Friday, April 20, 2018

Innocence Lost

We live in a culture where human life is disposable. Just look at the news headlines. Reputations are destroyed by accusation and innuendo. A lifetime of good work is torn down in a few hours of character assassination. Unborn babies are ripped from their mother's wombs by militant executioners seeking the bounty of warfare amidst unholy rules of engagement. The elderly are marginalized in warehouses. Legislatures and courts legitimize euthanasia. The specter of death dons its executioner's hood and cloak, brandishing the scepter of its sword, imposing its sentence of morte.

Innocence lost.

We live in a world where reputations are built in a lifetime and destroyed in moments. Suspicion, recrimination, and revenge rule the day. Corporate leaders, entertainers, politicians, and preachers build a body of work. They are known by their resume. Then a salacious report is published. Whether the report is true or not is never the issue. Media accusations are issued.  In a blinding rush to judgment, the "now this" talking heads proclaim the "late breaking" speculation as truth. The public is informed that it has reached a decision. Pretentious journalists, pundits, and revenge-seekers pound the gavel in a quest for their "pound of flesh."

"The people have spoken."

A non-jury of non-peers issues the socially declared non-decree of a death sentence. The mob assembles the hastily constructed noose, tosses it over the limb of socially constructed justice, and completes the vile task, proclaiming its victory.

And that much more so if the "collective cultural conscience" dislikes the accused.

Innocence lost.

Ever since Watergate scandalized the political and social discourse, mistrust and contempt of authority have accelerated toward the yawning abyss of chaotic absurdity. From our earliest years we are taught the mistrust of authority.

Nearly 20 years ago, our family was vacationing in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Parks. While there, we encountered a protestor who was contending with the U.S. Department of the Interior's policies and procedures on management in the parklands. The bumper of his old Chevy Blazer was adorned appropriately with a bumper sticker that read, "Question Authority."

Innocence lost.

Our culture of death is voracious in its appetite to consume. "Old people cost too much to keep around," the sword wielding specter of culture proclaims.

"Let them die with dignity!"

Interpretation: "Kill them."

"They eat too much. They cost too much in medical care. They fill up too much space, and suck in too much air. They are disposable."

So the culture of death marches on to advance its agenda.

Innocence lost.

The truly innocent, the unborn child, is the easiest prey for the all-consuming killers. 60 million babies have been aborted since abortion was legalized in the United States in 1973. The genocide of two entire generations now stretches into its third. The culture of death has slaughtered the next Beethoven, Washington, Roosevelt, Franklin, and Curie.

Innocence lost.

I recoil in horror at the social agenda bent on death and destruction. I recoil at the injustice of character assassination, elder abuse, and abortion. But the culture of death does not stop its relentless stampede of encroachment into our lives. We consume other people through fornication, divorce, and abandonment of our children. We treat our star athletes as heroes, and then watch them die tragic deaths of dementia and Parkinson's disease brought on by our Sunday afternoon entertainment. We consume the latest would-be bachelors and bachelorettes, proclaiming their pornographic presentations as our "guilty pleasures," forgetting that these people are real people, pitiful people, broken people, whom we objectify for our pleasure. And once we conclude our playtime, we dispose of them carelessly.

Innocence lost.

The church of Jesus Christ must be different. Disciples of Jesus Christ must be different. There are no disposable people. We must believe that. We must live that truth.

In the early church, the believers were known to rescue live infants who had been disposed of by temple prostitutes and others upon the trash heaps of city dumps throughout the Mediterranean world of the first century. The church rescued these "undesirable" babies. Believers raised them as their own. The church discipled these children as followers of Jesus Christ. Those of us who claim to be people of the cross of Jesus Christ follow in their train of grace. We are called to love others with the self-giving love of the innocent Christ who gave Himself for all, that we might be saved.

Innocence lost.

Will you resist an all-pervasive culture of death? Choose life.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Get Out and Go!

On April 11, 2013 I read these words from Dr. Dennis F. Kinlaw, Sr. in my devotional time.

"God's way for us is seldom what we would have chosen. This is one fo the sweet surprises that God has for us. When we trust Him and follow Him along unexpected ways and to unexpected places, we find as we look back that the ways and places always fit. We recognize that they were just right for us" (This Day with the Master, April 11).

Eight days later, April 19, 2013, Beth and I shared with our daughter and son-in-law that our season of ministry at the Bible college we had called home for 21 years was coming to an end. Life as we knew it was about to take a major turn. The call of God seemed Abrahamic. And we had no idea where God was leading us.

“Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:1-3 NKJV).

We did not understand the ramifications of it all, but we recognized the disquieting urgent call of the Holy Spirit. "You are too comfortable. Follow me to the greatest challenge of your life. I will be with you."

One month later, May 18, 2013, I accepted the presidency of Wesley Biblical Seminary. Obedience has caused major disequilibrium in our lives. Challenges have been monumental. But the miracles of grace and transformation have been overwhelmingly greater in magnitude and scope. 

Dr. Kinlaw closed his devotional for April 11 with these words: "In Christ, our fears are never justified, but our faith always is!"

The past five years have been filled with some of the greatest miracles of my life. I praise God for counting me worthy to have experienced and endured the discomfort, pain, and fear so that He might grow my faith and obedience in service to Himself. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

I Believe in The Resurrection

“Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, ‘Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?’
“But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
“But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.’”
Mark 16:1-7 NKJV

I know the reality of resurrection power. 

