photoI made my morning coffee and was already outside enjoying the cool morning air, a little thick with humidity (September in Arkansas). Dawn hadn’t made it yet. I called the children by name and prayed for God’s protection and guidance – all the typical and regular parental things prayed. It’s my morning routine – some time in the Word with scripture, meditation, prayer, conversation with Dawn and always a good cup of coffee.

This morning as I prayed over my children, I had a moment where I felt a little sorry for myself. I thought, I wish I had someone who was awake before I am praying for my day and what I’ll encounter the way I do for my children. And the next thought was my sweet parents and other loved ones who have “passed through the veil” and the particular memory of my mother’s prayers for me when she was alive. When she was alive? That’s when it hit me. She IS alive and she’s still praying for me, along with a “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) of which you (the reader) probably have someone there right now praying for you. And then, the hammer of the Word dropped – as thankful as I am for my Momma’s prayers and those of other loved ones, there is One whose prayers are the most meaningful. And I remembered this verse . . .

“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him,
since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25 ESV)

And I repented of my momentary “self-pity” as I thanked God for Jesus and the prayers HE IS PRAYING for me and then remembered this quote. . . .

“If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million
enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.” ~ Robert Murray McCheyne

And then my eyes welled up with tears of joy and I shouted as the Holy Spirit brought
this last one to mind. . .

“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is
at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34 ESV)

Wow! I’m corrected in my short-sighted thinking that produced a moment of self-pity and now I’m injected with fresh faith remembering how great Jesus is and the fact that He was praying for me and the day I would encounter while I was yet asleep. And He is praying for you. Don’t fear a million enemies! He’s with you!

Life is Awkward!

July 1, 2014 — Leave a comment

USC Trojans v Arkansas Razorbacks       Fans get out of hand – ALL THE TIME at sporting events. Yet, we don’t stop attending. Whether it’s  hollering too loudly from the stands, or getting too excited and throwing popcorn all over everyone, fans get out of hand. Sometimes, it’s awkward. I remember one particular basketball game during my sophomore year of college. The Fieldhouse at ASU was packed when out of the crowd, a guy wearing a gorilla mask, dropped his trench coat and then “streaked” (ran totally naked in nothing but his mask and tennis shoes) across the gymnasium and out the other side. Talk about awkward! The whole crowd gasped, pointed and laughed. Some couldn’t believe it. It was the talk of the campus the whole next week.   The next home game, the Fieldhouse was just as packed. No one stopped attending the sporting event because of one fan’s bad behavior.

I’ve seen exuberant dads get thrown out of T-ball games due to their protesting an “unfair call” by the Ump toward their “little precious.” It was awkward. Yet, no one stopped attending the games. Actually, I was intrigued by the rich, people-watching opportunities. Even worse, I’ve seen “hot-headed” coaches literally come to blows and get ejected from the field and forbidden to ever coach again – yet people still keep enrolling their kids in pee wee football. Even more awkward is having to “pastor” one of those “hot-headed” coaches – talking to him about his rage and inappropriate behavior. It was certainly uncomfortable when I would invite community people to Victory and they would ask, “does he come to your church?” If you’re local, don’t try to figure out who this is – he left years ago.

I’ve  been flipped off in traffic and treated unjustly by bad drivers (some might consider this “road rage”). What can I say? I live outside of Memphis, TN. It makes the top 5 list for worst drivers in America. But I don’t stop driving my car or using the I-240 loop because of a bad experience or three. Awkward. Usually when they flip me off, I just wave back and smile – Ha! Awkward for them, because they expect me to return the flip!

I could multiply examples. I share this because people don’t extend that same “grace” and go back when “awkward” things sometimes happen in church. Never had a streaker – thank God!  Although, I’ve been in a service where a drunk guy walked in off the street and tried to take off his clothes. Awkward.  Thank goodness for ushers, swift of foot and strong of arm. Occasionally, children misbehave and parents don’t correct at all or they overcorrect and nearly abuse the children on the spot. Seen it all. Awkward moments – all of them.

My whole point is that life is awkward – it’s messy. Stuff happens over which you have no control. Most of our interesting and funny stories over the years have centered around how we’ve dealt with the unexpected. It happens at home. On your street. At the T-ball game. At your job and yes, at the local church. Thing is, we go back to the game, get back on the road, have the next extended-family dinner (with all the in-laws and outlaws), but we don’t always go back to church. Give it another shot – they’re just people and they’re sometimes awkward.

Disparaging remarks about the Law of God are an ignorant indictment against the holy God who gave the Law. These kinds of misinformed pronouncements among current “Grace preachers” will never produce a love for or an understanding of GRACE.

What’s the problem with all this “antinomian” talk?

 

1)  It only produces “law haters” which live LAWLESS lives.

 

2)  It demonstrates a simple misunderstanding of the problem which is LEGALISM – the improper use of the Law and not the Law itself.

