A Theology of Serving

With every passing year, people find more ways than ever to fill their time.  Between work and family and all the extra-curricular actives that go along with that, there is very little time for anything (or anyone) else. For many Christians, just getting to church on Sundays is a major success. “Surely, God understands my schedule.  After all, I can only do so much. So, why should I serve?” That’s the question we have started the year asking at The Gathering. It’s an important question and one that must be asked if we, as the Church and as individual disciples, must ask (even for those who are already involved in life up to their noses).  This is perhaps most important for the “busy” since a failure to prioritize can often lead to a greater sense of busy-ness and decreasing levels of peace and joy!

Recently, I preached on “A Theology of Serving,” attempting to answer that all-important question of, “Why should I serve?”. I have presented four major reasons as to why we should serve, both within your church and in your community. These reasons form the basis of a theology of serving.

  • I serve because it fulfills my purpose.

Many people ask this question: What is my purpose. The answer is simple, but it might not be what you think. Many define their purpose with their job, be it a doctor, a builder, a homemaker, or an accountant. That misses out on purpose. There is a difference in calling and purpose. Calling is what you do (hopefully, based on your determination of what God has called you to do), purpose is what you ultimate accomplish by what you do. For a children of God, there may be hundreds or thousands of different callings, but all have only one purpose! That purpose is nothing more and nothing less than to glorify God! (Romans 11:36, Ephesians 2:10, Matthew 5:16, 1 Peter 2:12). So, in whatever I do, I am to glorify God in the way I serve.

  • I serve because it defines my identity in the Kingdom of God.

I serve because I am a child of the King and to be a child of the King is to serve the King and to serve the King, I serve others. Jesus, Himself set the example by coming not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28). As disciples of Jesus, our identity is found in Him. We serve because we are to be like our Master (Philippians 2:5-7). If you refuse to serve, you are refusing to follow Jesus.

  • I serve to fulfill my role within the Body of Christ (the Church).

Every person who has been adopted into the Family of God (Romans 8:14-17) has been given both ability and responsibility to fulfill a calling within the local church. If God has called you here, to this specific church family, it is for a reason. You matter! If you are not serving in some capacity, then you are not accomplishing your calling and, consequently, are not experiencing the level of joy Christ has for you, and we are lacking in something that God has for His church that you are to provide (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).

  • I serve because to do so stands against the spirit of darkness and declares the existence and work of God.

We are the “Imago Dei”; the Image-bearers of God (Genesis 1:26). Since the fall of man in Genesis 3, we have preferred “self-serve”.  Sin has made us into self-centered creatures, living to feed our wants, our desires, our needs and our lusts.  Those who believe that there is no God and that the universe is simply a product of chance observes this tendency towards self-preservation and argues that we have a natural instinct towards the survival of the fittest; that we will only do that which assures our own survival or the continuation of the species.  All “serving” would then be utilitarian with the goal of serving our own interests.  When we give and serve, expecting nothing in return, we are declaring “PURPOSE!”  We are demonstrating the fact that we are made in the image of the living God, reflecting His character to a dying world.

If we are going to call ourselves disciples of Jesus, there is no alternative. If we are not serving, we are not following. Look for ways to serve both your church and your community. Get involved in some of the ministry or pray about what ministry God may be calling you to start in 2016. Whatever it is, get off the sidelines and engage in the ministry you were designed to do!

When It’s Good to be in a Gang

Paul tells Timothy that if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, “he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20-21)

This is a concept I’ve been dealing with a lot lately in messages at The Gathering, though it’s a concept I’ve not mastered.  I certainly struggle, not so much with the concept or idea of “cleansing oneself”, as much as the practice of it.  The concept basically addresses the outworking of sanctification (the process by which the Holy Spirit begins making changes and also empowers us, through discipline, to bring about changes, as well).  Whereas salvation/transformation is solely the work of the Holy Spirit, sanctification is a divine partnership, in which I have responsibility.  Admittedly, it would be much easier if God just DID IT all, Himself, but that’s not the way He’s chosen.  Instead, He has equipped me to do battle within myself and those deep-seeded sins that “so easily entangle” (Hebrews 12:1).

