I’m already dead

graveard

Only when I am free from the fear of dying can I really live and glorify God.

 

In August 1982 I began training to become a Marine. Having been raised in a family where being a Marine is a way of life, I thought becoming one would be easy. My dad had been a Drill Instructor in the Marine Corps, fought in Korea and Vietnam. His brother fought in Korea as a Marine. My older three brother had either served or were serving in the Marine Corps at the time of my enlistment. We are a Marine family. Becoming a Marine was anything but easy. Even though I thought I was prepared, I quickly realized that I was not. I graduated from recruit training and became a Marine. I learned quite a bit in boot camp. One thing I learned has direct application to my life as a Christian. Allow me to explain.

During one part of boot camp, we were simulating war time conditions. I had just completed what was called the infiltration course. I crawled over, under, and through various obstacles while explosions occurred near to me. There was the sound of gunfire and chaos all around. After my platoon had finished, one of our Drill Instructors decided we needed to have some extra instruction.

This Drill Instructor was a Recon Marine. Think a really mean and tough Marine. Anyway, he spoke to us about how to be successful in war. First, he said, a Marine is successful only if the mission is successful. An individual Marine’s part in the mission is inconsequential – the mission is what matters. Second, he said that for a Marine to be successful, he must lose his fear in battle. Third, he told us how to lose our fear in battle. He said “When you are going into combat, accept the fact that you are already dead. When you accept that you are already dead, your fear of death disappears and you can function with freedom, not worried about what is going to happen to you. Your only concern will be the success of the mission.”

Live as if I am already dead. Interesting.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 NASB

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This is the way we should be living as Christians. Accept the fact that we are already dead – already crucified with Christ – and live with genuine freedom. This is not easy to do. I know I have struggled – and continue to struggle – with this idea.

I worry about how I might do something that will prematurely end my life. But that is supremely wrong. This life I live, as Paul states in Galatians 2, is not my life but it is Christ’s life. He paid for me, He owns me. I am already dead, my body just hasn’t found out yet. If I ever get this truth through my head and my heart, I may fulfill my mission on earth.

But what is my mission? My mission in life is as simple as this: I am to glorify God in all I do, say, the way I live and, yes, in the way I die.

Far too often I live my life not as freely as I should but somehow unfree. Before I was married I hesitated to long for the appearing of Christ because I wanted to experience marriage. I wanted to love someone else and be loved by someone else. I really wanted that. Sadly, I wanted that more than I wanted to see Christ return in glory.

Since I’ve been married, I’ve wanted to see all my children receive Christ as Savior. I’ve want to see them grow up, get married, have children. I’ve want them to serve Christ but I want them to do it safely. I seem so bound to this life sometimes that I hate myself.

But in reflecting on the lessons learned in the Marine Corps Boot Camp back in 1982, I am reminded that I need to accept that I am already dead. Only when I am free from the fear of dying can I really live and glorify God.

Am I really willing to do accept that? Do I really desire to live only to glorify God, or do I desire something else in my life? How about you?

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I am not advocating that we Christians need to live recklessly. I’m not saying that we need to do crazy things in service to Christ. I’m not saying that we need to hasten our death in order to glorify God. I’m not saying that we should not have savings accounts, a 401k, or take prudent steps for work and life. But what I ma saying is the those things must be secondary things – not the primary things – that define life and success for us.

So what happens when we accept that we are already dead? What would I look like if I truly lived out Galatians 2:20?

We begin to live righteously

We need to live where our supreme ambition is to glorify God, not to glorify ourselves. Our primary investment of our time, talent, and treasure should be in the accomplishment of our mission – to bring glory to God – rather than to invest in Bitcoin or increase the size of our nest egg.

We live life out loud

We should never shrink from standing for what is right, regardless of the cost. We should never stoop tot he level of the unsaved just to get ahead. We should never try to get away with something because we think everybody does it. To live in freedom – to live righteously – is to live a life restrained from pleasing ourselves and retrained to please God. Man, I’ve got a ways to go. How about you?

We pursue God with abandon – righteous abandon

We run after God in every aspect of life. We no longer live by the checkbox but by the grace He has given us. We integrate our lives – we no longer have a spiritual life, but simply a life that is spiritual. We refuse to compromise on the essentials and give grace on the non-essentials of our faith. We love freely and freely accept love.

We become true disciples of Jesus Christ

When we accept that we are already dead, we become true disciples of Christ. We are able to listen to His voice better because we listen to other voices less. We act on what He commands because we fear the repercussions less. We are willing to both live and die for Him – for his glory – because we are already dead.

