Carried Away…

Image result for open highway     Source: Google Images

Sin fundamentally, is rooted in a lack of faith in the goodness of God. Therefore, every temptation is an invitation to distrust God.

Been a long time since we’ve talked, but there’s no time like the present right?

Have you ever been driving on the freeway for a while and out of nowhere you found yourself in your driveway? I’m talking about the that “I can’t even recall the last 10 miles” type situation. Or is it just me?

I imagine if you’ve had your driver’s license for any extended period of time, it has happened to you.  Somehow, some way, your mind drifted off into outer space or you were so intently focused on some music, a podcast or even your own thoughts, that your subconscious literally carried you home.  It’s a scary feeling because the one time you NEED to be fully engaged and paying attention to what is happening is while driving a vehicle; especially in California. Yet, we’ve all been there and you can’t ever pinpoint exactly when you fell into a vehicular stupor you just know you did.

This is how James, the brother of Jesus, describes the process of sin coming into fruition in a person’s life (believer or unbeliever).  Most of the time when we sin, we tend to focus on the action itself and even more so, we try to find all types of reasons to shirk responsibility, like: 1) Blaming other people; 2) Blaming life’s circumstances; or 3) Blaming God.  James says, “Nah bro/sis!”, it was your own doing.  In fact here’s exactly what he says:

No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away (NASB = ‘carried away’) and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. – James 1:13-15

James intimates (I love this word by the way) that what we really believe about God is revealed in how we respond to temptation/sin.  Ever since the Fall, we humans have become expert blame-shifters, always looking for a way out, but James, pulling no punches, says, “You are to blame!”. Every time we give into temptation it is because we wanted to and have chosen to. Period. And to be clear, when connecting these verses with the previous verses he exonerates God (as if God needed any help) by basically saying, Douglass Moo writes, “God tests, but He never tempts.”  Therefore, the moment we even fix our mouths to blame God, we’ve revealed that our theology (or what we think about God) is deeply flawed.

What helps me in this passage is that James doesn’t just state the obvious end result (which is sin), but he communicates how and why it happens.  In other words, there is a process and that process begins when we allow ourselves to be carried away by our own evil/sinful desires (v.14).  Let the weight of that statement sink in.

Yes, having evil/sinful desires such as lust, greed, pride, are bad and unfortunately a reality we all have to endure until the Day we’re released from the presence of sin when Jesus returns (even so, come Lord Jesus). However, James says, what’s even worse is when we let these desires drag or carry us away so far that it results in the actual commission of sin.

If you notice the order of the passage he doesn’t say we are enticed then carried away, but the other way around. We are carried away and then enticed by our own evil desires.  That means an opportunity to sin presents itself after we’ve allowed our hearts/minds to be carried away.   The imagery is that of hunting/fishing.  You usually catch something after it has drifted off the path or away from the pack. Then you entice it with the bait.   So then, when we take our focus off of following Christ and engaging in healthy fellowship with His Church, our wandering, fickle hearts naturally drift away towards any and everything or to bring it home more closely, “your thing”/”my thing”.  It happens so subtlety and just as it is hard to pinpoint exactly when we drifted off driving, the same applies here.  All we know, according to James, is that it happened and we are the only ones to blame be cause we allowed those desires to simmer until they boiled over into sin. Ouch!

What’s the solution? For James, the answer is simple; trust God. You probably grimaced at that statement. Like how dare me tell you to just simply “trust God” as if it were that easy. I wonder though if our understanding of faith is not all that it should be. We tend to think of faith in terms of passivity, but what if is more of a verb than a noun?  A.W. Tozer defined faith as, “the gaze of the soul upon a saving God” (Ch. 7 – The Pursuit of God). If he is right (and I believe he is), then the way we combat temptation, the way we overcome our innate evil desires and walk in the victory secured by Jesus Christ in His life, death and resurrection, is to constantly fix our eyes on Him, in everything. In our work, in prayer, in the Word, in ministry, in fellowship, in parenting, in marriage, in singleness, in everything! Look to Him (through the Spirit), our all-sufficient, wonderful savior, who reveals to us our good, good Father from whence every good and perfect gift comes; even trials. Trust HIM!

If you’re struggling with sin right (and we all are), identify who/what it is your soul has been gazing upon and quickly now turn your eyes (the eyes of your heart/mind) to Jesus.  Our safety and our victory lies not in the ever-changing seasons, circumstances, desires of life and our hearts, “…but in God’s immutability” (Thomas Manton). He never changes, He never fails and has promised to reward us with what ever we need so long as we diligently seek Him, keep our gaze fixed on Him, rely ultimately on Him (see Hebrews 11:6) and above all don’t get carried away!  When it gets are, ask Him for help.  He stands willing and waiting to supply exactly what we need the moment we need it.  I’m reminded of that old hymn that goes:

Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin
Each victory will help you or some others to win
Fight manfully onward, dark passions subdue
Look ever to Jesus and He’ll carry you through
Just ask the Savior to help you
To comfort, strengthen and keep you
He is willing to aid you
And He will carry you through
(Horatio Palmer, 1868)
What a good word for all us- “HE will carry us through”.  When we allow ourselves to be carried away by our own evil desires, He loves us more than we love ourselves by carrying us through this life and into the next.
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Re-adjusting my focus,

T.

He’s a Keeper…

Today we find ourselves on the heels of one of the most polarizing election cycles ever. As a result, a lot has been said, is being said and will most likely continue to be said as the country tries to makes sense of things. In the midst of it all are Christians (on all sides) who are sadly at odds with one another. On the surface, it appears that the Church in America is as divided as the country itself. This post is an attempt to hopefully alleviate some of the tension.

