Saturday, February 5, 2011


"Christians must understand most emphatically that the world around us is in conflict with the Word within us." - A.W. Tozer

Joel Osteen was recently on TV with Piers Morgan (who replaced Larry King). Joel had taken a lot of heat from Christian circles after his last appearance with Larry as he was unwilling to clearly share the Gospel and tell people that Jesus was the only way to salvation. This time Piers pressed Osteen on whether homosexuality was a sin, and much to my surprise, he spoke God's truth:

His answer was not a bold declaration but, give him credit, one that is faithful to Scripture: "Yes. I've always believed, Piers, the Scriptures shows that it's a sin."

Osteen added: "But you know, I'm not one of those that are out there to bash homosexuals and tell them that they're terrible people and all of that. I mean, there are other sins in the Bible too."

That modest caveat didn't help. One of the nation's largest homosexual advocacy groups, the Human Rights Campaign, blasted Osteen for his "hateful remark" and demanded an immediate apology. HRC president Joe Solmonese charged that Osteen's "tired and dangerous statement" only "furthers ignorance and discrimination" and "adds a burden to those already struggling to accept their sexual orientation or gender identity."

I doubt Osteen was surprised by this reaction from the HRC. It's probably why he has been so reluctant in the past to label sinful activities sin. In his book "Your Best Life Now" he uses the word "sin" or "sins" a total of 4 times in 310 pages. It just isn't a feel good word and tends to cause darkness to lash out when the light shines upon it.

It seems clear to me that this will be the issue that will be used as the primary means to target Christians. We will be accused of lacking fairness, tolerance, equality, acceptance and love. Of course, we will be shown none of those either. But this won't be surprising. If you read the Bible, you know this is coming:

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. - Matthew 5:10-12

19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’[a] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. - John 15:19-21

Consider these other examples:

Over the past month, several progressive activist blogs have waged an ugly war against Chick-fil-A. The company's alleged atrocity: One of its independent outlets in Pennsylvania donated some sandwiches and brownies to a marriage seminar run by the Pennsylvania Family Institute, which happens to oppose same-sex marriage. In the name of tolerance, the anti-Chick-fil-A hawks sneered at the company's main product as "Jesus Chicken," derided its no-Sunday work policy and attacked its operators as "anti-gay." Michael Jones, who describes himself as having "worked in the field of human rights communications for a decade, most recently for Harvard Law School," launched an online petition drive at "demanding" that the company disavow "extreme anti-gay groups." Facebook users dutifully organized witch hunts against the company on college campuses.

Remember the "anti-gay blacklist" that resulted from the Prop 8 fight in California in November 2008? Anyone who had made a donation in support of Prop 8 (against gay marriage) had their name released on the Internet. Many were directly targeted. At least one individual was forced to resign from his job. Many others had their property vandalized. Violence toward Mormons and Catholics was common.

These will not prove to be isolated examples. They will occur with more frequency. You need to decide what side you will fall on. Will you honor and stand firm for God's Word or will you join those whose idea of human justice opposes God's truth? Will you join the ELCA and the Episcopal Church in selling out their brothers and sisters in Christ in order to acquiesce to the demands of a world that sees itself as the highest authority? As John Piper says, "If there isn't someone in your life who hates you, then you either don't know enough people or speak enough truth."

I have a few thoughts on how Bible-believing Christians should live in these increasingly dark times:

1) Love people. Build relationships. The saying "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care" may be cliche but there is truth in it. By all means speak the truth because that is the ultimate act of love. People may not take it that way but to not share God's Word in the spirit of grace and love is to not love that person at all. They may not believe you but let them know this isn't meant to be a personal attack but that God simply desires the best for them. God's commands weren't meant to take away freedoms but to give freedom in Him, to give life and give it abundantly.

"All love and no truth is hypocrisy. All truth and no love is brutality." - James MacDonald

2) Osteen does have a point that homosexuality is not a greater sin than any other. We are all sinners and it is essential to remember that you are no better than anyone else. We have all fallen short of the glory of God and it is only by His amazing grace that you have faith and an eternal home in heaven. Show that same grace to others.

