Monday, July 11, 2016

The Identity of a Christian


In this world, we hear a lot about identity. People identify as this or that, and in so doing, have found a group of people, a culture, or an acceptance by which they fit in. Some call their group their "tribe", a similar bunch of people who hold to their ideals.

This sense of belonging is a powerful force. No one wants to be alone or maligned for how they identify. The world may shun them, but if they have their tribe, they're not alone, and there is someone who knows and cares what they're going through.

In looking for their "tribe", Christians are no different than other groups of the world. They come together in their own groups on Sundays looking for like-minded people. And while you may be thinking this post will be about identifying as a Christian to those around us, you'd only be half right.

Christians are new creations. The old has gone, the new has come. We are ambassadors of Christ, and as such, our mission on earth is to advance His Gospel to every tribe, nation, and tongue.

Because of this, our identity must be found in more than simply "being a Christian". We are not in a club, rather, we're citizens of Heaven. And what does the heavenly host do before the Throne of God?

They adore the One who sits upon it.
They adore the Lord Jesus Christ.

In like fashion, Christians everywhere should do the same. However, many people choose to identify as one worldly thing or another worldly thing, which sets their Christianity on the back burner. This is not the mentality of the Apostle Paul. He did not identify as a rich and powerful Pharisee. No, he "counted it all as dung" that he may obtain Christ (Philippians 3:8). In other words, he threw it all away to gain Jesus!

Have you ever loved Christ in this way? Have you ever been, or are you now willing to give up all you have, all you own, all you love, even your own life, if it meant gaining Christ?

This is the true identity of a Christian: JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF.

He must become to us the sum and substance of all that we are. We must pursue only Him, focus only on Him. Our entire lives should revolve around our Lord and Savior. This means it is not Christ who is cast to the wayside; we cast away whatever it is in which we identify, before we identify in Him.

Ultimately, our identity is where we find our worth. In my case, am I a good wife? Mother? Daughter? Sister? Friend? I used to believe my writing is what identified me, and that my worth came from positive comments or glowing reviews. We can even trip ourselves up by trying to earn our way to favor by being "good Christians".

But this is not the way.

Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is also everything in between -- the very means to that end. One who places their identity in Christ can say with the Apostle: "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me... For me, to live is Christ." (Galatians 2:20, Philippians 1:21). Therefore, Jesus becomes their all-in-all.

More than merely saving us from Hell, more than saving us from sin, the Lord Jesus Christ has given us the greatest of gifts -- Himself. "I am my Beloved's, my Beloved is mine." We are co-heirs to glory (Romans 8:17), seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-6, Revelation 3:21). We don't use Jesus as a way to bypass Hell -- no, He becomes to us our Heaven. In that way, Heaven is so much more than a "better place", Heaven is the Person and presence of Christ! In His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).

The natural overflow of Christ preeminent in one's life is that they begin to think on heavenly things; whatever is good and pure. They live to please God, not their own fleshly lusts. They worship in Spirit and in truth, not in some works-based validation that doing more in the church wins favor with God. This person no longer cares how the world views them because they have Christ, and in Him they have all they need.

Here is the test of a genuine Christian: serving Christ is not a slog, it is the glory of their lives.

