Prayer of a Theologian

ds2-image-12O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray and to concentrate my thoughts on you.
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness, but with you there is light. 
I am lonely, but you do not leave me.
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help. 
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
 In me there is bitterness, but with you patience.
 I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me. 
Restore me to liberty, and enable me so to live now that I may answer before you and before humanity.
Lord, whatever this day may bring, Your name be praised.
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred for his faith during Nazi Germany)
Advertisements

Meditation of Psalm 51: The Church of My Heart

799018111.jpgMerciful God, Faithful and True, keep your reputation unstained by recreating a new heart and clean spirit in me. 

Blot out, send away my sin debt, wash away my wrongdoings that you no longer remember my disobedience.  imagesI acknowledge my sin, I was born a sinner and you are the one I have wronged. All I can offer is my broken heart which is crushed to powder. 

 

Deliver me from my guilt for there is nothing I can give, no sacrifice I can make, no prayer I can pray, no confession I can utter that would be acceptable.cry-out-to-god

Let a continual fire of Your Holy Spirit burn out sin, the hammer of Your Word pummel out evil in my life. In the deepest inner recesses of my being implant truth in place of lies and wisdom that resists temptation so I may always be your faithful servant and obedient child.

080171bb9489bb542eec8ec243fac41c.jpgRestore the joy of serving You in all the broken parts of my life. Let me praise, honor and hear the laughter of salvation that enjoys worship all around.  

Open my mouth in order that I may sing your praise loudly of your forgiveness.  Restore the walls of the city of my heart, rebuild the altar in the church of my soul so I may worship you in a way in which you are pleased.  RGH09611.jpg

In the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

Amen.

GOD GETS IN YOUR FACE

3_creation“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1) is the most radical statement ever made.

I don’t mean to sound pessimistic but it just seems some days like the world is so untouched by God’s goodness. It seems like any kind of goodness which makes the news in its essence makes it rare. When I read the book of Genesis I see God look over his finished work and say “this is good, very good.” “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” (Psalm 24:1). Satan does not own anything in this world. “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Tim 4:4-5).

This is not to say that God has left some scant details about himself like a billion piececreation 2.jpg puzzle leaving us that were trying to figure things out although for some people it may seem that way. But God is evident. He is seen. When you read a very familiar passage such as Psalm 19 case such a wonderful display of God, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” (Ps 19:1-3). Creation can be seen bursting with song, loud, bright clear and powerful.

god-creating-creatures-by-r.jpgClearly, it means there is a God. God confronts us face to face, challenges, dares and even threatens people with his existence. Even more drastic, it means that you and I cannot escape God, “You are all around me-in front of me and in back of me. You lay your hand on me.” (Psalm 139:5GW). If you don’t want him around-he’s there anyway-he’s not going anywhere. He is always there and always will be there for all our lives and when we are dead and gone.  God will always be God. You are eventually going to have to confront the whole “God” issue, now or later.

“First, God. God is the subject of life. God is foundational for living. If we do not get the sense of the primacy of God, we will never get it right, get life right, get our lives right. Not God at the margins; not God as an option, not God on the weekends. God at the center and circumference; God first and last. God, God, God.” –The Old Testament Books of Moses © 2001 by Eugene H. Peterson.

Genesis is God giving our lives significance and meaning. God made the world where everything and everyone is created with an intention and design. He does not work impersonally from space, but he is in operation in the here and now. No matter how good or bad anyone is, we continue to be a part of his project-the Adam Project so there is no place to drop out.”

©2016 Stephen S. Gibney, don’t plagiarize-give us the credit and God the glory. 

THE SECRET LIFE OF REVEREND MITTY

“Here comes the dreamer!” (Gen. 37:19). mitty

I can relate in a way to the fictional character Walter Mitty. I was wondering what it would be like if he was cast as a pastor rather than a negative asset manager. He zones out many times thinking of adventures, and exploits. So do I. My imagination can run away with me. I just think about things. I used to be a full time Pastor and I loved doing it. I still dream about it and imagine preaching to different congregations all over the world, meeting Christians everywhere. Preaching for me is simply being in the mix where God is see him actively healing, delivering and saving people. 

I imagine some days I am Elijah, covered with hair. I can speak loud as God speaks through me.  I am confront an evil King Ahab and tell him it is not going to rain for years until he and the backslidden nation repent. I am a fugitive and the manhunt is on for this brazen prophet. I can see the ravens bring me meat as I lodge hidden by the last river in the land. I get to fight in prayer in the battle of the gods and see Yahweh bring lightning down out of a clear sky to vindicate his honor. Rain is coming. I fall to my knees and see a small cloud. Rain is coming. I am praying and the heavy droplets touch my skin. rain has COME and I feel my body filled with strength as I outrun Ahab’s chariot all the way to his palace.

