Monday, August 18, 2014

Hate the Sin

Mississippi is in the news. Not like Missouri is at the moment; but we are in the news. We are on a Showtime documentary, L Mississippi: Hate the Sin. I have not seen their work, but I know about it. I was one of the "sin haters" that was filmed. The final product that appeared on Showtime was not what we were led to believe would be produced--not that any of us are surprised. The final product appears to be far less objective than the named director claims. And I am not surprised.

In this post that will be read by a few, I want to reiterate the truth of God's word and hold that truth up to the supposed facts that  L Mississippi: Hate the Sin claims to be true. I also want to explain my purpose in this post, as opposed to something a little more current (like Ferguson, MO): my research did not turn up one positive pro-Christian post about this subject. Christians, thus far, have been largely silent. So let me share my perspective.

First, the feature pastor, Randy Cofield, is given a bad name in the trailer for this documentary, when the film editors skillfully edited his comments to make him look like a madman. Just watch the trailer in the link above and you will see what I mean. Pastor Cofield has a great burden to penetrate lostness--all lostness--with the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is a man of great compassion, but one whose biblical standards do not waiver. So, for Pastor Cofield (and many, many more of us), right is right and wrong is wrong. Please let me go into depth on that premise.

The foundational truth on which I base this premise is found in the Old Testament book of the Psalms. Ps. 119:89 says, "Forever, O Lord, is your word settled in heaven." In case you need that stated in other words, consider this: whatever God says in the Bible stands as permanently established truth. Jesus himself said that not one single stroke of the Law would pass away until all is fulfilled (Mt. 5:18). What God says stands.

So what exactly has God said about sin? He tells those who love the Lord to hate evil (Ps. 97:10). He tells us that our love should be without hypocrisy; that we should abhor that which is evil and cling to that which is good (Ro. 12:9). Guess who gets to decide what is good and what is evil? You go it! God does. Not I; not you; not my preferences, my lifestyle choices; not my wishes and wants; God, the Sovereign, the Most Holy, the Righteous One, gets to determine what is good and evil.

When Pastor Cofield and others (such as I) take a stand against sin and for righteousness, you should not be surprised. And when those who delight in sin and take a stand against righteousness, the Christian community should neither cower in the corner, nor be surprised that they have followed their nature. It is, after all, the nature of the unregenerate heart of man and woman to oppose godly standards. The flesh wars against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh (Gal. 5:17).

If you watch  L Mississippi: Hate the Sin you need to consider that it was produced from the standpoint of those who hate God's righteous standards, no matter what they may pretend to claim in the documentary. You should also be warned that it is advertised as rated TV MA for language and adult themes.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Journey through the Streets of Arequipa, Peru

It's day 7 of a fast week of ministry in Southern Peru. The city of Arequipa has been my favorite place in all of Peru and all of the years we lived here. Somewhere in this city they have buried my heart, because it was ripped out when I left here many years ago. God has been good and allowed me to return more than once. This is the first time, though, in five years. Things changed in the past five years, too.

First, for some unknown and strange reason, there seems to be much less oxygen to breathe! The first day I trudged up the stairs to my third-floor room I was sucking in a lot of oxygen-deprived air, hoping for some relief for my aching lungs. That's okay; it's normal. Then came days two, three, and four. Hmm..., I thought I would be acclimated by now. The other days have come and gone, including today. The air is still as rarefied as it ever was! Could that have something to do with age?? Surely not I!

Faces have changed. There were still plenty of the same faces in many of the places I went. But there were also very many new faces among the churches I visited. That's a good thing. New faces mean churches are being the church. New faces mean new opportunities to create new friendships. It was an exciting change to experience.

Some of the streets have changed. The city government has revitalized areas once owned by drug lords. I walked down peaceful, lovely, quiet streets that even seven years ago people would not have dared enter. It made for a beautiful experience.

The gospel has spread all across the city. That would also account for changes in the city. People who know Christ are more peaceful and joyful, as a rule. To be sure, there are scores of churchless communities that have cropped up; Arequipa continues to grow at a fast pace. I was glad to see and hear firsthand of the plans to penetrate these unreached communities.

Now I am just a few hours away from my final night of teaching. This last session will be followed by a race to the airport to catch my flights out of Peru. I will miss it again. But I will be more than happy to be back in the field God has given me to work in these days of my life.

After all, that's what drives me. That is what I live for: to please Him.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Let the Little Children Come to Me

I'm cutting into my study time to write this short post. Perhaps it will speak to someone who wrestles with the same truth.

