Abolish the Adjective!

(Originally posted September 19, 2013)

I read a recent post on Facebook that referred to “radical” Christianity, and the author offered a clarification/opinion of what it is [decades of faithfulness] and is not [mission trips and conferences].    I offered my “two cents” of opinion/advice on the use of the adjective “radical” and this prompted a constructive interchange with a few readers.   Such interchange often helps sharpen my thinking on the issue under discussion, and in this case I’ve realized that I’m actually a radical abolitionist concerning the use of the adjective “radical” for Christianity.


Here are my two cents that I offered:


“The use of the adjective “radical” in connection with Christianity is either superfluous or an indictment of the Christianity that needs to be ‘radicalized.’  Be careful if you are tempted to enhance the meaning with the use of ‘radical.’


It should be enough to refer to oneself as a Christian, and even that shouldn’t really be necessary. As the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said a long time ago when addressing a group of young women, ‘If you have to tell someone you are a lady, you’re not!’ So let your fruit do the talking and your faithfulness as a son of God will become apparent.


Radical concept!”


One reader commented on the utility of the adjective “radical”: I believe it differentiates between what common and cultural Christianity represents these days as opposed to biblical Christianity.”


My reply: “I agree with your phraseology that “common” and “cultural” Christianity is opposed to biblical Christianity. Indeed I would hesitate to call those “versions” Christianity at all. In my view, there is no other form of Christianity than biblical, and it would be wise for all “believers” to compare their professions of faith to actual expressions of faith that are commensurate with what Jesus advertised, for example, in John 14:12. Self-deception is a vicious trap. (See, for example, the warning by the Apostle John [1John 2:3-6].) Let’s drop the adjectives used for Christianity and begin living according to the ways of the One after whom the movement is named!”


Christianity is inherently shocking to the unbeliever, and even to the maturing Christian. I shouldn’t have to call you radical if I call you a Christian! Let’s work to restore Christianity to a place such that its inherent meaning allows us to abolish the adjective!


Choose Whom You Will Serve!

(Originally posted: June 27, 2012)

I recently saw this piece of well-intentioned “advice” that was posted on Facebook and noted that very similar “sayings” have also been again circulating for a while:

“Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.”

I understand why this sounds good, because it focuses on self.  It sounds especially good to someone in a very difficult or “chronic” situation – more on that later.

But where is Jesus in this advice?   I’m glad he didn’t walk away from us (when we were yet his enemies!), and I pray that his example helps us serve others, rather than insisting that they serve us, grow us, or make us happy.  The Kingdom of God is antithetical to humanism.   It challenges humanism and its focus on self [Lk 9:23]. 

The fundamental question is this:  Whom will you serve?   Will it be the “god” of self, or your Father in heaven who paid a huge price to send the Servant who gave his life for you?

Is it possible that the above admonishment to increase “self-respect” enough to enable the “walk-away” option is, in fact, a hidden trap leading to decreased respect for the new creature you have become upon your salvation through faith in Jesus Christ?  In other words, might there be an increased urge to focus even more on self after such a walk-away, especially if “friends” applaud your “courageous” decision?  [Pr 14:12]

The seduction of such advice is that the “self” you are being encouraged to respect more is actually your old “self,” the old nature that needs no help in satisfying its own soulish desires.  On the other hand, it is prudent to increase respect for your new self, the nature that now lives in obedience to Christ and eschews the old cravings of the former nature  [Eph 4:22-24].  Obedience is a pathway to the true and complete joy that Jesus wants you to have, and when you have overcome the temptation to satisfy your old self, then you will have not only the rewards that Jesus has promised [Rev 2:7b, 11b, 17b-c, 26-28; 3:5, 12, 21], but you will also have become someone worthy of true respect of the new self.

But what about the really difficult situation you may be in?  Humanism tells you to walk away.  Christlikeness strengthens your resolve and ability to hold steady to whatever the Lord has commanded you [Lk 22:42].  If he tells you to stay, and serve the Kingdom interest in your situation by doing so, then he will enable you to do so [2Cor 12:9]. 

Being served by others and requiring that they somehow make you better, or that they make you happy, is not the way of the Galilean [Phil 2:3-7].   If the Holy Spirit does give you a new assignment, then you should be obedient to his leading, and you will be if you are a son of God [Rom 8:14].  Your joy will be deep and secure because of your obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit, not because you satisfied the desires of the old self for shallow “happiness” that evaporates with a shift in circumstance.