Because of the work Christ has already done in my life to change my position before the Father to that of Holy and blameless, I have the power to say no to conditional sin that, before, I could not.  Before, sin had me chained…I was under it’s power, fulfilling all the things that my flesh dictated to me (Ephesians 2:1-3).  Now, the Word tells me I’m no longer a slave to sin and that the only reason I am under any authority of sin is that I, willingly, place myself under it’s control, wrapping myself again with the chains that once held me, choosing the sin from which I’ve been freed.  In short, I sin now because I want to, not because I have to (Galatians 5:1).  That’s what is troubling.  I want to sin. Man, I hate even saying that, because I really don’t and, yet, if sin ever dominates my life, according to Scripture, it’s because I let it.

I think this is why Paul encouraged his young son in the faith to “Fight the good fight of faith.” (1 Timothy 6:12a)  It is most certainly a fight, but it’s a fight that involves retreating…running away from an enemy.  Sounds crazy when talking about standing firm and fighting, but being an overcomer, in this case, involves running away from enemies we cannot beat if we remain in their presence.  Samson was the strongest man in the neighborhood, but the only way he could have beaten the Philistines was by running away from that which tempted his heart…the great temptation of Delilah.  He was defeated, not by the brute force of an army, but by remaining under the influence of a single individual who offered him all that he wanted…momentary pleasure.

Wow, that’s it right there.  Momentary pleasure.  Even though it doesn’t last, it still has the ability to train wreck our spiritual lives.  This is why Paul kept encouraging Timothy to run away from it.  Don’t try to stay and fight because, eventually, you’ll let your guard down and the fight is over.  Clean knock-out.  As a matter of fact, right after Paul encourages Timothy to cleanse himself, he tells him how:

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant[e] must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2: 22-26)

In this passage, there is both a “run away from” and a “run towards”.  Both words used, “flee” and “pursue”, communicate both an urgency and an exertion of effort.  One involved running away from as hard and fast as you can while the other involves chasing after something as to catch it.  In other words, we should never be standing still!  The question is where should the most emphasis be placed, on fleeing or pursuing?  Which one do I focus on more?  The great news is that they are in opposite directions, but only sort of.  Here’s what I mean: I can flee from unrighteousness, but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily pursuing godly righteousness.  It might mean that I’m simply pursuing self-righteousness.  I might still be trying to overcome sin under my own power and that will just lead to a pride that is nothing more than unrighteousness in disguise.  So, in truth, I’ve never actually run away from anything!

The key, then, to dealing honestly with sin, is to chase after godly righteousness “along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”  In other words, I will never actually overcome sin in my life using a “Lone Ranger” approach because I’ll just drift towards self-righteousness and never even notice.  It’s actually a great weapon of the Enemy, “the Father of Lies”.  However, if I am in a community of humble people who are honestly seeking these same things, we can ” gang up” on sin, keeping each other in check, moving towards true godliness together, pointing out that slow drift away from our godly pursuits.

This is why “Gospel friendships” are so important, where we are deliberately speaking into each others lives; where almost every conversation contains some level of Gospel conversation, encouraging and challenging each other and simply “checking up”.  It doesn’t happen by accident and takes a great deal of cultivation.  If, though, I want to overcome sin in my life, sin that my flesh really wants to give in to because I like the momentary pleasure it offers, I have to pursue such relationships with everything I have, knowing that it’s worth the effort.

Getting it Right

One of the things I had to learn once I started seminary was how to effectively and rightly interpret Scripture. I guess I hadn’t though much about it up to that point. I figured you just read the Bible and did what it said. From time-to-time, I would have people ask me, “Do you interpret the Bible literally?” Hm. Wasn’t sure how to answer that. I guess so. At the time, I didn’t understand what they meant. I later learned that some people interpreted everything literally. Since there are passages that instruct women to “adorn themselves in respectable apparel…” (1 Timothy 2:9-10), some churches have decided it best that women not wear make-up or shorts or anything other than long dresses. While I respect their desire for modesty and am totally in favor of the appropriate amount of cover-up, make-up, in my humble opinion, is not a bad invention. Therefore, I assumed that I didn’t take everything literally.

On the other hand, there were those who argued for allegorical interpretation of Scripture. In this case, stories like Jonah and the Whale, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, Noah and the Flood were not historical events but stories made up in order to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. I definitely didn’t fall into that category.

So, when I got to seminary, I learned how to properly interpret Scripture. I learned that it is important that we seek out the author’s original intent according to the context in which he wrote. What was he trying to say when he wrote what he did under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? I learned that there are different genres in Scripture just like there are different genres in other types of literature. As such, they must be interpreted accordingly. For instance, poetry can’t be interpreted the same as history. Imagery is used that cannot be taken literally. If it were, then a painting of the bride that Solomon describes in Song of Solomon 4 would end up looking like a strange work of art by Pablo Picasso…more like the Elephant Man than a beautiful woman.

