A Very Real Power

I was thinking lately about the power of language. As I thought about how God used the spoken word to create the universe I was struck by the reality that there is great power in our use of language. It is something we often take for granted. God said, “Let there be….” and the world and all that is in it came bursting forth into existence.

We cannot create a universe, but we can create divergent realities with our language. Think about the power words have over children when they are still learning. What is said to that child can determine the course of his or her entire life. Think about how criticism can break a person emotionally and psychologically. Conversely, think of how a word timely spoken can redirect the course of a person’s entire life in positive ways. Words are more than just ideas verbalized. They are a form of power that we wield every time we open our mouth. As such we are to use our speech in ways that honor God and direct people to the path of life.

The Bible has much to teach us about Continue reading

My Brother

“While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:46-50).

The other day someone made the statement to me, “We are brothers.” What he meant was, we are fellow believers, and as a result there is a relationship between us grounded in Christ. I agreed and we gave the appropriate man hug with the hit on the back, and then we went our separate ways. This morning while doing my quite time I read the above verse. Jesus raises an interesting point concerning our relationships in Christ. He seems to limit them.

Jesus’ family came looking for Him. His mother and brothers were attempting an intervention. Mom found the brothers and convinced them to put a stop to what Jesus was doing. I think they thought He lost his mind and they were seeking to “speak” with Him about His ministry. His reply is almost shocking. “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” He asked. The normal reply would have been, “Those guys out there with the little old lady who are waiting for you.” But instead Jesus points to those who are actively following Him and says, “Here are my mother and brothers!” He then defines that relationship with great specificity. He says, in effect, Continue reading

Divide the Word, Not Believers

So I just finished a debate – if you can call it that – with a man who forcefully argues for a hyper-Calvinism position on the atonement. We sat down to have coffee a couple of weeks ago and somehow got into a debate on Romans 9. Let me say upfront that there are many good Christians who are hyper-Calvinists; and there are many good Christians who are not. I belong to the latter category. The conclusion of the story, I assume, based on his comments on FB, is that he has broken fellowship with me. In our discussion on Romans nine, I presented a reading of the text that disagreed with his. On FB, without articulating what I actually said about Romans nine, he told anyone reading that I vehemently oppose God’s sovereignty in salvation, I dishonor God, and that I despise the sovereignty of God. When I called him a Calvinist he said I was disparaging him and that he does not accept such titles – he even said I was disparaging Calvin. I thought I was being accurate based on his argument. He thought I was being divisive. One of the things I took away from his comments where he accuses me of dishonoring God is that because I disagree with him, I am therefore dishonoring God. To dishonor God is a serious thing. It is to be living in sin and rebellion against God. To accuse someone of dishonoring God because of theological differences is a scary place to be. You might as well make the claim “To disagree with me is to disagree with God.” Where did we ever get the idea that disagreement over theological arguments is A. equivalent to attacking God; and B. grounds for accusing a brother in Christ for being in sin; and C. grounds for breaking fellowship? Friends this is not Christianity. This is insanity.

As far as my reading of Romans nine, in a nut-shell I believe Paul is explaining why God’s promises to the Jews have not failed. It seems that the point of contention comes from the verse that reads, “Jacob I loved but Esau I hated” (Rom 9:13). Hyper-Calvinists insists that this means God chooses who gets saved, and conversely, God chooses who goes to hell. I think that is a misreading of the text. That verse is a quote from Malachi 1:2. It is my contention Continue reading

Do What?

Over the course of the last year I have heard several Christians dispense advice along these lines, “You have to do what is right for you.” I remember being a young soldier in 1990 and giving out the same advice to someone who asked me about a situation they were in. The advice has an appearance of wisdom. In every situation there are factors that only the person involved in can navigate; and only the individual can assess the consequences that will arise as a result of their choices. So, telling them to do what is right for them, i.e., what will benefit them the best, seems to be the right advice to give.

Before I came to know Christ, I saw myself as an isolated entity with no clear connections to the world around me. Sure I had family relationships, friends, and breathed the same air as those around me, but whatever I chose to do, in my mind at the time, had little impact on others and the world around me (in so far as my actions did not hurt others). That may be a bit of a simplification, but, like those around me, I made choices that I believed were best for me without giving much thought to anything else. But, when I met God, my perspective on life changed.

