Save The Drama For Your Mama

Do you know people with a lot of “drama” going on in their life?  People whose lives would qualify them for an one hour long special on Jerry Springer?  Or, instead of talking about “those people,” let’s talk about you and the drama going on in your life.

As I ponder this thing called drama, I can’t help but think of the theatrical nature of it all.  Perhaps that is why we call it “drama.”  Theater is never about boring people who do boring things.  Such would never sell tickets, as it would cease to capture our attention and entertain.  Instead, there is always a juicy story of some sort that ultimately involves people whose lives are a bit out of control.  There is always an element of instability interjected into any good story.  And this same instability that makes for a good story on stage, I can’t help but notice the way it also manages to not only creep up into our lives, but indeed, is often invited by us into our very lives.

As being one of the many sons of Adam, bad, disastrous, sinful, and outright wicked decisions are often ours in abundance.  Drama dominates our lives.  And not simply the kind of drama that “happens” to us, and makes us mere victims.  But the kind of drama we invite into our lives as we make deliberate and willfully sinful decisions.  And the end therein has always and will always be death.

But why do we invite such instability into our lives?  Why the drama?  Yes, in part it is the nature of a fallen and unredeemed humanity.  We are born sinners and by nature act as sinners.  We welcome the drama because that is what sinners do.  But such goes beyond merely making the decision to sin because we are sinners.  Rather, such drama is ours in abundance because we refuse to build our lives on the rock solid foundation of Jesus Christ.

In the “Sermon on the Mount,” in Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus said that everybody who hears His words and acts upon them can be compared to man who built his house upon a rock.  And when the troubles of this life came his way, because he was grounded in something rock solid and stable, his house was able to stand.  But for the man who did not act on the words of Christ, such a man could be compared to somebody who built their house on sand.  And when the troubles of life came this mans way, the instability and shifting nature of sand caused the house he had built to collapse.  In other words, the first man did not invite drama into his life because he built his life upon Christ.  Whereas the second man invited drama into his life, because he did not build his life upon Christ.

So, will you continue to invite drama into your life, as you continue to do things according to your own way of thinking?  Or will you invite the stability that can come into your life through building your life on another way of thinking?  Will you build your house on sand, or will you build your house on a rock?

I would urge you, save the drama for your mama.  Build your life upon the rock of Christ.


Who Would Jesus Flip Off?

So, who would Jesus flip off?  WWJFO.  Doesn’t make for a great bracelet, does it? 

Of course, we know Jesus would do no such thing.  He’s Jesus, right? 

Yet strangely enough, there seems to be a disconnect between Jesus and some of those who say they are His disciples.  I have this strange sense that we as Christians feel we have this love, joy, and peace thing down.  That is, when things are going well.   But when our neighbors’ dog barks early on a Saturday morning, or somebody cuts us off in traffic, the love, joy, and peace that we claim to be so full of suddenly leaves us.  I think too often we are guilty of making love, joy, and peace these etherial and abstract concepts that we are only too happy to hear preached about.  Not too many people leave a church angry at a preacher for speaking much on these subjects.

But when the rubber hits the road and the theology of pulpit must be actually lived out,  love, joy, and peace are not such easy things to walk in.  Indeed, being a good Samaritan and abiding by the golden rule sound all nice, warm, and fuzzy.  But the niceness of such things is easily forgotten when we suddenly find ourselves tossed into the crucible.   I don’t like being cut off on the road anymore than the next guy.  But how I respond in those sudden moments will often serve as a revelation into the depths of my heart, and show how much the gospel message has made its way into my heart and my soul.  It is one thing to behave in a certain way when you have time to calculate your steps ahead of time.  It is another thing to see how you react to things that happen in a fraction of a second.

Be sure then, that if in that fraction of a second when you are awoken by your neighbors’ dog or suddenly cut off in traffic, that if an outburst of anger, obscenities, and wild hand gestures finds an outlet through you, then you still have a bit of a way to go in your spiritual development.  Jesus would never do these things.  And we as disciples who follow Him should never do these things either.

Was There No Wind?

The first taste of Spring had come to North Carolina.  Knowing I was heading into a glorious three day weekend, one of the first thoughts I had Friday morning was an almost overwhelming desire to fly a kite.  A strange thing, perhaps, that a 28 year old man such as myself should want to do such a silly thing.  But I couldn’t escape it.  I had to fly a kite.  After making a few phone calls from my office, to my pleasant surprise I found a local retailer who was selling kites in the middle of February.  Thanks Walmart!