During my studies, I discovered a device that is often used in Scripture called “Phenomenological Language.” When someone uses this literary device, they are simply describing what they see as they see it without using technical jargon or concern to describe what is actually happening. For instance, in Psalm 19, David, in describing the heavens that God created, writes:

In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Now, if we take that literally, we have a lot of problems with Scripture. As a matter of fact, this verse has been used by some who believe the Bible is full of errors. They say that if God essentially wrote Scripture, it should be known that the Sun does not actually move, but that the earth revolves around a stationary sun. This, therefore, proves Scripture errant. These people fail to realize the phenomenological language that is being used to provide word-pictures. David is simply looking up and describing the heavens as he sees it. The reality is, we know that the Earth revolves around the Sun yet we do the same thing today! Think about it: “What time is sunrise today?” “Did you see that beautiful sunset?” “I love watching the Sun rise over the ocean.” What are we saying about the nature of the Sun’s actions in relation to the Earth when we talk like this? Nothing. That’s not what we’re talking about at all.

In light of this, it’s important that we understand how we interpret language. Otherwise, it can completely derail our understanding of Scripture and how we live our lives.

I have another one for you. We talk about “going to church.” How often do you talk to your family and friends about going to church? It happens all the time, doesn’t it? Do you go to church every Sunday? What church to you go to? What are we doing? We’re using phenomenological language! It looks like we’re going to church, but that is not the reality. The Bible describes the Truth behind the language in places like 1 Corinthians 12:27, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Again in Romans 12:4-5, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” As a matter of fact, there are over 20 passages in Scripture that talk not about going to church, but being the Church! Our understanding on this point makes all the difference in the world as to how we respond to it.

If I believe that I simply go to church on Sunday, then my level of commitment and involvement is very limited. I go to the store to get what I need and leave without another thought of it. I go to the movies and am entertained for a couple of hours and then get on with my life. I am, essentially, a consumer who gets what I need and then moves on with that experience having little impact on the other parts of my life.

If, on the other hand, I understand that I am the Church, that changes everything! I cannot be a father only when I’m around my children or a husband only when I’m around my wife. These aspects of my identity shape everything about me. They determine decisions and actions, attitudes and thoughts. That is me. In the same way, I cannot be a part of the Church only when I’m there. I am a part of the Body of Christ at all times and in all places. That fact should also shape decisions, attitudes, actions and thoughts. It should determine how I function within the Body as well:

I don’t ask whether I should serve. I assume that. Instead, I ask “Where should I serve.”
I don’t ask wether or not I should give. I assume that. Instead, I ask, “What should I give?”
I don’t ask whether or not I should participate. I assume that. Instead, I ask, “How do I participate.”
I don’t ask whether or not I should be a witness for Christ at work and play. I assume that. Instead, I ask, “How can I be a good witness in my context?

I hope you can see the importance of understanding Scripture rightly, and how our use of language matters, as well. If I talk too much about “going to church,” that will eventually shape my thinking about it. Instead, I need to begin reminding myself at all times and in all ways, that, because I have been adopted by the Father, redeemed by the Son and sealed by the Spirit, I am the Church. In so doing, I’m changing the way I identify and interact with all of the other members of that same Body of Christ, serving, giving and going with the right attitude and determination to glorify Him in all things.

Who’s Choice is it Anyway?

It is an understatement to say that the topic of Divine Election is a hotly debated one.  People are often very passionate and sometimes downright uncivil in their expressions of those passions.  People are cast with (what are intended as) disparaging labels, looked down upon with expressed disappointment, and dismissed as marginal when they admit to certain doctrinal beliefs.

That the Doctrine of Election is taught in Scripture is undeniable by anyone reading Scripture with honest eyes.  Getting beyond our preconceived ideas of what is taught is usually the problem and a challenge for any of us to get to the heart and truth.  Certainly, we can all find our various “proof-texts” or “spoilers” to opposing doctrinal positions.  However, a goal of theology involves avoiding outright contradictions in our formulations in our quest for the TRUTH of God.

If a seemingly opposing passage can be easily worked into a particular doctrinal position without either twisting or changing it’s basic meaning, it should be seriously considered.  If it cannot, then that position must be rejected since the teaching of Scripture does not contradict itself.  If there is interest, I may explore one or two examples in a future post.  For the moment, though, the point is that we must determine to approach the Scripture humbly and honestly, with no axes to grind but only a desire to learn of the nature and will of God.  Due to some of the inevitable implications, for many, MANY years I wrestled with this teaching, desperately wanting (kicking and screaming, as it were) to deny it on the one hand, and yet knowing that it was undeniable on the other.