Word of God to Pastor Steve. Word of God to Pastor Steve. Take your call seriously and put your armor on! Word of God to Pastor Steve. Preaching scripture, praying hard, step up to the Pulpit and may God’s love be with you.

Some days, I see myself as David prophesying to the enemies of God, standing toe to toe with the widowmaker Goliath. I sense the presence of God fills my body. I see my arm catapult a large stone and feel it leaving the sling and watch it hit the forehead of the giant. I can hear the gasps of the stalemate armies and the whole valley is silent with awe as the giant falls to the ground with a thud and without a thought I run over to him and pick up his huge sword and feel the heavy weight as I lift it and shear off his blaspheming head. Then I lift up that head by it hair, hold it up and shout in this gruesome victory and the army of Israel and shouts with me starts running after the Philistines.

Word of God to Pastor Steve. Word of God to Pastor Steve. Take your call seriously and put your armor on! Word of God to Pastor Steve. Preaching scripture, praying hard, step up to the Pulpit and may God’s love be with you.

Sometimes, I imagine I am Ezekiel transported to a valley of dry bones. It a desert graveyard with no graves. It is quiet, thirsty and barren. God talks to me, he asks me if these bones can come back to life. He tells me to speak to the bones with His Words and I can hear the bones begin to rattle and come together like metal to magnets and thunder as they form skeletons. I can see their hearts, lungs, and vital organs grow inside them and then sewn together with veins and arteries; sinew and muscle and then their ears and noses grow and eyes form in their sockets and hair on their heads. God tells me to talk to the wind and tell it to come from every direction and fill these slain soldiers with air. I speak God words again and I can hear them all at once breathe in, it sounds like one loud breath. They all stand up, dressed with armor and weapons.

Word of God to Pastor Steve. Word of God to Pastor Steve. Take your call seriously and put your armor on! Word of God to Pastor Steve. Preaching scripture, praying hard, step up to the Pulpit and may God’s love be with you.

I have looked all over the Christian world, doctrines, churches and denomination. I discover have the Quintessence of life in my Bible. It is Christ. An undeveloped picture of my life becoming developed into his image. The making of a brave Christian man. 

© 2016 Stephen S. Gibney all rights reserved.

THE 1 John 1:9 CONTROVERSY 5: STAYING ON THE SAME PAGE

same-page.png“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you.” John has a message from Jesus and he does not want his readers to miss what he is saying. In fact, he uses excessively longer phrases and more words to emphasize the meaning of his teaching when he could have simply used shorter phrases and fewer words. For example, he could have simply said, “God is light.” or he could have said, “There is no darkness in God.” It is as though John is saying, “This is what I mean and this is what I don’t mean.” He wants all Christians who read this to be on the same page. 

What is this message? God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” 

John teaches that God is light. He uses the term “the light” (v.7) later but that has another meaning. In this verse it refers to God’s nature and essence as light. This is not physical light, but spiritual light that spreads everywhere and invades everything. His essence is truth, purity, holiness. In him there is no darkness at all. John emphasizes that there is not one bit of darkness in God. James says “There is never the slightest variation or shadow of inconsistency.” in God. (James 1:17 Phillips). God is untouched by the darkness of sin and He is “absolutely perfect…there is nothing in him …which would dim or mar the pure splendor of his character.” (Barnes). 

With this is mind, the Apostle takes another sharp turn in his teaching and He puts truth and lies; light and darkness; obedience and sin; deception and honesty; reality and fantasy; saying and walking side by side. John says that the talk and action of some of the people does not match up to God’s standard of fellowship, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not do the truth.”  (v.6). These are very strong words. He calls these people liars and says they are not practicing Christians. People have no fellowship with God if they practice sin. They are living a lie. Truth is not just sterile doctrinal beliefs that you can distance yourself from. Truth is all about how you behave and act. God is in his nature is light and not in any way dark and what he says is light and not in any way dark. So in this passage the word truth means acting lawfully and walking in darkness is living in deception and disobedient behavior.

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”   Walking in the light of God means that we are drawing closer to God.We act and live in that light. His word and truth are like light that exposes our errors and deception has nowhere to hide. We welcome that because he cleanses us and purifies us continually from all sins. Now John again wants to make sure we are staying on the same page by showing our fellowship with God and one another is by these two things: walking the light of God and his cleansing holiness by the blood of Jesus.

