Skip to content

Recent Articles

18
Feb

Teacher, Do You Not Care?

storm

Matthew and Luke don’t bear this out in their records, but they do tell us about the disciple’s fear: “Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’” (Mat. 8:25). “And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing…!’” (Luke 8:24).

But Mark uniquely communicates their aggregate anxiety in the form of a question: “But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’” (Mark 4:38). The NET version translates it, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?”

What strikes me about this entire episode is that—put your seat belt on—JESUS INTENTIONALLY LED THE GROUP INTO THE STORM. You might need to read that again because it’s not a misprint. Yes, the Lord purposely steered this little band of future church leaders into the tempest and then went to the back of the boat to lay down on a cushion for a power nap: “Now when He got into a boat, His disciples FOLLOWED Him” (Mat. 8:23). “On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” (Mark 4:35). “Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, ‘Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.’ (Luke 8:22). That’s right—it was Jesus who led the group on this frightening excursion.

And that’s because He was eventually going to leave the early church in the hands of this weak rabble of Jewish devotees. And one of the ways THEY would learn to trust in Him and lead with such courage was by riding it out on the whitecaps and watching His deliverance. “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?” Did Jesus care?! Of course He cared—and that’s why He took them out on the boat trip across Galilee in the first place!

The disciples obviously knew that He had miraculous ability or they never would have awakened Him. They had witnessed His mighty works and knew something of His identity. If they believed that He was impotent to affect change on the circumstances they would have never roused Him from His slumber. You see, they knew that He had power; they just didn’t recognize that He had ALL power—over sickness and disease, over sin, over the grave, over demonic forces, and even over the elements themselves.

Jesus cared so much that He let them learn that important lesson out on the troubled waters of the sea.

Want a mustard seed for today?

If your boat is filling up with water from the monsoon, if the wind looks to collapse your sails and shatter your mast, IT COULD BE that’s exactly where the Lord wants you to be. You see, SOMETIMES Jesus takes you out on the lake and let’s you watch the squall (to the point where you think you’re going to die! Mark 4:38) so that you can learn to lean on and trust in Him! If you never get scared, how will you ever learn to place your whole-hearted faith in Him (Job 13:15)?! How else can you learn that He really cares (1 Pet. 5:7)?

What really makes me chuckle about his storm story is that one minute the disciples are afraid of the wind and waves, and then the next minute, they’re really afraid of the Man who stopped it all with a sentence. “And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:41). What a way to learn and build faith!

Are you afraid? Is your craft about to capsize? I have a recommendation. Don’t ask Jesus if He cares, because He does. Ask Him and trust Him…to calm the storm…in your heart (Phil. 4:6-7).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike
15
Feb

What is the Most Deadly Virus?

virusB

When I originally wrote this book more than twenty-five years ago, the winds of the “me generation” were blowing a strong and deadly virus through the culture.

The cultural revolution that had taken root in the 1960s was beginning to reach full flower, as seen in the abandonment of traditional values and moral standards in almost every sector.

“Do your own thing” became the slogan that guided choices and behaviors, closely aligned with “I gotta be me!” and “I owe it to myself.”

The virus of relativism was blowing in the wind, along with a virulent secularism determined to propel any remnants of biblical Christianity out of the public square.

It was period of time marvelously captured in a biblical statement that serves as a description slogan for a period in Israel’s history known as the time of the judges: “Everyone did what was right in his (or her) own eyes.”

Even at my most pessimistic moments back then, I would not have imaged that things could or would unravel as quickly or as drastically as they have.

We have experienced a cultural “perfect storm,” due to the convergence of forces such as moral relativism, aggressive pluralism, determined secularism, “do it yourself” spirituality, and libertarian individualism, aided by the technological realities of the information age.

The implications for followers of Jesus Christ are obvious.

We cannot hermetically seal ourselves from the spirit of the age so that we live in splendid isolation from it.

In fact, we must not.

First, our sovereign Lord calls us to live in the world for His glory, and monasticism and isolationism are not biblical options.

