Like Jesus

Growing up as a teenaged, American youth in the late 1960s to early 1970s, I witnessed from a Middle America, Southern California perspective, the counterculture’s effect upon mainline, evangelical Christianity. Pianos and organs of traditional Christian music were introduced to guitars and drums of popular music. White shirts and ties gave way to leisure suits. Hal Lindsey’s “Late, Great Planet Earth” (1970) was preparing for the Rapture. The Charismatic Movement was promoting the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in both Protestant and Roman Catholic circles. Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel movement was making headway in emphasizing personal evangelism, planting local churches, and promoting Bible study. Fundamentalists were resisting the tides of change. The Crossroads Church of Christ (FL) — later the ICOC — was emphasizing the necessity of baptism to be saved, partly responding to an emphasis on Easy Believism Salvation. Anti-war (Vietnam), drugs, sex, and rebellion were responses not only  to society’s morality, but the Professed Church’s failure. Not all change was bad; and, upon reflection, the Jesus People (sometimes called Jesus Freaks) seemed to best epitomize that period’s struggle to return to a more primitive Christianity. “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (Acts 17:6 KJV).

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Gospel Vignettes

One Way.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6 NIV). Jesus is the only way to God, not because He has obstructed others from free competition to be alternative ways to God, but because no other way can be legitimately proven to exist. The God concept emphasizes not just strength or authority, but the idea of exclusivity — one-of-a-kind uniqueness. The very idea behind the preposition “omni” is an unrivaled singularity. If “omnipotent” is all powerful, how can another exist? With an all powerful God, no one can possibly rival or eclipse Him. If “omniscient” is all knowing, then God does not begin to understand something, but always knows everything. He cannot begin to understand something or else He never was God. If “omnipresent” is present everywhere, then God must be universal. And, simply suggesting the possibility of a multiverse or infinite multiverses does nothing to take away from the concept that the same God must be everywhere to be God. Ancient mythologies depict gods with humanlike limitations and weaknesses, but that underscores the necessity that the True God is not only unlimited, but does all things well. Myth and superstition only present a god made in the image of man, while God made man “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27 NIV).

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Disciple’s Guide to Building the Kingdom of God

Introduction.

Kingdom Come State Park is 1,283 acres of wilderness in Harlan County of eastern Kentucky. Overlooking stunning vistas of Black Mountain and the Cumberland Plateau at 2,700 feet, it offers visitors the opportunity of experiencing vast panoramas of forested, mountain beauty from its four mountain top overlooks. Named from a famous Civil War novel, “The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come,” by John Fox, Jr. about the area’s divided loyalties during America’s fratricide, it speaks of a past familiarity with the biblical expression, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 KJV). This Kingdom Come is owned by the Kentucky Department of Parks; however, the Kingdom of God belongs to God.

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Conscience: Miracle of the Moral Law

A crowning achievement of modern man’s cooperation was Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon on July 21, 1969. Months later, my high school literature class was assigned to read William Goulding’s fiction novel, “Lord of the Flies” (1954), a dismal tale of the failure of civilization over savagery. A group of preadolescent, British schoolboys were stranded on an island in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean. Surviving a crash of their evacuation plane, against the backdrop of a world war, they agreed to have fun, survive, and constantly maintain a signal fire for their future rescue. Things fell apart shortly thereafter. End fighting resulted in the killing of three of their own before being rescued. Goulding’s depiction of the “darkness of the human heart” contrasts with a more recent (2020) article by Rutger Bregman appearing in theguardian.com — The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months. Like their movie counterparts, these six boys had left school (1965) and had become stranded on a remote Pacific island (‘Ata), but these were merely bored and plain misfortunate. Unlike the movie, these boys cooperated and physically thrived until their signal fire brought about their rescue. Two different scenarios depicted human conscience and moral law with different outcomes. But, “what does Scripture say” (Romans 4:3 NIV) about moral law and conscience?

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Christ Our Holiness: Set Apart to God

“You are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1Corinthians 1:30 NIV).

Our connection to holiness is not due to anything preexisting in us, but only because “in this world we are like Jesus” (1John 4:17 NIV). If Christ is holy, and we are in Christ, then we are holy. Still, we are reminded, “Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1Peter 1:15 NIV) and “live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear” (1:17 NIV). That “reverent fear” is not simply an acknowledgement that God is who He says He is, but our voluntary agreement and trust of Him. This balance between God and man, His power and our responsibility, His ability to preserve us and our necessity to walk holy, His assurance of sustaining us and our concern of offending Him, separates us from sin unto God. In this regard, you are to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12 NIV), remembering that, “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose” (2:13 NIV). All of this comes down to trusting Christ to make and keep us holy. How difficult is that?

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Sufficiency of Christ: Able to Meet Every Necessity of Humanity

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NIV).

Christ is sufficient to meet every need of whoever will trust Him. It is a purposely broad statement because God is able to do exactly as He is represented by the Apostle Paul. Only faith will take those words to mean what they imply. Jesus is our supply for everything. God cannot be blamed for our unwillingness or inaptness to make as much of that statement as faith will allow. Those who do not believe, but want the benefits, will utter the name of Jesus like an incantation, hoping to get the results, but God cannot be fooled.

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Judgment: Miracle of the Flood

No doubt much of the public fascination over the possibility of an Extinction Level Event (ELE) has come from a Cold War consciousness of the risk of thermonuclear holocaust, as well as, the scar of a comet or asteroid strike off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula; but, all of that pales by comparison to the worldwide flood of epoch proportions described by Moses in Genesis. “God said to Noah, I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth” (Genesis 6:13 NIV).

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Masterpiece: Miracle of Creation

If creation is the act of producing or causing to exist, and a miracle is an effect or event considered as a work of God, then Creation is a miracle. Creation is the Masterpiece of God. When a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat (6:36), the audience responds with enthusiastic applause. But, when God creates the universe ex nihilo — out of nothing — the applause stops, and both scientist and theologian begin a forensic discussion of how God did not do it, how Genesis was never intended to be but a figurative story, or how God needed more time and process to accomplish such a feat.

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Why God Answers Prayer

Even the most humanistic, atheistic believe in prayer, at least in empowerment through appeal to the highest power to which they have any confidence — themselves. Probably just me, but in this 21st century, post-Christian America, I rarely hear the world around me curse in the name of God, like I used to hear. Jesus’ name, to them, is more an exclamation. More likely, the f-word escapes from the lips, when appeal is made to accomplish the innermost desires. But, prayer is essentially an appeal for something to be done by someone who is in a position to do something about it. Any wonder the professed godly don’t much pray? No confidence anything will happen. Make the prayer vague to ensure the lack of answer will not confound any profession of religion. Make the petition quick to affirm to others the duty to pray was performed. 

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