Sunday, June 08, 2008

Has the Bible Been Promoted?

“In the beginning was the Word and it was with God and was God. Before an eye had seen or an ear had heard, there was the Word. I know the Bible is God’s Word, His written promises to earth. The Word is Perfect Truth. The Word is what I cling to.”
Lyrics to “The Word” used in Outrigger Island Vacation Bible School material.

Those words sung by hundreds of children, including my eight-year-old daughter, stunned me as I recently sat through a VBS service at a local Baptist church. Has the bible somehow been promoted to the fourth person of the Godhead within Baptist theology? Has LifeWay taken a theological turn that I missed somewhere?

I know that we often call the scriptures, God’s Word, but nowhere in the lyrics of this song, sung throughout SBC churches for VBS this summer, was the mention of Jesus – The Word of God. The use of the John 1 passage that speaks of Jesus, and used in this song, has either reduced Jesus to an “it” or elevated the bible to the divine.

What are we doing? In our attempts to teach our children the trustworthiness of the scriptures in a changing world, it seems that we have overreached. I am mindful of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees who often declared, “He who has the ‘words’ has life.” –

"You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you'll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren't willing to receive from me the life you say you want.” John 5:39-40 The Message

My daughter went to VBS with a child-like faith in Jesus loving her (the bible told her so) and returned with a fear of missing out on heaven and wondering if she had done her ABC’s correctly (and quickly, quickly). Thankfully, a little time of ministering to her heart and soul had her eyes back on Jesus and trusting in His embrace.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Father Doesn't Have To Be Persuaded...

I was leading a Bible study Sunday night and we were looking at John 16. In particular John 16:26-27. Here is what it says:
26 "In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God."
Do you see that? Jesus is telling us that the Father does not have to be persuaded into being gracious to us. The Father's attitude toward us sinners is one of love and graciousness. As JB Torrance said - "The Father does not have to be conditioned into being gracious."

The cross of Christ and His ongoing ministry of intercession is not one of pleading to the Father on the behalf of us dirty sinners. "Father, I know you can't have anything to do with those people - you can't look upon sin. But I know you love me and they're with me. You have to accept them Father, because they accepted me."

No! The cross of Christ and His ministry of intercession is for us because we are weak. We are afraid. We don't really believe that the Father is good and we can't relate properly with Him - we won't let Him love us. Jesus scoops us up and shares His peace and joy with the Father in the Spirit and continues to tell us - "Father loves you, just like He loves me!"

The cross is aimed at converting us - not the Father! The cross of Christ is aimed at demonstrating an unimaginable truth - while we were enemies He died for us. God loves those who relate to Him as if He were an enemy!

"I'm not your enemy! Your enemy has been condemned!"

Who has to be persuaded? We do! That is what John 16 is all about - Jesus is telling us that the Spirit is coming (and has come) to convince us just how beautiful God is and that we are included!


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Why do we say ""Happy Easter"? Why is this day supposed to be so "Happy"? For me, it is found in the following passages:

John 3:3-7
3. Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again ". 4."How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" 5. Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'


1 Peter 1:3-5

3. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4. and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, 5. who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

These passages point out that Jesus' resurrection has fulfilled the "Kingdom of God" requirements. Jesus stated that no one would see the Kingdom of God unless he was born again (from above) and that although it was a requirement, it was out of our control.

Let me ask you this: How much control did you have over your birth? How much control do you have over the wind? None - zero - nada! Good news, you've had no control over your new birth, too!

The 1 Peter passage tells us that we were born again (from above) into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and into an inheritance that is kept for us, by God's good faith, in heaven. The emphasis on "through faith" is on God's faithfulness not ours!

Easter is a "Happy Day" for those that believe the news that the gracious (and merciful) goal of God's passion has been fulfilled through Jesus and we are indeed NOW born again in Him!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Still Dangerous Over a Year Later!!

Yes, I've been accused of being dangerous once again by someone who has never met me, talked with me or heard me speak. The gossiping guardians of religion are trading in a lie that some power-hungry, religious pharisee has chosen to spread about me. What are the lies? Here they are:

Lie No. 1) Mark doesn't believe in hell. (somewhat true - I'll explain in a moment)
Lie No. 2) Mark thinks everyone is going to heaven. (I wish!)
Lie No. 3) Mark is a Universalist.

OK, let me respond. I THINK there is a hell but I don't BELIEVE in hell. I believe in Jesus - only God is worthy of believing in. I think there will be a hell but I refuse to state dogmatically exactly what hell will be like. I don't know! I don't think there will be literal flames but I could be wrong. I think most of our notions of hell have been influenced by Dante's "Inferno" more than Scripture and whatever hell will be like will be bad and I don't want anyone to experience it.

Lie 2 - Wouldn't it be great if everyone was going to heaven?!! I wish that were the case!! But I don't think that will happen. I think a lot of religious people will choose hell over being with Jesus and the riff-raff (remember the prodigal son's older brother?). The confusion rests with the fact that I believe God, in His amazing grace, preemptively forgave us while we were still sinners. I think that when 2 Corinthians 5 says that God no longer holds the world's sins against them, it means that God no longer holds the world's sins against them. The problem is that most people think that forgiveness equals heaven. That's like saying that medicine equals health. Not! Medicine only gives health when the medicine is taken and forgiveness only gives heaven to those that take that forgiveness to heart. (By the way, the gossiping pharisees really want people to go to hell! Someone has to pay because they haven't had fun in this life!)

