Keys To Discernment: A Portrait Of The Real Jesus (Reboot)

How I wrote this post on February 24 baffles me. Three days earlier, I’d been in the Emergency Room, where doctors misdiagnosed me with a pulled back muscle and told me to sit in my wheelchair and remain active. The following Sunday I returned to the ER and a CT scan revealed that I had a compression fracture in my lumbar region.

I’d been so excited about getting to the passage in Colossians 1 that my need for bed rest really disappointed me. But once I recovered from my injury, so much I time had elapsed that I decided reboot the entire Bible Study series. Today is the final reboot before we pick up where we left off. I’ll update it with some additional comments, though, so don’t ignore it.

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False teaching invariably attacks, perverts or (at the very least) distorts the nature of Jesus Christ. Beth Moore, for example, reduces Him to a romantic playmate Who speaks directly to her and is “the bossiest thing.” For proper discernment, therefore, Christians must possess an accurate understanding of Christ’s nature.

Over the past few weeks we studied Paul’s prayer for the Colossian church to be filled with knowledge, wisdom and understanding. We also studied the way God qualifies believers to share in His inheritance.  As we closed last week’s study, we shifted our attention from the Father to His Son, and Paul now picks up the discussion with a powerful description of Christ’s deity.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. ~~Colossians 1:15-20 (NASB)

Today we’ll work through verses 15-17, worshiping the Lord because we see His exalted nature. Before we do so, however, we should understand a little more about the philosophies that would develop into Gnosticism.

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Regaining A Sense Of Wonder About God’s Love

Photo of the Public Garden in Boston

Back in the 1980s, I wrote and directed with the Drama Ministry at the church I attended. One year, three of us collaborated on a musical depicting Christ’s earthly ministry. I didn’t write the Last Supper scene, but the person who did write it included a hauntingly beautiful song entitled “How Can He Love Me?” The actor portraying John (the beloved disciple) sang it to expresses his amazement that Jesus loved him.

I don’t think many Christians wonder how the Lord could love them. The idea that God loves us is pretty much a given, even among people who don’t profess to be Christians. And in evangelical circles, we find it a little too easy to take His love for granted.

I know I do. Hopefully you’re honest enough to admit that you struggle with the temptation to have a lackadaisical attitude towards His love.

Why have we lost our sense of awe that God would love us? In pondering that question, I’ve come up with a two-pronged answer. Put simply, we’ve lost an understanding of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.

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Praise Him Even Now

All of us would probably like a refund for the year 2020. To the naked eye, there’s little reason to praise the Lord. The anger and frustration swells both because of COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd, not to mention the anarchy generated by demands to defund and/or abolish the police.

It’s a sad, heartbreaking time.

Yet God hasn’t abandoned His creation. He may be judging it by giving us over to our rebellion against His Word — indeed, I personally believe that to be the case. It may be difficult to adopt the so-called new normal that government leaders will impose on us. But all the negativity we currently experience has no power to stand against the goodness and sovereignty of our God and King.

A day approaches when Christ will return to establish His kingdom. At that time, He will eradicate every disease and will govern the entire world in perfect righteousness and justice. Christians long for that day!

The wonderful news is that He reigns even now. The chaos we see lies in His control as He uses it to accomplish purposes that we neither see nor understand. One glorious day, all creatures of our God and King will praise Him. filling the new heavens and earth with alleluias. Thankfully, Christians don’t need to wait for that day.

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More Than The Doxology

Throughout my early childhood, the Presbyterian church I attended with my parents and sister sang The Doxology every Sunday. I had no idea what it meant, but I sang it obediently, feeling secure with the familiar words and melody. I probably figured that God liked it.

After Jesus saved me, I attended mostly Charismatic churches. Early on, the primary church I belonged to sang contemporary praise songs, with an obligatory hymn each service. Gradually, hymns fell away almost entirely.

On rare occasions, The Doxology would pop up. Singing it brought back warm childhood memories, but I also loved praising God from Whom all blessings flow. I loved praising Him with all creatures here below, as well as with the heavenly host. I loved praising Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

In our church today we sang The Doxology as the closing verse of a longer hymn. A hymn I’d never heard in its entirety. The verses that precede the familiar words of doxology expand on God’s worthiness to receive praise, as well as the joyful privilege we have of giving Him that praise.

I’ve loved The Doxology my entire life. Today’s discovery that it’s part of a longer hymn surprised and intrigued me. I still love The Doxology, but now I know that there’s so much more where it came from. And I love the whole hymn!

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Jesus Shines Brighter

I love the hymn that I have selected to post this week. I love the way it exalts Jesus as Son of God and Son of man. I love its bold declaration that He rules over all creation. And I love the way it describes how much fairer He is than even the most beautiful aspects of His creation.