I believe a huge lie that Christians in America have bought into is this notion that because there are two major political parties, each person must pledge allegiance to one side or the other.  An even bigger lie is this idea that one party holds a monopoly on the Church or “preserves” Christianity and its ideals. This latter lie was clearly demonstrated when a prominent White Gospel Music (you read that correctly) singer found herself in hot water claiming that the results of the election were indicative of Jesus returning back to the White House; figuratively (my paraphrase). This sent shock-waves throughout social media and people (predominately black and Christian) “let her have it”. Realizing she made a poor choice, she issued a rather lackluster apology and stated that she did not mean to offend or hurt anyone but was just doing her best to “protect Christianity”.  This, among other things, was the most cringe-worthy statement in her apology in my opinion.  To really believe that statement means one is operating under a dangerously false premise, namely that Christianity or the Church needs our protection. Nowhere in Sacred Writ is that idea supported, in fact, the biblical authors declare otherwise, namely, that God doesn’t need us to protect Him, defend Him, or protect Christianity; we need Him to do those things for us. Now, I won’t flood you with a ton of passages but just enough (hopefully) to drive home my point: good intentions are often ruined by faulty orthodoxy (doctrine) which generally leads to questionable orthopraxy (behavior). 

A Brief Biblical Survey: Concerning Individuals and the Church (Which are Inseparable)

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore. – Psalm 121:5-8 (the entire Psalm is worth the read)

You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You. – Isaiah 26:2

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. – Matthew 16:17-18

Jesus answered…My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one. – John 10:27-29

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. 2 Timothy 1:8-12

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5

These are but a few of the numerous texts that convey the wonderful reality that God keeps, preserves, and protects His people. To go further, none of these texts suggest or intimate that God needs us to keep, protect, or preserve Christianity or the Church, but rather we are the ones who need keeping.  We can’t even protect ourselves let alone try to protect God’s Church.  Well maybe you can, but I for sure can’t and I’m a pastor. I’ve tried and failed over and over, but thanks be to God, that He keeps me when I can’t keep myself. (Insert 2-3 tongues and praise break here)  I digress…

The truth of the matter is that God doesn’t need government, politicians, preachers or laypersons to do what only He is able to do which should cause a huge sigh of relief.  The pressure is not on us, but God lays the responsibility on His omnipotent self.  This is by no means a call to abandon politics or the propagation of Christian ideals in the world.God has and God can choose to intervene through government whenever He wants. At the same time it is a call to loosen the grip that the Church has on politics and free ourselves from the arrogance and pride that has consumed us and led us to believe that our survival ultimately depends on our efforts (big or small). Our survival is not contingent on who occupies the the seats of power on earth nor is it contingent on what laws are passed on behalf of the faith. More times than not, the systems of this world are in opposition to the Church and the direction God is taking her. Yet oddly enough, history has proven that the Body of Christ thrives under opposition. So do we look for conflict or seek to create it in order to thrive? Certainly not! We simply (by no means am I suggesting it’s easy, but we do have the Holy Spirit) live out the Gospel and the commandment to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and love our neighbor(s) as ourselves.  We take serious God’s command to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. To care for those who are the voiceless and powerless with or without the help of the government.  The rest we leave to the One who “keeps us from falling!” (Jude 24)

Safe in His Arms,

T.

 

 

One Nation, Divided – Part 2…Crooked Sticks and Straight Lines.

divided-states

God uses crooked sticks to make straight lines.

You may have heard this statement in a sermon or seen it somewhere online attributed to the likes of Martin Luther or Thomas Watson.  Regardless of its origin (my google research could not pinpoint it sadly), it is both a humbling and hopeful statement. Let’s break down the statement in order to see how powerful a statement it really is.

  1. God  –  the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe.  The Faithful, covenant-keeping, Sovereign, doesn’t need anything or anybody, supremely Holy, incomparably Perfect, Omnipotent, Omniscient, All-Wise deity of the Old and New  Testaments.
  2. Uses – chooses to involve in His plans.
  3. Crooked Sticks – broken, deeply flawed, raggedy, undeserving men and women.
  4. To make straight lines – to accomplish His unchanging, unfailing purposes for the sake of His glory (His renown and fame) and good of His people.

Let that sink in deeply…

This isn’t some pithy, feel-good statement, this notion is found inside and outside of the Bible.   Don’t believe me? Read the Biblical accounts of:

  • Abraham
  • Moses
  • Saul
  • David
  • Cyrus
  • Nebuchadnezzar
  • Isaiah
  • Jonah
  • The Disciples
  • Judas
  • Paul

This is in no way a comprehensive list, but a sample of names to highlight my point.  There has never been a time in history, outside of Jesus, where God did not use woefully broken men and women.  The truth is, “God uses broken people because broken people are all there are.” – T. Tchividjian

If you’re familiar with the Bible, you know most of these guys are legends. You also know that some of these guys directly opposed and often tried to the thwart the plans and purposes of God, yet to no avail. However, in His wise providence, God used these men in one way or another to accomplish the very things they were trying to stop.

The Problem

This election cycle, two crooked sticks ran for President of the United States.   People on both sides were desperately trying to convince the country of two things: 1) Their crooked stick wasn’t that crooked; 2) The other crooked stick was way more crooked than what met the eye.  This election was no different from any other election in the sense that there was no perfect candidate (as if there ever was or ever will be). However, this election was different in the sense that it wasn’t just about two different philosophical political ideologies, this election had an additional element; fear. As Greg Popovich, the rich white (self-described) Head Coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs (which I hope the Lakers beat every single time this year) frustratingly stated,

“I’m just sick to my stomach. Not basically because the Republicans won or anything, but the disgusting tenor and tone and all of the comments that have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic.” (Source: mysanantonio.com)

He went on to say how Donald Trump used fear mongering and race baiting rhetoric from day one trying to delegitimize the presidency of the nation’s first black President, Barack Obama.  I am fully on board with Pop’s comments and where I resonated with him most was regarding his feelings of shock and awe surrounding the loud declaration and silent affirmation of most of the Evangelical Church, especially those brothers and sisters of a lighter hue.  I can’t tell you how many posts I read this election cycle from followers of Christ who blatantly diminished or silently ignored the abominable words and actions of Donald Trump.  Time after time, people pointed to the Bible and abused the notion that “God uses crooked sticks to make straight lines.” Time after time, people celebrated DJT’s business accomplishments while glossing over his moral failures.  Oddly enough, a former college mate and fellow african-american made the claim that, “Our God can do more through a King Cyrus (Trump) than He can with a Jezebel (Clinton). Think about it…” Not only is this bad exegesis, but it is symptomatic of a larger issue within the Church of America.  While God did use Cyrus and while Jezebel was a terrible woman, there is no way anyone can justify parading and celebrating DJT as the Church’s “vote” just as much as Israel should not celebrate Cyrus as a man of God.

