Theology matters but the living present Jesus matters most!

Reality is
We don’t have a clue
Until we look at life
From God’s point of view
And let Him be the glue
That holds us together.

“Knowledge puffs up.” Studying theology without actively embracing the presence and humility of the living Jesus can easily cause pride to override our heart. Theology too often misses the experience of the glorious mystery of the present-day reality of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Theology that doesn’t open and overwhelm the heart with the presence and reality of the living Jesus is intellectualism disguised as faith. No matter how much you study electricity, until you turn on the light and experience its power, your knowledge is mere theory. The same is true for theology.

How much more! It’s easy to view Jesus as merely in the past (but we humans desperately need the living and present Jesus now). We need to focus on and surrender the control of both our individual lives and of our lives together (when we gather as the body of Christ) to the actual presence of the risen Jesus and let Him be our present and living Head and Lord. The book of Romans calls this being “led by the Spirit.” (See verse 8:14.) How much more there is to Christianity than just remembering and learning about Jesus in the past!

Modern Christianity too often focuses on theology while ignoring actually opening the heart to the living Jesus and to one another. Theology is like train tracks. It’s vitally important and without it Christianity can easily go off track. However, the best tracks in the world without a train to run on them are worthless. Without taking the time to train people to actually open up to the risen Jesus and to each other, theology is empty tracks. The Bible says that people who are Spirit-led (not theologically ahead) are the children of God.

If you focus on continually studying and learning the details of a friend’s life but don’t open your heart to personally interact with him, you will have a very shallow relationship. Jesus is my Friend and Lord! I don’t just want to study Him. I want to follow Him with my heart wide open to His presence and love! A mind full of theology, without a heart openly overflowing with the reality of the living and present Jesus, tends to produce a present-day Pharisee.

The more you know yourself the more you know that you need to say no to yourself. It takes courage to open your heart in a closed-hearted culture. Be courageous! When one person has the courage to open up his heart to be radically and continually led and changed by the living present Jesus, it creates a powerful chain reaction that influences many other people to do the same. Will you be that person?

It takes much more courage . . .

  • To fully surrender your life to the living Jesus than to study theology.
  • To open your heart than to keep it closed.
  • To do what’s right than to do what’s wrong.
  • To be kind than to be rude.
  • To control your thoughts than to let them control you.
  • To admit you’re wrong than to justify yourself.
  • To forgive than to hate.
  • To resist temptation than to give in to it.
  • To be honest than to lie.
  • To humble yourself than to exalt yourself.
  • To obey your conscience than to ignore it.
  • To discipline yourself than to let yourself run wild.
  • To argue with yourself than to argue with other people.
  • To fight your unruly feelings and desires than to fight people.
  • To obey the living Jesus throughout the day than to go to church.
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Posted in academics, Christian conferences, religious academics, study of God, theology | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The ignored heart disease

There’s a terminal heart illness that medical science ignores. “The wages of sin is death.” The sickness of sin hardens the human heart and separates it from hope.

Guilt is a major symptom of the sickness of sin. If you’ve ever felt guilty, you test positive for sin, even if you and others believe you’re a good person.

Although sin includes harmful, selfish, and unethical behavior, its roots are deep within the human heart. Behavior modification without a renewed heart offers no lasting hope for healing from the sickness of sin.

There’s only one proven source for human heart transformation — ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Millions of people from various cultures and time periods around the world have testified to and demonstrated by their changed lives the power of the living Jesus to give human beings a new heart and break their inner bondage to the sickness of sin.

God demonstrates His love today in and through human hearts that open up to and fully surrender to the presence and Lordship of the resurrected Jesus Christ. Meeting people like that went far beyond mere words and clearly demonstrated God’s love to me. I’ve never been the same. I interact heart-to-heart with and read books by people like that every chance I get.

The Gospel is not just the account of Christ’s life. It’s also the good news of the presence and power of the risen Jesus today.

An hour praying in tongues might spiritually empower you more effectively than an hour in church. “O taste and see . . .”

Here’s something
That’s little known:
To live surrendered
To the presence
Of the risen Jesus
Is to be in the zone
Of thrilling joy
And to never feel alone.

Personal awareness
Of the presence of Jesus
Is the cure
To the allure
Of sin.

Praying in tongues makes me deeply aware of the presence of the risen Jesus. Last weekend in a Christian gathering in a home I experienced something I’ve never seen done before. We took turns speaking in tongues and let the others interpret. It was amazingly powerful!

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Biblical Christianity isn’t a theater. It’s a gym.

