past year she had been living in an assisted living home, and was as happy as I think I'd ever seen her. I had visited her only two weeks earlier and she was complaining of constant back pain. Mark had taken her to the Doctor and after many tests they had delivered the news. Mark asked if I would help move his mother's furniture to a new home where she could receive constant care and attention. This call was on a Sunday, I told him I couldn't be there until Wednesday, he said no problem.

When I arrived Wednesday morning I learned that Yvonne had never left the hospital and had gone down very quickly. Mark's sister Kim and his oldest daughter, Erica, had stayed at the hospital with her. Mark and I left his home to get Yvonne's stuff moved. It was very hot, over 100 degrees, and after some sweating, we had just begun to move the furniture to my truck when Mark's cell phone rang. It was Kim. She reported that their mother was going down fast and that he should return to the hospital as soon as possible.

We left the home and began the drive to the hospital. Mark and I had been having very deep theological discussions about God, His plan for us, and our lives as Christians. Mark was hurting, knowing that his mother's death was near. I told him, "Even in the darkest times, God is with us. If you look for Him today, you will see him."

We stopped at a convenience store to get some drinks. I had just driven in from Caldwell and was very thirsty. Mark got an energy drink, and I got a diet coke with a bottle of water. We stood behind five or six people in line to the counter and good-naturedly argued about which of us were going to pay for the beverages, as men are want to do. I said, "I got this." Mark said, "No your my guest I got it." Etc.

A Hispanic day-laborer was in the line in front of us. He turned to us and smiled, "I got it!" Mark and I laughed. It was a good release to the tension we were both feeling about what the rest of the day would hold for his family. When we got to the counter, the lady said, "He already paid for it," and pointed out the door. We were moved to say the least. Here a complete stranger, a Hispanic, day-laborer had paid for our drinks on the day Mark needed to see human agape love the most. Mark couldn't speak. I went outside and found the man sitting on the curb eating a sandwich and drinking a coke. I didn't know what to say, but managed to thank him, "Man, you don't know what you just did for us. My friend's mother is dying. We are on the way to the hospital now. God used you. God bless you." He just smiled and waved me off.

On the way to the hospital, we were quiet for a while. I know we were both thinking of my words, that you will see God had come true. This small random act of kindness from one human being to another was a small miracle. As we approached the hospital, we noticed a poor man living on the streets, walking by with a limp. I stopped the truck and handed Mark the unopened water bottle. Mark offered the man the water. He smiled and said, "God bless you. I was just praying for water. This is exactly what I need in this heat."

In the hospital, Kim told us what had occurred earlier in the day. Yvonne woke up and asked who all the people were in the room. There had not been anyone there but Kim and Erica. Yvonne drifted back to sleep only to wake up later saying, "Kim, my momma's here. What do I do?" Yvonne's mother had died some years before. Kim told her, "Momma, she's here to take you home. You can go. Don't worry about us, we are fine." Yvonne woke a few more times, including while Mark and I were there. She was in a lot of pain and her breathing had turned into that death rattle that I found all too familiar having been with my grandmother and with my mother-in-law as they passed.

Kim and I began discussing Yvonne's condition and I told her that I thought she had six or seven more hours at the most. Yvonne died about six and half hours later. The miracle here is that Yvonne had not suffered very long. Two weeks earlier I had walked and visited with her. Mark, Kim, and Erica witnessed God taking their mother home, and Christ's love shone in a little Hispanic day-laborer's small act of kindness. A week later we gathered and spread her ashes. We prayed and cried, but it was a good day.

God is with you. Through good and bad. Through triumph and sorrow. He loves you. Look for Him and you will see him.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

When Christians hurt Christianity

The older I get and the more I come to understand about God's Word, the body of Christ, the Priesthood of all believers, and God's Grace, the more upset I get at those Christians who attack, belittle, and show NO agape love of others. Now I've always considered those like the Westboro Baptist cult as extremists and fringe groups that are heretical likened to the early heresies suffered in the Church of the first three centuries. Then I started listening to Christian Radio. Some of it is wonderful and uplifting-sharing the Good News as the Great Commission requires of all Christians. But other things I heard on the radio greatly upset me. I don't believe you can lead anyone to God's Saving Grace by telling them that they are evil and going to burn in Hell for eternity. Or that if someone believes in evolution, they are damned for eternity.

Here is a message for all Christians: Only God Saves! You can point the way, but only the Holy Spirit can change hearts, and only by the precious blood of Christ is anyone saved.

Jesus sought out the sinners, ate with them, taught them, loved them. He didn't stay in the clean walls of the synagogues with the Pharisees who sought pure cleanliness and holier-than-thou attitudes. There is a HUGE lesson there for us. He also spoke more about judgementalism than love! Uh-oh. What lesson do we take from that?

Do I believe Hell exists? Yes. But I think Hell is truly the total absence of God's love and spirit. And if you are a Christian, then you know this is a fate worse than eternal burning. Jesus referred to Hell as Gehenna. Gehenna was the trash pit outside of Jerusalem where all the trash was burned on a daily basis. The trash existed, was destroyed, and was no more.

No one is saved by being told they are going to burn in Hell. They are led to Christ by Christians living the Christian life, and offering the love of God and acceptance to those who have not known it. Walk the Walk, don't just talk the talk. Be what he has called us to be.

We can disagree on many, many issues, but if you teach anything more than Grace, you are missing the point. Read the words of Christ. What does He say? Love you neighbor as yourself. Give to the poor, feed the hungry, cloth those that need it, visit those in prison, help the widows and the orphans. Love your enemies. Pray for them.

He did not cut them off from His fellowship. If you cast out sinners, then none will ever be in the Church. I have news for all of you. You and I are sinners. None of us will ever stand before God in a sinless state.

Now as to sin. Only man places degrees of horribleness on sin. God is pure and all sin is an anathema to Him. That means the little ones (using God's name in vain) and the big ones (murder, rape) are all the same to Him!

Do NOT be a Pharisee. Seek understanding, wisdom, and friendship with those who are not Christians. Let them learn by your example. Pray, love, and seek peace in all situations.

We can disagree and still be Christians, but you will never lead others into a relationship with God by bashing, attacking, or other radical actions or words. Be an instrument of God's love, or get out of His way. If you are the cause of others turning away from God and you call yourself a Christian, than I think you will have a difficult time on that day when you stand before him and he reviews what you did and said in this life!

What have you done lately to show the love of Christ to others? What have you said? Where is your heart? Who has come to see God in you?

That is the Great Commission. If you call yourself a Christian, put up or shut up!

Praying for you,