Let me go on record (again) and state that this is not a pro-Clinton post. In fact, I chose to write-in another crooked stick due to my lack of trust and disgust with the two main candidates.

The point I want to make is that because God uses crooked sticks, it does not mean every crooked stick is for Him and the Church especially would do well not to pledge their allegiance to the Cyruses of this world regardless of what we “think” they might do.  God uses crooked sticks, but we must never excuse or ignore how crooked the sticks really are.  This election cycle revealed just how far the Evangelical Church (and more specifically the 80% of white evangelicals who willfully chose DJT, celebrated him, and called him God’s answer) would go for the preservation of itself and/or America (those two are used interchangeably these days unfortunately).  Some will argue and say they voted for a platform, not a person.  My retort is that this election was much more than perpetuating a particular political platform.  This election was the Church’s opportunity to choose people over politics and I fully believe this was not the case for almost 60% of Protestants in general and 80% of white evangelicals.

There were other options.  There are always other options.

I know what some may be thinking at this point, well geez Terry, no one would ever be fit for the Office of President following your train of thought.  I keep going back to my statement that this was not a normal election.  The aftermath of riots and violence (perpetuated by both sides no less) proves that.  The Trump era has kicked off with a bang and not in a good way and the Church has to take responsibility for it.  A friend and fellow Pastor eloquently summarized Part 1 of this series by stating this isn’t about guilt, but responsibility.  Thanks, Steve.  The choice was made and now we must grapple with the consequences that are a direct result of that choice.

Why I’m Hopeful

We have no idea what the future holds for this country or any other country for that matter.  I am choosing personally, not to worry or to be afraid according to Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34.  I am choosing to hope rather than despair as Paul encourages believers in Romans 8:28-39.  Ultimately, I am hopeful because God has used crooked sticks before,  like the men listed above, and He can certainly use President-elect Donald J. Trump if He chooses.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there was one name left off of the list above purposely and not because it doesn’t belong there; it most certainly does.  God uses crooked sticks to make straight lines and I more than anyone know that to be true because for some odd reason, He still chooses to use me.

Hoping in Christ,

Terry

One Nation, Divided – Part 1…Am I My Brother’s Keeper? (For Pastors and Leaders)

divided-states

DISCLAIMER: I do not speak for all of “Black America” or African-American Pastors.

Tuesday night I decided to go to bed earlier than usual. Mainly because I did not want to stay awake and watch the inevitable happen.  I wanted to escape the reality that Donald Trump, an arguably well-documented racist, misogynist, xenophobe and sexual assaulter was going to be the next President of the United States of America for at least four years.  So I went to sleep and around 2am I was up again and happened to check my phone to see what time it was and staring me in the face were texts from friends who were in total shock.  It turned out that I could not escape it and eventually went back to sleep fully aware that the proverbial poop had hit the fan.

I should probably state at the onset that I was not a supporter in principle or by vote of Mrs. Clinton either and this contrary to many of my brothers and sisters of the same hue.  In fact, I had previously given up on politics for a period but felt this season was the prime opportunity for the nation, for the Church, to do something different.  I felt that with at least one of the candidates, there was no way followers of Jesus Christ would rally around such a person regardless of his political affiliation.  I thought for sure, those who call themselves “evangelicals” would choose people over politics; I was wrong.  Many of us were so wrong.

I woke up the next morning as a Pastor who happens to be black and asked myself what would I tell my multi-ethnic church? What would I tell my friends? How would I encourage people who I knew were just as confused as I was (am).  Beyond that, how would I encourage those who were now suddenly distraught and afraid of what the future might look like for them; for us? Even today there are outbreaks of protests and violent attacks (albeit on both sides) like we’ve never seen after an election.  It is not the typical go back to business as usual week.  Honestly, I knew then and still know the answer is in our great creed: Jesus is Lord. I know that, I believe that and with a high view of the Sovereignty of God (don’t check out on me now), I boldly proclaim that. Yet, in a strange way it (the Creed) felt and feels hollow.

I struggled most of the day with that thought and was trying to figure out what to say. I took to Facebook because, you know, Facebook.  Then it hit me. I understood why the timeless creed felt hollow in this moment.  My Facebook feed was full of men and women of color (not all but the majority and not only just people of color) who seemed like they woke up IN a nightmare.  Conversely,  there was another group (mainly white evangelicals, not all but most) on my feed who in sum, thought that this was one of the greatest victories for America.  I was floored, but then I remembered leaders like Wayne Grudem, Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham and so many other Pastors and leaders were some of the loudest proponents of Donald Trump’s presidency.  These well-respected men made it okay to overlook blatant flaws in character and a highly questionable track record.  Then, I started reading article after article about the number of white evangelicals (upwards of 80%) who pledged to vote and/or voted for Donald Trump.80%, let that sink in.

At this present moment, the creed feels hollow because I and many other brothers and sisters in Christ who are people of color, feel abandoned and betrayed by our white brothers and sisters who voted for Donald Trump. I know there has always been disparities in both parties when it comes to philosophical and even theological differences and that’s not even the point of this post, but Tuesday’s message from white evangelicals (80% mind you) rang loud and clear: “We choose politics over people.”  There is even a sense of betrayal and abandonment from those who did not vote for Trump due to the lack of shared outrage on behalf of their Christian brothers and sisters.  We may or may not agree on this, but I do hope you hear me when I say that in my mind, indifference towards the results of this election is an exercise in white privilege.  The rhetoric spewed by Donald Trump during his campaign has given minority groups every reason to react the way many have reacted.  The easy thing to do is to dismiss the reactions of people of color and other minority groups due to some of the unhealthy ways people’s emotions are being expressed.  In many ways this dismissive attitude adds to the pain and drives the wedge of separation deeper and wider.  This is not the time for any of us to be spectators, but participants and agents of the Christ’s Kingdom especially among the household of faith.