On Sunday, I addressed the topic in part 15 of my series, Portrait of A Savior.  I pray I did an honest and adequate job handling this subject, building my argument from a simple reading of John 6:22-71 as well as additional supporting passages.  My goal was not only to teach how Scripture is clear of God’s sovereign choice in election, but also the great paradox of man’s responsibility to believe and freely respond (as well as to explore the origin of “belief” itself).

To the best of my ability, the only presuppositions I deliberately and unapologetically start from are that Scripture is perfect in it’s teaching and, whatever formulation of predestination, freedom, election or salvation, God must be clearly seen as the Sovereign originator of salvation.  To do otherwise is to elevate man’s position above that of God, thereby glorifying man above God, and that must not happen.  God will not allow that to happen.  Isaiah is clear that He will share His glory with no one (Isaiah 41-42).

Again, this is a tough subject, but an important one, nonetheless, and one that provides the Believer with a certainty that, regardless of the storms, the trials and circumstances, Christ will never let go of all whom the Father gives Him.  At the end of the day, we may disagree on certain aspects of God’s application of His work of salvation.  However, for Christians of various doctrinal differences, our agreement (I trust!) is that salvation is through Christ alone (John 14:6), by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), resulting in repentance of sin and the desire for holiness (Romans 10:9-10).

My prayer is that, if you watch the following video, you will do so with a desire to hear from the Spirit of God through the Word of God, not with a closed spirit simply looking for grounds upon which to disagree or pick a fight.  I am certain there are plenty of opportunities for that.  That is, however, not my purpose.  My purpose is singular in nature and focus:  Soli Deo Gloria!

Portrait of a Savior, Part 15 from The Gathering on Vimeo.

For a pretty thorough handling of the Doctrine of Election, check out this explanation. (Sorry for those of you who, like me, aren’t big KJV people.)  It’s always a good idea to first study what you say you don’t believe to make sure you don’t actually believe it.  Caricatures abound!  😉

When Doctrine Comes Alive

Last night, we had one of our Institute classes at The Gathering.  If you’re not familiar, Institute is currently an in-depth systematic theology class we take some of our members through.  It can be rather intense and challenging to complete.  I have to say, though, I am so proud of those who have taken on the challenge and are seeing it through to the end.

The topics we covered last night were all related to the doctrine of Christ.  I am always amazed at the blessing that comes through studying doctrine.  That’s usually the stuff people find cold, stale and boring.  Man, that couldn’t be farther from the truth!  As we talked about the expansive nature of the Father’s love, the Son’s obedience and the Spirit’s power, we were left in awe.  It just reminded me of how little we “get it.”

GrudemHere’s an example of what I’m talking about:  In dealing with the crucifixion of Christ, in his book, Bible Doctrines (which is our text), Wayne Grudem uses that sickening feeling we get when we know that someone is mad at us to describe something of what Christ must have felt.  We sometimes lose sleep.  We experience a nagging, gnawing in our stomachs and can’t wait for it to be made right somehow in order to relieve the agony we have experienced.  When Christ died, the full wrath and fury of God the Father towards ALL of mankind was directed at and poured onto Jesus.  All of it…in full force…at one time.

If we experience intense feelings when human relationships are damaged,  how unbelievably intense must that have felt for Christ for the Father to not just turn His back on the Son, but to rage against the Son because of us; so that He didn’t have to rage against us?  Do you get that?!

Regardless of how awful we think the crucifixion of Christ was; no matter how much we think we have a grasp of it…no! It was worse than that.  “But I think I get it.” No, you don’t.  It was worse.  Unimaginably worse. Incomprehensibly worse.

As we thought through these incredible truths, we concluded that there is only one place to land; only one, real response:  worship.  Not just the “outer expression” of worship, but the deep, inner sense of awe and wonder, thanksgiving and praise that should be what leads to the outward expressions.

Too often, what we call our outward expressions of worship aren’t anything close to real expression.  They’re frequently little more than Pavlovian responses to hearing certain music.  The cool, emotion-driven song starts playing, the hands go up, the tears start flowing.  Sadly, there is often little substance.