Then John takes another turn and says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (v. 8)  The Bible teaches here that people who deny indwelling sin and do not admit their wrongdoing have gone so far off course they are believing their own lies. They claim to know the truth but they are deceived. Saying one can reach a place where they never sin after they are saved is a terrible error. Saying that we can live without confessing our sins or be disobedient is also a soul damning teaching. John say these type of people have deluded themselves to the point their hearts are evacuated of truth.

The Apostle turns again in this winding passage, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (v.9). We MUST freely admit we have sinned,  God says we MUST consent to this truth. Notice HE is faithful and just it says. As the Amplifies comments, “he is true to His own nature and promises.” The ISV says that “he might forgive us and might cleanse us of our sins.” As we must pray to receive an answer to prayer we must confess our sins to be forgiven. Christ forgave us on the cross, but we still must ask his forgiveness as proof that the truth is in us and that he is loyal and consistent in all his ways.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (v.10). The dangers of misrepresenting Christ and his teaching should always be on our mind. He says if we do not say what he says about sin we are saying God is falsifying his Word and misrepresenting Himself. In effect, we call God a liar. Unthinkable! This failure also shows exposes that the Word is not in us if we say such things. It used the word “truth” in verse six but here it says “word.” This is a person who insists they know “the Word” and refuse to own up to their sin nature and their acts of sin. We are actually destitute of God’s life-giving Word if we refuse to, humbly welcome the word of truth that will blossom like the seed of salvation planted in your souls.” (James 1:20Voice).

“John condemns the man who claims that he is so far advanced in knowledge and in the spiritual life that sin for him has ceased to matter; he condemns the man who evades the responsibility for his sin or who holds that sin has no effect upon him; he condemns the man who has never even realized that he is a sinner. The essence of the Christian life is first to realize our sin; and then to go to God for that forgiveness which can wipe out the past and for that cleansing which can make the future new.” (Barclay).

© 2016 Stephen S. Gibney, if you quote it, gives us some credit and God the glory.

GOD’S UNSPEAKABLE GIFT 

“Thanks be unto God for his *unspeakable gift.” (2 Cor. 9:15).

People can only give when they see God as generous. If a preacher proclaims God as stingy with his time, mercy and grace people’s giving of themselves will dry up as well.

*Unspeakable (anekdiēgētō) is only used here in the whole New Testament and it means that the gift of Christ is incapable of being adequately expressed, unutterable and ineffable. Christ is the Gift who is so celestial and sacred he is beyond words. It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament.

It is higher than the mind can conceive; higher than language can express…Man had no claim on God. He could not compel him to provide a plan of salvation; and the whole arrangement – the selection of the Savior, the sending him into the world, and all the benefits resulting from his work, are all an undeserved gift to man. (Barnes).

“Our thankfulness should be shown by highly prizing and valuing this gift; by laying the whole stress of our salvation on Christ…” (Gill)

Here is a short synopsis by Alexander MacLaren

There is one blazing sun which shines out in the midst all the galaxies which fill the heavens. There is one gift of God which is beyond all others and only deserves the designation of “unspeakable.” The gift of Christ attracts all other divine gifts after it. “How should He not with Him also freely give us all things.” The expression here “unspeakable” is what I wish chiefly to fix upon now. It means literally that which cannot be fully declared. Language fails because thought fails.

Unspeakable Love 

The love is the cause of the gift and the gift is the expression of the love. John’s Gospel says that the Son which is in the bosom of the Father has declared Him. Paul here uses a related word for “unspeakable” which might be rendered, “that which cannot be fully declared.”  The declaration of the Father is that He declared the undeclarable…language fails when it is applied to the expression of human emotion…with lowly condescension He uses all sweet images drawn from earthly relationships, to help us in understanding His love—the love of father, mother, husband, wife, brother, friend, and after…<yet> all are exhausted…

Unspeakable Sacrifice 

When Paul in the Epistle to the Romans says, “He that spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all” he is…quoting, the divine words to Abraham, “Seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from Me” <This> permits us to parallel what God did when He sent His Son with what Abraham did when, with wrung heart…he bound and laid Isaac on the altar and stretched forth his hand with the knife in it to slay him. Such a representation contradicts the vulgar conceptions of a passionless, self-sufficing, icy deity… All through His life Christ was in contact with evil, and for Him the contact was like that of a naked hand pressed upon hot iron. The sins and woes of the world made His path through it like that of bare feet on sharp rocks. If He had never died it would still have been true that, “He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.” On the Cross, He completed pouring out his love which had continued pouring throughout His life and “poured out His soul unto death” as He had been pouring it out all through His life. We have no measure by which we can estimate the inevitable sufferings in such a world as ours of such a spirit as Christ’s…Should it not call forth from us floods of praise and thanks to God for His unspeakable gift?