If I may, I would like to share a few snippets from my prayer journal to give a glimpse into what it means for me to find my identity in Jesus.
Give me nothing but You. Throw me in a dank, cold prison cell, but give me of Yourself and it will be to me a Holy of Holies. I meditate upon You all the day, every day, and I never tire of seeking Your face. Your Holy Spirit fuels me to find You and shines beams of glory into a new facet of You. I can't take my eyes off the very One who dazzles me.
You have made my heart a fountain that overflows with love to You. A feeble and leaky fountain it may be, but my love is Your Living Water, bubbling down from Your Throne to pour out of me. My purity is Your Purity. My beauty Your Beauty. My holiness Your Holiness. Please teach me and show me how Your Love can become my love. Slay me with it, Lord, until this flesh is dead in the grave and this spirit flies home to You -- even better, cause me to LIVE! and redeem this flesh to Your heavenly estate so that with THESE eyes, I will see God!
Here's another example:
I am cherished by my God. How can this be? And yet, it is so. My life has always been meant to display Your glory. You have fashioned me into a vessel of honor, and I don't take this lightly. My entire existence revolves around Your will -- You determined to have me when I was nothing more than a spark in Your foreknowledge. You created me and came to me, thus creating me again. You allowed me to wander, which must have broken Your heart, yet in Your kindness, called Your prodigal daughter to come home even more zealous than before!
And now, the more I know, the more I know nothing, that I'm only scratching the surface of theology and the reality of You. I am blind to all other loves. I see no one but Yeshua. Make me bold for You, but not prideful; zealous, but not angry. Loving, but not compromising; meek, but not weak. O, Yeshua, conform me into Your image, that I may more perfectly resemble You.

True Christianity treasures Jesus above and beyond all else, even all other things by which we identify. Where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also. If we come to treasure Jesus and point our lives in His direction, our hearts shall be with Him. But whatever we treasure more than Him is an idol. It is "another god" before Him. When this happens, we are not walking according to the First Great Commandment to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Some people are so focused on finding their tribe and fitting in that they totally miss the point of all -- the END of it all -- which is the praise and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We do not "add" God to our lives, He is our life. We don't simply "love" Him, He is our Love. We don't believe in Jesus merely to "go to Heaven", His presence is our Heaven, and we have been given the amazing privilege, through His suffering and resurrection, of being where He is. Praise God!

Too many Christians do not have the Lord Jesus as the center of their lives. Why not, I ask? If He is the center of the entire universe, if the song sung around His Throne is the highest song that can be sung, how can we who claim to love Him be satisfied with any lesser song?

Think on this, and take it to God. Is Christ alone your identity? Or does your worth come from this world? Is there anything in your life you wouldn't lay down for Him?

Christ is our King, and to our King we bow. This world is not our home. Many of us have become too comfortable here. Let us pray to the Lord Jesus to realign our hearts with Heaven, and to help us love Him as He is worthy to be loved. Let us cater our prayers to fashion us into abiding Christians whose hearts overflow with His Living Water.

Let us not find our identity in anything other than our great God and Savior. This is my prayer for the glorious Bride of the Lord Jesus Christ, in His beautiful, holy name.

Amen.



Tuesday, May 31, 2016

All My Fountains - Release Day - Free Read!


Today is release day for my newest book, All My Fountains! This book is offered online as a free read - you're welcome to download it, share it, print it out, quote it, but never for profit! I pray this book blesses you. It took me two years to write - not for any deep subject matter, but rather, because I believe the Lord needed me to fully live the subject matter in order to bring true edification to His Church. Without further adieu, here is the blurb and the link to the free read. Enjoy!

~*~*~

Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us Two Great Commandments; to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Many strive to love others through kindness, charity, giving, and goodness, but who among you strives to love the Lord God before all other loves?

The four attributes of the First Great Commandment are like an engine which serves to love God to the greatest of our ability. When one link breaks, the entire chain suffers. If there is no strength to pursue God, we therefore pursue the world. If the mind is not involved, there can be no growth in sanctification. If the soul isn’t willing, then you're a false convert. If your heart isn’t on fire, there is no furnace to fuel a deep abiding love.

Scripture tells us all our fountains are in Him. If we’re to live abounding in His wondrous grace and glorious love, then every brook, every stream, and every river of our lives must be redirected to flow toward Christ Jesus. It is only then this resplendent Fountainhead channels His rivers of living water to overflow the banks of our hearts. Open the floodgates, brethren, and hold nothing back from loving our great God.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Scandalous Love

If we're being honest, a devoted, loyal, loving commitment to the Lord Jesus is something we should all strive to obtain. Knowing Him more, seeking Him more, praying more, studying more, being more of a disciple should be the focus of our lives. We know the Two Great Commandments, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. We go to church, teach our children, and try to live accordingly.