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As this year progresses, I want to remind myself of the lesson of Galatians 2:20 and from my Drill Instructor. I’m crucified already. I don’t live. Christ lives in me. He bought me, He owns me. I want to live with righteous abandon in servicing Him, never worrying about what I might miss. I want to live freely in the battle before me. After all, I’m already dead.

Now that I have accepted I’m already dead, I can finally live.

 

 

 

We Need More Salt

The Church should be salt and light to the world – to both conservative and liberal political individuals. We should be salt and light to all around us, regardless of faith tradition, national origin, or language spoken. We should be a people sold out to the One who saved us – fully reliant on He who is sovereign over all. Rather than that, we seem all-too-cozy with he sovereign state of the United States of America rather than the Sovereign God of the Universe. Wow.

The Church – at least a decent-sized portion of it – overlook infidelity, crudeness, and vile speech as things to be excused rather than confronted. The reason? The person speaking them is supposedly “one of us”. We tolerate ranting and raving in 124 characters, demeaning comments inexcusable comments made about others, because the one who is typing them is supposedly “one of us”.  We have given up the moral high ground we once held. And out reward? Political influence, access, and power. We have traded the Gospel for a few pieces of government silver.

There was once a time where the Church held the moral high ground in America. There was a time when the Church stood for what is right, not for that is wrong. There was a time when the Church was salt and light to our government and our nation. Sadly, those days seems far behind us. We have sold out the Gospel for the filthy lucre of political power and inalienable rights. How sad. How very sad.

We engage on social media and in our pulpits on the virtue of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution. We especially seem attracted to the Second Amendment – the right to keep and bear arms. We argue that we need weapons – any weapon – to protect us from government tyranny. We lament how those in the Stalin’s Soviet State and the Jews of Hitler’s Germany would have fared better if they had only kept their weapons. I’ve seen more comments about our right to bear arms this week than of Christ’s great sacrifice and resurrection. I read more this week about the Second Amendment than the Greatest Commandment. I just don’t know what to say to this group of professing believers.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-16 NASB

The Church should be salt and light to the world – to both conservative and liberal political individuals. We should be salt and light to all around us, regardless of faith tradition, national origin, or language spoken. We should be a people sold out to the One who saved us – fully reliant on He who is sovereign over all. We seem all-too-cozy with the sovereign state of the United States of America rather than the Sovereign God of the Universe. Wow.

Is our saltiness gone? Is our light gone? Scary questions indeed.

Our salt and light aren’t gone yet but I dare say we have some taste and the light is dimmer. I admit my part in this. I once thought that the best way to improve this country and, by extension, the world entire was through political means. I took the bait that if we just elect the right kind of person, things would improve. But that philosophy has failed…miserably. All we have to show for our marriage to the Republican Party is a seat at Caesar’s table. We seem indistinguishable from the rest seated there, looking for their portion of the government’s largess. Oh my.

Is the American form of Christianity a biblical form of Christianity? I really don’t know. But I do wonder. With our emphasis on outward trappings of power and success, one has reason to wonder. We should, as a peculiar people dedicated to the One True God, reflect on what we treasure, what we believe, and where we are. If we don’t do that, I fear that the Church will become just another social club. We will look good – but we will deny the power behind the Church. Our trust – our faith – will be in man, rather than in God.

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While this has been a difficult article to write, I think it is necessary. I truly believe the Church in America  – or at least a significant portion of it – has lost its way. We have lost the distinctiveness of being a Christian first, and an American later.

I don’t believe that every politically active Christian is a problem. I don’t think that every Christian who asserts the rights of a citizen of the United States is an apostate. But I do believe we have misplaced our priorities. Somehow we have associated the demands of the Gospel with the election to power of a particular party. And this is wrong.

I may be hammered for this article. I may get hate email and perhaps some comments on it that are less-than-flattering. But I just had to write this. I’m fed up with the politicization of the Gospel. I’m sick of hearing about how one political party is the godly party. I’m sick of how Jesus is cheapened by being a political tool of men for an election rather than the Savior of man for eternity.

The Church in America must repent. We must return to our first love – Jesus Christ. We must serve Him only. We need not lean on the laws of man rather than the Sovereignty of God for our ultimate protection.

The Church needs more salt.

Never Again

“I’ll never again be so short sighted to limit God’s use of me to one area.” 

 

I used to wonder if I would ever be a Pastor again. I don’t wonder anymore.