I was lying in bed from four this morning with a powerful thought running through my mind over and over. I was frustrated because I just wanted to go back to sleep. Suddenly these words came strongly into my mind. “It’s not you! It’s not the devil! It’s Me! Get up!” I jumped up and looked at the clock. It was 4:44. So, I’ve been up and writing thoughts that keep coming to me ever since 4:44. (Unintentionally, I see triple numbers on the clock numerous times every day and God has shown me that that’s something He is using to encourage me.)

To assume that you’re in good standing with God while you’re mostly ignoring Him is a dangerous assumption! The most dangerous spiritual condition a person can be in is to think he is a Christian when he isn’t. If you’re satisfied with where you are in your relationship with Jesus, you’re nowhere near where you think you are.

If we won’t get out of the religious box and actively do God’s Word, we may find ourselves merely sitting by and being complacent. Faith in Jesus should never be cold and ceramic, but always on fire and dynamic! Biblical Christianity isn’t a theater. It’s a gym. Same ole same ole same ole is not the way to follow the risen Jesus!

God’s gift of grace doesn’t produce religious complacency. It imparts a passionate hunger to follow and obey the living Jesus. Hunger and thirst for righteousness is the sign that you’ve received God’s grace.

Christianity isn’t a religious rut. It’s a rigorous race empowered by God’s glorious grace. True grace doesn’t mean that you don’t need to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. It activates and empowers you to do so!

God’s grace keeps me from being complacent. He continually gives me more and more passion for Jesus.

Let Jesus be unlimited. Set aside anything within you that’s hindering His power and presence by surrendering to His moment-by-moment Lordship and control. Spiritual complacency is a symptom of religious pride.

Jesus never said, “Come and hear a weekly sermon about Me.” He said: “Follow Me.” Be a Christ-follower, not a religious spectator. The constant repetition of the same religious format every Sunday morning tends to lull Christians into spiritual complacency.

To follow the risen Jesus, you have to go beyond spectator Christianity! If you will go with the flow of God’s Spirit, you’ll be carried into wonder and awe! Prayer isn’t passivity; it’s spiritual warfare.

Since the Bible says, “God resists the proud,” perhaps pride should be avoided. When things don’t go your way, pride takes offense but gratitude searches for hidden blessings.

To settle into comfortable Christianity is to become spiritually complacent and proudly satisfied with religious mediocrity. When you feel like you have nothing to be proud about you are “poor in spirit.” Then Jesus says that you are blessed with access to God’s kingdom. (See Matthew 5:3.)

Jesus doesn’t call us to complacency. He calls us to actively place our trust completely in His presence. When the voice of self is louder than the voice of the living Jesus Christianity easily becomes a passive Sunday program.

Religious complacency
Is spiritual vagrancy.

Self is so loud
When I’m feeling proud
That I can’t hear
God’s humble whispers
Speaking in my heart.

A proud attitude
Is the opposite
Of gratitude.
Pride says,
“Look what I did!”
Gratitude says,
It was all God’s grace.

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To purr with inner impurities is to cat nap in a cage.

All human societies are full of mental and emotional pollution. It requires wisdom is to be aware of it and to avoid it. To turn off your mental and emotional filter is to welcome pollution into your thoughts, feelings, and desires.

Physical impurities weaken metal and poison food. Mental and emotional impurities do the same things to you. Until you delete the impurities from your heart and mind, their malware will continually create disfunction within you.

Beware! Inner impurity presents itself as seductive and enticing so that we will let it control our life. Pride is self-pollution. It prevents us from seeing our inner impurities. To purr with inner impurities is to cat nap while caught in a kennel.

When impurities of the thought, emotion, and desire are embraced as normal, the idea of a pure heart seems like a mere myth. Much human pain has resulted from our individual choices to embrace our inner impurities instead of resisting them.

Inner impurities are the thieves of happiness and contentment. They cause much of our pain. Removing them releases joy. Just because many forms of mental and emotional pollution are popular doesn’t mean they are good for you. Inner impurity is more costly than we can imagine.

To become numb to inner impurities is to let them take over your life. Refuse to let someone’s trashy words make you their garbage can! The mental and emotional impurities that are most harmful to you are usually the ones that you are quickest to defend.

Demons dump impurities into human hearts and minds. People’s unfiltered words spread those inner pollutants far and wide. The human mind and heart are not designed to be a habitation for demons.

To believe
That inner pollution
Is a solution
To your problems
Is great deception.

Is a symptom
Of inner impurity.

The desire
To be made whole
Comes from being aware
Of the impurity of your soul.

Filter your mind
And your heart.
The more you strain
And remove the Impurities
That darken and stain
Your perception
The more you will see
And appreciate
The glorious beauty
Of being alive!
(Matthew 5:8.)