It's VBS time in southern America. If you are not of the typical church culture, that stands for Vacation Bible School, which is a 5-day opportunity churches take to teach children of all ages truths from the Bible. Our church is particularly adept at creative ways of teaching. I admire how our teachers can do so much with so little.

Day 4 of the typical VBS week is evangelism day. Someone, often the pastor, sits down with the older children and shares the truth of the gospel, which has been emphasized all week long in the classroom teaching. The evangelist is there to reap a harvest brought on by all the seed-sowing efforts of those great teachers.

This is where I wrestle. This is where I have always wrestled. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” So we know we can guide these little ones to him. And we can conclude (not assume) that a child can believe. But how do we present the gospel in a clear and meaningful way? How do we avoid making "churchians" versus Christians?

First, I am grateful for the Holy Spirit. It is His work to convict of sin and righteousness and judgment. It is not mine. It is His work to show the children their lostness and illuminate their hearts to understand the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation.

That being said, I still tremble at the task of child evangelism. I know many, many people who have "believed" as a child, only to repent and truly believe later.

Today I had the help of two great workers. We acted out the gospel message, using as our main prop Evangecube's "Big Cube." It's a great tool, when used right. I quizzed the children at the close to see how many got the message right. Their answers were on target. Their readiness? I'm reluctant to declare them "saved."

I'm persuaded that some who listened today have already come to Jesus. I am equally persuaded that others will come to Jesus in time. But I did not and cannot be so persuasive as to coerce them into the church culture without the inward change that only Christ Jesus brings through the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit.

Some say never evangelize children. I think we need to leave that up to the Holy Spirit--especially in light of Jesus' command mentioned above.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Behold the Lamb!

When John the Baptist saw Jesus as he walked, he looked and exclaimed, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" John watched Jesus as he walked. For three more years Jesus walked. He walked north and he walked south. He walked into cities and walked out of them. Jesus walked away from some disingenuous people, but walked up to many more. 

One day, after about 3 years of healing the ill, giving sight to the blind, opening deaf ears, strengthening weak limbs, and raising the dead, Jesus walked up to the gates of Jerusalem. There a crowd awaited him. There, in the presence of those who should know better than anyone else, Jesus fulfilled yet another prophecy: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.-- Zech. 9:9

They should have known, those religious leaders of Israel. Those scholars of the Law and the Prophets. Those men of great importance. They should have seen. But they were blind, both by choice and by the god of this world. 

Just a few days later we find Jesus walking once more. He walks up the stairs to an upper room that has been made ready for the last Passover the Lord Jesus will celebrate with his disciples until his return. He teaches, admonishes, warns, and prepares his disciples for the inconceivable. And after a few hours together, hours that puzzled his small band of disciples, Jesus walked down the stairs, out the door, and on to Gethsemane. Gethsemane, the garden with the prophetic name: oil, or olive, press. It was there that the weight of the agony of taking away the sin of the world weighed hard on the Lord Jesus. As the press began its work, Jesus sweat great drops of blood. His soul was pressed. His heart pounded like a hammer squeezing every drop of oil from the olives beneath its head. 

Back and forth Jesus walked from his place of agonizing prayer to the place of the three unfeeling disciples, all bound with ropes of sleep. Not an encouraging word would be found from his three closest friends. Not one look of compassion showed on their faces, limp with the sleep of the hour.

From there, late into the night, Jesus walked to trial after trial, stopping only to be questioned, mocked, beaten, and whipped. Surely those legs must be tired by now. Jesus has walked so many miles. He has not gone the second mile, though that is all he has asked of us. He has gone so much farther. One more walk and for three days his walking will be done.

With a cross as heavy as a large man of his day, Jesus began his walk outside of the gates of Jerusalem. He walked on as far as his legs would carry him. The soldiers compelled another to walk with him. Simon of Cyrene, carry that cross! Jesus, fall in behind him! Onward they walked, the legs of Jesus now heavy with both pain and grief. The cacophony of the crowd is almost indistinguishable. Some are laughing, some are crying. Some are begging for mercy, some are braying like stupid donkeys. 

At a place shaped like a skull the procession ends. Jesus won't walk anymore--not for the next 3 days. In fact, those feet that carried Jesus so many miles are now carefully arranged and fastened to the vertical beam of the cross with such ferocity that no man with half a heart could look on. His hands are equally impaled and Jesus is raised up from the earth. 

In his mind he has to have thought, "I was born for this. This is my destiny." We know one thing he thought: who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame... (Heb. 12:2) In a way that remains a mystery to the human mind, Jesus became sin on that cross, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. We can throw around the big words: imputed, propitiation, expiation, etc.; we can throw them around, but the mystery will remain in the same darkness that surrounded the cross for 3 hours. 