Unspeakable Results 

In Christ are hid, “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” When God gave us Him, He gave us a storehouse in which is contained treasures of truth which can never be fully comprehended, and which, even if comprehended, can never be exhausted. The mystery of the Divine Name revealed in Jesus, the mystery of His person, are themes on which the Christian world has been nourished ever since, and which are as full of food, not for the understanding only, but far more for the heart and the will, to-day as ever they were. The world may think that it has left the teaching of Jesus behind, but in reality the teaching is far ahead…and the Gospel is the guide of the race, and each generation gathers something more from it…each of Christ’s scholars finds about gift, and in the measure of his faithfulness to what he has found makes ever new discoveries in the unsearchable riches of Christ. After all have fed full there still remain abundant baskets full to be taken up.

Conclusion 

No single soul, and no multitude of souls, can exhaust Jesus; neither our individual experiences, nor the experiences of a believing world can fully realize the endless wealth laid up in Him. He is the Alpha and the Omega of all our speech, the first letter and the last of our alphabet, between which lie all the rest. Who has ever spoken adequately and in full correspondence with reality what it is to have God’s pardoning love flowing in upon the soul? Many singers have sung sweet psalms and hymns and spiritual songs on which generations of devout souls have fed, but none of them has spoken the deepest blessedness of a Christian life, or the calm raptures of communion with God. For us the only recompense that we can make for the unspeakable gift is to receive it with “thanks unto God” and the yielding up of our hearts to Him. God pours this love upon us freely…it is unspeakable in the depths of its source, in the manner of its manifestation, in the glory of its issues. It is like some great stream, rising in the trackless mountains, broad and deep, and leading on to a sunlit ocean…

 

Continue reading

CLING TO THE CROSS

At 6 o’clock one Sunday morning Clare Gant was going to church and not even the torrential rain outside would stop her. But she never expected that her vehicle would be suddenly caught in floodwaters near a lake.

Her car stalled and then began to float away with the powerful force of rushing water. She knew she was in trouble. She called 911 and no one answered. She finally called her grandson who was on his way to rescue her.

Her car shifted and went backwards into a field and she thought, “Dear Lord are you taking me home right now?” But he was not.

By the time her grandson arrived her car had been washed off the road into a church yard. Her car had stopped besides a huge red cross. Her grandson, Travis, came with a deer harness off of a deer stand and some rope he says somehow he got the jammed door open despite the rushing waters and his grandmother out of the car and they both grabbed hold of that cross and held on for five hours until someone came and rescued them.

Gant said, “I was literally, after I got out of the car, holding onto the cross. I was clinging to the cross…Jesus is my savior. This story is not about me, this is about what he did to save me.”

I want to ask you dear friend are you clinging to the cross of Jesus? From the story you can tell that that was all they could hold on to. It was such a wonderful illustration of our own bankruptcy spiritually, or like the hymn says

Nothing in my hands I bring simply to the cross I cling.

Although we may be good people as far as culture is concerned. We have certain things that are admirable and we do many moral things that make us basically good people – but as far as God is concerned spiritually we have nothing to offer him but our sin. Not only our sin but even our good works disqualify us from heaven. That’s why Jesus came.

God bankrupt heaven for bankrupt sinners so that they could be saved. They could not hold on to their good works, that they are a giving and loving person or a good parent or a good son or daughter or a good provider – nothing of that matters with God when it comes to entering heaven. The only way that you can enter into heaven is completely embrace what Jesus did on the cross as payment for your sins.

He died to save you. He lives to love you.

This is the Jesus that we preach. Some of you today like that woman in our story have bumped into this article like her car bumped into that red Cross. Would you not consider that God is showing you that the only way you can be saved is through Jesus Christ? Receive God’s love gift today. Make a 180 degree turn from what you’re doing now and ask God to save you through what Jesus did on the cross. Believe that Jesus died for you, especially you.

It’s simple trust- just knowing what he did and basing your entire life on the fact that Christ died and rose again from the dead for you. Then you will truly know what it is to cling to the cross.