Before we meet God we are simply individuals trying to navigate Continue reading

Freedom

This is chapter 9 of my book, Man of the World.

 

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

I remember watching Mel Gibson’s movie Brave Heart years ago. No one who watched that movie can forget the dramatic ending where, during intense torture, the main character cries out, “Freedom!” Freedom is a yearning within all people. Unfortunately, outside of Christ there is no freedom. Only He can bring the freedom our soul longs for. Sin enslaves all people. And religion without Christ cannot set a single person free. For those who strive to be free in the flesh, seeking freedom through religion, they will receive only weariness, toil, and disappointment. But, for those who come to Christ, a glorious freedom awaits them.

The true Man of the World comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. Satan seeks to lead us into the land of religion and ritual that is devoid of life. He creates rules and generates anxiety. He wants people to think of God as a heavenly IRS agent desperately seeking to find something wrong with you so He can smite you. He wants to create division amongst people by getting them to become suspicious of each other. He wants people to distrust each other, hate each other, judge one another, and hurt one another. He has done a good job. Lifeless religion has been the source of contention and strife for as long as history has been written. The reason there are so many different denominations is because there are no shortage of people hurling contempt upon others in the name of God. Fallen people are always looking for reasons to divide. It takes a spirit filled person to see imperfect people and, knowing they too are sinners in need of a savior, love them as Christ did.

Thankfully, Jesus came to give us the Spirit. He came that we may have life and have it abundantly.[1] He did not come to give us rituals, or generate anxiety by telling how we might fail. He didn’t come to tell us how some are better than others. He isn’t watching over us with a clipboard and Continue reading

Speak Life

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Thought of the Day: Criticism is the easiest form of analysis

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).

The other day I was watching the trailer for a movie. I think it was about King Arthur and Merlin. One scene depicted a young Merlin waving his hand over a dead flower and bringing it back to life. Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of power! The reality is that in a certain sense we do. And it’s a power we often overlook. While waving my hand over something broken will not fix it, or bring it back to life, we all have the ability to speak life into the life of a broken person or a broken situation.

We live in a world with many broken things.  There are broken relationships, marriages and homes. There are broken nations and communities. And all around us there are broken people. And while we cannot fix all the problems people face, we can do two things:

  1. We can make sure we do not contribute to their brokenness by being critical faultfinders who are looking for ways to show others what they are doing wrong.
  1. And we can use our words in a way that builds others up. With our words we have the power to heal and fix things that are truly broken.

I am reminded that when God created this amazing world and universe we live in He did so by speaking it into existence. When God speaks life is created and life blossoms.

Picking apart and finding fault in others is not an admirable attribute. There are times when we all need correction. But the people we admire are those who correct in a way that improves who we are as people. The word encourage literally means, “To cause another to be confident”

The prefix “en” means “to cause”

The word “courage” means “confidence”

When we encourage someone we cause them to be confident. A Leader (to be distinguished from one who is simply in charge) has the unique ability to make people confident in such way that it causes them to improve, to do what they need to do to change, or to just be a better person.

The Great Deceiver, Chapter 4: The Battle for Significance

“You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice”     John 18:37

No one likes to be disciplined. I remember getting in trouble when I was in third grade. I don’t recall what I did at school, but I have a vivid memory of my dad’s response. He sat me down and asked me what I did. While I don’t recall what that was, I do remember that I lied to my dad about it. That was the only time my father laid a hand on me. It hurt. I did not like being corrected. But it had a very positive effect. I don’t lie. I learned that lesson at a young age. And I learned that lesson because I had a father who loved me enough not to let me get away with lying. His love cured me of that sin.

Today, many people are looking for love. But, as the song goes, they are looking for love in all the wrong places. Over the course of the last few years I have developed a bit of a twitch whenever someone has the radio turned to a contemporary Christian radio station. I actually love much of the contemporary music, but I can’t say the same for the announcers and commentary between the songs. I have come to affectionately refer to these stations as the Cult of Encouragement. These radio stations ooze encouragement all over your car, out of the window, and down the street. As the ooze slithers down the road, in my review mirror, I think I even once saw it rise up, raise something like a hand in the air and a voice said, “You are loved! Yeah!!”