So with youthful glee I rounded up a few friends from Church, and after swinging by Walmart, proceeded to head to a nearby park.  After successfully assembling our kites, we gathered in a field and waited on a breeze that would set our kites soaring.  Yet to our dismay, the winds that were plentiful earlier in the day had finally died down.  Only the occasional gust would come our way.  And try as we might to take advantage of such winds, nothing ever came that would sustain us for more than a few seconds.  For two hours we persisted in making adjustments to our kites, running, and devising various take off strategies.  But in spite of all of our efforts, the highest any of us got our kites off the ground Saturday afternoon was about 15 or 20 feet.

There is a message here.  Can you see it?  Do I even need to preach it for you?  In this Saturday afternoon picture at the park, I see here a picture of the Church today.  Just because we have a kite and a child like desire in our heart doesn’t mean we have a guaranteed takeoff.  No matter how much money we spend on our kites, how well they are designed, or how many different strategies we employ in launching our kites into the sky, unless we have a sustained breeze from heaven that gives them lift, our kites will stay effectively grounded.  Indeed, the only pictures we managed to take at the end of our trip to the park were pictures of all of our kites laying on the dead green grass of winter.  I would have rather seen a Carolina blue sky in the backdrop myself.

Lord, breathe upon us with your Holy Spirit.

Why I Reject Cessationism

There is a theological position known as cessationism.  The basic idea behind this doctrine is the rejection of the contemporary existence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Now, there are various degrees of cessationism.  A few people reject the gifts of the Holy Spirit altogether.  But much more common is the rejection of the more “spectacular” gifts, namely that of prophecy.  And there are various reasons for this position, namely, it is based on the belief that upon the completion of the canon of Scripture, there was no more need for the gift of prophecy.  So, with the Scriptures being complete, the gift of prophecy is viewed as having faded away.

Such is a very short and simplistic overview of the cessationist position.  And there are many reasons why, Biblically speaking, we should reject such a position.

One of the main reasons we should reject such a view is because the Scriptures teach no such thing.  Proponents of cessationism say that the contemporary existence of the gift of prophecy would undermine the important reformation doctrine of sola Scriptura— that the Scriptures alone are sufficient for our faith.  But the main problem with this argument is that the Scriptures do not teach that the gift of prophecy somehow undermines the sufficiency of the canon of Scripture for our faith.  It is rather ironic, that while espousing sola Scriptura, those who hold to a cessationist position actually rely on an extra-Biblical argument to make their case.  And in doing so, they are actually the ones undermining the doctrine of sola Scriptura.

For instead of teaching about the prophetic gifts fading out of existence after the completion of the canon, the Scriptures teach in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14, and Ephesians 4 that the gift of prophecy actually compliments the revelation contained within the Scriptures, and has a usefulness in the regular life of the church beyond the writing of sacred Scripture.  Indeed, in these passages the gift of prophecy is seen as a gift that exists for the purpose of building up others in the faith, and serving as an aid to maturing the body of Christ as a whole.  To say that the gift of prophecy existed for the primary purpose of the creation of the canon of Scripture is to employ an argument the Scriptures themselves never make.  As central as the Scriptures are to our faith, might I be so bold as to say that its existence is merely a bi-product of the gift of prophecy, and not the main purpose for which the gift was intended?

For the primary purpose of the gift of prophecy is to actively declare the mind of God.  The prophet is one who literally speaks on behalf of another.   In the history of the prophetic ministry, the Scriptures were so inspired out of men who actively declared what God had to say.  And in all their declaring, a body of literature was written down and preserved for all time, and this body of literature contains within it the faith once and for all handed down to the saints.  And we must never minimize this whatsoever.  But the Scriptures in themselves never contain every prophetic message ever uttered in the history of time.  Indeed, Noah was a prophet, but none of his oracles are recorded.  The prophet Samuel spoke many times on behalf of the Lord, and all of Israel confirmed Samuel as a prophetic minister.  Yet we have hardly any of his prophecies.  Likewise, John the Baptist spent quite some time out in the wilderness prophesying, yet we only have a handful of his words recorded.  And above all people, our Lord Jesus Christ spent three years on earth ministering as a prophet, yet for all the words He spoke, John reminds us that Christ said and did many more things that were not recorded.

