Focusing on Following Jesus in a Chaotic World

God continues to work out His purpose in history.

There is so much angst in the world today. First the corona virus and now the explosion of racial tensions. The political and worldview polarization we we have experienced in recent years have been magnified as political machines ramp up for another presidential election. It even threatens to pull the church apart.

I have recently written about black lives matter and white privilege from a biblical perspective, in an attempt to redeem those phrases from a biblical point of view.  I realize that those terms are loaded. The Black Lives Matter organization has a specific message and worldview that runs contrary to biblical principles at various points, but I tried to find the kernels of truth in those phrases through a biblical lens.

We run a risk in the church of getting off the narrow path of following Jesus by aligning ourselves too closely with a particular political platform, secular philosophy or other way of viewing the world that is not gospel focused. We also run a risk of falling off the narrow path the other way, by  reacting in opposition to everything a particular political platform, philosophy or worldview stands, just because some of it (or even most of it) is contrary to “off”.

Truth is truth, and truth is objective. No one person or particular view is apt to be absolutely true, because we are flawed beings with limited perspective. The likelihood of one person, one church, one theology being absolutely true in every detail is not likely.

At the same time, truth is truth. It is objective, and people can see it. That means that even people who may not acknowledge the truth of the gospel may, nevertheless, accurately see some aspect of the truth.

It’s like science, the facts and evidence must be interpreted. We are all looking at the same facts and evidence, but we do not all interpret it the same way. Still, the facts and evidence are the same. We continually discover new facts and evidence that alters our interpretations of the facts and evidence we previously knew, and we sometimes discover that what we thought we knew is not accurate.

God, of course, never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Our perspective, knowledge and understanding, however, is finite and limited, and that requires we adopt a posture of humility in our understanding.

God’s Word doesn’t change, but our perspective of it changes. Think of the radical change of perspective Jesus introduced to the descendants of Abraham! God became man, came to His own people, and they didn’t even recognize Him!

Continue reading “Focusing on Following Jesus in a Chaotic World”

Focus on Love to Remain on the Narrow Path

The narrow road is where the innocent and the wise travel in the maturity of love.

When the church reaches “unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ…. [t[hen we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there….” Ephesians 4:13-14

This a verse that ended a sermon in a series on the love chapter – 1 Corinthians 13, given by Jeff Frazier at Chapelstreet Church, The Greatest of These, May 24, 2020.

The sermon began with the observation that 1 Corinthians 13 is not really the “ode to love” that we often think it is. The First Century Corinthians probably didn’t embroider 1 Corinthians 13 and hang it on their walls. Paul was chiding them for all the things they were not doing and doing wrong.

The Corinthians were a worldly, wealthy, educated and diverse people. If Corinth had magazines, they would have been candidate for the list of 10 best towns in which to live in the First Century Roman Empire. They were sophisticated in all the ways of the world.

But they fell short when it came to love.

Love, of course, is the greatest attribute of a Christian. That’s the point of 1 Corinthians 13. (1 Cor. 13:13) Though the Corinthians were rich in many things like eloquent speaking, even prophecies and faith, Paul says even those things mean nothing without love. (1 Cor. 13:1-2) A person could even give all his wealth away and offer his body to hardship, but without love, nothing is gained, says Paul. (1 Cor. 13:3)

The Corinthians thought they were pretty hot stuff. They had much in this world and much in the way of talents and resources, and because of that they were boastful and proud.

The beautiful list of what is love is a list of what the Corinthians lacked.

We could read it this way: the Corinthians are not patient or kind. They are envious, boastful and proud. They dishonor others and are self-seeking, easily angered and keep records of all the wrongs done to them. They delight in evil and do not rejoice in truth. They aren’t protective, trusting or hopeful, and they don’t persevere. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

The Corinthians were full of jealousy and pride about their own spirituality, and they didn’t appreciate each other. (1 Cor. 12:16 -22) They were puffed up with their own knowledge. (1 Cor. 8:1) They were given to argument, strife and disunity over which leaders to follow. (1 Cor. 1:10-12) At the same time, they tolerated sexual sin, greed, idolatry cheating, slander and drunkenness in their members. (1 Cor. 5:1-5, 9-11)

The Corinthian church was rich in the way of worldly wealth and talents. They were even full of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but they were poor in the fruit of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23)).

