Thursday, September 17, 2020

DO YOU HAVE THE CHARACTER OF AN ANCIENT SPY?

    


         What's up with character anymore?  Judging on who we elect to public office these days, character doesn't seem to matter to most of us.  This is a very sad state of affairs, indeed.

        Character used to mean something, character used to be a tangible trait by which we could value or trust someone. I remember growing up with role models like The Lone Ranger, who exuded strength and confidence, fueled by high standards and moral convictions. Our role models of yesteryear were men and women who defeated evil with good, never blurring the lines between right and wrong.

       Good character engenders trust, or at least, it used to. Today, character almost seems a whimsical ideal for suckers, satisfied with finishing last. Where have our upstanding leaders gone?  I can hear the All in the Family theme song as I write these words... indeed, those were the days.

        I fear we have traded character for expediency. Those we send to Washington to represent us do not exactly ring the bell of moral fortitude or self sacrifice for the good of others.  Unfortunately, when we send those of low character to represent us, it reveals more than we may realize about our own character.

        These thoughts came to me as I was studying in Joshua chapter 2 (go read it, it won't take more than a few minutes). 

     Well, in case you didn't go read it just now, I'll recap:  Joshua, now the military leader of Israel, sent two spies into the land of Jericho. You are probably familiar with the story, they are hidden by a prostitute, then, weeks later the Israelites march around the city, the walls fall down and there is great victory. 

        As I read through this passage, I began to wonder, why would this prostitute help these spies, spies who worked for people she knew would destroy her country.  I began to consider her situation. I am sure Joshua, a man of great character, himself, would not have sent men of low character to spy out the land. The last time Israel was less than discriminate in sending spies, it cost them 40 years and millions of lives.  

     So here is what I deduced.  Rahab, the aforementioned prostitute, was, well, just that, a prostitute. Generally, in her culture, in that time, prostitutes ran the local inn, sort of a one stop shop kind of thing.  Anyway, as the local prostitute, Rahab was most likely not treated very well by the men of the city.  Joshua's spies show up and these guys are men of character. These men do not come to Rahab for a fun night of indulgence, they come to the inn for a good night's sleep with their mind on the task before them.  Rahab probably did not come in contact with men who treated her respectfully very often. 

      We know from the text, in Joshua 2, the people of Jericho are well aware the Israelites serve the One True God.  Rahab knows the religion of her city and she knows how the men who live in her city treat her.  Rahab most likely saw something different in these spies who served God. These men, who came to destroy her city, demonstrated behavior with which Rahab was not familiar. These men probably represented God well and made an impact on this woman, an impact which most likely saved their lives.


        This is why character counts.  If you are a professed follower of Christ, people are watching your life. People may very well be evaluating Jesus based on how you live and treat others. 

         In the scripture above, a prostitute's life is not only redeemed, but, we learn later, this same prostitute ends up in the genealogy of Jesus Christ!  Now, how's that for redemption?

         Are you living life for you or for God. If you are out for yourself, you will inadvertently hurt others, there is no such thing as live and let live in the real world.  There is no victimless crime in real life.  We do not sin in a vacuum.  Our choices, good and bad, affect others, often those we love most. 

       The Psalmist wrote:  Psalms 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

     Our prayer should be the same. So, I ask you, do you have the character of an ancient spy? Do others see God in your daily life and behavior?  Like the aforementioned spies, you may be the only representation of Jesus someone may encounter.  

      Yes, character still counts.  We should demand it of ourselves and those we send to represent us.  Be strong and of good courage, dare to pray Psalm 139:23-24.


Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!     

Friday, August 21, 2020

THE SUPERNATURAL BIBLE




     Is your faith boring? 

     Let's be honest for a second... do you find yourself easily bored by church and Bible sermons?  Do you feel as if there is a spiritual void in your life, even though you go to church regularly, pray and even read your Bible some?  

     Do you have a sense of a world beyond what we experience?  I am not talking about heaven,or the after-life I am talking about an unseen realm where the rules of time and space may be a bit different.

    As we read scripture, we catch glimpses, here and there, of supernatural beings we do not really understand. We read about events or descriptions of visions which are outside our frame of reference, therefore, we pass over these passages, without really thinking about them.  

      When was the last time you heard a sermon on Ezekiel's vision of a wheel?  When was the last time you heard a pastor elaborate on Psalm 82:1 where it says, "God as taken His place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods He holds judgement."

      So often, we have filtered the Bible through a Western mindset and forget it was written by men who accepted the supernatural as part of God's natural order. 

      Why do we accept a young shepherd boy was able to slay a giant with a sling and stone, yet, we balk when someone suggests angels mated with humans and created a race of hybrid giants?  Did you ever stop to wonder where Goliath came from in the first place?

      Churches and Sunday schools readily teach about Elijah being taken up in a chariot of fire, yet we do not get many lessons on Ezekiel's encounter with, what can only be understood as, a powered craft of some kind. 

       I wonder how we got away from the more supernatural aspects of scripture and who decided it was OK to ignore parts of scripture because they are too difficult to understand.  

      The one thing we must keep in mind, the Bible was given to us by an all powerful, all knowing Being from beyond our confines of time and space.  God exists extra-dimensionally from us and to think God is the only being who exists extra-dimensionally from us is foolish.