 

3)  This is a classic overreaction to a problem.  An attempt to correct an imbalance often creates an extreme imbalance on the other end of the spectrum.  An overreaction to a problem many times creates an even worse problem.

 

Just a final thought – If you don’t understand that now, you will experience it in a few years in the lawless culture you’re producing in your churches – which will probably produce another overreaction.  

 

(A Parable about *Cessationism)

food critic 1

The restaurant is packed.  Newcomers are regularly showing up to experience the fulfilling  and delicious fare provided by the Head Chef, his cooks and wait staff.  A glance around the dining room shows all kinds of people of different ages and lifestyles who have all come for the very same reason – they love the delectable, hunger-satisfying, enjoyable experiences that the Chef and his cooks in this restaurant provide.  Sight, sound, smell and taste along with the “feeling” – the vibe this place offers continues to draw crowds.

There are families with children, singles, elderly couples, businessmen, truck drivers, ladies’ book clubs, all enjoying, not only the food, but the warm, accepting atmosphere of this growing restaurant.  Unlike some establishments that seem to only cater to one segment of local society, this place seems to be able to move beyond those typical boundaries.

Over in the corner, sits a group of angry-looking guys who are grumbling about the whole experience – the way the restaurant looks doesn’t suit them, the way the cook dresses is disapproved.  Nothing about this place seems to please these guys.  They are food critics.  They sit and argue over the menu and attempt to discuss the finer points of gastronomy and cookology, regularly challenging the cooks and the wait staff and even the patrons about the food they are enjoying.  They say they do this out of a heart for the honor of the Head Chef.  All the while, the Head Chef just keeps training new cooks.

The critics argue that the food isn’t real and it’s actually no longer available today and even dangerous – even though the menu nowhere says that these amazing “gifts” from the Head Chef and his “miracle” recipes have ever “ceased” to be offered.  The critics claim that cooking these family recipes ended when the original “gourmets” died.  Others argue that this food would no longer be cooked when the completed menu was made available.  Yet when the finished menu was printed, it listed page after page of “miracle food” that the guests all call heavenly – but then they’ve tasted it.

The critics point out the misbehavior of some of the patrons – some children get unruly and out of order; some of the patrons are too loud and maybe even obnoxious about how much they love the Head Chef and the delicious food.  Plus, the back room has parties going on that the food critics absolutely despise.  The main dining room is filled to overflowing with people who are ordering from the menu, enjoying the fare, meeting new friends and coming back regularly for more.

food critic 2

The critics never leave the table in the corner.  They continue to thumb through the menu, claiming they know it better than anyone else.  Sadly, they never “taste and see that the Chef and His food is good.”  The irony of the situation is they regularly ask for evidence of the food, but won’t taste it for themselves – doing so, would make them lose respect among the other critics.   Oh, once in a while, one of the critics will sneak a bite and become a believer in the Chef’s continuing power to fill hungry hearts with his goodness.  The critics just keep arguing, but never “tasting.”  Honest people see the nonsense of this and try to reason with the critics that the menu is good, but it isn’t the same as actually experiencing the food.  The critics argue that the menu is sufficient and the Chef and the menu are in unity.  And with a mouthful, the hungry diners say, you’re right – you must try it.  It looks and sounds great reading from the menu, but it’s so much better on my plate.  Here, have a bite.

But the critics won’t budge.  They just keep criticizing.  The Chef loves them anyway, and in spite of them, keeps cooking for hungry lives growing daily in outrageous numbers.

*The belief that the demonstration of miraculous power through the gifts of the Holy Spirit is no longer available today.

angry_preacher1 1) You define the Trinity as: Father, Son and Holy Bible

2) You insist on Sola Scriptura, but then can’t prove your cessationism from scripture.

3) You immediately judge anyone who has an unexplainable experience different than yours as being “of the   devil.”

4) You understand that “LET EVERYTHING BE DONE decently and in order” is code in your church, for “we don’t do that around here.” Interesting how all the great exegetes miss the “let everything be done” part – everything he’s talking about for the last 3 chapters of 1 Corinthians (12-14).

5) You make fun of anyone who uses the word “miracle”

6) You insist on evidence of the “supernatural” but then quickly explain it away, because your system demands it.

7) Discounting other people’s experiences and polemical policing of everyone’s theology makes up much of your Christian experience.

8) You think wrong theology is a greater sin than theological arrogance.  Funny thing – wrong theology never makes any of the lists of things that God hates – selah!

9) You forget your reformed understanding of election and make your position on the Holy Spirit a condition of everyone else’s salvation. If they don’t agree with your position on cessationism, *then they get Hell fire! * This one has only been seen lately in the Strange Fire conference.