When Jesus finally came down from the cross, he came down as a corpse. He was dead. No man took his life; he laid it down. He had become the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. God saw the travail of his soul. And God was satisfied. The perfect sacrifice had finally been made for the sin of the world.

Joseph, Nicodemus, and a handful of women hastily prepared the body and buried our Lord Jesus in the tomb of the rich. Don't worry, Joseph! He's just going to borrow it for a few days.

On the first day of the week, early in the morning, an angel of God rolled away the stone. We like to say that the angel rolled the stone away so we could walk in, not so Jesus could walk out; but does it really matter? He has defeated death and if the King of kings wants to walk out, I think it's his prerogative. He doesn't need to, that's for sure. But we beheld him for three years as he walked from place to place. Maybe he wanted to stretch his legs one more time before presenting himself to his father in heaven. 

Behold the Lamb! He was the Lamb who willingly walked to his death so you would be able to walk into life everlasting. 

Take a good look...

Friday, December 27, 2013

Happy New Year

“Happy New Year!” is the call of most of the world in these days. That’s precisely what I want for you and me, as well as for so many that I know around the world. 

We can have a Happy New Year. Let me tell you what will make that possible for you:

It will be happy if we do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scoffers. 

It will be happy if we meditate in God’s precious, wisdom-giving word. 

It will be happy if we ensure that Jesus is Lord in our daily lives. 

We will have a happy new year if we think on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is just, whatever is lovely, and whatever is of a good report [that eliminates the obsession of some for most of the news broadcasts!!]. 

We will be happy if we place into practice those things which Jesus has both taught and commanded. 

Finally, we will have a happy new year if we give more than we receive. 

All these things are simple principles God gives for true happiness. Make this the happiest year of your life; seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

I look forward to worshiping the Lord God through Christ Jesus in the coming days, weeks, and months. Ultimately, that will produce the deepest joy and greatest measure of happiness.

Let’s be happy together.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Phil Robertson Was Right

Phil Robertson was right. Period. No need to debate this. What Phil said is what nature teaches. What Phil said is what the word of God teaches. What Phil said is what true Christianity teaches. A&E is Christophobic. If they can call practicing Christians homophobic, we have the equal right to call them Christophobic.

Mr. Cruz misunderstands true Christianity if he thinks true Christianity endorses or accepts homosexuality. True Christianity teaches that ALL sexual behavior outside of marriage is sin. True Christianity teaches that ANY practicing sinner can repent, believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, and be washed and justified (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Does this mean true Christians are homophobic or that they even hate those who practice same sex? Not at all! A true Christian is compelled by the love of Christ to love and reach out to all. A true Christian loves the practicing sinner enough to warn them that the road they have chosen leads to destruction. To quote Mr. Robertson, The true Christian "would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me." 

By the way, why did Mr. Cruz and A&E overlook that statement? Could it be that their agenda includes silencing the voices of true Christians from the public arena? 

Let me end as I began: Phil Robertson was right. Period.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tis the Week before Christmas and Christ Wants Us To Make Him Known

'Tis the week before Christmas. I suspect there will be thousands of blogs, Facebook posts, and Tweets that admonish us to keep Christ in Christmas. I wonder if, while we are scurrying about, making sure we have the right to say "Merry Christmas," and not just "Happy Holidays," or "Season's Greetings," are we also making sure we take the time to share the Christ of Christmas?

Let's be real about this. Much of what we want is the right to our tradition. Much of what I think Christ wants is our passion to make Him known to the world around us. We need to make him known to the one who cuts our hair. We need to make him known to the clerk at the store--that clerk with tired eyes and a heavy-hearted or bored look as she swipes your purchases across her scanner and announces the charges of your latest run through the store. We need to make him known to the busy server at your next restaurant.

We need to make Christ known in hundreds of people groups and hundreds of countries where his name is a rare thought. A simple offering to a missions agency or society, such as the IMB of the SBC will go a long ways in fulfilling that.

We need to make Christ known to our families. Honestly, that can be a daunting task. Some subjects are off limits at our Christmas celebrations. Oddly, Christ is not invited to his own party in some houses. It's as though we say, "Hey, it's Christmas! But don't you dare mention the J-word around here! You may offend someone!" Well, you know what? Make Christ known, anyway; just don't be obnoxious about it.

[Obnoxious...; I like that word. It sounds like you just let off a sudden stench with your mouth. I could go somewhere with that, but don't want to lose the message of this post.]

Yes, it's the week before Christmas. It's a great time to make Christ known. After all, He is the reason all this stuff started in the first place.