       Humans, generally speaking, are limited to understanding things for which we have a frame of reference.  We can understand eternity future because we are destined to live forever.  Eternity past is not so easy, since we have, and everything we experience has, a definitive beginning.   

       Do not allow difficult to understand passages of scripture deter you from studying and learning.  Do allow doubt to creep into your mind because parts of scripture seem to conflict with your understanding of the natural order.  The Bible comes to us supernaturally from a supernatural Source, so, of course there will be things beyond our understanding of the natural order.

      Imagine how the Apostle John felt when he was given visions of our future with all of it's tech.  We do not have to imagine Ezekiel's reaction when he encountered, and traveled in, an extra-dimensional craft, he tells us himself he was in such great shock from the experience he couldn't speak for seven days.

     Please don't take my word for this stuff!  Check it out for yourself and prove me wrong... if you can.  I promise, if you begin to look at scripture from the perspective and worldview of the writers, rather than the perspective of our modern lenses, Bible study will be a great new adventure of wonder and awe.  Hopefully, this new perspective will define how you look at the world around you, as well.  

      Bible study and spiritual growth should affect your worldview and lifestyle, not vice versa.  Pray before you study, ask God for wisdom and proper perspective. Ask God to make it real and relevant, I promise He will!

     Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!




       

     

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

ARE YOU CALLED FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS

     
     Are you feeling unsettled?  Are you searching for meaning? Throughout history, extreme conditions have led ordinary people out of obscurity and into great purpose. A purpose not born of self promotion or desire, instead a prominence born of duty and faith.  

       In the book of Esther, we find a woman whom history would have ignored if not for her courage to answer the call of duty in a time of crisis.  

        You may be familiar with the story of Queen Esther, she was a Jewish woman (most likely a teenage girl) who was chosen, by the godless king of the Persian empire, as the replacement for his rebellious wife.  Shortly after Esther's appointment, a plot to eradicate the Jews from the empire was launched by a pompous government official named Haman. Mordecai, Esther's uncle, discovered the plot and implored Esther to intercede on behalf of her people. Up to this point, Esther had not revealed her heritage and was afraid to approach the king.  Mordecai's words may be among the most important aspects of this account: 

Esther 4:14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

      Mordecai knew the promises of God would not allow the Jewish people to be eliminated.  Mordecai knew God would bring deliverance for His people, furthermore, Mordecai was convinced deliverance would come through the intervention of his niece, who was elevated to the position of Queen for this very purpose.

     Today, we are facing a crisis none could have predicted.  What is God speaking to your heart right now? Do you have a special talent or ability for such a time as this?  Are you being prompted by God to step out and do something different, for such a time as this

     Peter stepped out of the boat into tumultuous conditions.  David stepped onto the world stage, out of obscurity, only when a monster threatened God's people.  Gideon, a virtual nobody, stepped up and delivered his people from enemy hordes.  

     Are you sensing God's call to step out in faith for such a time as this?  

      Queen Esther did not just jump and run, she spent a good deal of time in prayer and she enlisted the prayers of others.  What is the burden God is laying on your heart? Does it seem too big to accomplish on your own?  It probably is, however, this is when the true meaning of Philippians 4:13 comes into play:

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me

     If God is calling you to do something, He will provide you with all the resources, strength and personnel you will need to accomplish His purpose. 

    Make no mistake, God does not need you, He does want you however.  As Mordecai stated, God will accomplish His purpose, with or without you. Yes but, at what cost to you?  Are you willing to sacrifice peace and purpose on the altars of fear or sloth?

   The Revolutionary, Thomas Paine, said, "these are the times that try men's souls."  Is God trying your soul today? Extraordinary times call for ordinary people who are willing to allow God to do extraordinary things through them.  Are you up for the calling? Are you ready to step up and out?  Are you ready to be used by God for such a time as this?

    Now is the time and here is the place for you to put your faith into action and allow God to use you for such a time as this.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

DABSTER GENTLEMEN - ANSWERS - CD REVIEW



       Once in a while, something new and cutting edge comes along, something which defies tradition and stands up in defiance against the mundane.  The much anticipated release of Dabster Gentlemen's  second album, Answers, is a refreshing breath of fresh air.  Answers remains true to the genre defying style fans fell in love with in Death or Life , this time, adding a little electric into the mix.  

       Uber talented master composer Myles Barfield creates a spirited musical experience, combined with the distinct vocals and lyrical profundity of the legendary Dale Thompson. Added to the mix is new comer Skipp Phipps, adding his talents to this already extraordinary collaboration to deliver something truly unique and most importantly, honoring to God. 

       From the first track - Take Me To The River, the listener is immersed in a fun, nostalgic, romp imbued with the innocence of the Jesus movement of the early 1970's.  A wise choice for an opener as it immediately catches the listener's attention. The most single worthy song on the album sets the pace for what is to come and what follows does not disappoint.

       First Breath Today, the second track has a definite southern rock/mountain music vibe. This fun rocker demonstrates the versatility in Barfield's compositional prowess.  

Next up, Strange Fire is rollicking fun, and a bit tongue in cheek, lyrically reminiscent of Thompson's solo work with the Kentucky Cadillacs. 

