The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the very foundation of Christianity. The apostle Paul states that apart from the resurrection our faith is meaningless. The resurrection is neither allegorical or symbolic, but literal! Jesus bore our sins on the cross, yes. But the grave could not hold Him! Death could not defeat Him! Our King is alive forevermore!

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:14, 20

Jesus was not killed by the authority of men, but He yielded His life willingly to pay the debt of our sins. Likewise, Jesus is not driven out of the schools and public places by the sheer authority of men. He merely permits it. Just as surely He arose from the dead, He is also going to return. The real question is this: Will you know Him as your Savior and King or will you know Him as your Judge? He paid for our sins once, but He will not pay a second time. 

I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. ~ John 17:18

Faith in Christ is not simply about going to church (although this is important) or doing a bunch of religious activities. Christianity is about knowing God, and it is in knowing Him we are changed. How easily we are distracted by this foundational truth.

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.  ~ John 17:3

The apostle Peter teaches that Christians are part of a holy, royal priesthood. Our lives should be marked by holiness, compassion, and dignity in the pattern of Christ our Lord. Hypocrisy, indignity, impurity, and gallivanting are all unbecoming of those who profess to be citizens of the Kingdom.

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ….  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ~ 1 Peter 2:5, 9

There are some who say Jesus never claimed to be God, but He could not be anymore explicit than when He told the Jews, “Before Abraham was, I am!” (Ref. Ex. 3:14)

So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. ~ John 8:57-59

Recapturing the Wonder (Part 1)

One of the delightful things to observe in toddlers is their sense of wonder, to see a smile on their little faces when beholding the seemingly trivial, and hearing them utter, “Whoa!” along with giggles. They laugh at a sneeze, they delight in an intimate game of peek-a-boo with Mom, and they are amazed watching a butterfly.

Somehow, as we grow older we become more “sophisticated” and our sense of wonder becomes atrophied. Sadly, this happens in the lives of believers, too. Why? For certain, life does not become less marvelous. 

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

When I was working on my undergraduate studies, I was in a class on human anatomy. It was fascinating to me just how complex the human body is. From the various systems (e.g., cardiovascular, nervous, digestive, etc.) to the cellular and DNA. Although our teacher is a Christian, he never opened or closed class with prayer, nor did he ever reference the Scriptures. Yet, the class was a very theological class to me. I marvel that anyone in the medical field remains an atheist. Throughout my studies in anatomy I continuously remembered the words of the psalmist, 

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. ~ Psalm 139:13-14

Is it not strange that people will marvel over the latest technological gadget (of which no one ever questions or denies there being a creator behind the scenes), yet the human brain and mind still baffle the best of doctors and educators? Is it not unfortunate that people can be so impressed by others dunking a ball or acting on a screen, while being totally oblivious of the true wonders all around them (e.g., a baby being formed in the womb, the blossoming of flowers, a tree coming forth from a seed, the metamorphosis of a caterpillar, the strength and productivity of ants, etc.)? The complexity and orderliness around us constantly declare the glory of God, so how have we lost our sense of wonder—even within the walls of many of our churches?

Our loss of wonder (and for some unbelief) is neither trivial nor a mistake. We allow ourselves to become busy and distracted, we close our eyes, we shut our ears, or we harden our hearts. Blaise Pascal observed that our distractions, in part, stem from having not to think about our wretchedness (fallen condition) and mortality. The Bible declares our lack of wonder and rejection of it is inexcusable.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. ~ Romans 1:19-21

As Christians, our lack of wonder is sin, plain and simple. If we have lost our wonder, then it means our hearts have been wooed and distracted by the vain philosophies (see Col. 2:8) of this world and/or by the desires of the sinful nature. If we have lost our sense of wonder and taken our focus off the glory of Christ, then we need to repent.

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. ~ Revelation 2:4-5

May the Holy Spirit blow upon the embers in our hearts and rekindle an awakening and passion for Christ! May He help us to recapture our sense of wonder, and help us to see the glory that is continually manifested all around us.

Non-specifics Does Not Mean Silence

One of the fundamental rules when studying the Bible is context. When interpreting Scripture, context is king; unfortunately, this rule is often neglected.

Recently, someone wrote to me concerning one of my former posts. Without going into all the details, this person told me that Jesus never talked about homosexuality or condemned sensuality. This is not the first time I have had someone tell me this. Now, let’s be clear, although Jesus does not identify each form of immorality specifically, this does not mean that He is silent on them. Without touching on every aspect, Jesus does clearly teach what God designed for human sexuality, and anything that strays from this is sin.