Our mandate from the risen Christ prohibits retreat.

Besides, the attempt is futile.

There is no place to hide.

Virtually every segment of modern culture has become a carrier of values alien to those of the kingdom of Christ.

We confront the open expression of these anti-Christian values in academia, the media or the entertainment industry; commonly in the operations of our daily life that bring us into constant contact with lifestyles we are expected not merely to tolerate or accept, but to celebrate; and less directly in spheres of commerce and technology.

Sadly, the spirit of the age often takes its most deadly form when it is absorbed into the professing Christian community.

Much more than I want to admit, many Christians live, act, and choose as if God’s Word had never been written.

How do we live in a society without fixed standards, a society daily becoming more secular and pagan?

God’s call is clear: “Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-17 NASB).

These are important verses.

They remind us that we are not simply to survive the moral confusion and spiritual anarchy that surrounds us, somehow staying unpolluted by the world.

We are also to shine, reflecting the glory of the Lord Jesus to a world that desperately need to see Him.

In other words, we are not just to be good in the midst of evil.

We are not even just to be good for something, serving others.

We are to be agents of our King, pressing His kingdom and its values into our culture and forming communities that are outposts of his kingdom, demonstrating to the world another, and a better, way to live life.  (Gary Inrig, “Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay,” 7-8)

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike
12
Feb

INCARNATE 02.13.20

wound

12
Feb

What About those Mutations?

dna-structure-562597795-5ae77532c06471003681d684

When I preach I am often shocked at the disconnection that occurs between the words and that I speak and the words that are heard.

I have often had a discussion with a member of a congregation after church service who is convinced that I said something that I didn’t say.

When the video, tape or other people are consulted and it becomes clear what was actually said, the individual sometimes becomes intransigent: ‘Well, I know what I heard, and it’s not what you say that you said!’

What we are seeing here is a problem of decoding.

The same communication problem operates in the field of genetics.  Information is passed from one generation to another via a genetic code.  Sometimes, however, in the process of exchange some sort of mutation or change takes place that causes the process to go awry.  The information received is not the same as that passed down.

The principle that we must be aware of if we are to receive the exact messages that are sent is that we all ‘read’ messages through our past hurt, our present circumstances and our prejudged expectations.  In other words, we screen or decode messages through a filter, and occasionally that filter is not always clean (emphasis mine–mb).

For instance, when I teach on the subject of relationships, occasionally I have read out a list of common words and asked the audience to write down their immediate feelings when I mentioned them.  I then compare answers.  If I use the word ‘father’, for example, the feelings swing from ‘love’ and ‘security’ to ‘hatred’ and ‘pain.’  Their recorded emotions reflect their past.

What I am attempting to illustrate to them is the difference between denotation and connotation.  If we look up the word ‘father’ in the dictionary, it has a literal meaning or denotation, yet it may, as we have seen, have a completely different specific meaning or connotation to each of us. So if I use the phrase ‘God is our Father’ without explanation from the pulpit, I am in danger of being misinterpreted since everyone will decode the phrase differently.  On top of the problem of connotation, people tend to add their feelings of rejection, their poisoned perceptions and their ill-informed expectations (Robert Fergusson, “A Plank Across a Stream,” Making Connections That Work, 166-167).

“Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5:17).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike
10
Feb

What is THIS?

bf5c2e990bda8b22c53067042d449d99-colorful-heart-sticker-by-vexels

Finish the following Bible passage:  “By THIS all will know that you are My disciples…” (John 13:35—emphasis mine, mb).