But what does this kind of love for the Lord look like in practice? How should a heart devoted to Christ express itself? How close does God allow us to get to Him?

Answer: Scandalously close.


Anyone who knows me, reads this blog, or keeps apprised of the things I write knows that Mary of Bethany is one of my Biblical heroines. For me, she embodies the epitome of the adoring Christian. She is the only person in Scripture who is described as being at Christ's feet, not once (Luke 10:39), not twice (John 11:32), but three times (John 12:3). Once to learn, once to weep, once to adore.

While we stand in awe of her heart toward Christ, what does her devotion tell us about Christ Himself? A great deal. Through Mary's example, He invites us to be closer to Him. He accepts our intimacy, and He will not rebuke us for wanting more of Him, even at the expense of others' reproach.

Not only was Mary of Bethany at the Lord's feet three times, she is also the only person the Lord defended twice. Once to her own sister (Luke 10:41-42), and once to His own disciples (John 12:2-8). He cherished her tender heart and would have no one rebuke her for learning of Him or loving Him. His words, likely spoken gently to those He rebuked, still carried the weight of His authority, and no one dared challenge the Messiah as He simultaneously honored Mary's heart while confronting the resentment and bitterness in their own.

His defense ensured she would not be ashamed of loving Him openly. In the story of Mary, we see a gentle young woman whose spirit could have been crushed. Her bruised reed could have been broken; her smoking flax could have been extinguished. Being put in her place, as it were, she would have been humiliated and shamed before so many people. What could she possibly say that would have justified her actions before the crowd in the room? Therefore, she said no words to explain herself. However, we find that while she remained still, the Lord Himself fought for her (Exodus 14:14).


It is no wonder, then, that Christ would receive His most intimate worship in the flesh from Mary of Bethany. Let's consider it.

In the account in the Gospel of John, Mary anoints our Lord's feet with her expensive perfume (John 12:1-8). But the Gospel of Matthew gives us a clearer picture, that she anointed His head and body also (Matthew 26:6-13). Mary came into the room, broke open her perfume, poured it on Christ's head and body, and finished by anointing His feet, wiping them with her hair. No one spoke during this exchange. I imagine it would have been a room filled with talking and laughter, until this woman, until Mary makes her way to her Lord. She's not here to serve; what is she here for? Why did she come?

I do not believe Mary simply poured her perfume upon Christ without getting any closer. I believe she touched Him to do so. We know she touched His feet. I'm sure she touched His head and hands as well. I imagine she made sure the perfume went into His hair by running her fingers through it, and kept it from rolling down His face. Or, perhaps if it did trickle down His face, she might have swept it from His eyes and made sure it had a path down His cheeks. Did she hold His hands in hers while continuing to anoint Him there? Would she have rubbed the perfume up His arms?

While she poured her perfume upon His feet, she likely perfumed His calves and shins as well. She had no towel; perhaps she realized too late she wasn't properly prepared. So she unbound her hair to wipe Him, and gave Jesus a rare privilege in the sight of her, a gift given only to a woman's husband.

In so doing, she also perfumed herself.  I love that. She and Christ shared the same fragrance.


I imagine this scene was so shocking, so scandalous, you could have heard a pin drop. No one dared to speak because...this just wasn't done! What was happening? Where had this lady's propriety gone? Perhaps they didn't dare speak because the Lord didn't say a word. What would He do? They waited to find out.

What I find fascinating is that this level of adoration for the Lord Jesus Christ is unique in the Gospel accounts. The Apostle John rested His head on Christ's chest at the Passover meal, but that was after Mary's anointing. Could it be he finally understood in their last days together that he could be so open with Jesus? Touch is one of the most intimate forms of communication. You can say so much with a rub of the thumb, the swipe of a finger, or the cup of a palm on one's cheek.