If you are a follower of Christ, then you have the glorious opportunity to experience the joy of your Lord as you serve in the manner he did (and does!). This high calling is of far more value than the inferior result of settling “for a bowl of soup,” as did Esau when he short-sightedly sold his birthright (as the first-born) to his brother Jacob [see Gen 25:27-34].

Be sure today to make a clear and committed choice.  You can choose either to be a self-server who has been duped by humanistic advice, or to be a Spirit-led new “self” who serves others!  Rather than walk away, walk in the Way! 

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

One of my favorite divine interventions occurred as I was preaching one late afternoon from a platform in a sudden heavy rain in Western Kenya several years ago.  The 3000+ crowd had thinned to about 1000 hungry souls who were getting drenched along with me, while the rest had taken cover under building overhangs and trees, etc., on the periphery of the large field.   The microphone I was holding was connected by a wire to the amplifier, which in turn was connected to the generator a few yards away on the ground.  Realizing that I was the “highest” point around, and hence had become a potential human “lightning rod,” I muttered to the Father, “I don’t know if my team has enough faith to raise me from the dead!  And, besides that, I’m really angry about this rain; those other 2000 people need to be here where they can engage the precious offer of salvation through the Gospel message.  This infernal rain is also keeping many hundreds from being healed today!”   

The Father replied, “What are YOU going to do about it, son?”

That was all I needed to hear!  I immediately pointed to the sky and declared over the (dangerous!) PA system, “As a son of God, I command this rain to stop NOW!”  Instantly, and I mean instantly, the rain stopped!  Not one more drop touched us – even the drops that were already falling from the dark clouds overhead somehow disappeared!

The 1000 people near the platform collectively gasped in astonishment (along with me!) and those 2000 at the periphery of the field came running back at high speed to rejoin their wet comrades.  Many hundreds gave their lives to Christ that late afternoon in Isongo Village, and every sick person on the field was healed by God’s power!  God’s intervention had dramatically thrust us to a new level of revelation of the authority given to his sons.  The “elements” obey Christ, and they obey you if you believe! [Mk 9:23]


(Originally posted: January 2013)

Every so often, my training and experience as a research physicist and university professor for more than two decades come in handy when contemplating the awesomeness of God!  In my “former life” as a scientist, I was used to thinking about some of the “fundamental” aspects of the physical world.  Such topics as energy, light, heat, gravitation, electricity and magnetism, etc., are standard “fare” in the diet of physicists, and the concepts and principles I learned in my studies and research often helped me be even more in awe of God’s creation than if I hadn’t had the privilege of a physicist’s perspective. 

From the incredibly minute scales of sub-nuclear particles to the vast magnificence of the observed universe, God has made himself known through his creation [Rom 1:20], and my study of the physicist’s pursuit of “understanding” of the natural realm often helped my “jaw drop” in amazement with many of the revelations of his divine nature and power evidenced in his intricate handiwork!

With delight and a warm heart, my ears perk up when I hear believers proclaim their wonderment as well.  I love hearing the awe in voices that share their amazement at God’s attributes and creativity, even as we all must confess our limited, infinitesimal understanding of His ways [Is 55:9].   We all delight in the mysteries of God, even as we each are mystified in unique ways that depend on our individual understanding and perspective of the physical realm in which we live. 

With this appreciation of the varied perspectives we all have, I would like to share my own view on just one of the many inscrutable aspects of God’s nature, namely his relationship to that somewhat confusing and often misunderstood creation of his that we call “time.”   This “nugget” is intended only as an “appetizer,” and there is very much more that I will try to share later on.  But for now, I want to focus on the phrase that I often hear from folks expressing the majesty of God, namely that “God is outside of time.”

To be sure, God is sovereign over time!  He made it and he is Lord over it, often “adjusting” it as he sees fit.  But to say that he is “outside” of it I think misses a key facet of God’s amazing nature.  I presume that what most people are thinking when they say that God is “outside of time” is that he is not controlled by it, or limited by it, or otherwise constrained in the same way that we think that we are.  Let me share a different perspective with you, one that takes into account some of the nature of this concept we call time as understood by physicists.

Without launching into an extended “physics lecture,” I do want to summarize one of the key features of “time” that escaped much notice until just over a century ago.   It is my hope that by understanding this feature, you may gain increased “awe” of God through what he has made.  In 1905, Albert Einstein burst onto the “public” scene with the publication of several revolutionary discoveries/theories, among which the most popular was what later became known as the “Theory of Special Relativity.”  Many popular, and readable, accounts have been written over these many years since his theory was introduced to the public, and it is not my intent to explain his theory here.   [You may have already been yawning just at the mention of “physics!”]   Rather, let’s focus on just one important aspect that bears on the subject of God and time.