     Dabster slows down and gets serious for a moment with Miracle which is a bit darker and contemplative.  Single worthy in it's own right, Miracle demonstrates the depth and strength of the bands talent.

    Hallowed Be Thy Name is two parts sacred hymn one part praise and worship and evokes a style reminiscent of early Native American musical traditions. Definitely a top prospect for second single. 

     Three Don'ts gets a little Calypso.  A rollicking reminder of our standing in Jesus Christ.

      Jesus Knows Where We Are is a nod to Dale Thompson's roots as a rock and roll superstar, recounting a show so loud, the police came and shut it down.  This track sports a funky groove reminiscent of Bob Dylan's 115 Dream.  

       More Like Jesus is a veritable poetry slam set to a most fitting musical background.  

      Straight Is The Gate is an easy flowing jazzy piece reminiscent of Henry Mancini's Pink Panther work.  

      Of Halloween has an 80's pop rocker sound and takes a bold stand on a sometimes controversial subject.  This track musically captures a fun, eerie tone, evoking childhood memories of  Disney's Haunted Mansion.

     The album wraps up where it began with a little nostalgia.  Bonus track All Roads Lead Home, is a reminiscence of a more innocent time. Barfield lays the perfect musical foundation as we get a sneak peek into Dale Thompson's musical heritage.  


      Answers will appeal to the casual listener as well as the most discerning connoisseur.  Compositionally eclectic, Dabster Gentlemen daringly blends styles most would never deign attempt and they pull it off. Combining the, decidedly not hard rock, compositions with the raspy powerfully high range vocals of Dale Thompson  produces a fun yet musically mature experience no one could have predicted.   

        If you are looking for a musical experience like none other, or are looking to add to your Dabster Gentlemen collection click here





Sunday, March 29, 2020

CORONA VIRUS AND THE BELIEVER’S RESPONSE AND RESPONSIBILITY




Adapted from a message from the Fringe March 14, 2020

     I think it would not be over-dramatic to say we are living in unprecedented and historic times.  We are living in a time our grandchildren will learn about in history classes, should the Lord tarry.

     We are seeing the world around us change in ways never imagined in our age of freedom and plenty - quarantines, travel restrictions, shelter at home orders, financial collapse of the world's economies and, of course, the ever present threat of infection. 

     As believers in Christ, how do we respond to this kind of turmoil?  Some are declaring this pandemic to be the end of the world, others are ignorantly claiming some kind of supernatural protection for followers of Christ.  Most, however, are merely trying to understand how Covid 19 will continue to affect their lives.

     As a nation and a world, we have faced unprecedented tragedies in the past. World War I  cost millions of lives. Hundreds of years before WWI, the Black Plague wiped out almost 60% of Europe.  God did not allow the us to go extinct, despite Satan's best efforts. God's word holds promises and if you study scripture, you will see, this is not the end of the world, nor will it be the end of mankind

DO NOT PANIC

    Right now, it is important to not panic. Though Chaos may be all around us, God is in Control. The Bible talks to us about fear:

      Isaiah 41:10 - So, do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand

Philippians 4:6-7  - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus

  So, we see a passage from the Old Testament and a passage from the New Testament, telling us not to fear nor to be anxious, but to trust God for peace and security.  On the testimony of two witnesses, a matter is established and we find here, the testimony of both the old covenant and the new covenant. And, also, we have the very words of Jesus: 

Matthew 10:29-31 - are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

   

God fully knows what we need. We do not have the luxury of seeing the future, we can only see now. The past is closed to us, sealed, unalterable. The future is invisible and unknowable. We are relegated to the immediate. God, on the other hand is in tomorrow, and next week and next month and next year. In fact, God is already in the last day of this creation. So, who are we going to trust? ourselves, the news man - who may or may not have an agenda, the politicians - whose main goal is gaining or retaining office?


This is the time, if there ever was one, for believers to crawl into God's pocket and to seek Him diligently. Throw off anything hindering your relationship with God.


Hebrews 12:1 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

     

What in your life is keeping you from fully surrendering to God? Is it pride, a pet sin, a self sufficient attitude, or even a sense of unworthiness? Whatever it may be, today is the day, now is the time, to cast off the weight and come home to your Father who loves you.


At the same time, we cannot sit back and do nothing, simply expecting everything to work out for us. I have seen some very irresponsible people on social media, saying stupid things like, "As long as you trust Jesus, you can't get the virus." Guess what, God's people get sick and God's people die, just like everyone else.


Be smart, limit your exposure, follow the protocols, wash your hands, use hand sanitizer. Take common sense precautions. Don't take stupid unnecessary risks, but at the same time, be open to the leading of God.


In the book of I Kings 17:7-15 we find a very encouraging and applicable account of God's leading during a national crisis. I encourage you to take the time to read through the passage and see what God speaks to your heart. The full message this post is adapted from can be found here:



     
     

I must confess, I do not know what tomorrow holds concerning this virus, but God does. I do not know what God has planned for you and your life, but God does.


Are you ready to cast off all things hindering you from hearing the voice of God? Are you ready to trust and obey?


     We are truly living in historic times. We are living in an unprecedented time, fraught with speculation, misinformation and agenda driven manipulation.  Fear not, for God is with you.

