Biblical is the New Radical

I have searched high and low to find someone else who believes the Church of America has grown woefully inadequate to its calling. It would seem that rather than bringing glory and honor to God (Eph. 1), the American Church has become exceptionally self-centered. Yet now, from time to time, I glimpse bright spots…glimmers of hope that we might return to our high calling. David Platt, in his new book, Radical, creates one of those bright spots by writing about something he calls radical, but is really something biblical.

His basic premise is that American Christians have exchanged God’s glory and God’s gospel for the American Dream. I believe the evidence supports his premise. So, as I turned every page of this biblical–not so much radical–gift to both the church and the unchurched,  I found my hopes being boosted. Here was a pastor of a very large church voicing anxieties like these:

“Soon I realized I was on a collision course with an American church culture where success is defined by bigger crowds, bigger budgets, and bigger buildings. I was now confronted with a startling reality: Jesus actually spurned the things that my church culture said were most important. So what was I to do? I found myself with two big questions. The first was simple. Was I going to believe Jesus? Was I going to embrace Jesus even though he said radical things that drove the crowds away? The second question was more challenging. Was I going to obey Jesus? My biggest fear, even now, is that I will hear Jesus’ words and walk away, content to settle for less than radical obedience to him. In other words, my biggest fear is that I will do exactly what most people did when they encountered Jesus in the first century” (Radical ch. 1).

Amazing! It is amazing not because a megachurch pastor is willing to risk what our American church culture values, but that it has become necessary for a humble pastor to refer to biblical truth and biblical obedience as radical. In fact, maybe “amazing” was the wrong word for me to use at the beginning of this paragraph. Perhaps sad or tragic would have served better.

Pastor Platt rounded out his challenge by discussing such “radical” needs as actually being hungry for the word of God, depending on the Holy Spirit, extending God’s grace to the lost, seriously asking ourselves “How much is too much materialism,” shunning titles, position, and prestige for the sake of becoming servants, and realizing that evangelism/missions is not an option. And again I found myself thinking, “Amazing. Biblical has become the new radical.”

Finally, Pastor Platt’s book should not be considered a one time read. It should become a companion to an ever present attempt to implement the purposes and plans of God found in the Bible. While that may be a radical notion to God’s people living in 21st century U.S.A., it is hardly a radical idea in the heart and mind of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Note: “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.” You can download and read Chapter One at

Bible, Life's Moments

Judas and Lady Gaga

While I can not say that I fully understand all that Lady Gaga wants to say through her new single, Judas (coming out on her up-coming album Born This Way), there is a part of the song that moves me to tears. Toward the end of the song, she sings

“I wanna love you,
But something’s pulling me away from you
Jesus is my virtue,
And Judas is the demon I cling to, I cling to.”
Maybe the Catholic Church is right when they suggest she is just being disrespectful (  However, I am inclined toward grace, so I hope what she meant when she penned these words is something like this: “Oh, Jesus, I know you are the last, best hope. I know you are the one I need. Still, something in me moves me to cling to Judas instead.” If so, Lady Gaga is in the company of many: partially blind people catching a glimpse of heaven while clinging tightly to the thrills of hell.
Either way, I am reminded of what our Lord Jesus said about the people of Jerusalem as he made his way to the Holy City (Luke 13:34):
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
We all know that the level of hostility generated by the good citizens of Jerusalem toward the Savior rises far above that offered by Lady Gaga. We also know Jesus knew what they were about to do to him. Still the Lord’s heart was moved to compassion on their behalf. He is thinking no differently where Lady Gaga is concerned. He loves her. His Father loves her. The Holy Spirit loves her.  In fact, the Apostle Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote (2 Peter 3:9),
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
And just so his intentions were clear, he followed that with this (2 Peter 3:10),
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”
Together they mean one thing: while the Lord is very patient as he awaits people to flee the kingdom of darkness and run into his waiting arms, his patience will not last forever. It will not last forever in the cosmic sense and it will not last forever in the cause of Christ for one lost person. Like Lady Gaga, there are precious souls all around us. Let’s stop complaining about their antics and attitudes and start leading them via love and service to the Messiah.

Soar. A Book by Pastor Kenny Luck.

When I was young, I jumped from airplanes for the 82nd Airborne Division. When my parachute deployed, I felt this overwhelming sense of freedom. The brief time spent floating to the ground stirred every one of my five senses. While it was not quite like soaring on the wings of eagles, it was the closest I have ever come. Oh man, life exploded into vivid reality every time the jump-master yelled, “Go, go, go!”

Pastor Kenny Luck’s book “Soar” aims to help men capture this same experience. Well, like one of my nephews is prone to saying, “It’s the same, but different.” Same in that Pastor Luck wants Christian men to really, truly come alive; different in that Kenny desires us to truly and finally feel alive through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When we do, we soar!