No one dared touch Jesus in this way. No one but a humble young woman from the tiny town of Bethany. Her opulent outpouring revealed the bankruptcy of those hearts around her. While they murmured about the "waste" of the perfume that could have been given to the poor, the Lord recognized her act for what it was - true, spiritual worship. To the astonishment of all, Jesus declared Mary of Bethany would be remembered for her adoration, wherever His Gospel was preached (Matthew 26:13).

Doesn't that make you stop in your tracks? Doesn't it take your breath away? What a magnificent honor! What a glory for Mary, to be remembered as the one who adored her Lord above and beyond anyone else. I cannot think of a better legacy than that. In fact, Christ's words are fulfilled in my own home, as I have a portrait of Mary anointing Christ's feet on my dining room wall.


Now, I daresay this high and lofty love for the Lord Jesus Christ is still looked upon in our day and age with an arched brow. People still murmur behind our backs, even those who profess to be Christians themselves! There are many theologians and preachers who have rebuked believers (usually women) for loving Christ above and beyond the level of those around them. While I understand the temptation is there to look upon Christ in an inappropriate manner (being that we are women and our Lord is a glorified man), I do believe many err in extinguishing the smoking flax of women's tender hearts.

Who else but a woman could have anointed Christ in such a scandalous, beautiful, intimate way? You cannot help but see the romance in Mary's anointing. I don't believe Mary wanted Christ for her earthly husband, but she certainly accepted Him as her heavenly one. She, more than anyone else, understood what He would face in Jerusalem. From sitting at His feet, she learned His ultimate fate, and she needed Him to know, before He died, how much she worshipped Him.

In her anointing, she gave herself to Him completely, heart, mind, body, and soul with wild abandon. This is far and away above anything we give to our earthly spouses. This is agape love, which blows away eros love in its unconditional adoration. In our quest to quash anyone from gazing upon Jesus with eros love, are we also quashing a budding agape love?


To the untrained eye, agape love could mimic qualities of eros love, with regards to Mary's "wild abandon" mentioned above. A heart that's fully surrendered to Christ above all else remains to this day a scandalous love. Why? Because like Mary, when we adore Christ with every breath, with every heartbeat, we likewise reveal the bankruptcy in the hearts of those around us.

I believe those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with this same wild abandon of agape love are the ones who are given the same promise as this timid woman of Bethany - throughout the ages, they are the ones remembered by the Church, wherever His Gospel is preached.

Amen, Lord, let it be. Praise Your holy name!



Monday, February 22, 2016

Psalm 23 - A Short Study on the Believer's Life


I have done a more in-depth study of Psalm 23 on this blog before, but just recently while thinking on this Psalm again, I began jotting down some things I hadn't thought about then. The 23rd Psalm is so well-loved, I knew I'd have to share it on my blog. This one is only a short study. I pray it blesses you.

The 23rd Psalm is the life story of a believer in Christ. He is our Shepherd, and this Psalm opens with that declaration. The life of a Christian begins with faith in Jesus, and with a confidence that He is not only the Good Shepherd of the flock, but that He is my Shepherd, and actively seeking my personal care.

This Shepherd sees to it that I have both food and drink in green pastures and still waters, while giving me His peace which passes all understanding. By this peace, He restores my soul, for it is upon drinking His Living Water that we shall never thirst. Our souls are renewed by trusting in this Shepherd and following Him, for it is only through Christ we have peace with God.

Behold, however, the hard times come, and it is by our faith and remembrance of His goodness that our souls remain restored and at peace.

Notice we are not spared the valley, we walk through it. Even though the valley is 'of the shadow of death', we fear no evil. Whatever we encounter is not to be feared. Evil cannot harm us while Christ be with us. Why? Why such confidence in the face of evil shadows?

The Lord's discipline is what comforts. His rod smites our evil tendencies while His staff keeps us on the path of righteousness for His name's sake. It is the Lord who keeps us, whose rod is also used to smite the shadows should they wander too close.