That is not to say that we should become conscious of what others are doing in worship.  “Do they get it, or are they just ‘going through the motions?'” Quite the opposite.  We need to become conscious of what we are doing in worship.  Is it worship in spirit and truth? (John 4:24)  Is it honest and is it based on the reality of what Christ has done?  Is it in response to the substitutionary atonement that Christ has secured for His children and the sanctifying work of the Spirit that gets us through this life victoriously?  Is it a natural outflow of our meditation on the depths of the Father’s love for us that He would reserve the full load of His intense fury for His own Son?  Is it real worship because we understand that the glory of God is so important that all of this is done to magnify it?  Do we really get it?

It’s when we spend the time thinking through, studying, wrestling with and realizing the deep things of God as revealed through Scripture that the heart becomes engaged and the outward responses are true expressions.  This is why we have to go deeper than the spiritual milk Paul talked about and dig down deep into the nourishing meat of Scripture…yes, even those cold, stale doctrines…

…which are anything but.

Shai Linne’s Fal$e Teachers

shailinneMy twelve year-old son, Jacob, has taken to hip-hop music.  Now, if you’re like me, the revelation that your son likes hip-hop can be a bit concerning.  I certainly don’t need to mention the fact that most hip-hop music is angry, often violent young men spewing their anger and violence out lyrically.  Much of it simply leads to angry, violent young listeners.  Then I found out what it was that Jacob was listening to.

It turns out that he has become a big fan of Lacrae.  Now, I had heard a guy engaging in “Lyrical Theology” once before but didn’t know much about it, except that I liked what I heard.  However, not being a huge hip-hop fan myself, that’s about as far as it went.

So, I began listening with Jacob and the more I listened, the more impressed I was.  These guys are solid and good at what they do.  I admit that I only take it in doses (guess I’m just getting old), but I encourage Jacob to listen to as much as he can because I know he’s getting good theology in a format he enjoys.

Recently, I was introduced to a guy named Shai Linne.  Shai recently wrote a song that has stirred quite the hornets nest (in a good way) with a song called “Fal$e Teachers” where he calls ’em out by name (a man after my own heart).

In case you haven’t heard of him, I thought I’d share a recent post from his video blog below where he explains the motivation behind the song and then, below that, is a link to the song, itself.  Let me know what you think.


T-Shirt Theology

CrossHillBWI’m often amazed at how easy it is to become so focused on a thought we want to convey that we lose sight of truth, often derailing the very point we set out to make.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

This morning, I heard a guy on the radio make the following statement:

The cross was no cosmological accident; no knee-jerk reaction. It was a calculated plan. The moment the forbidden fruit touched the mouth of Eve, the shadow of the cross appeared on the horizon.

Sounds, beautiful, no? It really does.

“The moment the forbidden fruit touched the mouth of Eve, the shadow of the cross appeared on the horizon”.

That could be printed on a T-shirt and sold for $15 with every major Bible bookstore stacking it on its shelves.

The only problem is that, in spite of claiming that the cross was no knee-jerk reaction, the explanation sounds like a knee-jerk reaction.

Think about it.

According to this statement, the cross was a response to the action of Eve. Sounds logical, right?  Problem arises, solution follows.  Sounds palatable. But is it accurate?

If that’s true, then this is false:

18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. [1 Peter 1:18-21. Emphasis added]

And this:

7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. [Revelation 13:7-8. Emphasis added]

In these two passages, both communicating a pre-determined plan of God prior to the creation of the world,  the first part of the above quote is affirmed: The cross was no cosmological accident or knee-jerk reaction. The second part, however, implies the opposite.

Though it sounds good, it’s not good. The only way for this not to be a knee-jerk or something that God had to react to (an assault on his omniscience) is for it to have been part of his plan from the beginning. That affirms the passages in 1 Peter and Revelation.  If that was what was meant, it’s not what was communicated.

Somehow, God had planned to reveal Christ to the world long before creation in the exact way in which He did. At the right time, God began to put the plan in motion (i.e. when the fruit was tasted and the fall occurred), revealing to us the glorious Christ as it unfolded.

I admit, that makes for a bad t-shirt, but it makes for a wonderful, sovereign, omniscient God.

It is especially important for those of us who are charged with communicating Truth to the masses (but applies to anyone conveying Truth), to be extra careful with our theology so that, in our desire for pithy slogan-making and sentimental ideas, we don’t misrepresent the character of God and miscommunicate the very Truths we are trying to convey.

‘The Great I AM’, Not the ‘I Wish I Was’

May I vent?  OK, my blog…guess it’s ok.  