       The real question you have to ask yourself is, do you trust God?  After 9/11, churches filled up and unfortunately the rise in attendance lasted only a few short weeks. People went back to life as normal.  Did business driven churches see dollar signs instead of souls and fail those who came seeking answers? Possibly to some degree, but also, the crisis ended quickly and life resumed normalcy, consequently, the sense of needing God's protection diminished.  

     Please, whether this crisis continues, slowly ends or somehow life returns to normal, do no let go of the sense of urgency you feel right now.  We often run to God when we perceive danger, do not drift away from God after the sense of danger passes.  

     If you are a follower of Christ, you do not have cause for fear because you serve a God who transcends time, not just the past, the future as well.  Place your feet where He leads, love one another, be kind and helpful to those who are terrified.  

     This is a grand opportunity for God's people to step up and live out our faith, serving and comforting those who are afraid or in need.  Your may find your words have little affect in comforting others, but, your actions, your remaining calm, your kindness and generosity, these things will speak volumes.  

         This crisis may be an opportunity to forge new relationships and a way we can show how true love is action which expects nothing in return.  Listen to God, do not get caught up in emotionalism

     Do you trust God today, believer? Then do what He says. Show others the hope you have in Christ.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

SATAN'S PROMISE IS ONE SIZE FITS ALL - LIKE AN OLD STRAITJACKET

 
  Has your worldview shifted over time, do you question things  you once believed to be true?  Does what once seemed black and white now begin to take on shades of gray?  Has truth changed with time or are we in danger of becoming jaded by our experiences?  

       The world we live in offers so much promise and delivers so much emptiness, which can be attested to by those who have reached out to grab the golden ring, only to find plastic wrapped in fools gold. The American Dream peddled, to us by Madison Avenue, is nothing more than an unattainable vapor, something as easily apprehended as a handful of smoke. 

         The pathway to the pursuit of happiness is littered with the wreckage of shattered lives, yet new pilgrims embark on the journey each and every day.  

          What is the reason? Can it be mankind is inherently stupid or could there be an external siren song, calling us to self destruction, a self destruction disguised as freedom?

     This post is inspired by a song written by the late Chris Cornell called Stolen Prayer.  Originally written for, but never recorded by, Ozzy Osborne. Alice Cooper recorded the song on his album The Last Temptaion.

     When we are young and idealistic, life seems so full of hope and wonder. The same can be said about our early days of faith, especially if you have come to the Lord as an adult.  As  newborn babes in Christ, there is nothing but hope and excitement, our faith seems unshakable.  Then life comes at us like a freight train and all we were so sure of suddenly becomes a ball of confusion. 

        Questions like: Is God really there? Does God really care? begin to creep in and the voice of our enemy seems far clearer and louder than the voice of our Father.

         When we begin to listen to that voice, the voice of doubt, the voice of discouragement, the voice who tells us we are worthless or deserve better than what we are getting, when we listen to that voice, it's not long before we are bound up and neutralized. 

        Jesus faced Satan at His weakest point, after 40 days of fasting.  Jesus had no physical strength to defeat a celestial being, a being of great power and intellect.  The only weapon Jesus had available was the Word of God.  The only weapon available was the only weapon necessary.  

       There is a battle of words for our souls. Satan's words telling us freedom is one size fits all, except the freedom he offers is a straight jacket.  On the other hand is God's words, telling us His plan for us is unique and tailor made for the person He has allowed us to become.  Also in the mix are our words, words spoken either in prayer or in vanity.

      It is ironic, the One who speaks to us in whispers, whispers we must train ourselves to hear, died in our stead while the one who speaks to us in silky tones, clearly heard, entices us to die for him.  Everything comes down to words.

     God's Word is filled with promises and accounts of fulfilled promises.  God's word also tells us there will be times when we will walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  In the midst of the valley of death is the promise of God to never leave us nor forsake us. Even in our times of unfaithfulness, God promises to remain faithful to us, if we are His: 2 Timothy 2:13 - if we are faithless, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself.

These are important words, these are life sustaining words.
We have to prepare for when life swerves while we are heading straight, for those times when we are tempted to question truth, when the silken voice of the serpent hisses lies in our ears. The only weapon we have is the only weapon necessary, God's word.

Psalm 119:11 - Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee


Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked nor stands in the way of sinners nor sits in the seat of scoffers



The embodiment of wickedness is the prince of sinners and scoffers. The father of lies will flatter you or degrade you depending on what is most effective. The Prince of Peace will tell you truth and give you the power to respond appropriately. Whose words are you listening to? Whose words have the greatest influence on you?


Use your words and pray to the Father of Lights: Matthew 26:41 - Watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation...


Jesus' words are a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, while the words of the angel of perdition promise everything we think we ever wanted but lead to the deepest depths of darkness where those who walk are clothed in despair.


John 10:27 - My sheep know my voice, I know them and they follow me
Train yourself to recognize the voice of the Shepherd so you won't be fooled when the serpent hisses his deadly promises in your ear. Learn to recognize the words of the Shepherd and ask for the power to do what His words tell you.


Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!








Wednesday, February 19, 2020

METAL MISSION OF KNOXVILLE PRESENTS: THE FRINGE

   
  Metal Mission of Knoxville has officially kicked off phase three of our journey with God.  Previously, I have written about how MMOK came into existence. To read our origin story, click here .  Since then, amazing and unexpected things have happened.  