Within this valley the Lord prepares a table before us...where? In the presence of our enemies. Not in Heaven with our brothers, not in peace among our friends, but in the presence of our enemies. No matter how they rage and cry and howl and jeer, they cannot stop the feast of God. The evil in this valley cannot lift a finger to keep Almighty God from preparing this table.

Though the darkness presses in, Thou anointest my head with oil. Though the battle rages on, my cup runneth over. I have found both favor with God and have plenty by His hand.

Shadows have no power over the Light. When our God shines forth in glorious splendor, the day breaks...and the shadows flee. And what is the effect of living in the light of the Most High? It is simply this: that goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

From the declaration of the Lord as my Shepherd to dwelling in the house of the Lord forever, we see the entire arc of the Christian life. It is the Lord who leads, and who restores. The Lord never leaves, but is with us to both correct and protect His sheep. The Lord prepares the table and anoints our heads with oil. We have been so richly blessed, that our cup is not only full, it runneth over. And while we follow our Shepherd, His goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives.

From start to finish, the believer's life is a work of the Lord. By His power and grace, we fear no evil. He is the one who preserves our faith.

In Him, we have all we need.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Magnificence of Christ


One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. ~Psalm 27:4

Christian, there comes a time in your life when you finally see the Lord Jesus Christ high and lifted up, the Holy of all holies, and the resplendent King of Glory. I'm not talking about some lofty "church speak", I'm talking about experience, about wisdom, and about knowledge, not about something parroted throughout various congregations. The Church has seemingly lost a high view of her Bridegroom, and this has resulted in many a believer "ho-humming" through their faith.

Lately, I've come in contact with several people via social media who claim that since we are made righteous in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21), we do not need to live righteously. To claim such is viewed as a "works based" salvation. Repentance=works. Holiness=works. I am surprised these same folks don't claim that faith=works, since we must have faith in order to be saved. But I digress.

Any astute student of Scripture knows that both repentance and holiness are all over the Bible. But even if we push these doctrines aside and say repentance and holiness are not needed, there still remains one little problem: being born again; becoming a new creation; being created in Christ Jesus; the old has gone, the new has come. 

The glaring hole here is simply this: when we believe on Christ, we are made new.

The doctrine of the cross is that we have died with Christ (Galatians 2:20, Colossians 3:3). The life we now live is by faith in the Son of God. Therefore, our worldliness was put to death and nailed to the cross. If our sins died with Jesus, so, too, did our desire to commit them. Herein lies the point of the whole matter. When one's heart is renewed by the Holy Spirit, He grants repentance (2 Timothy 2:25). This is NOT a work of the believer, this is a work of the Spirit. Scripture calls it opening our eyes (Luke 24:45-47) to understand the depths of our sins. The Spirit's job is to create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us. This results in hating the things we once loved (sin) and loving the things we once hated (righteousness).

We have become citizens of Heaven. How should we who have died to sin live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2) That is not to say we don't stumble in sin. We are still in our fallen flesh. Until we are glorified and fly away, we shall always be stepping in it, for lack of a better term. But the point here is that we cease from deliberately sinning.

Now here is the point I'm trying to make. The Spirit of God is molding us into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29). This is called sanctification. Our Christian walk should be a steady growth in godliness throughout the course of our lives.


Now, even if I've lost you, even if you don't agree with me with regards to repentance and holiness as works of the Spirit rather than works of our flesh, there's another thing to consider: our love for Christ.

When the Holy Spirit truly renews one's heart to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, an all-consuming love for Him takes root in their heart, growing ever larger and larger until their love for God eclipses and overshadows the love they have for anything else in their lives. Not many believers make it to this point in their faith, because in order to love God to this magnitude, one must seek Him and strive after Him, and long to know Him and pray and study. Longing for Christ Himself might seem foreign to some believers, but consider Mary of Bethany, who poured out her expensive perfume on His feet in unparalleled adoration. She did not come to Him for a blessing or a request. She came to Him for His own sake, and worshipped the Lord on a deep, personal level not matched by His own disciples (John 12:1-8).