In fact, if all I had ever read from this book was a short section from chapter eleven regarding a part of the Holy Spirit’s mission in my life, I would count myself more than satisfied with Pastor Luck’s presentation of the Spirit’s ministry. Here’s what that short section says:

“The mission of the Holy Spirit in your life is to cause spontaneous or continuous spiritual fervor over things that matter to God. All of the following are signs the Holy Spirit is working in your life on a specific matter:

You have conflicts internally. You are thinking twice about decisions. You are remembering the consequences of similar actions in the past. You are having cautionary dreams or consistent streams of thoughts that warn you of certain actions. Your internal radar is flashing red about certain people or situations. You are feeling unusually conflicted in certain situations. You are getting unsolicited but personally targeted advice from various sources (for example, a sermon this past weekend, a friend says the same thing, and then your Scripture reading for the day puts the nail in the coffin).”

This alone, regarding the Holy Spirit’s leading, is worth the price of the book…and much, much more. Think about it: every time you experience these signs, you are experiencing the work of the Majestic, Magnificent, Marvelous God of all creation laboring personally and privately in you, through you, and for you ultimately for his own glory. Amazing! It is the answer to the cry of so many Christians, “Please, please Lord, I want to experience your presence, your favor, your glory”

In three divisions, Transitions, Transformations, and Transactions, Pastor Luck helps us see how the ministry of the Holy Spirit keeps us intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually “in the moment” with God.

Finally, as a fellow pastor, Pastor Luck’s approach causes me to celebrate. This is not a treatment of the Holy Spirit based on emotionalism or experientalism (sorry, that might not be a real word). Pastor Luck asked the question, “What does the Bible teach about the leading, guiding, and teaching ministry of the Spirit?” He asked, “What does the Bible teach regarding walking and living in the Spirit?” In the end, Pastor Luck clearly discovered that what the Bible actually teaches about life in the Spirit is far more satisfying to both our emotions and experience than much of what we have come to understand in the past about phrases like, “I sensed the Spirit’s leading,” I was moved by the Spirit,” or “the Spirit led me.”

Read “Soar” if you want a theology of the Holy Spirit that changes your psychology. Read “Soar” if you want answers about really experiencing the presence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However, soar in the Spirit, by living what Pastor Luck has pointed out from God’s word, if you crave a sense of awe and exhilaration in your life with our Savior.

Life's Moments

Before She Leaves

Prodigal. The word itself stirs fear in the hearts of moms and dads.

Why not? We bring them into the world. We teach them to crawl. Then they walk. Running and jumping and leaping and playing and poking and prodding come next. We love them. They hug our necks. We make sacrifices and they soak up everything we give.

As they grow, we tell them, “You are the light that pushes back the sadness of my days.” All the while that ugly, painful, frightening word lurks in the recesses of our minds. Prodigal. Prodigal. Prodigal.

Oh, God let her not be a prodigal.

And tonight, as I spend this last bit of time praying for my daughter before she leaves for Bible College in the morning, I stare that ugly word down…and I thank the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…because she is anything but a prodigal.

“Further up and further in,” Jess. You are a light that reflects a greater light.


Social Gospel x 2

PART DEUX GRAYBe careful when you accuse someone of having no compassion…

Be careful when you accuse someone of not caring…

…when he or she steadfastly refuses to take up your cause.

Jesus was quite clear that failing to invest ourselves in the lives of the less fortunate is at best problematic and more than likely sinful. His story of the Good Samaritan and his admonitions concerning the “first should be last” are more than enough for us to comprehend this side of compassion.

However, he was equally clear about the spiritual side of things. We must never mistake his desire for the eternal well-being of lost people as a lack of compassion. It is ultimate compassion that our Savior believes, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul” (Mark 8:36).

There is a tension about these two sides of compassion among Christ’s followers, but not within the heart of Christ. The former is Christ-likeness manifest in kindness. The latter is Christ-likeness manifest in love–agape love. The first must always possess potential for revealing the second.

And while this debate has raged among Christians for a century over the social gospel of liberal Christians, we must now apply it to The Social Gospel: Part Deux…the social gospel of conservative Christians. The social justice and public policy activism of conservative Christians has exactly the same potential for good or bad as its liberal counter-part. The life-changing message of Jesus Christ may just as easily be lost in the shuffle during proclamations regarding fiscal, sexual, and self-defense issues as it can during proclamations regarding the need for universal health care or racial reparations. It simply will do no good to argue which is closer to the heart of Jesus if either or both fail as advertisements on behalf of our Savior’s birth, life, death, and resurrection as a ransom for lost people.

“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”  Hebrews 9:15