  • “if you sing a cappella (i.e., without instrumental accompaniment) in your worship assemblies.” Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19
  • “if you observe the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week.” Acts 20:7; 2:42
  • “if your women do not lead in the assembly or usurp authority over a man.” 1 Tim. 2:12-15; 1 Cor. 14:26-35
  • “if you do not tithe, but rather engage in a free-will offering each Lord’s Day as you have been prospered.” 1 Cor. 16:1-2
  • “if you teach and practice that divorce is sanctioned for only one reason—and that is the sexual unfaithfulness of your spouse.” Mat. 19:9
  • “if you baptize penitent believers for the remission of sins.” Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21
  • “if you correctly employ the appropriate biblical term for the brother who proclaims the gospel from the pulpit as a ‘preacher’—and not a ‘pastor’.” 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9
  • “if you correctly interpret and teach what the Bible says about the coming of the Son of Man/Christ.” Mat. 16:28; 24:29
  • “IF YOU HAVE LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER.” Lev. 19:18; John 15:12; Rom. 13:9; 1 Pet. 2:17; 4:8; Heb. 13:1; 1 John 4:12

“Preacher, are you saying that doctrine doesn’t matter?”  Nope—I’ve never said that, I’ve never taught that, nor have I ever even thought that.  Right doctrine is ESSENTIAL.  Period.  Dot.  End of sentence (Acts 2:42–“in the apostles’ doctrine”; 1 Tim. 1:3—“teach no other doctrine”; 4:6—“good doctrine”; 4:12—“doctrine”; 4:16—“the doctrine”; “doctrine”—5:17; 6:1—“God and His doctrine”; 6:3—“the doctrine”; 2 Tim. 3:16—“for doctrine”; Titus 1:9, 2:1—“sound doctrine”; 2:7—“in doctrine”; 2:10—“the doctrine of God”).

But sometimes well-intentioned brethren emphasize the right thinking about doctrine (and they should), but they unfortunately fail to first emphasize the right practice of doctrine—and that is in and with patient LOVE.

Ya’ll ever notice this…?

In Ephesians 4, in that grand chapter about unity, before the apostle Paul talked about one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God, he predicated them all with LOVE.  “I…beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in LOVE” (vv. 1a, 2—emphasis mine, mb).  Question.  Did Paul ever say in this chapter (or anywhere else for that matter) that doctrine was unimportant?  A thousand times no!  But what active heart attitude did he say must first be practiced in order for doctrinal unity to be enjoyed?  Read the latter part of verse two again and then commit it to memory.  “Bearing with one another in LOVE.”

But now watch it again.

In 1 Corinthians 13, the same apostle through divine inspiration said, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not LOVE, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.”  In the context of speaking in foreign tongues (cf. Acts 2:4, 6-11), Paul said—now get this—“If I am miraculously endowed with the ability to teach God’s Word in a language which I’ve never studied before, but I don’t possess or either speak the truth in LOVE (Eph. 4:15), then all I’m doing is making a bunch of loud racket” (e.g., sounding brass and a clanging cymbal).1

But keep reading.

“And though I have the gift of prophecy (i.e., the miraculous gift to speak for God—cf. Mat. 7:22), and understand all mysteries and knowledge (i.e., miraculous gifts of comprehension)…but have not LOVE, I am nothing” (v. 2a, c).  Paul said, “Even though the Holy Spirit revealed to me truths, ideas and concepts, which the church as a whole has neither known nor grasped up until this time, if I fail to exhibit Christian love, then his special capacity and discernment is absolutely worthless to either me or the church.”  In other words, his knowing the truth without first practicing truth (i.e., LOVE) would have been meaningless.

Our Lord made this very same point in Matthew.

Jesus told the doctrinally fastidious scribes and Pharisees of His day, “You pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.  These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (23:23b).  These guys were so “gun-ho” about keeping every facet of the law that they actually gave ten percent of the seeds (which were used to spice their foods) in their herb gardens.  Now watch, Jesus never condemned them for their religious fervor in terms of sacrifice; He did censure them, however, for their failure to harmonize their efforts with expressions of genuine love.  The Jewish world knew theses religious leaders by their devotion and ardor—even to the point of minutia, but they didn’t know them as a group by their LOVE.   And as important as it was to properly and fully sacrifice, these devotees of the law didn’t keep the, watch it—“weightier” matters of the law—at all.  They got doctrine right, but they missed the heaviest doctrine of all—love.