Let us go back to context. When Jesus was teaching on earth, His primary audiences were Jews who were familiar with the Old Testament. They would have been familiar with Leviticus 20, which condemns men sleeping with other men’s wives, or their father’s wives, their daughter-in-laws, or with other men, or a mother and daughter, or an animal (v. 10-16). We do not read of Jesus touching on each of these individually, but He did not need to. He says enough.

Jesus makes it clear of His complete support of both the teachings and trustworthiness of the Scriptures.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. ~ Matthew 5:17-19

Just several verses later He gets to the root of adultery,

You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ~ Matthew 5:27-28

Later, Jesus gets straight to God’s design for human sexuality:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” ~ Matthew 19:3-6

Jesus does not condone homosexuality anymore than He does adultery. He does not treat lightly lust within our hearts anymore than He does unmarried couples shacking up. This might be offensive to many, but Jesus’ never seeks to cater to our feelings. He came to bring us truth (which often is offensive) and redemption. 

No, Jesus is not silent where other parts of Scripture declare plainly. To say He never spoke against homosexuality or sensuality as a means to justify these, consider this: He does not openly talk about rape or molestation. But reading through the Gospels it is clear He condemns these, as well.

Understand, God’s love for sinners is real. Good thing, since each one of us is a sinner. But His hatred toward our sins is just as intense as His love for us. In any case, we must realize Jesus’ silence does not mean He condones behaviors. Furthermore, even when He is quite explicit, is one willing to yield to Him? In truth, He is not silent. The real question is this: Are we willing to hear and obey?

A Request for Your Support

I write for the purpose to encourage and exhort others. I am a pastor (just not of a church presently). I have been to seminary and am ordained. While I have served on staff, much of my ministry is volunteer and out of pocket.

I am not asking for donations; however, if you have found my blogs encouraging or helpful, I ask that you will consider supporting my work by purchasing some of my books through Amazon. I have deliberately kept prices affordable.

Presently, I have eleven titles available:

Christian Reflections in a Deflecting World – A collection of 150 brief theological/biblical reflections with questions to ponder for the person always on the run.

In the Eye of the Calm: Reflections and Poems on Faith, Hope, Love, & Life – This book contains 102 poems I have written along with commentary.

Light in the Darkness for Weary Travelers – This book is a collection of blogs I have written to encourage those who struggle with depression and other hurts in life.

Take Up the Shield of Faith: Christian Reflections for Young Adults Serious About Their Faith – A collection of 100 reflections covering 20 subjects (e.g., God, the Bible, Prayer, the Cross, Conduct, Spiritual Warfare, etc.). Each reflection also has questions to ponder on.

A Royal Priesthood: The Christian’s Privilege and Responsibility—Studies in Practical Theology – This book is a rich study in the apostle Peter’s teaching of Christians being a part of a “holy” and “royal” priesthood. This is not “fluffy” material, but is written to encourage believers what it really means to be a part of Christ’s church. Group study questions are included in the back.

BEWARE of False Prophets: Taking Seriously the Warnings of Jesus, the Prophets, and the Apostles – The Scriptures repeatedly warn of the growing danger of false prophets in the last days. Yet, the warnings seem to be taken less seriously as time goes on. Group study questions in the back.

Our Father in Heaven: Christian Reflections on Prayer – A collection of reflections and questions centering around prayer. Chapters include biblical teachings on the importance of prayer, how to pray, the God to whom we pray, who to pray for, what to pray for, and hindrances to prayer. Several appendices are included with more reflections on what the Bible teaches about prayer.

To Worship Is to Obey: Songs of Worship & Devotion – A collection of words to songs I have written along with commentary.

The Pure Gospel: Undiluted and Unadulterated – Many try to present a gospel that accompanies our comforts, pleasures, and sins. However, while the Gospel is Good News, why is it good? Although it is truly good, it also strikes at the core of our selfishness and pride. As we begin to understand this, we then begin to understand God’s incredible goodness.

The Lost Doctrine of the Bible: Missing in Plain Sight – One of the vital aspects of the Gospel and salvation is repentance. Although many churches dismiss this doctrine, both the Old and New Testaments stress it. In fact, Jesus says apart from it there is no salvation.

The Detriment of Distraction: and other christian thoughts – A collection of approximately 50 blogs I have written on various subjects.

Each of these are a available through amazon.com. If my writings are of any encouragement and help to you, I would greatly appreciate your support by purchasing copies. Thank you!