But in saying all of this, and as important as these points have been, I believe there is one major reason alone why we should reject any partial or total cessationist theologies.  And that reason is central to all of the Scriptures.  We should reject cessationist theologies because our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a contemporary, modern-day prophet.  Indeed, Hebrews 1 reminds us that God has in these last days spoken to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  And Jesus Christ, as a modern-day living prophet, is still carrying out His prophetic ministry that began 2,000 years ago in Judea.  The Lord has not grown silent just because the canon of Scriptures is complete.  Jesus Christ is still speaking on behalf of God today.

And one of the ways in which Jesus Christ still speaks on behalf of God today is through the Church.  Namely, through those who, being a part of His body, share in the prophetic ministry He Himself has.  It is my contention that those well-meaning brethren who deny contemporary prophetic ministry have a major blind spot in their theology.  Namely, they fail to see that Jesus Christ has a present day prophetic ministry.  And though they confess Him as Prophet, Priest, and King, practically speaking, they deny the prophetic ministry of Jesus Christ by denying a place for the gift of prophecy in the Church today.  For in making no room for prophetic expression today, the ministry of Christ Himself as a prophet is effectively silenced.

And the last thing this world needs is for God to be mute.  This is why I reject cessationism.

God’s Eye is on the Super Bowl

Yesterday there were people praying that the Pittsburg Steelers would win Super Bowl 45.  Then there were people who were praying that the Green Bay Packers would win.  And seeing an awful theological paradox being formed by such a practice, some arm-chaired theologians have declared such prayers are nonsense. 

“God doesn’t care about who wins the Super Bowl!”  they say. 

And to such theology I say, “Horse-pucky!” 

The truth of the matter is that God most certainly does care about who wins the Super Bowl.  To say otherwise is somehow create a secular bubble in God’s sovereign authority over this world.  To say such is to say our God, who has numbered the hairs on our head and cares even about the sparrow, somehow doesn’t care about something that happens in the affairs of man.  There isn’t some imaginary sacred space that God cares about, and then secular space that God doesn’t care about.  All events that happen under the sun and in the affairs of men are sacred to God.  And our heavenly Father, who loves all of the sons of men certainly cares about every aspect of our lives. 

He cares about what happens to us between the cradle and the grave.  He cares about the big decisions we have to make, as well as the little.  He cares about the moments that bring us joy, as well as the moments that bring us pain.  And yes, God even cares about who wins the Super Bowl. 

Go Pack go!

Book Review: Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller

4 out of 5 Stars.

Far from being the mere practice of bowing down before a statue made of wood or stone, in “Counterfeit Gods” by Timothy Keller, we learn that there are much more subtle forms of idolatry that dominate our individual lives and culture.  With piercing analysis of our culture and the human psyche, Keller makes the argument that even if we are not bowing before a statue, at the psychological level and in the depths of our hearts, we are still bowing before things we substitute for God.  And such is the fallen nature of man, whose heart is fundamentally an “idol factory.” 

Instead of filling our hearts and delighting ourselves in the Lord, and grounding our identity in Him, and seeing Him as the only one who can deliver and satisfy, we pursue the false promises of idols who can never deliver, satisfy, and give us the deepest longings of our hearts.  Instead of turning to the Lord to meet all of our needs, we turn to things other than the Lord.  Keller argues that the only cure to the idol production that goes on in our heart is not the simple forsaking of idols, but a replacing of those idols with the Lord Jesus Christ.  For unless He fills the depths of our hearts, even should we put our idols away for a few moments, we will naturally begin to turn back to them. 

My only complaint about this book is that I think sometimes Keller takes too much liberty with his search for the hidden idols of the heart in characters we read about in Scripture.  While generally a good analysis, as in the case with King Nebuchadnezzar, I feel he took too much liberty with figures like Jonah.  Also, while Keller does take a shot at some of the idols in our country, I would have liked to see him identify the trappings of the entertainment industry as a form of idolatry.  In a book about idolatry, it would have been nice to see him show how the rampant practice of abortion is a form of child sacrifice, and on par with the offerings people would make unto Molech.  Indeed, it is interesting that for all the talk of idolatry in the Scriptures, Keller seldom makes reference to the parallels we see between our subtle forms of idolatry, and the overt kind offered to the Baals, etc.