Einstein hypothesized that both space and time were not absolute “entities,” in the sense that all observers would measure the same (or absolute) values of distance and time intervals separating two events.  Instead, Einstein concluded that two observers in relative motion with respect to each other would measure different values for the distance and time interval between two events, and these differences would become quite dramatic as the relative motion of the observers approached the speed of light!  In fact, he proposed that “space” and “time” were not in fact independent of one another, but were intimately connected aspects of the more general four-dimensional “space-time” continuum that serves as the “grid,” so to speak, for describing events that occur in our physical realm.  As a consequence, space and time could “morph” [my language] into each other, depending on the relative motion of two observers.

Let me summarize this nature of space-time and its connectedness to observation with an over-simplification:  One man’s “meter” is another man’s “hour!” 

If that seems too much to fathom, you are not alone in the mystery!  This aspect of space-time was not generally anticipated before Einstein’s radical hypothesis, primarily because the amount of “mixing” of space with time was incredibly small and undetectable for observers moving at achievable relative speeds (incredibly much smaller than the speed of light).  Nevertheless, the nature of space and time is such that they are not separate, absolute, entities but instead are aspects of the more general space-time that God created, and uncountable experiments that do probe this “mixing” have verified that Einstein’s hypothesis has merit and is incredibly accurate in the context [constant relative velocity of observers] where it is presumed to be valid.  [For situations where the observers are accelerating with respect to each other, Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity is needed.]

What’s the point?   The point is that what we call “space” and what we call “time” may differ from what our brother perceives from his “vantage” point, if we are moving with respect to one another. 

How does this relate to God’s nature?  If we agree that God is omnipresent (everywhere in space), then he must also be everywhere in time (omnitemporal)!   Since space and time are not “disjoint” entities, in the sense described above, we cannot in the same breath say that God is ‘everywhere in space” and also say that he is “outside of time.”   Indeed, instead of God being outside of time, he is everywhere in it!

I hope to pursue this subject much more at a later “time,” but for now let me say that the concept of God being everywhere in time actually may help shed light on some related questions.  For example, God existing everywhere in time fits well with his own declaration of who he is:  “I AM!”  [Ex 3:14].   Also, we are helped to avoid the temptation to think of God as a sort of “super-prophet” who can “look into the future” perfectly.  Rather, he is already there!   I’m sure you will think of other questions that can be approached differently now, with this broader appreciation of God’s nature. 

Our God, who created space-time, can exist everywhere in it and still be sovereign over it.  He is not outside of time.  He is much more amazing than that!

Lose Your Appetite for the Bait!

(Originally posted:  February 2003)

In Matthew 24:10-12, Jesus clearly warns the disciples that the time is coming when “..many shall be offended,” and as a result, “they shall betray one another and hate one another … and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”  These (betrayal, hatred, and cold love) are three dangerous results of harbored offense in our hearts.


Given the seriousness of these consequences of offense that is allowed in our hearts, how can we guard against such a dangerous “heart condition?”  How can we achieve an “unoffendable” heart?


Step 1:  Recognize offense as “bait”


One major key to having such an “immunity” is to first realize that offense is used as a tool by the enemy of our souls.   Satan dangles the “bait” of revenge, real or imagined, against the offender in front of our noses and whispers lies such as, “Won’t it feel good to see that jerk get what’s coming to him/her?” or “Don’t ever trust that person again and you’ll be safe!” or “You would never do that to another person, so go ahead, condemn the offender,” etc.  The list of clever, subtle temptations to harbor offense is very long indeed (1 Pet. 5:8)!


If Satan can get us to bite the bait and begin to agree with any such lies, then the hook is “set” and we will have a battle on our hands as our enemy starts to “reel us in.”  Thus, it is imperative that, while we are in the process of becoming “unoffendable,” we need to become adept at recognizing the bait and learn to accurately discern the schemes of the enemy.


Our response to a potentially hurtful situation is very revealing and is one of the biggest aids in recognizing an possible inroad for offense to gain entrance in our hearts.  The fact that we are tempted to agree with such lies as those above is a big red flag that should alert us to the prowl of the “lion.”   Our “feeling” reaction is very closely tied to the particular weakness that Satan tries to exploit.  For example, if we are feeling ignored or rejected, then we have a clear indicator of areas in our soul that entertain unworthiness, self-focus, self-pity, etc.  Because of a lack of proper perspective of who we are in Christ, we become vulnerable to attacks through our prideful nature and failure to esteem others more highly than ourselves.