3) Share the Gospel. Never just share the law and walk away. If you are asked a direct question regarding your stance on homosexuality or gay marriage, answer it in truth but don't stop there. Do your best to explain point #2.

4) Have urgency in your witnessing to others. We still have a window of opportunity to share our faith mostly unobstructed without fear of real persecution. Take advantage of every opportunity God places in your path right now because you don't know what tomorrow may bring.

5) Don't be afraid. The temptation will be to skirt the issue or just not get involved in such conversations for fear of retribution.

"The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?" - Psalm 118:6

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." - Matthew 10:28

Finally, do not hold onto your life so tightly that you lose your grip on God.

“Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.” - Proverbs 21:21

Christ's Life or Death?

From Pastor Tullian...

I’m becoming increasingly concerned about the neglect of Christ’s active obedience in the so-called “Young, Restless, and Reformed” crowd–of which I am a happy part. There’s a lot of talk about “Cross-Centeredness” as if the death of Christ (his passive obedience) is more important than the life of Christ (his active obedience). The truth is, however, that our redemption depends not only on Christ’s substitutionary death, but his substitutionary life as well. Christ’s life is just as central to our rescue as his death. Apart from his law fulfilling life, there is NO righteousness to impute. As I’ve said before, we are not saved apart from the law. Rather, we are saved in Christ who perfectly kept the law on our behalf. This is nothing new…it’s been a stamp of historic Reformed theological conviction for centuries!

So, Christ’s death is not the center of the Gospel anymore than Christ’s life is the center of the Gospel. One without the other fails to bring about redemption. It’s much more theologically accurate to say that Christ himself is the center of the Gospel. I think this is a really big deal. And the practical life implications of this neglect are disastrous.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Tonight's thought

The gospel is not just something we need at conversion so we can spend the rest of our life obsessed with performance.

And from this morning...

Most of us treat prayer like an appendix (of a book) rather than the foundation.

The giants of church history dwarf us because of the time and energy that they devoted to private prayer. They were Daniels in private and in public. Luther spent the first two hours of every day in prayer. He once said to Melanchton that he had so much to do that he needed to spend an extra hour in prayer. On the contrary, we too often see prayer as an interruption to our ambition.

Luther was not shy in his prayers. He would often pray loudly and boldly. He said praying was hard work. And he’s right. There is so much working against us in our prayers. Distraction arises in our cold heart and disturbance comes up in those around us.

In all of his busyness, Calvin spent hours in prayer every day. Unless we fix certain hours of every day in prayer, he said, it would slip from our memory. We must taste the sweetness of the fellowship of God in our prayer. We need to strive to grow in prayer.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Romans 8: 28

When I left Mt. Calvary Lutheran church a few years ago it was a low point in my spiritual walk. I felt betrayed by my spiritual mentor of several years and had a deep sense that the community I was leaving was more interested in preserving the status quo rather than seeking and following a God who was so much bigger and greater than the things to which they held fast.

I felt I had experienced significant spiritual growth while I was there as well as significant setbacks. When I left, my desire to pursue God was at its lowest in quite some time. I had lost numerous relationships and felt spiritually flat. I still had my men's care group which God has always used as a foundation but the motivation to grow above and beyond that had departed.

So, without a traditional church home, and certainly no desire to quickly give my heart to another community while I was still grieving the loss of my former home, I began to have my eyes opened to some of the solid Biblical pastors of our day. My brother introduced me to John Piper and I began to see God in a new way. Through Piper's website, Desiring God, I learned of other preachers such as Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll and Tim Keller. It still amazes me that in my 30s I had never heard of any of these guys. That is an indictment on me and my search for more teaching. Perhaps it is also an indictment of a church home that taught its members that the teaching they received on Sunday morning was sufficient for the rest of the week.

Suddenly, I had an incredible assortment of Biblically-rooted, passionate teachers at my fingertips. My desire for God and the Scriptures was once again set ablaze. Sure, there have been an occasional week or two here and there over the past few years when my heart wasn't earnestly seeking God. But those weeks have been rare. I didn't know that God intended my time outside of a traditional church community to be the greatest season of spiritual growth in my life thus far. He truly does work for our good...often times when we least expect it.