      When Victor Griffin, Skyler Denny and myself began MMOK, we believed our ministry would be, primarily, in the clubs and to the music community of Knoxville.  If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans!  

        God steered us into a direction none of us envisioned and MMOK became, primarily, a homeless outreach in downtown Knoxville. In the beginning, a handful of us went downtown, each week, and stood under the bridge with a few sausage biscuits and some coffee.  We felt like we could do more and prayed.

          After a few weeks, we noticed a ministry had set up tables on a vacant lot around the corner from where we were standing and we decided to set up on the same lot and see if we got chased away by the police or whoever owned the lot.  To our surprise, no one ever asked us to leave.  

       Week after week, our presence grew and so did those coming to serve with us, yet, we still felt as if we were missing something important.  

    At the same time, we continued to hold our Night in the Word events at The Open Chord music club.  A Baptist pastor from Rutledge TN, Eric Warren, and his wife Angie came to a couple of our events, fully expecting to hear wonky doctrine.  Instead, Eric and Angie felt a call from God to get on board the Metal Mission train and see where the ride took them.  

    The Night in the Word events came to an end but the commitment to serve God continued as we remained faithful to His call in the homeless community.  The vision for Metal Mission expanded and we incorporated.  By this time Pastor Eric and Angie were fully on board, literally as Eric and I became co-chairs of the board of directors of Metal Mission International.

    Our weekly homeless outreach was continuing to be blessed, yet we still felt as if something was missing. From our feelings of dissatisfaction, The Fringe was born.  We had been praying, and even making inquiries, about a place to hold services downtown when God clearly spoke to us and said, "I already gave you a place to hold services downtown."  We realized, the empty lot we served breakfast on was to be our church.  

     We announced our plans to the folks we served on the street, to much enthusiasm.  Pastor Eric and I began to alternate weeks, preaching messages, relevant to the community we were serving. 


You Gotta Serve Someone

   As we were faithful to this new endeavor, God was stirring our hearts for more. Week after week, we preached and wondered, "what's next?"  God stirred, we prayed and we waited, or maybe God waited on us to get up and move.  

    Collectively, and this is how we know this was a God thing, we knew it was time to hold regular church services, in addition to what we were doing on the street.  I began to look for small churches, near downtown, where we could cheaply rent space on Sunday afternoons.  

      Meanwhile, God had other plans, as usual!  My wife, Chrissy, met a lady, Rena at Grace Community Church in Fountain City, which is about 15 minutes from where we serve the homeless.  As Chrissy shared about our ministry, Rena, made the comment, "you guys should start a church."  Chrissy said, "funny you should mention that," and explained we were in the praying stages of finding a place to meet. Rena asked my wife, "Why don't you see about using this church, they would probably just want you to clean."  We prayed, excited about the possibility, and reached out to the Elders of Grace Community Church.

    The leadership of GCC has been more than gracious to us and our ministry vision.  The last week of August 2019, Metal Mission of Knoxville kicked off The Fringe with our first service, as our ministry outreach to the homeless became The Fringe Downtown.

      The Fringe, currently, has two pastors, Eric Warren and myself. We share the preaching responsibilities.  The teaching is expository and each of us teach through a different book of the Bible.  




     All of our messages are online, on both the Metal Mission of Knoxville Facebook page and on my YouTube channel .


     Our mission has remained the same, to reach the lost and minister to those who identify with the fringier side of life. 

Jesus wants you to come as you are but loves you too much to leave you that way

   Who is welcome?  Anyone who is interested in gaining a deeper understanding of Christ's love. Everyone is welcome, but don't expect to always be comfortable as we believe God's word, handled correctly, will challenge us to be who God wants us to be.

     If you are looking for a place to grow and serve according to your design, MMOK's The Fringe may just be the place for you!  We have plenty of opportunity to serve, we believe in allowing you the freedom to serve as God leads, not according to our perceived needs.

         The Fringe may be a place you can come grow with us as we seek God to change us and our community.

          What does God have in store for us next?  We do not know, but we are anticipating great things.  

      What we do know is, whatever the next step, we want to be squarely in the will of God and we want to promote the unfiltered Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

      If you feel a call to hop on the Metal Mission express, we would love to have you.  We also covet your prayers as we desire to honor God in all we do.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

DISCERNING DOCTRINAL TRUTH IN A MULTI-DOCTRINAL CHURCH CULTURE

      Within evangelical Christianity, we have a myriad of different and often opposing doctrines.  We all agree, I believe, on the fundamental tenets of the Gospel. After that, however, it seems as if everything is up for grabs!  We cannot agree on who can be baptized or even how to baptize for that matter. We cannot agree what is happening to the bread and wine during the Lord's supper. We cannot agree on the proper clothing for church and sometimes, a church may split over the color of the carpet!  

           The funny thing (funny weird, not funny haha) is this was not always the case.   Did you know, once upon a time, believers were all, actually, on the same page? Albeit, it was on the day the church was born, but it did actually happen. Acts 2:1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

        The Bible says when two or more are gathered together in Jesus' name, there He is in the midst of them.  You know what else happens when two or more gather in Christ's name? Theological disagreement.