Hopefully we can all agree that minority groups have been oppressed, marginalized and ignored for years, even at and by the hands of white evangelicals and this Tuesday I thought, many of us thought, the Church would finally get it right and for whatever reason (only the Lord knows – He who ultimately elevates and eliminates kings/kingdoms) Donald Trump is our new President.  I say that resting and trusting that Jesus is still Lord and King of kings.  I also say that fully aware that there is a large contingent of our brothers and sisters who are struggling to reconcile either one or both of those two statements and this Sunday we all have to stand in front of our congregations and declare both of those statements to be true.  Only the Lord knows what the future holds and for the Christian, our hope lies ultimately in a King and a Kingdom to come, but today we must engage the vicissitudes of the present.

Whether or not your church and/or staff is multi-ethnic, chances are someone in your church is related to, knows or is acquainted with someone who is hurting, fearful, disheartened and feeling hopeless at this very moment.  I am encouraging and urging all of you not to stop at the two obvious statements, but to send out a clarion call to mourn with those who are mourning, to minister to those who are hurting, to listen to those who feel they have no voice or feel they are on the verge of the losing their voice. Not in an effort to pacify or “fix” them, but to simply love them in these ways.  Regardless of our stance(s), regardless of our affiliation(s), I am desperately asking all of us to choose people over politics now and every day. Are we are brothers’ keepers? Yes, we are.

Just another Brother in Christ,

Terry

Hurting, But Hopeful!

there-is-light-despite-all-of-the-darkness

I love my friends who serve in Law Enforcement, I respect what you do, seriously. At some point though, enough has to be enough. This whole Terence Crutcher situation is the reason why I sit with Kaepernick. This is why I affirm the principle (please read that last word 80 times then keep reading forward) “black lives matter”. This is why I hope the Seahawks lose every single game this season. This is why the anthem means very little to me right now. This is why if you deny systemic oppression, I won’t even engage in conversation with you anymore. Ignorance is one thing, perpetual ignorance is bigotry, especially if you have social media (huge statement, I know).

Suffice to say, I am done arguing facts.

This issue is also bigger than just “my African-American community”; this is about the Kingdom of God for me. So I will keep fighting, keep pushing, keep praying, keep checking myself, keep asking, keep knocking, keep seeking because the Gospel compels me too; with or without you. This isn’t about being right and winning an argument. There is no satisfaction to be found in being right about the realities of injustice and systemic oppression towards people of color. I understand these things may make some of you uncomfortable and may cause your feelings to be hurt. However, black lives > your feelings.

P.s. I could have a change of heart and I’m open to that.

P.s.s I don’t hate white people or America or cops or Republicans or Democrats or Unicorns. Not even a little bit. I’ve said it before, it’s hard to hate people you do life with. Who do you do life with? Not just occasionally play basketball with or see at church or see at Starbucks or sit across from them in a cubicle. I mean genuine relationships. Like you would have them house sit for you and let them eat up to the food in your fridge.

Dear Bathsheba…

04-David-and-Bathsheba

Source: http://oldandnewproject.com

Dear Bathsheba,

I thought I knew your story, until I read your story.  I had heard your story my whole life but I never took the time to fully read and comprehend your story. For that I am sorry.  I am sorry because having finally read your story, I realize that we have treated you unfairly. We have painted a portrait of you that bears no resemblance. We have called you “the adulteress”, “the harlot”, “the seductress”, “immodest” and a host of other erroneous descriptions that do not fit you or tell your story correctly.

I cannot even imagine how you felt the night everything changed.  How were you supposed to know the King was even home when he was supposed to be at war (2 Samuel 11:1)? For the record, I have no reason to believe that you did anything to elicit his attention that night.  You were and are a victim of abuse at the hands of someone you thought you would be able to trust. A man you thought had more respect for himself, his people, even one of his own mighty men Uriah (2 Samuel 23:39), and his God. Who knew that the man after God’s own heart would squeeze God out in order to take advantage of his position and power just to spend a few moments with you? Yet, that is exactly what happened. You were violated, you were raped, then, to cover up his dirt, this same man had your husband killed and was the cause of your baby’s death.

One impulsive, lustful act transformed you from being a law abiding woman (2 Samuel 11:4) into a wounded widow who eventually became another fixture in the King’s long list of wives. You did not deserve that and you do not deserve to be treated like we have done throughout history via Sunday school stories, sermons, works of art, film or any other medium. We owe you a huge apology and I personally want to admit my guilt in having believed (in ignorance) a lie.

Your story is a far too common story and it should not and does not have to be that way. You too bear the image of our Creator and should be regarded just as precious as anyone else. Especially, from those of us who have been given the charge to lead. You are not a second-class citizen of the Universe. You are not collateral and you are not property. You are a woman, created and loved by God for his eternal purpose.

My intent in this letter then is threefold: 1) to apologize for how we have treated you and your story and for allowing David’s “greatness” to overshadow his sinfulness; 2) to affirm your value and your worth as an image bearer of God; and 3) to accentuate the fact that your life did not end that night.

You may feel as if you have nothing else to live for. You may feel that the wound is too deep and the scars to visible. You may feel less than because of what happened to you.  You may question and doubt the goodness of God. Besides, how could a good God allow this to happen to you? You may feel like your life as you know it is over. You may feel like life is not worth living. You may feel like you can never love or be loved again. You may feel like you are alone. You may feel like no one cares about your pain and your hurt. You may feel like there is no justice for Bathsheba. You may feel like it was your fault for taking a bath that night. You may feel that this is all your fault and that you deserved all of it.

I plead with you to not believe the lies and fight through the doubt.  You are not less than, you are a daughter of the Creator of the Universe. You are not alone; we see you and stand with you (I am not the only one who feels this way and acknowledge the others who share my feelings). There is a countless number of people who know your pain (experientially) and feel your pain (compassionately).  It is not your fault, none of it.  I do not know why God allowed it to happen to you, but I can say that God has a way of turning tragedy into triumph.  I say that not to downplay or trivialize your experience, but to offer you hope. Your life didn’t end that night. David did not put the final punctuation mark on your life when he hurt you. He is but a man, but God is one with the pen in his hand and I can assure you that the night you were raped, that was not the end of your sentence.  In fact, this is truly how the sentence of your life reads, “And on that night Bathsheba was raped, but God.”