Sincerely,

Geno Pyse

Why Study the Word? (Part 3)

For the follower of Jesus Christ, it is important to understand Jesus’ emphasis on the importance of studying the Scriptures. To truly be His disciple, it only stands to reason one will accept His perception of the Scriptures. First, however, a few considerations are in order.

  • The Scriptures read in the synagogues in His day were copies of copies. Jesus trusted   not only the written words of the Scriptures but also the divine preservation of them. 
  • Jesus considered the Old Testament accounts as literal, factual history. That is, He did not interpret the Scriptures allegorically.
  • Jesus teaches that the Scriptures are authoritative, completely trustworthy, and eternal, absolute truth. 
  • Jesus, who is the Word (see John 1:1-3), equates His words to being on par with the authority of the Scriptures.

The following are Jesus’ teachings about the Scriptures.

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. ~ Luke 24:44-45 (ESV)

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. ~ Matthew 5:18

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ~ Matthew 24:35

It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. ~ Luke 16:17

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. ~ Luke 24:27

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:36-40

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. ~ John 18:17

We also observe Jesus’ application of the Scriptures in the midst of temptation and spiritual warfare. When He was being tempted by the devil in the wilderness, Jesus repeatedly referred to the Scriptures. Then, when Satan also quoted Scripture, twisting them, Jesus was able to see through the deception because He had studied the Word (see Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).

This brings us to the third reason to study the Word: the Scriptures, if we build our lives upon them, will give us a secure foundation. Jesus tells us,

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. ~ Matthew 7:24-27

Notice, both the wise and foolish face major storms in their lives; however, it is the wise who have prepared and built on a solid foundation. Friend, is your life being built securely on the foundation of God’s Word?

Encourage Your Pastor

One of the sad (but true) jokes in churches is that many families will have roasted pastor for dinner after Sunday’s service. However, the pastor who is genuinely called by God and is trying to lead a congregation in the ways of God has a tremendous responsibility. Furthermore, he does so many things behind the scenes ministering to others most are unaware of. Contrary to popular belief, pastors do far more than “just prepare for sermons and preach.” They serve as counselors and comforters, and many are on-call 24/7.

Pastors are not perfect (although they are to be godly). They have feelings and passions. They experience fear, sadness, discouragement, and anger. Many are husbands and fathers trying to be good In these roles (these are difficult for them too), and often people expect their families to be picture perfect. Dysfunction brings their calling, character, and credibility into question.

Pastors must deal with conviction and accountability to God for how they behave and handle the Word of God. They must deal with their own consciences making them aware of their failures and inadequacies. And pastors have “a target on their backs,”  more so than the average Christian, because if Satan can influence them to fall into gross sin and scandalous activities, then congregations can be divided, confounded, and even faith being shipwrecked of some.

I have read of the following statistics:

  • 97% of pastors have been betrayed, falsely accused, or hurt by their trusted friends.
  • 70% of pastors struggle with depression.
  • 1500 pastors quit each month.
  • 10% will retire as pastors.
  • 80% of pastors feel discouraged.
  • 94% of pastor’s families feel the pressure of ministry.
  • 78% of pastors have no close friends.
  • 90% of pastors report to working 55-75 hours per week.

The primary tasks of a pastor is studying/teaching God’s Word and devoting himself to earnest prayer. Christians can say they “love God’s Word,” but pastors make a lot of people mad when they do truly preach God’s Word!

If you have a godly (albeit imperfect) pastor who strives to be faithful to Jesus Christ, His Word, and the Great Commission; and if he seeks to minister to the congregation and is burdened for the souls of people, then you are truly blessed. The Bible says this of such individuals:

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. ~ 1 Timothy 5:17 (ESV)

And,

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. ~ Hebrews 13:17

Do you give honor—even double honor—to your pastor? Or do you nit pick his flaws, give him grief because he did not call you on your birthday, and roast him because he preached against your beloved pet sin(s)? If the latter, how is this of any benefit to you? What gain is there in wounding and making the work difficult of one who loves you? Sadly, often pastors pour themselves out (sometimes at the expense of their families) only to meet with continual resistance, roasting, and betrayal from congregants. 

Do you pray for your pastor’s well being? Have you encouraged your pastor (and his family) lately? A gift, a note of appreciation, and the like could be of great encouragement to him. It might even be that needed spark to help him keep from giving up. Encourage your pastor. He experiences the stresses of life and loss, just as you, all the while putting these aside ad he tried to minister to others. The weight and burdens he carries with him you will never understand. He needs your prayers and encouragement more than you can ever know.