Something clicks within a believer when they make Jesus Christ their Treasure. Their hearts are with Him (Luke 12:34). They gladly sell all they have to obtain that field (Matt. 13:44). They want to become like Him, and therefore, they begin to obey to His Word (John 14:23). They think on things that are good and pure (Philippians 4:8). They set their affections on things that are above (Colossians 3:2). This world and its pleasures become vanity and chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14), and they count it all as dung that they may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-8).


The natural by-product of renewing your mind in this way (Romans 12:2) is that one turns from their sins (repentance) and walks as Jesus walked (holiness). These are not works by which we are saved, rather, they are the fruits of our salvation. It is the work of the Spirit in the heart of man. People who do not wish to live holy lives sold out to God are either grieving the Holy Spirit or false converts altogether. Regardless if Christ's righteousness now covers us, this is not a free license to sin. This also does not mean we can no longer sin. While it's true that our sins are covered by His sacrifice, what blood-bought believer of the Lord Jesus Christ would want to partake of activities that sent our Beloved King and magnificent GOD to the cross?

Christian, my dear brother or sister in Christ, please consider these words. Growth in Christ includes forsaking sin and increasing in holiness. Search the Scriptures to see if what I say is true. Be a Berean. Do not believe any preacher, teacher, or blogger over the Word of God. Their words blow away like chaff on the wind, but God's Word endures forever.

It is my prayer that the Spirit of God will open the eyes of all who read my blog to a new and living relationship with the Lord of Heaven and Earth. Yeshua, give us all new eyes to see You seated at the right hand of God. Allow us to see a glimpse of Your glory while we yet remain on earth, so that we might redeem the time we've been given and live for You. Let us not be content to hold You captive in the dark closet our hearts, rather, I pray You break free from the superficiality that grieves You and remind us of who You are - the Lord of Hosts, the King of Kings, and God, Most High. Likewise, remind us of who we are, no longer bound by sin, but saints of God, partakers of the divine nature, and a people of Your own possession. People You have called out of darkness, and into Your marvelous light.

Help us to give you the glory due to Your Name, and remind us that holiness is an act of worship, and it is beautiful (Psalm 29:2).


In Jesus' name.
Amen.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Paradox of the Stone

"Can God create a rock so heavy He cannot lift it?"

I'm sure you've heard this question before. You've likely also tied your brain in knots trying to find the answer. Atheists have used this paradox as a "gotcha" for believers about the omnipotence of God. If someone answers "yes", then God is not all powerful and therefore cannot be God. However, if they answer "no", God is likewise not all powerful, and therefore cannot be God.

Either answer brings you back to the same conclusion: If God is not able to create this rock, or if He's not strong enough to lift it, He cannot be omnipotent. Aside from the fact that it anthropomorphizes God and misunderstands His infinite Being, it's an interesting conundrum. 

In thinking about this question, I read some online articles from various philosopher theologians who've come to the conclusion that no, God cannot create a rock so heavy He cannot lift it, because God cannot do what is logically impossible. It's like creating a round square or a married bachelor.

But the more I got to thinking about this, the more it became clear to me to trust what Scripture has said in Matthew 19:26: "With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible." This passage from Matthew is Christ's own words. In fact, Christ Himself is the key to this paradox.

Those who ask this question first have no understanding that God is triune - Father/Son/Spirit. At the incarnation, God showed that He can indeed separate Himself from Himself, as the Father was in Heaven, the Son was on earth, and His miracles came by the Holy Spirit.

We know that Jesus is the Creator, as Scripture tells us (John 1:3, John 1:10, Colossians 1:16Hebrews 1:2). So, as Creator He created every rock in the universe. 