Who knows what will happen next?  Perhaps you will get the justice you deserve.  Perhaps, you will continue to trust God in and with your time of grief and healing . Perhaps, God will use your story to show others His goodness despite the tragic circumstances they face. Perhaps, God will even use you to usher in a greater a Kingdom; a Kingdom with no end.  I can see it now, “Bathsheba, the great-great-great-great-great…grandmother of the King of Kings!”

Hold on to life, hold on to God. It won’t always be like this.

Sincerely,

Terry

God Will Judge with Equity

IMG_0443

Rainbow Bridge – Odaiba Island – Minato, Tokyo, Japan

Kon ni chi wa (Hello!) from Tokyo, Japan.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would visit this country, but I’m here anyways and it is fantastic.  However, Tokyo isn’t the main subject of this post (I’ll do a full post of our adventures some other time).

Being in a far away, foreign land isn’t as bad as I imagine it was “back in the day”.  In fact today, with the presence of social media (and healthy wi-fi) you really don’t have to miss a beat. Since being in Tokyo, we typically end the night going through photos taken throughout the day and maybe catching up on things back home.  Social media then, has been a gift because we are able to keep up with all sorts of cool things taking place across the water.  However, the flip side is that because of social media we get to see all of the terribly dark and horrific things taking place back home as well.

With all of the election drama going on and starting (but not yet finishing) the new portrayal of “Roots”, I was actually glad to be able to get away from the States for a bit. As a result, being in Tokyo has been the reinforcement I needed to remind me that the world is much bigger than the US and in the grand scheme of things, our problems, my problems are but a blip on the global radar. Yet still, because of the pull of social media and my (sometimes unhealthy) attraction to it, I can’t help but to have one eye on the amazing sights here and another on my home country.

As I lay on this Shiki futon in Tokyo while dark clouds have formed and are about to bring forth seasonal rainfall, a dark cloud hangs over my home country. Sadly, these days this is a recurring theme.  Once again the nation is hurting, families are hurting.  Once again, there is this thunderous sound of voices all jockeying for position to be heard.  There are no shortages of commentary and opinions on the recent events in Orlando and other headlines. People are talking, people are arguing, people are asking questions, people are providing “answers”; everyone has something to say.  The temptation for me is to throw my voice in the imaginary ring and vie for a space and opportunity to be heard.  Yet, I fight to restrain myself and refrain from being a part of the noise especially in times like these.

Contrary to popular belief and practice, in times like these it’s all the more important for us to be:

“…quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19)

Why?

“For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20)

Instead, I will simply remind you of what my wife and I were reminded of this morning as we read a chapter from the Psalms.  At the end of day, when we don’t have the words to say or when there are too many words being said, we ought to take a step back and hear the voice of God.  When all other voices become clanging cymbals and when all other voices eventually fade out (until the next “big thing”), God’s Word will remain faithful and true; it (nor He) never fails. Listen to this:

We give thanks to you, O God;
    we give thanks, for your name is near.
We recount your wondrous deeds.

“At the set time that I appoint
    I will judge with equity.
When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants,
    it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah
I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’
    and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn;
do not lift up your horn on high,
    or speak with haughty neck.’”

For not from the east or from the west
    and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
but it is God who executes judgment,
    putting down one and lifting up another.
For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup
    with foaming wine, well mixed,
and he pours out from it,
    and all the wicked of the earth
    shall drain it down to the dregs.

But I will declare it forever;
    I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
10 All the horns of the wicked I will cut off,
    but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up. – Psalm 75 (ESV)

May His words (Word) be the foundation upon which you stand.  May they fill you with hope and peace. And finally, may they even be the basis for the words you choose to speak and the life you choose to live. For Christ’s sake, amen.

Listening to and for Him,

T.

 

 

Let Us Pray…

Enter

“Prayer is our Christian duty. It is an expression of submission to God and dependence upon Him. For that matter, prayer is arguably the most objective measurement of our dependence upon God. Think of it this way. The things you pray about are the things you trust God to handle. The things you neglect to pray about are the things you trust you can handle on your own.” – H.B. Charles

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say my prayer life needs some work; like a lot.  If I am alone, then well, that sucks.  At any rate, I was driving to my hotel after work (out of town) and I may or may not have come across some Facebook posts while in traffic and something (OK, the Holy Spirit) struck me.  Most of us are guilty of posting and expressing our emotions (for better or for worse) on social media in an effort to release and reach out for the attention of others (for better or for worse), yet there is a far better medium/platform in which to do so. This medium/platform however, isn’t for the masses or seeks the attention of many, it is for an audience of One.  I am talking about prayer. If you’re like me this was an “oh yeah” moment. You see, prayer is that thing most of us turn to as a last resort and even then we do so hesitantly and/or frustratingly.  Rhetorically, what if prayer wasn’t designed as a last resort?  What if instead of releasing and expressing our emotions publicly (on social media mainly), we expressed ourselves to the One who is always present, always listening, always active and never-failing.  When I read through the Psalms, this is what the likes of King David and others did throughout their lives.  Though used in public and private settings, the Psalms often contain prayer language directed toward Yahweh.

Could it be that the ills and frustrations of life weigh us down so much because we choose to talk to everyone else about are problems except God?  Could it be that the reason we experience little to no peace in our circumstances is because we have left out the One who is our Peace?  Could it be that prayer is just not asking God for stuff, but more of an ongoing conversation between a loving Father and an ultra-dependent child?  Could it be that our first response (joyful or mournful) ought to be to fall on our knees in prayer instead of our final response?