Lie 3 - A Universalist? Well the gossiping pharisees are trying to impress with their big word. Pssst - universalists believe everyone is going to heaven - read my answer to lie No. 2.

I guess I am dangerous by emphasizing the love of Christ as a call to change over the threat of hell. Why does the scripture say that the kindness of God leads us to repentance? Listen to these religious folks and you'd think that the threat of hell is the best method to wrestle repentance out of people. It's dangerous to tell of God's first strike of grace by dying for those that thought God was their enemy. Weird - I thought you did harm to your enemies but God demonstrated his love for us by dying for us while we were against him. Love your enemies? That is dangerous!!

This is the point that I hope you don't miss. God's love and grace is dangerous! It destroys the strongholds and powers that keep people in bondage. It exposes the false, religious dictators as impotent and tells you that you've been emancipated and they no longer have claim to you and power over you. It's dangerous to the powers and principalities that have an interest in ruling over you but it's NOT dangerous to those who are set free. It's good news - salvation - liberation - abundance of life! The man who has been set free is free indeed and it still frosts those that once possessed you and impressed you!


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Conversation on the Golf Course...

A while back I was playing a round of golf with a buddy and friend of his. (Yes, I play golf... it has a hook and a handicap in it doesn't it?) The friend of my buddy was very interested in my work as a counselor and told me how he wanted to go into Christian counseling as a second career.

Now this fella was a religious goober. You know the kind that can just suck the life out of a good round of golf. He was very impressed with the things he did for Jesus and knew that he could do great things from the counselor's chair.

I was feeling a little mischievous and was tired of the religious duffer so I pulled a stick out of my bag (not my golf bag).

"I've found that there are two reasons that people go into counseling." I said.

"Oh, what are those?"

"There are those that want to get people to live right, and there are those that want to help people heal." I responded.

"Hmmm, right." He was nodding as if I had said something profound.

So I asked, "Which motivates you to become a counselor?"

His chest puffed up and he smiled real wide. "Why, I want to get people to live right!" Did I say he was smiling?

So I quipped "I've found that those that want to get people to live right make the worst counselors."


Jesus came to heal us... not reform us!

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Must Read for Marriages!

I just finished reading "Love and Respect" by Emerson Eggerichs ( and watching the video seminar of his with 4 other couples. Fantastic stuff! I will review the material soon (yes soon!) and let you know how this can revolutionize your marriage.

A New Office!

I am excited to announce that LifeChange has been contracted by Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson to oversee their counseling ministry. Christ Church has a rich history of ministry and service to Jackson and we are pleased to partner with them in ministry.

Counseling appointments are available to CUMC church members at a discount and we are able to meet with people from all across the community as well at this new location.

We also have locations at Colonial Heights Baptist Church in Ridgeland, Highland Colony Baptist Church in Ridgeland, and Bowmar Baptist Church in Vicksburg.

Additionally, we have partnering ministries with Highland Baptist Church in Vicksburg and First Baptist Church in Hazelhurst. If you are interested in LifeChange establishing a partnering ministry with your church, please have your pastoral leadership contact us.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Vulcan Mind Meld

Do you remember the Vulcan mind meld that Mr. Spock would perform on Star Trek? Mr. Spock could place his hand on the temple of another and meld his mind with that person and they would experience his memories in the first person. The mind meld would allow the memories of Spock to be the memories of the person. It wasn't like they were watching his memories on a screen, they were reliving them as if they were their own. There was a union (melding) of the minds and the two became one.

Since we don't have the Vulcan mind meld thing figured out, the best we have are words. We wrestle with finding the right words that somehow convey our experience and form a shared experience. It is limited but over time it can create a oneness if two work at it. I've seen a husband and wife become so connected that in many ways they have achieved a oneness of heart and mind. The spirit of love between the two creates a rich, deep knowing that can be shared with just a look.

What I find interesting is that we all long for that oneness, the experience of union, of something like a Vulcan mind meld. The creative thoughts of the writers of Star Trek to script such a "power" for Spock tell us that there is a rumor percolating in us of a perichoretic fellowship. Down deep we have heard the whisper of such power and union that we wonder if that is possible and hope that it is.

Why is that? I believe that the reason we strain for such expression here is because Christ Jesus has already performed a "Vulcan mind meld" with humanity. Read this:

11For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.

1 Corinthians 2:11-13
So the reality of this passage is that God was not satisfied to just give us words or a book or speakers. He wanted to be able to share a look, a nudge, a sense, a feeling with us and for us to know and understand just what was on His heart and soul. He wanted us to experience as our own His experiences of passion, joy, peace, concern and love and for us to live in step with Him.

How did He do this? He united Himself with us in the incarnation and poured out His Spirit on and in us so that we might experience the "Vulcan mind meld" of Christ and know what it means to really have life! His Life!