But right now, it encourages me to remember that He also shines brighter than all the trouble that this current pandemic has caused. As easy as it is to be distracted by all the ramifications of the crisis, we need to turn our attention to Him, seeing that He outshines all the hardship, sorrow and frustration that threatens our peace. What a beautiful Savor!

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Throwback Thursday: Psychology And The Source Of Knowledge About The Human Soul

Originally published April 27, 2017:

Lady Reading BiblePsychology makes my blood boil, especially when people try to integrate it with Christianity! Although commonly considered a science, the discipline actually is comprised of theories that haven’t been proven (and really don’t lend themselves to scientific verification). The vast majority of the theories incorporate acceptance of evolution, humanism and occult ideas.

Over the past 40 years, evangelicals have embraced psychology as an augmentation to pastoral ministry, assuming that the Bible falls short of addressing the mental and emotional needs of humans. That assumption should make the hair on the back of your neck bristle! Essentially, “Christian” psychology boldly declares God’s Word to be impotent, while at the same time more than implying that psychologists and licensed counselors possess a special knowledge inaccessible to those of us who “merely” read the Bible.

The attitude that psychologists have a deeper understanding of human nature than the Holy Spirit (Who, after all, authored the Bible) smacks of Read More »

Keys To Discernment: A Portrait Of The Real Jesus

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False teaching invariably attacks, perverts or (at the very least) distorts the nature of Jesus Christ. Beth Moore, for example, reduces Him to a romantic playmate Who speaks directly to her and is “the bossiest thing.” For proper discernment, therefore, Christians must possess an accurate understanding of Christ’s nature.

Over the past few weeks we studied Paul’s prayer for the Colossian church to be filled with knowledge, wisdom and understanding. We also studied the way God qualifies believers to share in His inheritance.  As we closed last week’s study, we shifted our attention from the Father to His Son, and Paul now picks up the discussion with Read More »

God Doesn’t Restrict His Glory To Mountain Top Experiences And Neither Should We

Summit of Mount Tam
Photo taken from the summit of Mount Tamalpias in Marin Country, California

Often, we think of God’s glory in relation to the beauty of nature. As well we should! Scripture repeatedly makes that correlation,  leading us to follow its example. For instance, consider this beloved passage from Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat. ~~Psalm 19:1-6 (ESV)

I well understand why this psalm proclaims that nature showcases God’s glory. When I lived in California, I loved going to Mount Tamalpias. How often I enjoyed the wheelchair accessible Verna Dunshee Trail at the summit of the East Peak! A few days before I moved to Massachusetts to marry John, my friend took me up to Mount Tam one last time. That afternoon had crystal clear weather that allowed us to look down the plummeting ravines and out across the San Francisco Bay. We looked down on the back of a hawk in flight — a heady experience, I assure you!

My friend savored the magnificence of the moment (as did I) before remarking with a baffled voice, “I just don’t understand how anyone can deny the existence of God.” I shared her sense of awe at God’s creation. Looking out from the mountain at the sparking waters of the San Francisco Bay, and then at the golden grasses and green shrubbery cascading down the mountainside, I couldn’t help seeing what a wonderful Creator I serve.

But I didn’t stop to think that the breathtaking splendors of Mount Tamalpias pale in comparison to the glorious God Who created them. To really appreciate His glory, we need to look at Jesus. The apostle John actually described Jesus in terms of God’s glory.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. ~~John 1:14 (ESV)

Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, manifests God’s glory in a myriad of ways, most of which we won’t fully appreciate until we behold Him in His heavenly kingdom. Yet we see enough of Him in the pages of His Word to know His majesty. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John regale us with accounts of Him healing the sick, casting out demons and exercising His divine power over the wind and sea. They describe His sinless life, His authoritative teaching and His astonishing humility as He endured a crucifixion that He did not deserve. Most glorious of all, they describe His resurrection, which proved His victory over sin and death.

As we read God’s Word, we constantly see His glory in the Person and work of Jesus. And when we encounter Him, even the beauty of something like Mount Tamalpias seems trivial.

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Pride, Arrogance And The Seduction Of Western Culture

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Approaching the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Americans unabashedly celebrate Gay Pride Month. Boston has Rainbow flags everywhere; somehow I doubt its display is very different from most major cities. The way that Western culture champions the LBGTQ movement now makes it hard to believe that homosexuality was illegal just 50 years ago.

Although I don’t believe homosexuality should still incur criminal penalties, I do grieve that even professing Christians now embrace it. Bowing to public pressure, even evangelicals have begun compromising their convictions that the Word of God condemns all forms of sexual deviation. After all, merely saying that Read More »