I know for many of us that our prayer life isn’t where it could be due to distractions (sinful and not sinful) and we are due for a much needed prayer overhaul.  If you are like me, you probably don’t need to buy or read another book on prayer although books on the subject have proven to be useful.  If you are like me, you don’t need to look up anymore famous quotes on prayer to be inspired.  If you are like me, neglect in prayer is probably due to a neglect of Scripture that teaches and admonishes us to pray.  So don’t take my word for it, here is is what the Bible says (emphasis mine):

  • 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. – Romans 12:10-13
  • 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –  Phil 4:6-7
  • 8 Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah. – Psalm 62:8

There are countless other passages on prayer and even entire teachings of Jesus devoted to prayer  like in Matthew 6:5-15 and Luke 11:1-13.  The point is to let life’s circumstances fuel your prayer life and even more than that, allow Scripture to fuel your prayer life.  If you are like me, you just need to pray.  There is really no excuse for any of us and we are the ultimate losers because we miss out on fellowship with God and the peace He promises to give.

So since we live in a world of #(insert)challenge‘s, I challenge all of us to pull away from the enter/send/post button and draw near to The “present help in time of trouble (and victory)”. #LetUsPray

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

– Joseph Scriven

In Christ,

Terry

 

“Worth”

anthonybrown_worth_650

Well, it’s 2016 and  I made a commitment to myself that I would blog more. Especially since I did not blog once in 2015.  I’ll offer the excuses (as wonderful as they are) of planning a wedding, purchasing a home, and enjoying the first 5 months of marital bliss as my reasons for not blogging.  But enough of that, I’m to jump right back in like I never left.

I’ve been a church musician/worship leader for over 10 years now and the older I get and the deeper my relationship with Christ goes, I am more and more critical when it comes to song selections for corporate worship, but also for private devotion.  As a student at Biola University I went through a period of complete disdain for Gospel (African-American style) music because I felt most of it was either self-centered, lacked depth, and/or  I couldn’t agree theologically with the lyrics.  I kept it to myself because I realized most of it probably boiled down to preference and disagreement on “secondary” issues.  Fast forward to the present, and there is still some disdain there, but serving as the Gospel Choir Director at Biola the past four years my love for Gospel music was recaptured. Nonetheless, I still hear music that immediately causes me to cringe, but I just kind of shake it off for the same aforementioned reasons.

Recently, I heard a song on my wife’s (shameless plug) Pandora Station by the group Anthony Brown & Group Therapy called “Worth”.  The crux of the song says (as found on Metro Lyrics):

You thought I was worth saving
So you came and changed my life

You thought I was worth keeping
So you cleaned me up inside

You thought I was to die for
So you sacrificed your life

So I could be free
So I could be whole
So I could tell everyone I know

Some person may read this and go, “Yes! Finally a song that describes how I feel about my salvation.” Not me though and for some reason the first time I heard this song (and every time afterwards) it hasn’t sat well with me.  Therefore, this post is my attempt to flesh out why I believe this song is damaging; mainly that it misrepresents the Gospel: God in Christ, Sovereignly (keyword) reconciling the world back to Himself, for the sake of His glory, to the praise of His glorious grace and for the good of the elect (His chosen people). In fact, I only really take issue with the “cause” (You thought I was worth…) statements of the lyrics and not so much the “effects” (So I could be…) statements.  Let me explain why.

God’s Redemptive Acts in Scripture

I believe Scripture is clear that God’s redemptive history shows that His calling and saving people is never based on any inherent “goodness” or “merit” or “worth” they possess but because of His sovereign choice; according to the counsel of His own will. For instance:

When God called Abram (aka Abraham), he was a heathen who lived among an idolatrous, pagan group of people (see Gen. 11:31 and Joshua 24:2).  Abram was in no shape or form worthy of God’s call.

When Moses asked God to show him His glory, God responded this way: “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” (Exodus 33:19)

God made it plain to the Children of Israel that their selection and His affection for them was purely a matter of grace: “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deut. 7:7-8)

After hundreds and hundreds of years of God’s people falling into sin and coming under His wrath, judgment, and then deliverance time and time again, God made this prophetic statement through Ezekiel saying, “…It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst…I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:22, 24-26)

I could go on and on, but the picture I am trying to paint (and hopefully you are seeing) is that God has never been in the business of calling/saving people based on “worth”. The passage in Ezekiel is a direct link to the New Testament and speaks of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. I can take it a step further and point out that even the Disciples were not men of great honor, great resumes, or great moral character.  The Gospels expose their character flaws and show us many reasons why they shouldn’t have been chosen to be Christ’s ambassadors to the world.

And then there is the Apostle Paul, the self-described “chief of sinners”, he certainly was not a ripe candidate for salvation.  I’m sure there were others with a cleaner track record, yet his writings (God-inspired Scripture for that matter) are riddled with the notion that salvation is based on the grace of God alone.  No one is deserving, no one merits salvation, no one is worth saving. In fact, what all of creation merits is death, namely separation from God for eternity (see Romans 3:22-23, Eph. 2:1-3; cf. Isaiah 53:6). The world because of its sinfulness is worthy of God’s wrath in judgment. So why did God save me? You? Anybody? This is what the Bible says in a few places:

Ephesians 1:5-6 – In love He predestined us for adoption as sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His willto the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.

Ephesians 2:4-5 – But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved

Titus 3:4-7 – But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Re-read those verses slowly and contemplatively…It’s hard to deduce from those passages anything other than the fact that God saves not because He should, but because He wants to. Not because we are so save-able, but because He is so merciful. Not because we are so love-able, but because He is so loving. That my friends is the essence of the Gospel. That is what Scripture teaches. That is what men like Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, John Piper, myself, and countless others believe.

I honestly believe the lyrics to the song “Worth” downplay how great a salvation God has given to the world; a salvation so great and glorious that even Angels are enchanted by it (see 1 Peter 1:10-12).

What I Am Not Saying

Before I conclude let me, in anticipation of disagreement, address what I am not saying.  I am not saying that human beings possess no value or worth. Jesus expresses the value of humans, especially God’s adopted children in Matthew 6:26 and Matthew 10:29-31 (for starters) where He says humans are superior to animals. In the Parables of the Lost Sheep, Coin, and Prodigal Son we see the care each main character displays toward the things lost. All humans are image bearers of their Creator and are inherently valuable from the womb to the grave. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world…”, which shows us that God cares about His creation.  Every life is precious.  There is no one who is excluded from the possibility of receiving salvation. Like Black lives, all lives matter.  Conversely, there is no one who is so valuable that they deserve salvation.