Self-identifying as a Christian doesn’t make you one. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” does! Regularly reading the Bible with an open heart will help you avoid inner impurity, but inner impurity will cause you to avoid the Bible. The closer we get to the living God the uglier our inner impurities look to us. Stand in the smile of God, not in the frown of mental and emotional impurity.

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Demonstrating Jesus is powerful!

If you’ll observe
Without analysis
You’ll see much
That your brain
Can’t explain.

Wonder dies when you over-analyze. Keep your heart open to awe and wonder! Inner healing is openhearted. Closed hearts rarely recover from their loss of peace.

Our collapsing culture needs actual demonstrations of the presence and power of the living Jesus, not dissertations about Him. Experiencing Jesus is much more powerful than analyzing Him!

Miracles happen when people read the Bible without a religious frame and listen with an open heart to the risen Jesus. A focus on religious analysis tends to harden the heart and cause spiritual paralysis.

There’s nothing wrong with sermons. (God can powerfully use them.) However, there is something wrong when people are taught to merely listen to a weekly sermon and aren’t given hands-on training in being led by the Spirit to practically apply the Word in day-to-day life.

Perhaps Christianity
Is more effectively taught
With heart-felt testimonies
And better caught
By Spirit-led demonstrations
Of Christ’s presence
Than explained
With analytic thought.
(Revelation 12:11.)

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Wretched me

“O wretched man that I am.”

I woke up with these thoughts and responses running through my mind this morning:

Thought: When I’m discouraged.

Response: Lord Jesus, fill my heart!

Thought: When I’m sad.

Response: Lord Jesus, fill my heart!

Thought: When I’m tempted.

Response: Lord Jesus, fill my heart!

Thought: When I’m hurting.

Response: Lord Jesus, fill my heart!

Thought: When I’m busy and distracted.

Response: Lord Jesus, fill my heart!

Thought: When I want to act out.

Response: Lord Jesus, fill my heart!

Thought: All the time and everywhere.

Response: Lord Jesus, fill my heart!

Thought: Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Response: Lord Jesus, fill my heart!

Thought: Hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Response: Lord Jesus, fill my heart!

Thought: Be filled with the Spirit.

Response: Lord Jesus, fill my heart!

Thought: Pray without ceasing.

Response: Lord Jesus, fill my heart!

(Add additional thoughts and responses in the comments.)

Your heart isn’t a battery
Able to leave the charging station
And pridefully survive
With its own power.
If you want to thrive
And be spiritually alive,
You need to strive
To keep your heart open
To the risen Jesus
And His amazing grace.
Never depart
From your deep need
To continually pray,
“Lord Jesus, fill my heart.”

It’s hard to be
A part-time Christian,
Checking in and out
While being driven about
By our feelings and desires
Unwilling to faithfully do
What God inspires.
When we try to adore
The living Jesus
Through a revolving door
We spin out of His control
And often drop
Our faith on the floor.

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Let your heart open like a flower.

Flowers open in sunlight. Human hearts open in Christ’s light. Someone with a closed heart is avoiding Christ’s inner light. Being closed-hearted isn’t self-protection. It’s self-isolation.

Until we are willing to humbly open our heart to the living Jesus and to other Christ-followers, we won’t truly experience the supernatural unity and heart-to-heart community of the body of Christ. When “hearts unfold like flowers” in the presence of the living Jesus, amazing love and joyful adoration abound.

When Christians who have their heart open interact with each other, they experience supernatural unity and community.

Biblical Christianity is more than a theological belief system. It’s believing in the risen Jesus so much that you surrender your life to Him and actually let Him live within you — leading, empowering, and directing you day by day. Rivers of living water flow from my heart singing praises to God.

I believe that Christianity is about creating a Christ-filled atmosphere where people feel safe and free to open wide their heart. If Christ is living in you and in me, we are united by His inner presence. If we are unaware of our unity, one or both of us has a closed heart.

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Make today about the Man who was on the middle Cross.

The Rock that biblical Christianity is built upon isn’t church attendance. It’s the Man who was on the middle Cross coming to live inside of you and to daily direct you by His Spirit.

The Man on the middle Cross has risen. He’s now present and wants to speak to you today. Talk with Him now. Listen to His voice as He speaks within you. Read the Bible with an open heart and let the words move you deeply.

Like the young David humbly set aside King Saul’s religious armor and boldly step out in faith to be courageously led by God’s Spirit. If you’re not seeking the Lord now and drawing closer to Jesus in this present moment, when will you?

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Expressing moral values isn’t hatred

Ethics and moral standards are not judgements. They are wisdom. Society crumbles into chaos without them. Every human believes that certain behaviors are immoral and unethical but that doesn’t mean that we’re all “haters.”

To proclaim ethics and moral standards and not live by them is to boast in hypocrisy. My conscience may not agree with your conscience but we both have the right to express our moral views. The key to happiness isn’t self-medication. It’s self-control.