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of EVERY old covenant promise.  Through Him, we look back and SEE HIM in type and shadow all over that same old covenant.  The Tabernacle of Moses was the old covenant “place” where God said, “I will dwell among you!”  Now fulfilled in Jesus Christ, we don’t re-build the natural one and require people to visit it.  BUT, we certainly look and see (using it as a tool to teach) the nature and ministry of Jesus Christ in the FINISHED WORK at the Cross.  Every piece of furniture reveals something different.

The same can be said for the specific SACRIFICES – all now fulfilled in the sacrificial lamb of Jesus Christ.  Still, we can use them to teach intricate aspects of that now complete, FINISHED sacrifice.  

The same can be said for the GARMENTS of the HIGH PRIEST.  Again, we don’t require this “dress code” for ministry, because there is only one high priest – Jesus Christ – who has passed into the heavens.  

Neither do we require the observance of the Feasts of the Lord – 7 in all, in 3 major seasons.  All reveal a beautiful picture of Jesus.  Now, nobody disagrees so far.  But, somewhere there is a disconnect when it comes to the LAW of God, which was the instrument that carried and REVEALED EVERYTHING I JUST LISTED:  the blueprint for the Tabernacle, the specifics of the sacrifices, the pattern for the garments, the specifics of the Feasts.

Radical GRACE folk make the LAW the enemy and it is not and never was.  Remember, the LAW was never a means of salvation.  It was given to a people who had ALREADY been delivered (saved) from Pharaoh and Egypt by the blood, water and spirit and given to a people who were ALREADY in covenant with God.  Never a means of salvation, it was a guide for “progressive sanctification” to show the people HOW TO LIVE in the LAND they were about to possess.  Because some HATE the LAW, they are producing a generation of LAW HATERS.  You are despising your TOOL of DOMINION.  

Don’t forget – everything you need is inside the ARK – the Golden pot of manna – PROVISION of God; Aaron’s rod that budded – LEADERSHIP/AUTHORITY and the Tablets of the LAW – your TOOL of DOMINION in the LAND.  Now written in your hearts by the Spirit, rise up and INFLUENCE your world and advance His Kingdom in the earth!   

A Caricatured Gospel

October 6, 2012 — Leave a comment

ImageA CARICATURE is a picture, description, or imitation of a person or thing in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect.  We often see this in political cartoons – with President Obama’s ears/toothy smile or Bill Clinton’s nose and chin.

While we may grin and recognize who the caricature is of, it certainly is nowhere near a legitimate representation of the person’s likeness.  Spiritual movements do the same thing, not when for a season we draw attention to a particular truth that the Holy Spirit is bringing an emphasis upon, but when spiritual leaders audaciously declare that this truth isn’t just the latest trend, but it IS the GOSPEL!

In my short 51 years, I’ve seen it happen with the messages of healing, Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts (full gospel)  faith, prayer, authority/submission, prosperity to name a few.  All of these are Biblically-solid ideas that needed emphasis and were each being illuminated by the Holy Spirit to bring some balance for the purpose of maturity to the body of Christ.  I believe and preach every one of those truths.  Unfortunately, a spiritual emphasis became a whole camp that declared it had a “corner” on the truth.  Every one of these became a caricature that so overemphasized one particular component of the Gospel image that it became a distortion and did injustice to other underemphasized “parts.”

For example, take the recent phenomenon of the “prosperity Gospel.”  It pulls all the great verses of the Bible that do promise God’s favor and abundance in benefits and blessings and equates material prosperity with spirituality  – all the while ignoring all the “key passages” of Scripture that the camp on the opposite end of the spectrum uses to support the idea that “poverty is spiritual.”  After all, we should lay up treasure (not on earth, but) in heaven where moth and rust do not corrupt!”

I shouldn’t have to even say it – but here we go again.  I recently heard the phrase – “this isn’t just another spiritual trend or wind and wave of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14) but it is the Gospel!  It came out of the mouth of a leader preaching the FINISHED WORK of CHRIST as it relates to the message of GRACE.  The same pattern that has happened over and over and over and over again is going on here.  Don’t get me wrong!  The FINISHED WORK of CHRIST is critical to our understanding as NEW CREATION believers.  But when it is preached to the point that it de-emphasizes the FINISHING WORK of the HOLY SPIRIT, it is out of balance.  GRACE is huge.  It is paramount.  But when it is extruded from its Biblical and covenantal relationship to the LAW of God in the life of the unregenerate sinner and the regenerated believer, then it has become a caricature, an exaggerated grotesque misrepresentation.

Just like true Biblical prosperity doesn’t identify with gross consumerist American materialism, Biblical GRACE doesn’t hate the good and holy LAW of God.  People who are honest and acknowledge that there are still “things” in their lives that aren’t “DONE YET” will do one of 2 things with this out of balance, caricature of GRACE:  they will become frustrated with the obvious difference in the message they’re hearing and what they obviously see as still yet “undone” or they’ll just learn to live in denial.  And one more time, the body of Christ has been tossed to and fro by another “wind and wave of doctrine.”  Selah!