If you’re anything like me, you’re getting “sick and tired” (two inseparables there) of hearing armchair theologians declaring that God was not present at Sandy Hook because “we systematically kicked Him out of society.” I’m getting to the point that I may actually scream out loud if I hear it again (now, waiting for someone to say it just so I have to follow through).  

One more time: 1. God is sovereign and omnipotent. That means He is all-powerful and cannot be over-ruled or pushed around.  He does not submit Himself to mere man or else He would cease to be God (and man would step into His place).  He is in His heaven and does whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3).  2.  He cannot NOT be somewhere. He is omnipresent. David worships God because of this in Psalm 139 (7-12).  

It is maddening to continually hear people with good intentions who want to see prayer in public schools restored use bad theology to do it as if the end justifies the means.

Make the argument that we are better off when we are free to live out our faith in all avenues of life, but don’t diminish the majesty and glory, the power and dignity of God in the process.  

God is God!  

God must either allow or prescribe everything that happens in this world (Isaiah 46:8-11).  Wrestle with that, but don’t dismiss the truth of what Scripture says because it doesn’t fit the easy narrative that God would have done something to stop a tragedy if He could have, but He got His walking papers and moved on or was powerless to do something because the will of man is stronger than the will of God.  Yes, God can most certainly remove His Spirit from a people and give them over to their sins (Romans 1) and sin does, in fact, put a separation between man and God (Isaiah 59:1-2) and sin was definitely the cause of such a massacre, but there is no evidence that God could not have saved those 26 people because He had been kicked out or was powerless to do so.  

Where was God? He was there!  Grace shows up in many forms and often in ways we may not grasp this side of heaven, but I believe God’s grace was even present in the little lives of these beautiful, terrified children who couldn’t run safely out of that school.  His ways and thoughts are beyond my ability to understand (Isaiah 55:8-9) but the God I know didn’t leave them alone or abandon them in their darkest moment.  How does it go? “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…”   

Just because I can’t understand why God didn’t stop it or see clearly what He was up to doesn’t lessen the fact that there are many things that happen beyond our ability to know and understand.  For some, that’s not good enough.  Fair enough.  I can’t convince everyone and God’s certainly capable of convincing anyone He pleases, but there are plenty of “realities” I don’t understand.  I often have problems just understanding how WiFi exists.  Nevertheless, incredible amounts of data fly through the air unseen and undetected by me, and yet there is evidence of that as I turn on my computer.  I may not understand or see how God is working, but often we see evidence as people are transformed and upheld in the midst of tragedy or when peace shows up inexplicably where there should be none.

As time goes by, little hints of grace pop up unexpectedly, and if we’re looking, we find God was, indeed, very much there.

Drive Through Prayer?

A church in Ft. Lauderdale has begun offering drive-thru prayer services for those in need. Good idea, right? After all, who couldn’t use a little prayer?

The Pentecostal congregation has been offering drive-thru prayer services every Friday for the last month, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Outreach Pastor Sol Levy says many who pass through have never been inside a church and are often at the end of their rope. The volunteers offer to pray with them on any issue, big or small, from a rough day at work to divorce and foreclosure.

Church leaders say the initiative is starting to gain popularity and has served about 150 people so far.

I fear initiatives like this because of the implications it has for promoting an easy, feel-goodism related to God. Where is the relationship? Where is the obedience to follow Christ? How about the call to deny yourself, take up yourself and follow Christ? I know, I know…some will say that these people coming for prayer aren’t there yet, so something should be offered to “reel them in.” I get it. I don’t buy it.

I’m afraid that all this will do is give them just enough “Jesus” to inoculate them from a real relationship with Him. Why should they ever follow a Jesus that calls them to total self-sacrifice when all they have to do is shoot through a window and place their “order”?

Still, some will say that you have to depend on the Holy Spirit to get them to that place. Exactly! Since it’s the Holy Spirit that draws in the first place, why offer something that needs to be preceded by a prayer of repentance and surrender anyway? I think it is important for us to think and re-think our (well-intentioned) methods of reaching people that, in the end, may cause them more spiritual damage and provide more spiritual baggage than they arrived with.

That’s my view. Feel free to let me know yours.

Rob Bell Attempts to Explain Apparent Inconsistencies in Love Wins

MSNBC interview with Martin Bashir:

What do you think? Did he adequately answer the questions or did he continue in the postmodern practice of embracing and promoting contradictory propositions?


Listen to an excellent follow-up interview with Martin Bashir.

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