Let's think about God's omnipotence for a moment. It is an attribute of His nature. What would He have to do not to be able to lift a rock that He has created? He would have to empty Himself of His omnipotence; He would have to humble Himself. Philippians 2:5-7 tells us that's exactly what He did. 

God humbled Himself and became a man (Matthew 1:23).

Herein lies the key to this supposed "gotcha paradox". In the man Christ Jesus, God both humbled and emptied Himself of His omnipotence. While He walked upon the earth, there were plenty of rocks He could not lift. He both created them - and could not lift them. Therefore, Christ Himself makes the impossible possible.

And yet, through His triune nature, God the Father and God the Spirit remained absolutely all powerful. God emptied Himself in Christ, but Christ did not cease to be God. Nor did God the Father lay down His omnipotence. Since Jesus willingly took on a man's physical limitations while He lived among us, there were things He could not do in the flesh, such as lift huge, heavy rocks. 

Are there rocks on this earth that YOU cannot lift? Of course there are. (Remember, Christ was fully man - a normal, every day man. Despite His miracles wrought by the Holy Spirit, He was not a "super hero" in the flesh, as He lived daily in submission to the Father. He could only do what He saw the Father doing. John 5:19)

The Paradox of the Stone breaks down when we forget that Jesus Christ is God who became a man and willingly laid aside His omnipotence. It likewise breaks down when one forgets that God is triune and the Father and Spirit did not cease to be Almighty. 

Can God create a rock so heavy He cannot lift it? Yes, He can, and yes, He did in the man Christ Jesus. But He only did it once, and it will never happen again. Through the incarnation of Christ, the Son of God lived the sinless life that we could not in order to save His people from their sins.

So the next time someone comes at you with the "gotcha paradox" of a rock so heavy God cannot lift, they've actually touched upon one of the boundless mysteries of God. The paradox isn't about the rock at all, but about God Himself, who both laid aside His omnipotence and yet remained Almighty. Those who wish to trip up a believer about what God can and cannot do with a rock has actually opened the door to hear the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Perhaps the rock that needs to be moved...

...is their heart.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

An Open Letter to Young, Inexperienced, or Interim Pastors

Dear Men of God,

To be a pastor is surely one of the greatest graces given to men within the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Leading a congregation in His name is no small feat. He has chosen you out of His flock to feed His flock. That knowledge alone should stop you in your tracks to stand in awe of Christ's plan for His Body through you. This isn't a calling that should be taken lightly. In fact, Scripture says men who answer this call will be judged more harshly (James 3:1).

With that truth firmly in mind, I wish to address an issue I've recognized within various churches, whether they be in my neighborhood, or whether they post sermons online. The issue has many facets, but it all boils down to a lack of godliness. These facets include:

  • Integrity
  • Personal holiness
  • Wisdom 
  • Maturity
  • Perseverance
  • Study
  • Prayer

Many who call themselves pastors are not godly. I'm sure we could all name a few false teachers on both hands. However, I'm not speaking of false teachers, rather I'm speaking of men who stand in a place of authority who do no much more than "jumping jacks for Jesus" in front of their congregations. If you wear the title "pastor", own it. Dig in, get dirty. Crack open the ESV or the NASB and study hard. Wrestle with God as Jacob once did. Do not let Him go until He blesses you. Spend long hours in your prayer closets. Yes, I said hours.


Preaching should never be something done "on the side" or taken as a "privilege to be a leader." Preaching is hard work, dedicated work, done by men who can draw Living Water from the deep well of Scripture. It is not telling stories about your own life or how to overcome obstacles. The sum and substance of all preaching everywhere is Christ and Him crucified. If the congregation hasn't been taught about the life or teachings of Christ in your sermons, you are not preaching a sermon but giving a lecture or having a speaking engagement.


If the sermon does not revolve around the Word of God going out to the people, you have not built your house upon the rock, but upon the sand. If the congregation is not being fed on the Bread of Life that is God's holy Scripture, one must assume the man giving the sermon does not love the Lord, as the one who loves God feeds His sheep (John 21:17).