It may seem as if I am splitting hairs or being over-dramatic (it happens), but as previously stated this song, in my opinion, speaks of our worth in terms of meriting God’s love and favor; of which we could never do. To suggest anyone is worth saving is to deny the reality of how deeply sin has radically corrupted our hearts and whole being.  To suggest that anyone is worth saving is to say that God shows partiality: some are worthy, some are not. Both deny the truth of Scripture and undermine the magnitude of God’s saving grace and His sovereignty.  To suggest anyone is worth saving denies the Gospel.  This is why I believe this is a serious matter.  I may be totally wrong in my assessment of this song, but if I’m not, I would re-write it (which sometimes happens admittedly) to go like this:

 I was never worth saving (Rom. 3:23, Eph. 2:1-3)
But You came and changed my life (John 10:10, Eph. 2:4-9)

I was never worth keeping (Rom. 6:23a)
But You cleaned me up inside (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

I was never to die for (2 Cor. 5:21a)
But You sacrificed your life (Isa. 53)

So I could be free (John 8:36)
So I could be whole (Matt. 11:28-30)
So I could tell everyone I know (Matt. 28:20)

What are your thoughts? Feel free to comment below.  In taking the liberty to leave a comment, I would invite you to really read through the passages I have listed in full and simply referenced. Thanks!

Amazed by grace,

T.

 

The COGIC and Reasonable Doubt

image

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted and wasn’t sure I’d actually post this, but I’d like to make my re-entry back into the blog world by sharing my thoughts on recent events surrounding one of America’s largest Pentecostal denomination’s 107th Holy Convocation. In case you are not familiar or these sort of things don’t come across your newsfeed, allow me to briefly fill you in. This past week, a now viral video surfaced showing a portion of the conclusion of one of the worship services held by the Church of God in Christ as part of their 107th Holy Convocation. In the video, one the denomination’s Bishops was praying over people and allowed one gentleman to share his reason for coming down for prayer. Depending on how you view certain things, this is where things either went downhill or uphill. In a nutshell, the gentleman, in a very charismatic and/or dramatic way exclaimed that he had been delivered from homosexuality, wearing makeup, and carrying purses (I’m assuming that night, but not quite sure) and refused to marry a man among other things and that he only wanted to marry a women (no typo). In true COGIC fashion (pun intended), the place erupted (after some coaxing) and the people got happy, shouted (danced) and the gentleman got paid. End clip.

The link I saw was posted by the Bishop who was handling the service and prayer that night. He posted it (by choice) as an official representative and member of the denomination. As a result, social media went nuts with the majority of commenters poking fun (I’m being generous here) at the video and especially its main subject, the delivert (no typo) man. Due to the attention and backlash stemming from the video, the denomination released an official memo stating (in a nutshell), “People shouldn’t overlook all the good that was done in St. Louis while they were there, the lives that were touched and souls that were saved…also, the denomination does not condone any sort of abuse towards homosexuality and loves homosexuals as Christ demonstrated and commanded His Church to.” The denomination did also include their stance against homosexuality but also reaffirmed it’s commitment to loving everyone.

However, nowhere in the letter did they really address the content of the video and its legitimacy which is strange because well, that’s what the whole fuss is about. For me, I took their lack of addressing the content of the video, the concerns, questions and comments of viewers (inside and out of the organization) as a sign that everyone should give them the benefit of the doubt by believing what took place to be an authentic move of the Holy Spirit. I, however, cannot do that and here are four reasons why:

1. Emotionalism

The COGIC is known for its high-energy, loud, lengthy and heavily charismatic services. Having grown up in a semi-charismatic environment and being exposed to different churches and denominations as a musician/preacher, I’ve been to my fair share of worship services and the one common denominator of all the COGIC services I have attended over the years is that they are emotionally driven. All throughout the services, when someone new gains control of the microphone you can expect their to be an exhortation respond to God in praise (authentic or not) lest the service be held hostage. The “exhorters” will also tend to keep prodding (manipulating) until they begin to strike nerves and receive a response or misquote passages that tend to be self-centered. As a result, what tends to happen is a tipping point (one of many) in the service where people have to choose whether they really love God or not or are grateful for Him and His benefits or not. To choose the latter in each case could potentially isolate a congregant to the point where it would be made to seem that something must be “wrong” with that person. This type of emotionalism has led to professional praisers and actors who know how to play a role in order to fit in and/or appear “spiritual.” For this reason I cannot give the video the benefit of the doubt.

2. Shaky Theology

Another reason why I struggle to take the video and its content seriously is because of the history of the denomination’s shaky theology. On the surface they would appear to hold the fundamentals of the faith: Salvation in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone. However, when it comes to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit things get shaky. According to their own belief statement concerning the Baptism of the Holy Spirit they believe, “…the Baptism of the Holy Ghost is an experience subsequent to conversion and sanctification and that tongue-speaking is the consequence of the baptism in the Holy Ghost with the manifestations of the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23; Acts 10:46, 19:1-6).  We believe that we are not baptized with the Holy Ghost in order to be saved (Acts 19:1-6; John 3:5). When one receives a baptismal Holy Ghost experience, we believe one will speak with a tongue unknown to oneself according to the sovereign will of Christ. To be filled with the Spirit means to be Spirit controlled as expressed by Paul in Ephesians 5:18-19. Since the charismatic demonstrations were necessary to help the early church to be successful in implementing the command of Christ, we therefore, believe that a Holy Ghost experience is mandatory for all men today” (emphasis mine).