     One very divisive topic among Christians is the exercising of the gifts of the Spirit.  One believer claims the gifts are no longer in use and the other believer teaches if you do not speak in tongues, you are not really saved.  Obviously, two opposing views cannot both be true.  Both can be false, and in this instance, I believe both statements are false (oh look, now we have 3 views that cannot be reconciled, what joy!!)  

     The easy answer is, "What does the Bible say?" Well, one would think this is the easy answer, however, the fun thing about scripture, when taken out of context, we can make it say pretty much anything we want.  Now, imagine what would happen if we came to scripture asking God to show us what it really says rather than trying to make it say what we already think is true?  

      We all have the same scripture, as believers.  We all have the same Spirit of God indwelling us. So how can we all be so mixed up in our theology? The biggest obstacle we face is our sources of information.  If we are honest, most of what we believe, or think we know, has come from a source outside the Bible.  

      We all have a favorite theologian, a favorite person to learn from, whom we trust.  The average believer gets more theology form a preacher, whether from the pulpit or in a book, than from the Bible itself.  This is a big problem.

       Sadly, we cannot even agree if the Bible is to be taken literally or allegorically.  This, also, is a big problem.  If we choose to go the path of allegory, how do we even know where the path actually lies or where the edges of the path begin?  Some may argue, "yeah, Jesus spoke in parables." Yes, Jesus did speak in parables but He told His disciples this: “When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you.' 

        I find it ironic the two major parts of scripture most readily relegated to allegory are our origins and our end.  Admittedly, these are also the most difficult to wrap our minds around because we have no experience to which we can relate our beginning or end. The creation account was a one time event and we have no empirical evidence to support nor debunk. The Revelation account is described to us by a man who is seeing our future, with all of it's technology, a man whose greatest technology was an ox cart. The danger is to discredit or discount what we do not easily understand.

 HOW DO WE RECONCILE DOCTRINAL DIFFERENCES?      
      The first thing we must do, no matter what, is remember the command to love one another.  Nothing creates anger and animosity among believers faster than arguing over points of doctrine.  Can we not learn to disagree in love?  Are you willing to allow someone the grace to be wrong?  Are you willing to entertain the idea you may, possibly, be wrong? 

       The best way to reconcile doctrinal differences is to follow Paul's command in 2 Timothy 2:15 - Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman who needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.       It appears to me, God is telling us here we can understand scripture and rightly divide truth.  What is hindering us?

       As stated earlier, we all have the same scripture and we all have the same Spirit of God, so shouldn't we all agree?  Here are some reasons why we do not:

     1. We don't read our Bibles for ourselves, we let others tell us           what it says

     2. Many who set doctrines had an agenda

     3. Antisemitism and ignorance of Hebrew scripture led some           early church fathers to mishandle New Testament writing

    4. Using scripture to defend rather than shape beliefs

     Unless you read the Bible with the attitude of a seeker of truth, you will fall into one or more of the traps above.  We live in an age when spiritual illiteracy is inexcusable. We can literally carry a Bible in our pockets through the miracle of technology and phone apps!

     Are you willing to read the Word of God for yourself and allow God's Spirit to teach you rather than a fallible, albeit well meaning, man?  Are you willing to challenge things you have been taught, using the clear teachings and influence of the Holy Spirit, as your guide?  Are you willing to follow truth, where ever it may lead?

    Grab a Bible and a hot cup of coffee, sit at the feet of the Master, and allow God to show you His truth.  I promise you, it will change your life!

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!




Wednesday, January 15, 2020

I DON'T WANT TO BE FLY FOR A WHITE GUY - ONE RACE, THE HUMAN RACE

       
One Race
 I Don't want to be fly for a white guy... I just want to be fly, or square, as the case may be, based on me, apart from my heritage.       
     We have entered a new decade and society is still trying to figure out, so called, race relations.  Is this not disturbing to anyone, besides me?  Have we not figured out, after 5000 years of recorded history, the human race is one, we are all genetically and intellectually equal?  

          In the late 70's, a PSA, I will never forget, ran on television.  A man and his grandson were fishing in a boat when the little boy asked his grandpa, "what's prejudice?"   The grandpa asked the little boy, "who is Jimmy?"  The little boy responded, "He's one of my Jewish friends."  The grandpa then informs the little boy, "you are prejudice because you think of Jimmy as your Jewish friend and not your friend."




              What  a lesson we need today, in our world of Social Justice Warriors making a point of labeling everyone and, consequently, demanding rights and privileges based on color, religious practice or gender orientation (real or manufactured).  

         Martin Luther King Jr understood, once we label someone, once we designate a person according to a color or creed, we open the door to dehumanization.  Dr. King's dream of equality, his dream of judgment based on character alone should be our only standard. This is not a conservative vs liberals problem, this is a humanity problem. 

         What happens when I refer to someone as a black guy or a white gal?  I have now designated. I have now made a distinction and, depending on my perspective, I may have, inadvertently, elevated or devalued someone based on skin pigmentation.  

             In probably the most cringe worthy moment of the political season, I listened as commentators addressed race in the December Democratic Debate.  The debate stage, it was noted in the press, was disproportionately white.  Talking heads and pundits scrambled to wrap their heads around how this could have happened within the Democratic Party, asking who was to blame and how the rules must have been, somehow, unfair.  

