The Offensiveness of the Gospel

For millennia the gospel of a crucified savior has offended people, and it continues to do so to this very day:

  • Some are offended at the suggestion that a crucified savior was the actual Messiah of the Jewish people.
  • Some are offended at the suggestion that a crucified savior was the prophesied and most authoritative prophet of God.
  • Some are offended at the suggestion that a crucified savior offered himself for the sins of all of humanity.
  • Some are offended at the suggestion that a crucified savior was offered for any supposed sin of humanity.
  • Some are offended at the suggestion that a crucified savior was a part of God’s plan to redeem mankind to himself.
  • Some are offended at the suggestion that a crucified savior is offensive.

Fact of the matter is, this crucified savior knew that he was an offense (Matthew 13:57), and so did his preachers (1 Corinthians 1:18-31), but the real shame comes from a “church” that is offended by the offense as much as the world. EA

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.” (1 Peter 2:4-8)

The Cold Reveals Where The Heat Is Going

One thing I couldn’t help but notice as I drove down the road during these winter months when there was a heavy frost or a light snow is how the cold reveals where a house’s heat is escaping.

And how, you may ask, does it do this? Well, if you look at the roof of a house and the entire thing is covered with a heavy frost or a light snow except “this one spot” towards the ridge line or except for “this spot” right in the middle of the roof about half way up, then you know that’s where the heat is escaping because that part of the roof is warm enough to melt what’s sitting on it.

By all means drive safely, but if you haven’t paid attention to this before then check it out the next time you get a chance.

So what’s my point? My point is maintenance. When someone sees the above happening, it gives the owner a chance to see where their warmth is escaping, and, in doing so, it gives them a chance to see where extra insulation needs to be added. A little extra insulation can a long way for various reasons.

Now I know this isn’t a DIY house maintenance blog, so maybe you’re wondering about the spiritual point– my point is still maintenance. Consider James 1:2-4 and perhaps it’ll help us learn to see the opportunities that allow us to see where our spiritual heat is escaping when we have to deal with the cold-fronts that come our way. EA

Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”                   (Matthew 24:11-13)

What does the phrase “Cross the Jordan River” mean to a Christian?

To understand what “crossing the Jordan River” metaphorically means to a Christian you have to first understand what it literally meant to the Jewish people.

God made a promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that their descendants would inherit a land given to them by God himself. And before Jacob died, the children of Israel found themselves living in Egypt.

Generation after generation passed until the time was right; the time had come for the children of Israel to inherit the land of Canaan. Add slavery, a handful of plagues, a law given by Moses, and forty years in the wilderness to the equation and you’ll arrive at the book of Joshua and the promised land.

But before Joshua could lead the people into the land flowing with milk and honey, an intimidating river had to be crossed – the flood stage Jordan River to be exact. But by the grace of God the people safely crossed the river; and by faith they received a land that they had only heard of through a promise that had been made so long ago.

As Christians we look back at the moment that the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River into the Canaan’s land as a rite of passage. Once they crossed that river the promise became reality – and reality surpassed expectations. In the same manner as God’s people of the past, we as Christians, who make up the people of God today, are looking for a land of promise that we have only heard of. As we travel through the wilderness we cling to this land by faith because this “promised land” is an expectation that comes from believing in God. Heaven is its name, and it’s waiting for God’s people (Hebrews 11:16).

But before we enter this “promised land” a rite of passage must be experienced – a “river” has to be crossed; this river is a cold river; this river is a wide river; and this river is an intimidating river to say the least. This “river” is called death.

But by the grace of God, this raging river can be crossed (Hebrews 2:14-15). Because in Jesus, the waters have no choice but to subside since he himself faced the waters, and crossed them, bearing God’s covenant for us upon his own shoulders so we may follow him across on dry ground to inherit that land that we have only heard of through a promise made so long ago.

So if you have wondered what “crossing the Jordan River” means to a Christian, now you know. EA

So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

Our muscles are Bigger in the Shadow

Do you remember standing in the evening sun as a kid having fun making “muscle poses” with your shadow and noticing how much bigger they looked?Shadow, Cross, Christian, Religion, Religious

Thanks to my daughter I relived that childhood memory, and as I did a very serious thought came to my mind – my faith muscles get much bigger as I stand in the shadow of the cross.

In the cross’ shadow we’re able to relive the moment that gave us life, and in the cross’ shadow God’s grace strengthens us so we can carry the cross that we’re called to bear (Luke 9:23). EA

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.Philippians 4:13

Selfies of the Gospel

As the culture around us continues to become more and more stuck on self (and I’m talking pictures here), the gospel calls us to have a different frame of reference.

A lot of selfies are taken to show where we have been, but the gospel calls us to deny our self and focus on where we are going:

  • Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)

A lot selfies are taken to build up egos, but the gospel calls us to humble our self and to allow God to do the building up:

  • And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)

A lot of selfies are taken as solo shots, but the gospel calls us to include others by loving our neighbor as our self:

  • So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:32-33)

A lot of selfies attempt to show how we’re better than others, but the gospel calls us to be more concerned with our own weaknesses before we critique others:

  • Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:42)

So the question is, what are others seeing when we take a spiritual selfie? EA

Seeking a religious experience

People often confuse having a relationship with God with “experiencing” God…so the experience is what they seek. This is why many of the religious movements of the past and present have found “success” by centering around a person’s opportunity to “experience” God in a way like they never have before!

These “promise makers” of the past and the present exchange the reality of the first-century miraculous gifts from God for twenty-first-century emotionalism, and the result is that many individuals are drawn away from following God’s word in exchange for following their own heart (Proverbs 3:5-6); the result is that many individuals look for God to “talk to them” instead of listening to what He has already said (Hebrews 1:1-2); and the result is that many individuals confuse God’s desire for holiness with their own desire for happiness (Hebrews 12:14-17).

These situations, and many more, happen due to the mistake of thinking that a healthy relationship with God is based upon what some consider to be “experiencing” God through a rush of emotions.

But instead of seeking a “religious experience” one should seek the word of God’s grace that builds one up spiritually (Acts 20:32) because seeking a “religious experience” is not the same as seeking God, and whichever one we seek will determine which one we will find. EA

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

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Washed or Wet?

When it comes to water baptism, intentions make a difference between getting washed and getting wet:

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” (Matthew 3:7-9)

When it comes to water baptism, purpose makes a difference between getting washed and getting wet:

And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:1-5)

When it comes to water baptism, the origin of the act makes a difference between getting washed and getting wet:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:18-19)

When it comes to water baptism, the result makes a difference between getting washed and getting wet:

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

You can be sprinkled over, poured on and even immersed – but there’s still a difference between getting washed and getting wet in the water baptism that we read about in the New Testament of the Bible. EA

And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’” (Acts 22:16)