So many of my good brethren today in their zeal for doctrinal accuracy wholly miss this concept of love.  They “bite and devour” one another (Gal. 5:15) over important, yes—even essential matters, but they overlook THE MOST IMPORTANT, THE MOST ESSENTIAL matter of all—Christ-like LOVE. 

Our Lord said, “By THIS all will know that you are My disciples, if you have LOVE for one another” (John 13:35).

Beloved, are you known by your love?

1/ John MacArthur, “In New Testament times, rites honoring the pagan deities Cybele, Bacchus, and Dionysus included speaking in ecstatic noises that were accompanied by smashing gongs, clanging cymbals, and blaring trumpets.  Paul’s hearers clearly got his point: unless it is done in love, ministering the gift of languages, or speaking in any other human or angelic way, amounts to no more than those pagan rituals.  It is only meaningless gibberish in a Christian guise.”  The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 1 Corinthians, 331).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”–Mike

7
Feb

What is Faithfulness?

31kelley2-mobileMasterAt3x

It was a Sunday morning, October 23, 1983.

A Hezbollah suicide bomber drove his truck packed with over 2,000 pounds of explosives into the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.

214 Americans were killed while they slept in their beds; another 128 were wounded in the horrific blast.

A few days after the tragedy, Marine Corps Commandant, Paul Kelly, visited some of the survivors in a Frankfurt, Germany hospital.

Among them was a Corporal named Jeffrey Nashton, who had been severely wounded in the attack.

Nashton had so many tubes running in and out of his body that someone said he looked more like a machine than a man.

As Kelly neared him, Nashton, struggling to move and racked with pain, motioned for a piece of paper and a pen.

He wrote a brief note and then passed it back to the Commandant.

The slip of paper had only two words – “Semper Fi,” the Latin motto of the Marine Corps, meaning “forever faithful.”

Thought: Christianity in general and marriage in particular aren’t simply about starting journeys – they’re about being forever faithful.

general-pxkelley

INCARNATE:  10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life (Rev. 2:10).  

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike
5
Feb

Why Should We Pay Attention?

b718e0fa7ce957b3d07174e31744ceca

A U.S. Army officer told of the contrast in his pupils during two different eras of teaching at the artillery training school at Fort Sill, Okla., (home of the Field Artillery).

In 1958-60 the attitude was so lax the instructors had a problem keeping the men awake to listen to the lectures.

During the 1965-67 classes, however, the men, hearing the same basic lectures, were alert and took copious notes.

“What was the difference between the classes of 58-60 and the class of 65-67?” you ask.

The latter class knew that in less than six weeks they would be facing the enemy in Vietnam.

13 “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13; cf. 1 Pet. 5:8; Eph. 6:11).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike
4
Feb

Should We Pray for Our Enemies?

praying

QUESTION:  Should we pray for our enemies?

ANSWER: This is an important question. Let’s study the
Scriptures together and see what the Bible says:

Not only should we pray, but we MUST pray for our enemies. Jesus – the ultimate authority (Mat. 28:18; Eph. 1:21; Phil. 2:9; Col. 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:22) said, “Love your
enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Mat. 5:44).

But notice that Jesus said we’re to do MORE than just pray for our enemies. He taught us to LOVE our enemies, BLESS our enemies, and DO GOOD to our enemies.  If they’re hungry, we’re to feed them; if they’re thirsty, we’re to give them a drink (cf. Rom. 12:14-21; Luke 10:25-37).

The Lord did not say that we are obligated to LIKE our enemies. He taught through Paul (John 16:13), “IF IT IS POSSIBLE, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18). The noted theologian, Tom T. Hall,
wrote back in 1973:

I love little baby ducks, old pickup trucks
Slow-movin’ trains and rain
I love little country streams, sleep without dreams
Sunday school in May – and hay
And I love you, too
I love leaves in the wind, pictures of my friends
Birds of the world and squirrels
I love coffee in a cup, little fuzzy pups
Old TV shows – and snow
And I love you, too
I love honest, open smiles, kisses from a child
Tomatoes on the vine and onions
I love winners when they cry, losers when they try
Music when it’s good – and life
And I love you, too.