             Even more cringe worthy was President Donald Trump's statement, "You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides." in response to an attack by white supremacist protesters against counter protesters in Charlottesvillle, a couple of years ago.

When can we just see people as people and not a color?

           What does God say about all this? The obvious place to start is Galatians 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

             Actions, however, speak much louder than words.  A poignant, yet oft overlooked, account from the life of Moses demonstrates God's view in a most interesting way.

        In Numbers 12, we see Moses has married a Cushite woman.  
 Today, Cush would be considered the land of Ethiopia and the people of Ethiopia are unmistakably dark skinned.  Moses, hailing from a Semitic family would have been considerably lighter skinned, though not white, as he is often depicted in modern art.

Moses' sister, Miriam, was not pleased with Moses' choice for a wife and made trouble for Moses because of his darker skinned spouse.  God intervened and turned Miriam, scripture says, leprous like snow.  I cannot help but ascertain God demonstrated His disdain for Miriam's prejudice by making her even whiter.  

God seems to be telling Miriam, "you like white better?  Here is some white for you, let's see how you like white now" 

Of course, Miriam repented and God healed her, but the point is, God did not abide by Miriam's prejudice based on skin color and neither should we.

        Sadly, there are still some in the Christian community who believe we are to remain separated by race, based solely on physical attributes.  This is a foolish and dangerous lie buying into a false evolutionary construct. 
I addressed Racism in the Pews a while back, and I believe the key to healing America of racism must start in the church.

 Certainly, within America, there are cultural divides, to ignore this is folly.  People, naturally tend to associate with those whom they readily identify. This is not the same as race. Culture, in and of itself, does not signify superiority of one group over another. 

The bigoted among us will say, "stick with your kind,"  "the Bible says we should not be unequally yoked,"  "God told the Jews not to mix with the other nations."  Much like all of Satan's ploys to create mischief among God's people, statements like these are twisted to mean something God never intended.  

Let's look at the passage about being unequally yoked, 
2 Corinthians 6:14  Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 

Clearly, God's intent here is Christ followers are prohibited from entering into any kind of contract with an unbeliever as there will, undoubtedly, be conflict. Different values and worldviews will foment different agendas and different approaches to solving problems.  Many apply this passage exclusively to marriage contracts, yet God's intent was a much larger scope, encompassing business contracts as well.

What the passage does not say, nor does it even infer, is believers of different ethnic backgrounds should not marry.  

Yes, throughout the Old Testament, God commanded the Hebrews to only marry withing their heritage.  This was to preserve the spiritual integrity of the nation.  Two very notable exceptions to the command are Rahab the Prostitute and Ruth the Moabite, both of whom embraced the religious practices of Israel and both of whom are found in the lineage of Christ.

God's intent was never designed to preserve so called racial purity, or genetic integrity, God's intent was to preserve the spiritual purity of the nation.  The same intent is found in the above command, "do not be unequally yoked with a non believer."  

So, if someone tells me to "stick with my kind" my response is, "what exactly is my kind?"  If he means humans, then, yes, I wholeheartedly agree.  Even if he means other believers, I would concur.  If the inference was anything, even remotely close to suggesting ethnicity or national origin, I would have a real problem, especially if the person claimed to be a believer.  

     Scripture expressly dispels any idea of ethnic separation among believers: Galatians 3:28-29  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. 

            My lineage goes back to Noah.  So does yours. Guess what, if you are reading this, you are one of my kind. We are kin, we are genetically connected, the same race.  The only prohibition to our relationship is a matter of faith.  If we are both followers of Christ, we are free to worship together, enter into business together, our children are free to marry one another. Life should be good.  

The danger of stereotypes

          Sadly, there are believers in Christ who will disagree, based on tradition and rearing.  There will be those who just feel in their gut it is wrong to mingle ethnically,  yet have no scripture to defend their position. Gut feelings are not truth, contrary to conventional wisdom.  If you cannot back up your convictions with scripture, your convictions are wrong.  

     Throughout American history, cultures, based on ethnicity, have been elevated or debased, depending on the views of the majority.  This has been and continues to be a dangerous precedent.  Arguably, the three prominent cultures vying for prominence in America today are White, Black and Hispanic. Each is rife with stereotypes, some acceptable and celebrated, some erroneous and despicable and all divisive to one degree or another. 

        We cannot ignore culture, and we should not seek to eradicate cultural identity. What we must never do, however, is allow cultural identity to divide us and, even more tantamount, we must never allow cultural identity to hinder our spiritual growth or identity as children of God.  

           To elevate one culture over another is foolish and divisive yet to ignore culture is equally foolish.  Seeking unity necessitates focusing on what makes us similar, before looking at what makes us unique.  Harmonizing our goals and building a foundation of cooperation on common ground should be our beginning point, not a place we work towards.   

           Please don't tell me I'm pretty fly for a white guy.  Why can't I just be fly or square, for that matter, based on who I am without reference to my ethnicity.  Please never say "for a(insert ethnic designation here) guy, he's pretty cool."  Why can't someone be cool or even a loser, solely based on character, without reference to  national origin?  

      God does not prohibit us from mixing, mingling and living life together among different ethnicities so to do so from a human standpoint is, inevitably, working against God.  

       One race - the human race. Are you going to love as Jesus commands or continue to follow Satan's agenda, judging others based on the color of their skin rather the content of their character?