A congregation rarely rises above the spiritual maturity of the man leading them. This should light a fire under many men who care about the eternal wellbeing of those they lead. This should drive the man of God to strive after the Almighty with both hands and willing to be led down the hard, winding road. A man who cares about his flock will weep over them and hold them up before the Throne of Grace, asking the Lord for more wisdom, maturity, and a passion for Him within the hearts of His people. The man who understands this knows these people are not his, but the Lord's, and everything he does on their behalf is for the glory of God.

This high responsibility is not for the lead pastor alone, but for all pastors of the church. Associate pastors should not shirk their responsibilities to God. Those who preach when the lead pastor is out of town or away at another church should not see themselves as the "substitute teacher". There is just as much responsibility riding on the shoulders of associate pastors as there is on the main pastor. This is not a "free Sunday" to preach on what you like, but rather, the grace of God to grow you in leading His sheep. Do not squander these opportunities with fluffy sermons. 


Here's the rub in all of this. I am well aware I'm a woman, and because of the biblical mandate that a woman is not allowed to teach or have authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:12), this letter might fall on many deaf ears. If that's the case, I will still continue in prayer for your church and your congregations. However, as a sister in Christ, am I not allowed to encourage my brothers? (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Consider this letter isn't meant to teach you, rather, to implore you to fill that pulpit like the ambassador of Christ you are.

Therefore look to the men who have gone before you and have worn the same mantle that you now wear. Men like Bunyan, Knox, Owen, Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Moody, Ryle, Pink, Tozer, Lloyd-Jones, Stott. There is reverence there. A certain amount of awe. They believed God is worthy of poring over Scripture, studying the original Greek and Hebrew, and cultivating a relationship with Him that surpasses the ages. These men venerated their pulpits, and by that I mean they preached according to their adoration for the Lord Jesus Christ. They were not flippant; they climbed the steps with a righteous fear of God in their hearts.


When one studies, prays, and makes the glory of Christ the driving force of their lives, they have an "aroma of Christ" about them (2 Corinthians 2:15). I'm sure you've run into these godly people throughout your line of work. They don't solely rely on the Sunday sermon to fill them, they go home and do their own prayer and study to bring them closer to God. 

If singular congregants do so, how much more the man of God?

Your congregations can tell the difference between a sermon that's been polished all week and one that's been phoned in on Saturday night. God should never be the recipient of our dregs. He should get our first fruits. All too often sermons seem as if they are piecemealed together, an afterthought, or they lose their focus once the pastor drifts away from Scripture. When the aroma of Christ is missing, the prayer, study, and godliness are missing as well.

If there is little Scripture in the pastor's sermon, there is little Scripture in the pastor's life.


My purpose behind writing this letter is to stir up the Church of Christ and compel the Lord's shepherds to not merely check if the sheep are in the pen, but to feed them as well. If we truly wish to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and bring glory to His name, we must give Him honor as well. We must lift Him up. We must be willing to do the homework, willing to be on our knees, willing to wrestle and sweat for the meat of the Word, not just milk only (Hebrews 5:12-14).

We need spiritual maturity in our pulpits in order to ensure spiritual maturity in the Body of Christ. When the pastor is so taken with the Lord Jesus Christ that he finds Him altogether lovely and absolutely magnificent, when he expounds on the everlasting grace of the King of Glory, when he gazes heavenward with unwavering devotion in his eyes, my brothers, that is when the Holy Spirit captivates the hearts and minds of the people of God, as that is when the Spirit of God is with you. 

Remove the veil from the eyes of your people and declare from the mountaintops the wondrous, glorious, dazzling, epic beauty of the Lord God Almighty. Light souls on fire by plumbing the depths of His boundless Word, and pray meaty prayers that compel your congregations to grow in Christlikeness. If you don't know how to do this, you have work to do. In Jesus' name.

In prayer for one and all,
~~Becka Goings