Step 2:  Refuse the bait


Many “mature” Christians will recognize wicked seeds of thought planted by the spirit of offense and try to take them captive to the obedience of Christ, but still leave a place in their hearts where the offense lies dormant, ticking like a time bomb that may explode months, or even years, later.  Trying to ignore the offense by pretending that it doesn’t hurt or manufacturing a “Christlike” response and then assuming it is dealt with are both very dangerous mindsets.  In fact, what has happened is that they have actually swallowed the bait without chewing, assuming that because they didn’t “taste” it, it must not be there!


Yes, it is absolutely essential that we refuse the bait when we see it, but that refusal in itself is not sufficient to create an “unoffendable” heart.   We need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as he removes the flaws in our heart that make the bait tempting in the first place!  If we don’t have the “appetite,” we won’t take the “bait!”

Step 3:  Respond rightly


The need to remove the “wrong appetite” leads us to the keys to right response.   Firstly, we need to correctly discern the area in our soul that is reacting and not just try to ignore or “stuff” the response.   Secondly, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate the areas where we may be confused by our response.  “Why did I react that way?” is a very good question to ask the Holy Spirit.  Next, we need to soberly accept responsibility for our response and not blameshift.  Then we need to look forward to the healing action of the Lord as he mends the areas that have been easy targets and sets up his shield over them while we heal.  And most importantly, we need to look to the Lover of our souls to bring our satisfaction and not to the things of the world.   When we become saturated with his Presence, then we will have no appetite for the bait offered by Satan.

Step 4:  Rest in the secret place


The only way to become saturated with his Presence is to spend time resting in the secret place of the Most High (Ps. 91:1).   Occasional “hand washings” at the faucet are not the same as complete immersion in the washtub!  We must allow the marvelous transformation of our souls to proceed in spite of offenses, so that our appetite will be only for Him, and no other!  As this metamorphosis occurs, we will gain the “unoffendable” heart of Christ, one that so loves others that there is no self-focus to open the door to offense.  It is slammed shut by the perfect love of the Father and the consuming desire to share that love with others.  Then the bait of offense will become invisible!

Annointing Upon Arrival! (When God Flips the “On” Switch!)

(originally posted March 2006)

On my third trip to Africa (in June 2003) as part of a mission team of over 90 awesome volunteers, we saw incredible outpourings of God’s love and power in Malawi and in South Africa!   These included the creation of a missing eyeball and the wholesale healing of an entire TB ward (65 patients!) in a Lilongwe hospital!   I was extremely blessed and filled with joy at all I saw God do in Malawi on the first leg of the trip!


But as we arrived on a Sunday in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the next crusade, I was very tired and felt feverish, feeling like I had the flu.   It couldn’t have happened in better company, though!  I had over 90 prayer warriors, now experienced in the trenches of healing ministry, praying for me!

The rest of the team of course blasted ahead during the week in Johannesburg at the outreaches and the evening crusades, and I got to hear the wonderful reports of many miracles and salvations!  But I was getting worried as, day after day, I was still mostly bed-ridden and I began to contemplate having to return home with the team at the end of the Johannesburg outreach, rather that going on by myself to conduct a crusade in a remote village in Tanzania as I had planned.

I began to feel, however, that this “flu” might just be a warfare attack of the enemy, to discourage me from pressing on to Tanzania, a country where I knew I was called to reach the villages!   As the team prayed for me and I made a commitment to get to Tanzania, I began to feel slightly better (but still weak) by Friday, the last day for the team in Johannesburg.   I believed for the power of God to blast away these symptoms in time for my crusade the next week!   [Ps. 41:1-3]

I was not quite prepared, however, for the amazing shift that occurred when God flipped the “on” switch!


As soon as I stepped foot on Tanzanian soil at the airport the next day in Dar es Salaam, all the symptoms of the flu left me immediately!  Praise God!  I felt the anointing of the Holy Spirit for healing and miracles come upon me in power!   I sensed that the Lord had an assignment for me very soon and I thanked him for my renewed strength and energy!   OK, Lord, what are we doing next?

My connecting flight to Mwanza wasn’t to leave for at least two hours, and passengers on domestic flights were not allowed into the terminal until one hour before departure.   So, I had to wait outside in a plaza area with my luggage.   I sat on a bench and began praising God again for the anointing that was really revving me up!  I was looking around for whomever He wanted me to pray, but didn’t get a prompting.