Desire-driven living isn’t freedom. It’s addiction to self-bondage. Freedom comes from Spirit-led living — “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The focus of Christianity needs to be being Jesus-led in daily life, not a weekly religious meeting.

The characteristics of Jesus-led Christianity are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness. faithfulness, gentleness,” and self under the control of God’s Spirit.

There’s no reason to confine your devotional life to a “guiet time.” You can live every moment of your life devoted to and connected heart-to-heart with the risen Jesus.

Knowing about salvation isn’t the same thing as knowing and fully surrendering control of your daily life to the risen present Savior and Lord. I can’t find in the Bible the concept of getting saved and then passively waiting to go to Heaven when we die, yet that seems like a popular idea in modern Christianity. Instead, I see a Bible full of exhortations to “ask,” “seek,” “knock,” “press toward,” “draw near,” “grow,” “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” “be changed from glory to glory,” etc.

Too often people sit isolated in church services far removed from genuine community. True connection is deeper than that. There’s no reason to confine your devotional life to a “guiet time.” You can live every moment of your life devoted to and connected heart-to-heart with the risen Jesus.

Desire-based thinking
Is deceptive.
Reality-based thinking
Is perceptive.

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5 parts of the Jesus Movement that the movie Jesus Revolution left out

The movie “Jesus Revolution” presented the Jesus Movement of the 1970s as California hippies getting on fire for Jesus and then being pulled into a small church that grew into a worldwide Christian denomination called Calvary Chapel. In reality it was much more than that. Many of the millions who encountered the living Jesus during the Jesus Movement didn’t immediately begin attending church. Here are 5 parts of the Jesus Movement that “Jesus Revolution” left out.

1) The nonchurch Jesus people: Multitudes of hippies, college students, and young adults all across America became passionate Christ-followers during the early 1970s. Many of them had no interest in church. They began to spontaneously meet together in homes, college buildings, parks, coffee houses, and other places to experience and hang out with Jesus together. On my campus in Tennessee, we met in the lobby of a dorm and in the student center building. Very few of us were hippies but we all loved Jesus and one another and came together free from any church or religious institution to be led by God’s Spirit, not by a program or preacher.

2) The Asbury Revival of 1970: An amazing spiritual awakening happened at Asbury University in February 1970 when a chapel service continued non-stop for about two weeks. Afterwards students who had become fired up for the risen Jesus were sent to college campuses all around America to share testimonies about the living Jesus. They stirred up spiritual fires on campuses everywhere, including my 5000-student college in West Tennessee.

3) The charismatic movement: During the same time period multitudes of Christians from many different denominations began to experience a powerful relationship with God’s Spirit that included the supernatural gift of the ability to speak in unknown languages (speaking in tongues). That gift presents people with a life-transforming awareness of the living Jesus and can be exercised over and over again. That gift spread throughout traditional churches creating intense excitement about the risen Jesus and caused many Christians to start to meet together in Spirit-led small groups where they prayed, cast out demons, worshipped, saw visions, gave prophetic words, and flowed in the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit.

4) Full Gospel Business Men meetings: Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship was a Pentecostal Christian organization founded in the 1950s. When the Jesus Movement began, their monthly meetings began to greatly expand in numbers and locations spreading passion for Jesus and the supernatural gift of praying in unknown languages far and wide. Their monthly meetings were Spirit-led and not controlled by church or religious protocol. They were held in hotels and other nonchurch buildings. Christians from many various churches and nonchurch Christians would come together to worship Jesus and hear passionate speakers (few of whom were famous or preachers). During worship the entire group would frequently sing in unknown languages together. Their voices would beautifully blend as the Spirit directed them. The room would be filled with the presence of the risen Jesus and the focus stayed on Him, not on the speaker. People would be invited forward for prayer and would minister to each other as the Spirit led. It was beautiful!

5) Lay Witness Missions: This powerful part of the Jesus Movement consisted of teams of nonpreachers who would be invited to a church for a weekend. Friday night, Saturday morning, Saturday night, and Sunday morning team members would take turns sharing their salvation testimony with the congregation. The team members would stay in church members’ homes and share the love of Jesus with them. After the last testimony of the weekend, people would be invited to receive the risen Jesus into their heart. The altar and aisles would fill with church members crying out to the living Jesus leaving behind many passionate Jesus people.

I was fortunate to frequently participate in and be empowered by all of those expressions of the Jesus Movement except for the 1970 Asbury Revival. Then this year I got to be a part of the 2023 Asbury Revival and it was one of the most powerful, Spirit-led Christian meetings that I have ever seen. I believe God is ready to release new avenues for His Spirit to freely flow in and through ordinary people. Get ready!

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