December 22, 2016

The Soul Felt It's Worth

O Holy Night!

The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night divine

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name

You've probably sung those lyrics many times. I know I have. Maybe we've sung them so many times that we've stopped really hearing what it is we're singing. Or maybe we never really took the time to prayerfully consider all the theological implications of these truths. I spent some time thinking and praying over these lyrics today and there are a few things that stood out to me.

"Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth"

The soul felt its worth. The soul had never truly felt its worth before then. The only way for the soul to feel its "worth" is for it to be liberated from the thing that enslaves it. What was enslaving our souls? Sin.

The world was laying - trapped and helpless - in sin. Until something happened. The Son of God appeared. He appeared. Lived a perfect, sinless life. He willingly laid his life down, was brutally beaten, murdered, executed, and crucified for our sin. The sin that the whole world was laying in. He died so that we might be freed from that sin. He died and rose from the dead so that we would no longer go on walking in darkness, but we would walk in the light.

"Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease"

Make no mistake, the chains He came to break were chains of sin.
The slave is my brother. Any slave, anywhere. Because I was a slave to sin.
But in Jesus name - the name that is above every name - the name that one day will bend every knee - in Jesus name "all oppression shall cease" because the oppression of sin has been defeated.

O holy night!
What a night it must have been...when holiness erupted into the world so quietly through a baby in a manger. Holiness that is now available to you and me. Righteousness that has now been imparted to us because the light of the world chose to defeat the darkness.

May we walk in the light this Christmas.
May we shine the light of life to all those around us because our souls have felt their worth. Because the oppression of our sin has been defeated.

Merry Christmas!

December 7, 2016

What To Do With the "Toxic" Christian

There's this new idea floating around (which is just an old idea packaged up in different paper) that as a Christian I can self-determine that another Christian has become "toxic". That there's a brother or sister whose decisions or choices have moved them outside of the realm of the level of grace, mercy & forgiveness that I've been allowed & allotted to divvy out. I’ve seen and heard this out of other people’s mouths…and I’ve witnessed it running through my own heart and mind as well. This is not of God. This is not of Jesus. This is not Biblical.

Jesus didn't give any sub categories, asterisks, sidenotes, or escape routes for John 13:34-35. He said, "The world will know you are my disciples by your love for one another."

Matthew 5:23-24 & Matthew 18:15-17 were mandates that were to be exhaustively pursued before ever entertaining the idea of severing a relationship with another child of God.

Jesus went after the lost sheep to bring them back home. He said he would leave the 99 to go after the 1. At times, it seems as though we want to gather the 99 and tell them, “It’s just better that he left. Just let him go.”

Is there a "toxic" person out there? Most certainly there is. Are there people who claim the name of Jesus over their lives while walking as reprobate sinners? I'm sure there are. But if we reach the point of divisively & decisively removing a person from our lives, should it not be only after making every attempt to either lead them to repentance or lead us both to reconciliation?

If you and I choose to humbly & lovingly "part ways" because of major theological differences - issues of essential orthodoxy - that might be a healthy decision. But if you and I ultimately walk away from one another because one of us has relationally wounded the other - because pride or bitterness hinders us from repairing the fractures in our friendship – then we are an awfully sad lot.

You and I don't get to "wash our hands of one another". When we choose that route we're not following Jesus. We're following Pilate. 

Pilate washed his own hands: "I'll have nothing to do with this or with you." 

In that climactic moment the night before Jesus went to the cross, when he could have and should have washed his hands of the delinquents and the repeat offenders, he instead did something else. He got down on his knees and washed the betrayer's feet: I still love you.

Pilate washed hands. Jesus washed feet.

Why do we give up so easily?

Why are we so quick to wash our hands instead of wash each other's feet?

Why are we so fragile and easily offended?

How does the cup of grace that the Lord fills on our behalf run dry so quickly that we have none left to pour out on others?

We are ministers of reconciliation. (See 2 Corinthians 5:11-21)

We are agents of forgiveness. (See Matthew 18:21-35)

If there are some among us who have wandered back into the land of the "toxic", may we have the Christ-centered, Spirit-filled perseverance, courage, and determination to go in after them. And may we remember, when the fear of being poisoned by the toxic overwhelms us, that we were once the poison ourselves. 

May those of us called to “shine like stars in the universe” remember that we were once darkness. (See Ephesians 5:8)

May we love like you, Lord Jesus. Help us. 

January 5, 2016

How Long, Lord?

The day you start to think, "Surely I've seen it all" will most certainly be the day you not only learn you haven't, but you also start wishing more and more that you had.

I want more and more every single day to believe that surely the lies & deceptions of the prosperity gospel are going to be fully exposed and realized for what they really are: lies. I pray all the time that those who are being deceived into its sway will be set free to the liberty of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - to discover that only in "losing my life will I find true life". The battle rages on. And at the end of the day, we are not surprised. Remember what Paul told his young disciple, Timothy:

"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths."

Friends, the prosperity gospel - the idea that Jesus died and rose from the dead so that we could be financially blessed - the thought that the God of the Universe wants to shower us with abundance just because we deserve it - is a lie from the pit of hell. And it's the lie that false teachers like Creflo Dollar keep on preaching:

As you may know, Creflo really stirred things up last year when he made a big fuss about the possibility of losing his $50,000,000 jet. (No, I didn't add too many zeros.) Well, today I watched an exchange between Kenneth Copeland and Jesse Duplantis that certainly rivals Creflo's scripture-twisted, materialistic, self-centered, unbiblical theology. Watch for yourself:

I don't even know where to begin.

"The world is in such shape... We've got to have this."

You can't be famous and "get in a looong tube filled with demons. It's deadly!"

Hey! All you African & Indian preachers who walk barefooted for days to get to a village so you can preach the Gospel to the lost: STOP! God doesn't want you to walk. He'll send a Cessna your way to pick you up. Just light up the strip where you want it to land.

Hey! All you humble preachers and evangelists flying in coach with the demons: Are you crazy? We're here to preach to stadiums and arenas full of people who want God to give them money and comfort, not to the lost, broken, and hopeless who simply want to know that Christ died for them and has reconciled them back from death to life. 

Rather than going on and on with sarcastic anecdotes, let's just address this biblically. And let's address it from the very angle that "Reverend" Duplantis was attempting to corner. During the video you hear him begin to mention Amos 6, which he's going to go on to pitch that, "Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure..." is God's warning to any of us who begin to "let our faith stagnate" is a word he received from the Lord. He was letting his faith "stagnate" because he had started believing that this really nice jet was all he was going to settle for. As if the Lord was inquiring of him: "Is this the best you think I can do? You don't think I can get you a better airplane?"

Friends, Amos 6 is written to the Israelites who were drowning in the pleasures of life rather than mourning and grieving their own sin. They were immersed in wealth. They had no moderation or restraint. They accepted nothing but extravagance for themselves while ignoring the needs of others. Jesse Duplantis even breathing this scripture reference in the same sentence of defending his need for a jet - defending the need to get as far away as possible from those "demons" who might be flying on a commercial airliner - is one of the most self-indicting things I've seen in a long time. I would challenge him to go on reading in Amos 6 about the enemy that God himself raised up to come against Israel and rid them of their pagan, materialistic, self-centered lives. 

Some may listen to Creflo and Joel and Kenneth and Jesse and their counterparts and call it serious audacity. I call it heresy. I don't know if it's intentional scripture twisting or the greatest level of ignorance possible. Either way, it is NOT the Gospel.

How long, Lord, will you put up with this?