Much of our frustration with Jesus’ command about praying for our enemies may be a result of confusing “loving” and “liking.” It’s been my observation that people tend to, like Tom T., use the word “love” in a very broad and expansive way. They use it to describe their feelings for things like ducks, trucks and tomatoes, but when Jesus said, “love your enemies,” He wasn’t saying that we must have warm and affectionate emotions towards those who hurt and mistreat us. Rather, He was telling us to act in a certain way towards our enemies, regardless of how they behave (Mat. 5:45-48; 1 Cor. 13:4-7).

If we ONLY pray for our enemies, and then hypocritically treat them with unkindness and disdain, our prayers won’t get through the ceiling (Prov. 15:8; 29:9).

Jesus, by example, prayed for His enemies (Luke 23:34).

Jesus did not retaliate against His enemies. He could have summoned more than twelve legions of angels to prevent Calvary (Mat. 26:53), but He didn’t. He could have returned pain for pain against His enemies at the cross (1 Pet. 2:20-23; cf. Mat. 26:67-68; Mark 14:65; Luke 22:63-65), but He didn’t.

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike
28
Jan

Did Jesus Have Feelings?

JesusWept

IF HOLLYWOOD TEACHES us anything–which is very, very little, it teaches us not to trust how it portrays any real-life character.

Writers, directors, and producers all have their personal say in how an individual is brought to the big screen.

“Based on a true story” is the motion picture industries’ way of saying:  “We are using copious amounts of creative license and editorial bias to show you what we’d like you to see about this particular person in history.”

I remember reading years ago about the 13th century Scottish hero, William Wallace, often referred to today as “Brave Heart.”

Hollywood gave him a rather extensive facelift.

Truth be known, the William Wallace of the silver screen and the William Wallace of history are two radically different entities.

They ain’t even second cousins.

But nowhere is Hollywood’s disposition towards real people more evident than in the life of our Lord.

Cinema and pop culture has morphed Him into a rather stolid, dull, and largely unemotional being.

He’s a disconnected, Vulcan-like therapist for broken and hurting folks.

What’s worse is that He is depicted as moving in and among the ancient masses with the energy and enthusiasm, forgive me, of a baked potato.

You see, Hollywood wants you to think of the Jesus of history as obtuse at best and dull and out of touch at worst.

In other words, He is uncaring and irrelevant.

But friends, the Bible shows the Messiah to be quite different from how He is rendered in modern media.

The Jesus of Scripture is a man of intense passion and feeling.

  • Watch Him overthrow the tables of the moneychangers in the temple in Matthew 21. Did Jesus care about sin, hypocrisy and greed?  Was He ever aroused by transgression and iniquity?

 

  • Watch Him shed tears at Lazarus’ tomb in John 11.  Did Jesus feel deeply at funerals or was he an emotional vegetable?  Did He weep or was he devoid of affection?

 

  • Watch Him interact with the crowds of sick folks in Matthew 14.  The Holy Spirit said Jesus was “moved with compassion.”  Does that sound like He didn’t care and that he was unaffected by pain?

 

  • Listen to Him lift his broken voice on Gethsemane’s hill as He pours out his heart to God in Hebrews 5.  The NKJV describes his laments as “vehement” (NKJV), while the ESV describes them as “loud cries and tears.”  Does this sound like a man who is incapable of sensitivity?

Our Lord was no half-human android.

He had heart, He felt strongly, and He was passionate!

Give Hollywood its credit.

It knows how to appeal to the carnal and it knows how to make (and lose) LOTS of money.

It just doesn’t know how to deal with the real Son of Man.

25
Jan

INCARNATE 01.25.20

GOOD LEADER