Now, before you accuse me of begin an Ebenezer Scrooge, hear me out. I am all for encouragement – when it is appropriate to give it. And, I am all for people hearing that God loves them. But, Continue reading

Time to Choose!

There are a lot of competing voices in our culture concerning the gay marriage issue. Who you listen to will make all the difference on how you decide where you stand.

People in positions of influence will make statements like, “My moral code is a matter of faith,” or “I don’t have the right to impose my moral code on you,” or “You can’t legislate morality,” or “I am not always right, and neither are you.” Comments such as these appear to have a form of wisdom.

Let’s briefly consider the above ideas. First, morality is not a matter of personal preference. The source of all morality is God. True morality, the type that leads away from sin, is a reflection of God’s holy character. He, in fact, demands that we obey his moral code as revealed in His law. God’s law is not something that is given to us as a suggestion. It’s not a preference. He revealed it to the world and commands that all must obey it; and He reveals that it is this law under which all will be judged.

Second, when understood correctly, law is morality legislated. That’s the whole point. If you support something legally, Continue reading

You’re What?!

Resist the urge to be offended. There are many in our culture today who are offended at everything, and they feel compelled to tell you how offended they are. We have entered an age where not being offended is seen as a right; and being offended makes one a victim. Unfortunately, many people have been truly hurt by the “victims” of those who offend.

However, if you are a Christian, before you jump on the bandwagon of cultural sensitivity claiming to be offended by what someone says or does, just consider a few things.

  1. To make the claim that you are offended means that you have climbed the lofty perch of righteousness. You have arrived at the superior moral plane where your refined moral sensibilities have elevated you above your peers. Hence, when you claim to be offended, you are looking down upon the groveling mass of ignorant plebes who have no right to disturb your sense of peace and wellbeing. They can’t possibly know what it’s like to live with such a refined sensitivity towards what is truly right, proper, just, and good. Just the suggestion that you enter into their filthy little world by trying to understand why one might say or do something that you can’t possibly be associated with is an outrage! You see, the burden is for such people to become sensitive to how righteous you are, and then make sure that, when in your presence, they act accordingly.
  2. To make the claim that you are offended means that you have climbed the soaring heights of intellectual superiority. You are offended precisely because they are ignorant, stupid clods who should have immediately understood that, in your presence, the only appropriate response is to listen and learn. Speaking about things that are contrary to your exceptional intellectual acumen is not only insulting, but suggesting that you should condescend and spend time with such people is absurd!
  3. To make the claim that you are offended means that you have assumed the towering post of an existential existence that necessarily places you in the top tier of ontological reality. As Isaiah was confronted with the majesty of God (see Isaiah chapter 6) upon entering His presence, so too, those who enter yours should have a similar response. And, if they too should appropriately humble themselves before you, then you can bestow your magnanimous mercy upon them.

Ok, that may seem like a bit much, but Continue reading

Welcome to the New

I remember exactly where I was on September 11th 2001. I was leaving my biblical Hebrew class in seminary when another student approached the prof and told him what had taken place. As news of the events unfolded I remember this sinking feeling in my stomach. I felt sick. When I heard the news that the Supreme Court ruled to make gay-marriage legal, I had that same feeling. On September 11th the twin towers fell. Today, two great towers of American culture have fallen.

Where America once had great respect for moral truth, today that tower is lying in a heap of rubble. And where America once had respect for the things of God, and even had a semblance of the “Fear of the Lord” that tower also is lying in a heap of rubble. Admittedly, one has to go back at least an entire generation to find those towers standing strong. But, for the majority of American history those two towers had a profound effect on the fiber of the American Republic. America is America only with those towers standing strong.

The founders of our republic understood the necessity of religion for a functional democracy. They believed that America would only be as strong as the people had a healthy love for the virtues and principles of religious truth. Sure, they were not all evangelical Christians, as we understood the term today. But, Continue reading