Paul goes on to say that love is the greatest fruit of the Holy Spirit. Love is the ultimate goal of the Christian, because God is love (1 John 1:9), and He desires us to be transformed into His image. (Rom 8:29) We don’t need wealth, resources, talents, knowledge or even the gifts of the Holy Spirit if we have love.

Love, including all the fruits of the Holy Spirit, is the sign of mature Christianity.

Jeff Frazier said that Paul could have written the love chapter to much of the American church, and I think he is right.

Continue reading “Focus on Love to Remain on the Narrow Path”

Lamentations of a Recovering Christian Patriot

The views of Christians around the world provide a counterbalance to the unique bent of American Christianity.

I became a Christian in college, despite the progressive, skeptical atmosphere in the Iowa liberal arts college I attended. One that had roots in the Methodist Church, but the current tree had all but separated from those roots in favor of more modern fertilizer. I learned to put into perspective the tensions I saw between what I read in Scripture and what I was learning in college.

I compartmentalized some of the differences. I was able to synthesize many of them, but some of the tensions I learned to “shelve” for later consideration.

I wasn’t very career minded when I graduated from college. I only wanted to follow and serve Jesus. I ended up packing my bags to go to Alton Bay, NH for a summer job, believing that I was going, like Abraham, to a place God was calling me. I didn’t know exactly what I was in for. I only had a summer job, but I didn’t think I was coming back to the Midwest.

I got deeply involved in the local church in Laconia, NH after the summer job ran its course. It was a dynamic church, growing out of the Jesus People movement in the 60’s, and still going strong.

During my time there, the Moral Majority was on the rise and gaining influence. Pat Robertson ran for President while I lived in the Granite State. Live Free or Die was the NH motto, and people were proud of it.

Politics crept into my faith and into the church. I rubbed shoulders with sometime churchgoers who were members of the John Birch Society. As I look back, though, they were infrequent participants, but they left their mark.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this dynamic church with a storied local history was about to implode. I was there about six years, got married there and had two children. I left in 1988 to go to law school and pursue a new path. (Not long after I left NH, the church splintered into many pieces and is, now, only a distant memory.)

That path brought my back to the Midwest where I have remained ever since. I have wandered through much wilderness and have been challenged in my faith since then. Law school sharpened my thinking, but it dulled my spiritual edge.

I compartmentalized my faith once again, as I had done in college. I set things “on the shelf” as I devoted myself to learning the law.

It turns out I was pretty adept at understanding the law, leaving law school with a diploma and the academic standing of second in my graduating class. This was in keeping with a vision a wise and spiritual woman had for me that was part of the confirmation from God that I should go.

The certainty with which I left to go, similar to the certainty I had when I left for New Hampshire, gave way to uncertainty in how I should reconcile the political and cultural influences that bore down on me under the scrutiny of the jealous mistress of the law.

I kept that jealous mistress at bay, but it would be years before I reached a point of resolution.  My faith survived, but the political and cultural baggage I brought with me from New Hampshire did not.

The dynamic church I attended there a long ago now disintegrated into myriad pieces of broken relationships, broken dreams and broken promises during my sojourn away. The way was difficult, but I think I am a better Christian because of it, and this is what I believe I have learned.

Continue reading “Lamentations of a Recovering Christian Patriot”

Finding the Narrow Path


“Enter by the narrow[1] gate. For the gate[2] is wide and the way is easy[3] that leads to destruction[4], and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow[5] and the way is hard[6] that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

The tendencies of the self work within us and the forces of the world in which we live press upon us to move us along the broad and wide way. This way is easy and feels familiar. It is the milieu into which we are born and operates according to the customary and usual ways of our culture and society.

The easy and familiar way is not free of conflict or hardship. On the contrary, the boulevards on which the masses travel are pocked with the damage of conflict and strewn with victims of the hardships of life, not the least of which are the lusts, greed, envy, jealousy, hatred, violence and destructive natures of our very selves and fellow travelers on this way.

It is easy because it is the flow of the world. It is familiar because it is the world into which we are born. We become accustomed to the hardships, as we are accustomed to gravity. We hardly notice the strength of the current that carries us … unless we attempt to resist it.

In fact, we might even think that the current that carries us empowers us on our own, unique way, when the reality is that we are just being carried along with everyone else. We don’t even realize it until we try to stand our own ground and feel the powerful current sucking us along with everyone else.