This is a whole other can of worms but briefly I will state why there is a problem with this line of thinking. In John 14, Jesus told the Disciples that he was leaving the earth but that He would send the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) who would not only dwell with them, but in them. Most theologians would agree that the promise was not only extended to the Apostles, but to all believers. In John 20, the resurrected Jesus walks into a room with the Apostles and other disciples and breathed on them exclaiming, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” In Acts 1, right before Jesus ascended into heaven, He commanded the Apostles and disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the fulfillment of His command in John 20. Then, in the infamous Acts 2, which the COGIC stakes a lot of their claims on, we see the 120 become baptized, filled with the Holy Spirit and then speak in languages foreign to them. In subsequent chapters and scenes we see the same thing happen. People hear the gospel, respond to Christ, and are filled with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. We see this in several cases, but not all. However, the denomination takes the several cases to be the normative experience in the Christian life.

As I come to believe, what Luke does in Acts is brilliantly show the progression of fulfillment of Jesus’ call to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. To prove this point, let’s take a journey through that progression.

In Acts 2 the Apostles and other Disciples are in Jerusalem for the Passover and on the Day of Pentecost, while in Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit endows the 120, they began to “tell the mighty works of God” in the languages of the pilgrims in Jerusalem, Peter preaches the gospel and 3000 people according to verse 41, “received his word and were baptized into Christ and the Christian faith.” Nowhere does it say, the 3000 spoke in tongues, but what it does say subsequently happened was Spirit-filled devotion to God and each other.

In Acts 8, we find that as a result of persecution Christ-followers were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria (coincidence?) and there the Gospel was preached and people believed and were saved in Samaria through the teaching of Phillip, but no mention of tongues

In Acts 10, at Caesarea Peter preaches to Gentiles and here again we see tongues, but a new group is introduced; Gentiles.

Finally in Acts 19, Paul visited Ephesus (outside of the previous regions mentioned) and preached the Gospel to another group of people who received the word and became saved and filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues proclaiming in the word of Christ in that region.

So we have Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Ephesus (ends of the world) and the fulfillment of the call of Jesus to take the gospel everywhere, to all men. As each new group was introduced, tongues were evident as they proclaimed the mighty works of God in languages people understood.

All in between those passages there are other stories and scenes where the gospel is preached and received, people were filled (including Paul) but no tongues. Why? Because speaking in tongues is not the normative experience during regeneration and conversion.

Lastly on this, if the position of the COGIC were correct, there would be the categories of the haves and have nots. Thus, conflicting with Jesus’ prayer in John 17 that the Disciples and subsequent Church be one as the Godhead is one. As this is the case in the COGIC, you will find people rambling off unintelligible phrases (as the gentleman did in the video) in an effort again to fit in and prove they have the Holy Spirit. For Paul and the other New Testament writers, to not have the Holy Spirit, means to not be saved (Romans 8:9) and certainly not everyone would share the same manifestations of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12-14). Therefore, their theology is flawed and does not warrant the benefit of the doubt in this case.

3. Authority Issues

Another reason I can’t just take their word for it is because their leaders often misuse and abuse their authority. As Pastors and preachers we are commissioned to preach under the Authority of Christ as led by the Holy Spirit but always within the bounds of Scripture. Deviations from this model lead to the abuse of the position and ultimately people. The COGIC has and its leaders are typically great communicators and are very good at persuading and manipulating congregants under the guise of spiritual authority. This came into play during the video when the Bishop made the statement that those who were not celebrating and rejoicing at his command (shouting, whether superficial or not) were considered unbelievers…Unbelievers!!!

Nowhere in Scripture do we find that criteria nor do we see the endowment or exercise of that kind of power. Name driven, celebrity driven, pastor driven denominations like the COGIC tend to create monsters because so much emphasis is placed on the leaders to where their words are presumed infallible and inspired; even above Scripture. We also see in the video the Bishop tell the gentleman to run down the aisle and scream in the camera his new found freedom.

Now I get that in the Bible, there are many examples where prophets and even Jesus asked those being ministered to, to do some odd things. However, those odd things were part of the process of healing, provision, etc. This was not the case in the video. It was more, “do this because I said so. I’m the Bishop!” For this reason I cannot give the COGIC the benefit of the doubt.

4. Money

The last reason I can’t reasonably take this video to be serious is because somehow or some way it always comes down to money. What do I mean? Well if you attend a COGIC service you better be sure to bring cash. You will be asked to give a tithe, a general offering, a seed offering for your blessing of choice as well as an offering to “bless” the speaker of the hour. Or, depending on the type of service, you will see grand displays/gestures of giving money to others in a very dramatic and public way. Sermons tend to always lead to praising God in expectation of a blessing, often times monetary. People are told they’re supposed to be millionaires and the first step to making that million is to sow a seed. Money drives the end of the sermons, money motivates praise, and money more times than not motivates the preacher to keep going. In the video in question, the Bishop gave the gentleman money not because there was a need per se, but because commitment to Christ leads to spiritual and material blessings. So he says. However, all we can tell is that in a grand display of generosity the Bishop conveniently pulls out a $100 bill and sows into the man and we see others follow suit. No explanation is given, but what’s implied is by following Christ you can expect “stuff” and that when you bless others you can expect to receive a greater blessing in return. The fixation on prosperity and the misnomer that God’s people are supposed to have material wealth often leads people to passionately Perdue the resources of life rather than the Source of life, which is Christ. For this reason and for the aforementioned reasons, there is a place to reasonably doubt the authenticity of the video.

Conclusion

I know I am treading on dangerous ground by questioning an event like this. I get that. However, I firmly believe that now more than ever, the Church of Jesus Christ (undivided) would do well to exercise discernment as the Day of the Lord draws near. I’ve tried to be fair in my judgment, but from what I know, it’s hard to believe the content of the video. Not because I don’t believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, I do. Not because I don’t believe in the continuation of Spiritual Gifts/Ministry Assignments, I do. Not because I don’t believe members of the COGIC to be authentic believers, I do and know quite a few brothers and sisters who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of Christ and the furtherance of His Kingdom. I just believe in examining the whole while also viewing the part.

I pray that the gentleman received or receives the deliverance that is promised to those who trust and treasure Christ. It has been happening for 2000 years plus, it has happened to me, and by God’s grace and the effectual, immutable power of the Holy Spirit, it will continue to happen until we see Him (Christ) face to face.

In Christ,

Terry