When the Lord called me to Wesley Biblical Seminary in 2013, many believed WBS to have died. I attended the commencement ceremony on May 4, 2013. Thirty-nine graduates celebrated the completion of their studies. Longtime friends and employees feared that their legacy was at an end, and their mission disrupted. For many, the commencement ceremony doubled as a funeral service. The black robes of dignity symbolized mourning. 

But God was calling together a team of people of faith who believed in the power of the resurrection. Five years later, Wesley Biblical Seminary is robust and effective in her mission. Ninety-three percent of debt is resolved. In five years, over 50 additional graduates will have received diplomas from WBS. May 11, 2018, the first cohort of doctoral students will be rewarded with diplomas. Vision, innovation, an entrepreneurial spirit, and faith abound. 

I believe in resurrection. I have witnessed 21st century resurrection from the dead. 

But my belief in resurrection reality is not based upon my limited observation and experience. Oh yes, we hear resurrection stories about how God has brought people and even organizations back from the dead. I believe in resurrection life and power because I believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the only human being who ever raised Himself from the dead. But Jesus is very God and very man. He raised Himself from death. He became victor over death. He descended into Hell and seized the keys of Hell and death.

Jesus believes in life.

I have seen the power of resurrection life in my parents. Mom asked Jesus into her heart as a child. Dad did so as well. They have lived their lives deliberately and on purpose for Jesus Christ. They raised four children with intention. They made the Christ-life, the cruciform life, so appealing that I wanted to live it too. By God's grace, I have. I believe in resurrection life and power because of my parents' life and witness. 

Our son, Nathan, is a pastor on staff at a Wesleyan church in Michigan. The church has a culture of intentionality regarding witnessing and genuine Christian conversion. Each week that someone is converted through the ministry of the church, a candle is lit on the platform. The candle lighting is always accompanied with celebration and applause. They believe in life.

Dead has been raised to life. I believe in life. I believe in resurrection. 

He is risen!

He is risen, indeed!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Completeness of the Cross

I Corinthians 1:18-25 NKJV

The Jews wanted sensation. The cross was only a momentary sensation, and a disappointment at that. The Greeks wanted wisdom. The cross seemed like such a waste to them, and that was surely foolishness. But what does the cross mean to you?

For you and me, the cross speaks of separation, sacrifice, and salvation. Jesus was tried before the elite of His countrymen. He was convicted on trumped up charges before an illegal court. He, the Lamb of God, gave Himself for the sins of His nation, His people, and the whole world. Jesus, through His sinless life and death, became the once for all sacrifice.

But He did not remain in the grave. The scandal of the ages is that He arose from the dead, He conquered graveyard guards, a government grave seal, doubting disciples, pernicious priests, death, Hell, the grave, and our slavery to sin. He became our Champion, our Victor, our Savior. And through the cross, He brings salvation to all who believe on Him.

But what is your response to the message of the cross?

“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord” (I Corinthians 1:26-31).

He is our wisdom, not mere sensation or human reason.

He is our righteousness, our forgiveness.

He is our holiness, our sanctification. 

He is our redemption from destruction, the One who gives order and meaning to life.

The cross continues to be controversial!  But the Christ of the cross calls us to Himself, inviting us to experience His great salvation through the cross. All too often, in our sinful, self-indulgent state, we recoil.  The sinful self is:  self-preserving, self-protecting, self-pleasing, and self-prospering.  But Jesus calls us to self-denial.  He calls us to the cross.  Salvation and self-denial involve coming to Jesus, confessing our sins, clean living, consecrated living, crucified living, confessing Christ, and being confessed by Christ. He who took up the cross for the sins of the whole world invites us to take up our cross and follow Him.

John Newton penned these words of verse.

In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopp'd my wild career:
I saw One hanging on a Tree
In agonies and blood,
Who fix'd His languid eyes on me.
As near His Cross I stood.

Sure never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look:
It seem'd to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke:
My conscience felt and own'd the guilt,
And plunged me in despair:
I saw my sins His Blood had spilt,
And help'd to nail Him there.

Alas! I knew not what I did!
But now my tears are vain:
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain!

A second look He gave, which said,
"I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou may'st live."

Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief, and mournful joy,
My spirit now if fill'd,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by Him I kill'd!

John Newton, 1725-1807.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Controversy of the Cross Part 2

I Corinthians 1:18-25 NKJV

So what did the cross mean for Jesus? For Jesus, the cross was both prophetic and personal. Jesus, the Son of God, who was bound together in Holy Trinity with Father and Holy Spirit in eternity past, spoke prophetically after the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:15).

Jesus was present in Holy Trinity, slaughtering the first animals to provide a sacrifice to cover Adam and Eve, protecting them from the shame of their sin.

“Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.”  Blood of animals was shed to provide a covering for the sinful couple” (Genesis 3:21).

Jesus was present in Holy Trinity, as Abraham trod the steeps of Mount Moriah to heed the call of God and offer his only son Isaac on the altar of sacrifice. He was listening as Abraham spoke in faith.

“And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together…” (Genesis 22:8).

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were inspiring Isaiah as he prophesied the hope of the Gospel in the Messiah of God who was to come.

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken” (Isaiah 53:4-8).

Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, prophesied that Jesus would be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world from the time of Jesus’ baptism at the beginning of His earthly ministry.

“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Luke records Jesus’ resolve to go to Jerusalem, although it would eventually become the place of his execution on the cross.

“He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9: 51 NKJV).

Jesus knew that the cross was His destiny. Jesus revealed this truth to the Apostle John, and He recorded it in the Revelation when John referred to Jesus as

“... the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).