All of a sudden a man approached me and handed me a laminated sheet of paper with a typed message explaining that he was deaf and needed money.  The document contained an official-looking header and introduced the organization that was helping him.  This kind of approach is familiar in airports around the world, so I wasn’t surprised by the solicitation.

I tried to explain with hand motions that I had no money to give him, but that I would like to pray for his ears!  He seemed to be a bit confused and went away!   I wondered if I had offended him somehow.

Several minutes later this same man returned, this time with a friend who was also deaf.   But this second man could read lips and understood English!  So, again I explained that I had no money but would like to pray for both of them.   I asked Andrew the lip-reader if he was a Christian.  He said yes, he was, and so was his friend, Colman, and he said I could pray for them both!   I asked if I could put my hands on their heads and, with their permission, I began to pray for healing!

Instantly, their ears were opened!!   I tested both of them by walking several feet behind them and speaking softly while they couldn’t see me.   Both of them were able to hear me very well indeed!  And I discovered that the first man, Colman, was also mute but now could speak!!   Hallelujah!  I was only in Tanzania about 30 minutes before the Lord worked his first miracle in my presence!!


Good news travels fast!  When I was passing through the security station before boarding my flight to Mwanza, one of the security guards had already heard about the deaf men being healed and asked if I could pray for him also.  He wanted a deeper walk with Jesus, and to have his faith multiplied!   So while the images flashed by on the x-ray machine in his little booth we prayed together, trusting that no suspicious items slipped by in the meantime!!   [I prayed with my eyes open, as is my custom, but I wouldn’t have had a clue if there was anything noteworthy on the screen.]

After bidding farewell to my brother in uniform, I rejoiced all the way to Mwanza!   Several people had been open to hearing the testimony about the deaf men being healed and I had lots of opportunities to pray while waiting for the plane to board!   It was time to “roll up my sleeves” and go to “work” in Tanzania!

Many miracles happened that next week!   For example, a group of about 10 blind children were all healed and many of their adult caretakers were so encouraged that they asked for prayer and received healing also!  So many people were saved during the crusade in the remote village of Kabale that the local pastor had to make plans to tear down the existing church building and build one at least twice as big!


The anointing had come so suddenly and powerfully, that I knew the heart of God responded to the prayers of the mission team and He released the same kind of anointing for miracles that we all saw the week before!   I was now convinced that this anointing is transferable and available for all who will choose to believe!  Why not you?

The heart of a Truly Great Leader!

A friend and student of leadership once asked me for my thoughts about how to describe the heart of a truly great leader in God’s kingdom.  She had pinpointed some of the heart-aspects of great leaders, those who allow their hearts to be influenced and shaped by God into replicas of his. Here are just a few of my thoughts that may illuminate some features of the heart of a truly great leader:

Truly great leaders are secure in their relationship with their heavenly Father, and the resulting confidence in the ability of the Lord to mature them as leaders is a reflection of the humility that serves them well as a foundational characteristic of great leadership.  From the Spirit-led understanding of their sonship in the Kingdom of God, there arises a profound desire to share in the joy of the Lord as others also come into the same eternal, dynamic, and deeply satisfying relationship with the Father that so powerfully defines their own membership in his family.

The heart of a great leader in the kingdom of God delights in the same things that give the Lord pleasure and because the blessing of others is more important to him than his own blessing, there is fellowship in the joy of Christ-like attitudes and behavior that reflect the Father’s heart.  Such a leader makes relationship more important than simply the gathering of “followers” and does not gauge his success merely on the results produced by those in his circle of influence that have responded well to his leadership.  Rather, a truly great leader places high priority on the development of Christ-likeness in those he leads, because he esteems the Father’s overarching goal of having many Christ-like sons and daughters.  [Rom 8:29]

The servant-heart of a truly great leader rejoices in the opportunity to elevate others above itself, at the same time that he also accepts his decision-making role and lovingly facilitates the journey of his followers into the depths of the Father’s heart.  He willingly makes himself a springboard for the higher leaps of his followers than he himself has made.  A truly great leader begets other great leaders because he honors the high value the Father places on “generational” growth in his family and the heritage that serves as a powerful foundational element of a strong family in God’s kingdom.

The three foundational threads of sonship, relationship, and leadership, are interwoven in the tapestry of God’s family destiny and truly great leaders cherish the mutual amplification of God’s glory that results from their followers working together in unity born of love for one another.  They content themselves with being catalysts and do not insist on being trophy bearers.  Truly great leaders yearn for invisibility as their followers surpass them and then, in turn, become invisible in favor of their own succeeding “generation” of leaders.