Jesus says that the narrow way leads to life, while the broad, easy and familiar way leads to destruction. As both ways have their hardships and difficulties, we might be unable to determine the way that Jesus beckons us to go but for the example and the guidance Jesus gives us.

Simply judging by the number of the travelers on the path we travel is not a good measure. The fact that few are on our chosen path is no assurance we are entering through the gate of which Jesus spoke. We should not go where Jesus does not lead.

On the other hand, if we find ourselves moving in the same direction as the traveling throng, we should be rightfully alarmed that we have missed the narrow gate. The gate to which Jesus points is not so much an entrance into something, but an exit out of something else. The narrow path leads us out of the “world” into which we were born.

That is why Jesus said we must be born again. John 3:3. We must enter into a relationship with God, and relationship with God is a deviation, a change of paths, an exit from the world in which we were first born. We must leave the familiar behind and take hold of the unfamiliar way of following Jesus.

Jesus, the one who points to the narrow way, is the one we must follow through that gate. We dare not trust ourselves or the common travelers around us; rather we must fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer[7] (founder, author and source) of the faith that is the narrow way to life. (Hebrews 12:2 (NIV))


[1] The Greek word is 4728/stenos, meaning, literally, narrow; (figuratively) it means the closely-defined pathway God ordains for us to travel on to gain His approval (used three times in the NT). God’s gate is “narrow” in the sense it restricts all unneeded (unfruitful) things from getting through!  The “broad way” is followed by the masses and is undiscriminating, preferring the path of self-government. “The way that leads to life involves straits and afflictions.” (McNeile) Going through the “narrow gate” (God’s will) excludes “everything that is not from faith” (Ro 14:23 – whatever is not of faith is sin.)

[2] 4439/pýlē (a feminine noun) means a large door; an entrance-gate to a city or fortress; a door-gate, typically an exit for people to go out of. Pýlē (“a door-gate”) suggests then what proceeds out of it. The masculine noun (4440/pylōn, “gate”) however suggests entrance through a door-gate – the “opportunity to go into (something).”

[3] The NASB Bible uses the word “broad”. The emphasis in the original Greek text is on the words “wide” and “broad” and the contrasting words, “narrow” and “small”.

[4] 684/apōleia (from 622/apóllymi, “cut off”) means destruction, where someone (something) is completely severed in the sense of cut off (entirely) from what could or should have been. Apōleia (“perdition”) does not imply “annihilation” (see the meaning of the root-verb, 622/apóllymi, “cut off”) but instead “loss of well-being” rather than being (Vine’s Expository Dictionary, 165; cf. Jn 11:50; Ac 5:37; 1 Cor 10:9-10; Jude 11)

[5] The NASB uses the word, “small”, but it is the same word stenos used in the first phrase of the passage (see 1 above).

[6] The NASB uses the word, “narrow”. The Greek word is 2346/thlíbō (the root of 2347/thlípsis, reflecting an original “b”/bēta) meaning, literally, to rub together, constrict (compress), i.e. press together; (figuratively) oppressively afflict (cause distress), like when circumstances “rub us the wrong way” and make us feel confined (hemmed in, restricted to a “narrow” place).

Reflection: The very situations that “restrict” movement ironically enlarge our spiritual opportunity to know the Lord’s unlimited power.  God purposefully designs the physical scenes of life to offer maximum spiritual transformation (cf. Ro 5:1-5 with Jn 1:3 and Eph 1:11) God uses the “irritations of life” with the same result of His work in the oyster: transforming the irritations of life (grain of sand) into precious pearls!  What constricts us (presses hard upon us) also ironically opens God’s limitless power as He takes us through “limiting” circumstances – and not merely out of them!

[7] 747/arxēgós(from 746/arxē, “the first” and 71/ágō, “to lead”) means, literally, first in a long procession; a file-leader, pioneering the way for others to follow.  747 (arxēgos) literally means “one who leads from the beginning,” i.e. the file-leader (chief, founder) who is the first in succession of many who follow.  This trailblazer (pioneer) arrives at the destination (end) where others must also go. Arxēgos does not strictly mean “author,” but rather “a person who is originator or founder of a movement and continues as the leader – i.e. ‘pioneer leader, founding leader'”.


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