But don’t let this lack of exposition or sometimes generous liberty Keller takes with the Scriptures turn you off from this book.  I still think it is an excellent book, and I feel personally challenged after having read it.  It’s made me question the motives in my life, and has made me wonder if those motives are not driven by one of the subtle forms of idolatry that exist in our culture.

Celebrating the Birth of the King

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”  (Matthew 2:2; NASB)

There is much that is warm and fuzzy about the Christmas season that many people enjoy.  Colorful lights, exchanging presents, gathering with family– these are but a few of the things we have come to enjoy and celebrate at this time of the year.  There is also much preaching done about “the Christmas spirit” and “getting your Christmas miracle.”  All of these things are fine and good, and I gladly celebrate and embrace each one of them.

But there is one thing I’ve come to notice this year, that I’ve not noticed too much in previous years, as I have pondered the meaning of Christmas.  Something has been missing in our celebration.  That something is ultimately is the celebration of Christ.

And by this, I don’t necessarily mean to invoke the well-worn cliche’ of “Christ has been taken out of Christmas.”  Though, such is a fitting analysis.  But as the nature of most clichés, over time, the power of even what that phrase means has long been lost.  Christ has indeed been taken out of Christmas.  And by that I don’t have in mind such things as Bill O’Reily’s “Culture War”– ensuring that every town hall in America that has traditionally had a nativity scene setup keeps doing so without fail.

Rather, what I have in mind here is the loss of meaning we’ve given to the word “Christ.”  Indeed, Christ has been taken out of Christmas, but, not by liberals and the ACLU.  He’s been taken out of Christmas by conservative Evangelical Christians who have failed to recognize that the greatest miracle that happened 2,000 years ago wasn’t the fact that a virgin gave birth to a child, as great as a miracle as that is, but the fact that 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ, “the king of the Jews” was born. 

We as Evangelicals have lost the greater theocratic and messianic context and meaning of the Christmas message. The “wise men” did not endure a brutal two-and-a-half year journey across the world so that they could see a virgin give birth.  Jesus was already taking his first steps and learning to walk by the time the wise men discovered Him.  Rather, the wise men traveled from the far east to see the child who was promised to Abraham and his descendants.  They came to see the King, and understanding who He is, to worship Him.

This promised King of the Jews that the wise men came to see was God’s anointed, who according to the prophets, would bring about the birth of a new creation in this world, establishing a new kingdom that would know no end, and that would bring about the end of the present cosmic order and all the other kingdoms of this world contained therein.  And when the heavens announced this and the wise men spoke of it, is it no wonder that Herod the Great ordered the slaughter of the innocents?  For the kings of this world are instinctively aware of the threat made upon their kingdoms, and subsequently, their sphere of authority, power, and influence, when men in their jurisdiction of the world begin giving allegiance to a king other than them.  And they will go at great lengths to protect their throne, even if that means slaughtering an entire village of children in hopes of stamping out one.

You see, though there is much “glad tidings” associated with the celebration of Christmas, with it also comes a threat and ultimatum issued to all who are in this world.  In Christmas there is a celebration and expectation of hope– redemption is being accomplished.  But with it there is also comes the expectation of a Divine conquest and overthrow.  All our petty little kingdoms in this world must end and be brought into subjection to the King of kings and Lord of lords:  From the Caesars to you and me.  All of this because another King has been born, and has begun to rule and reign. 

But many, even within the Church, reject this Christmas message because we are all too happy with the way things are.  We are happy being kings of our kingdoms, and ruling and reigning them as we see fit.  We like the idea of a miracle-working Messiah who wants to bless us and do all sorts of miracles in our lives at this Christmas season.  But we don’t like the idea that God’s wonderful purpose and plan for our lives is to completely overthrow everything you and I have ever known, so that He might rule and reign from the throne of our hearts.  For such means I have to give up my world and my kingdom so that He can establish His.  In doing so, I have to resign my sovereign will so place can be made for His.

The truth of the matter is that we are the greatest of fools to reject Jesus Christ as our King.  For though we often think we are in need of nothing, yet when we look at things from God’s perspective, we are blind, cold, hungry, and naked, and in need of much.  The only way we can embrace the miracles that God wants to birth into every single one of our lives comes from yielding ourselves in complete subjection to the King whom God has enthroned.  Without such, we can never be partakers of the blessings and miracles God wants to indeed pour into our lives.  But such only comes when we abandon our thrones, and celebrate Jesus Christ as our only King.

Will you join me in celebrating the birth of our King this Christmas season?

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