I believe with all my heart and soul that I will never be a Pastor again. I believe this not out of bitterness from events in my life but after understanding that God’s call on my life just doesn’t mesh with he popular idea of Pastor.

I’ve been a Pastor. I was a church-planting pastor. A bi-vocational church planting pastor. The little church we planted grew from four families to over 100 regular attenders each week. The growth wasn’t because I am so great in the pulpit. It was simply God blessing the preaching of His word. That little church was split and destroyed by my best friend at the time. I wonder sometimes where that little church would be if he would not have split and destroyed us…

Following the death of that little church I was bitter, angry, and confused. I wasn’t just angry and bitter toward my onetime best friend. I was angry at God. Not only did I feel like I had failed God, but felt that in some way God had failed me. After realizing how disgusting the thought that God had failed me was, I repented and tried to heal

I wondered if I could ever be used by God ever again. It was a very difficult time for my family. I trusted no one, valued no one, and contemplated suicide more than once during that period. It has been a difficult process but a needful one. During the process I have had many ups and downs. I harbored desires to be a Pastor again – to preach regularly.

We lost out church six years ago this July. I’ve mostly healed from that experience though I still struggle sometimes. I had hoped to stay preaching and have had some opportunities to preach here and there. I did my best to remain authentic and transparent in the pulpit. That got me some interesting emails and comments, but I tried to remain true to the person God has called me to be. But now, simply filling a pulpit that doesn’t seem to be in my future either. I haven’t preached in about two years (July 2016) and doubt that will happen again. So what happened?

God moved.

I followed.

Far too often we think that serving God after Seminary includes some sort of Pastoral ministry, professor, or other similar type of position. But I have come to the conclusion that type of thinking is exactly wrong. I’m convinced that as I follow God, more and wildly different opportunities will be presented to me. I doubt many of these opportunities will look like the traditional things I expected when graduating seminary. You know, things like graduate, become an associate pastor, youth pastor, or other type of pastor. These positions eventually lead to a Senior (Lead, Teaching, etc.) Pastor, then continued ascent up the church ladder by getting bigger and bigger churches to Pastor. I’ve come to reject this model. God can (and does) work in that way. But I think far too often we expect hime to work that way for everyone. And that is where we can really handicap ourselves.

So what am I going to do? I don’t know. All I know is that I am willing to do anything in service to Him. Whether that means being a traditional pastor (I don’t think so!), a pulpit filler, or continuing to write books, teach seminars,  or do something else, I am willing.

How about you? Are you willing to do anything for God’s glory or just some things?

I’ll never again limit my vision for what God has for me. Whatever that means for me and my family – wherever that takes us, we’ll go. I have no idea how this is going to play out, but I am convinced that it will play out to the glory of God. And I am pleased with that.

I’ll never again be so short sighted to limit God’s use of me to one area.

Never again.

Never again.

A new year, old delays!

My grand plan to redesign my website has hit a bit of a snag. But fear not, I’m working on it and hope to have it done before too long. But, in order to prepare for that, I’ll be posting an article each week that will eventually be available for download.

I hope that the articles I post in the next few weeks are helpful and an encouragement to you.

New Year, New Website Design

I am busily redesigning my website to repurpose it from simply a blog to a more well-rounded source of free instruction in God’s Word. I will still have the blog as part of it, but I will also have areas for discussions, (hopefully) downloads, and other fun and edifying things.

I appreciate your patience as this redesign takes place and the form and function of The Bald Theologian changes. The thing that won’t change is my commitment to providing an education in the Bible for no charge to the learner. All you will ever need to take a course of mine is a heart that is willing to learn and work through the course materials.

Here is to a new year, a new website, but an old commitment to boldly proclaim the bald Word of God.

 

Sorry for the delay

I’m having some technical difficulties…otherwise known as life getting in the way of this blog! Work has been hectic and my other commitments have eaten away at the time I reserve for writing. I hope to have a new article up this week. I apologize for the delay. But one good thing that has come from this delay. I have thought about a possible next series!

Happy Thanksgiving (USA)!

Since this week is Thanksgiving in the USA, I have decided to take my first week off in over a year to spend this week with my family. I hope all my readers have a wonderful, God-blessed week. For those in the USA, Happy Thanksgiving. For those of you outside of the USA, I trust you will also have a wonderful, God-blessed week.

I look forward to finishing Nehemiah in the coming weeks (I bet you’re ready for a change as well). I’ll reveal my thoughts for the next few months of articles and some other exciting news. May God bless you all.