      "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight" and we all ought to be precious in one another's sight as well.

                   Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!






     

Thursday, November 7, 2019

IF I'M FORGIVEN, WHY DO I NEED TO REPENT?

                

      The Bible speaks quite a bit about forgiving and being forgiven.  In one passage, we see  Luke 5:20  And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” 
But in another passage we see this: Matthew 6:14-15  For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,  but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

          In the first passage we see Jesus responding to a man's faith and granting forgiveness and in the second passage Jesus says our forgiveness is contingent upon our granting forgiveness to others.  

         To further confuse things, we read this from the Apostle John:     1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

              No caveat, no fine print, just plain simple language -if you confess your sin, God forgives your sin. So how do we reconcile Jesus' words with Jesus' words and with the Apostle John also?

             Understanding the difference between positional forgiveness and relational forgiveness is the key. 

Positional Forgiveness:
             Positional Forgiveness is when we are born again and adopted as children of God through the blood of Jesus. We are positionaly forgiven.  Positional forgiveness means we take on the righteousness of Christ and all our sins, past and future, will not be held against us. This happens at salvation and does not change. 

Relational Forgiveness:
             Relational forgiveness is what we need each day to remain in fellowship with the Father.  Though we are declared righteous, we continue to sin and sin hinders our relationship with God.  Sin restricts our blessings, sin restricts our usefulness, sin restricts our answers to prayer.  

         So in the above passages, when Jesus says, "man, your sins are forgiven," based solely on the man's faith, this is positional forgiveness.  When Jesus said, "if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you," this is relational forgiveness.  Relational forgiveness does not affect our salvation but it does affect our lives and relationship with God.  Positional forgiveness declares you not guilty while relational forgiveness protects your relationship.

           OJ Simpson had a very famous trial, charged with killing his wife and a man named Ron Goldman.  When the gloves didn't fit, the jury had to acquit and OJ was declared not guilty.

           What many may not remember is there was also a civil trial where OJ was sued by the family of Ron Goldman for wrongful death.  In the civil trial, OJ was found liable and ordered to pay a hefty sum to the Goldman family.

            Positionally, OJ was not guilty and would not be punished for double murder.  Relationally, to the Goldman family, OJ is guilty.  Because OJ is relationally guilty, his reputation is forever tarnished, his acting career is over and he is not very well liked by most people.  

            Another example is, my daughter adopted a child.  That child, positionally is my grandson.  He will always be my grandson and nothing he can do can change his place in the family.  What happens if he comes over and spits in my face? Is he no longer my grandson?  No of course not, but our relationship is damaged because he has done a terrible thing.  Maybe the fishing trip I was planning with him gets canceled or the gift I bought for him is put to the side.  Now what happens when he comes over and apologizes and asks for forgiveness?  The fishing trip is back on, the gift is given and everything returns to normal.

              Positionally, my grandson never stopped being my grandson, but relationally, we were not so good until he sought forgiveness.  

                Now, just for a moment, suppose my other grandson spit in grandson number one's face.  Suppose grandson number 2 then went to grandson number 1 and apologized and asked for forgiveness but grandson number one told him to get lost.  I love them both and I want them to love one another so what happens when grandson number 1 comes to me for forgiveness for something he is not willing to forgive his brother?  I might direct him to go forgive his brother first and then come back.  I want his and my relationship restored but I also want his relationship with his brother restored.

                 Why is this important?  Well, many of us who are believers in Christ are estranged from the Father because of our unforgiveness toward others. Though positionally, you are a child of God, and going to heaven, relationally  you feel as if your prayers are not answered, you feel distance between you and God and you may not understand why.  

                When we do not forgive others, it harms us far more than it harms them.  Some of us have quite a bit to forgive , some of us have been treated horribly by someone, maybe even someone who was entrusted with our care, like a parent.  

                 Forgiveness does not mean placing yourself in danger or allowing yourself to be in a position to be harmed again. The Bible says we need to forgive, the Bible does not say we have to forget.  I may forgive you for punching me but I probably won't give you another opportunity to punch me.  

                When we fail to forgive, it does us far more harm than the person who wronged us. Often, the person who wronged us has gone off on their merry and we are not even a thought to them. But for us, we spend time hating and growing bitter and maybe even harming ourselves over it.  Forgiveness not only sets the person who wronged us free, it sets us free.  

                 So I ask  you today, are you harboring hatred or animosity toward someone?  Have you harmed yourself or others because of something someone has done to you?  Set yourself free, forgive.  Think of all the terrible things you have done and know God forgives you.  
    
                 Maybe the person or people you are struggling with forgiving do not deserve forgiveness.  That may be true. Do you deserve forgiveness from God?  Did Jesus deserve to die on the cross for you? 

            This is a tough thing, but a necessary thing.  If you are harboring unforgiveness in your heart, you have imprisoned yourself.  God wants to bless you and speak to you and restore your life but He will not if you cannot forgive. Do not let the actions of someone else cause you to harm your relationship with God.

            Pray, even now, ask God to grant you the grace to forgive.  If you are a believer in Christ, you are positionally righteous in the eyes of God, yet, you may need to find relational peace through forgiveness of others.

            Romans 12:17-18  Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 

          Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!