© 2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney

FOR THOSE WHO WAIT

There’s a deep agony of heart, that is worse than pain in the body. It is a hope, a desire, a dream that is unfulfilled.

It can be nagging of the mind, a gnawing of heart, that refuses to be comforted. It is a scent of the spirit, a sound beyond what anyone can hear but me.

Lord, only you can say the word and I will be healed. Pound thy gavel, Righteous Judge let the courtroom hear. Like Samuel anoint me in the midst of thy brethren.

Feed me by angels hands, meet me in that cave that is so dark yet alive with your voice send me to the mountain that is shaken and rocked by your lightning so that all that is false is driven from my land and my heart.

You know that I desire to be what you want me to be. Do not withdraw thy hands from this frail clay vessel. Let thy skilled touch be evidence you are with me.

Let me be fashioned and formed into a vessel of honor and filled with thy glory and poured out in your sight and the voice of last drop utter thy will be done.

©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney

SAMSON: A WARNING TO THE CHURCH AND ITS LEADERS

maxresdefaultIn Samson we see an impersonation of Israel.

Like him, the nation was strong so long as it kept the covenant of its God.

Like him, it was ever prone to follow after strange loves. Its Delilahs were the gods of the heathen, in whose laps it laid its anointed head, and at whose hands it suffered the loss of its God-given strength; for, like Samson, Israel was weak when it forgot its consecration, and its punishment came from the objects of its infatuated desires.

Like him, it was blinded, bound, and reduced to slavery, for all its power was held, as was his, on condition of loyalty to God.

His life is as a mirror, in which the nation might see their own history reflected; and the lesson taught by the story of the captive hero, once so strong, and now so weak, is the lesson which Moses taught the nation: “Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, by reason of the abundance of all things: therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things, and He shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck” ( Deut. 28: 47, 48 ).

The blind Samson, chained, at the mill, has a warning for us, too. That is what God’s heroes come to, if once they prostitute the God-given strength to the base loves of self and the flattering world.

We are strong only as we keep our hearts clear of lower loves, and lean on God alone. Delilah is most dangerous when honeyed words drop from her lips.

The world’s praise is more harmful than its censure. Its favors are only meant to draw the secret of our strength from us, that we may be made weak; and nothing gives the Philistines so much pleasure as the sight of God’s warriors caught in their toils and robbed of power.”  

–Alexander MacLaren

HE COULD NOT LOOK HIS CHURCH IN THE EYES

1362883975_man with head down“He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant, but he’ll steadily and firmly set things right.” (Isaiah 42:2-3).

began working in the vending business and started attending a church near my home a few months after my denomination closed down our church with apologies. A situation that was actually an ecclesiastical shell game. What I mean by that was they said they closed down the church but actually sold the building to another church in that denomination. But at least now, I had a good pastor and church to attend. Strange enough years before I met him after helping an older couple in a parking lot outside a hardware store who were having car problems. I told them I was a minister and gave them my card and they said they would tell their Pastor about me. He called me and we became friends.

While I was still at the Warehouse of Praise Church he invited me to come and preach one Sunday Night. I preached on The Divine Burning- a message on the fire of the Holy Spirit and God moved. Many of the elders said that they had not heard a message like that in years, it reminded them of old time preaching. By the way, what they call “old time preaching” is what they used to call biblical preaching.

Pastor was a good man, he built a beautiful church building and loved Jesus, but I noticed immediately when he preached he never made eye contact with the congregation. I encouraged him to look at people but he never could. I asked him why he was like this and he explained he had a horrible experience when he first arrived at this church and it beat him up so badly he never looked people in the eye when he preached.  Something had broken within him. I loved this man and believed in his ministry.

I remember one time that I began to prophesy (spontaneous scriptural exhortation) and called his congregation to repentance in the middle of the service. He was skeptical of my actions at first (for good reason) but people began to flood the altars to pray and God began to move and people began to cry out to God. He told me later that he did not know what to think at first but when he saw the Holy Spirit move like that he knew it was right. He was a good Pastor and he let me teach Sunday School and even preach a revival in his church. I will always be grateful to him.

Pastoring has got to be the hardest job in the world. That’s why a man has to do it through the power of the Holy Spirit and not in his own strength. That is why I will always be a Pentecostal. Pentecost to me means that I don’t have to do things in my own strength but the power of Christ that dwells in me. No matter how weak I may be, no matter what is going on there is a river of life flowing out of me.

© 2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney