Category: Culture War

The Jesus Revolution

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Seriously, listen to any Billy Graham sermon from the 1970s, or any J. Vernon McGee sermon from the 1960s, and you will find the same issues being addressed from the pulpit.

The breakdown of the family, the rise in sin and immorality, an up and coming generation that seems unreachable, with a lifestyle and value system that seems incomprehensible, a deeply divided country, civil unrest, economic uncertainty, and foreign threats… these are all issues that plagued our country back then, and they are issues that haunt us now.

The upcoming film, Jesus Revolution, depicts how the ministries of Chuck Smith and Greg Laurie were revolutionized by the introduction of Lonnie Frisbee. Smith is depicted as struggling to establish Calvary Chapel in California as a Biblical-centered congregation, who struggles to understand the hippie movement of the 1960s. Smith then meets Frisbee, who encourages him to engage the marginalized youth and preach the Gospel to them.

History records what followed as The Jesus Movement, recorded by Greg Laurie in his book Jesus Revolution. There was a revival among the Hippie communities of California, which sparked a new wave of evangelism and worship music. The result was countless converts, the rise of Calvary Chapel as we know it today, and contemporary Christian worship music.

Jesus Revolution is a film based on a true story, it is not a documentary. How the film will tackle the controversies surrounding Smith’s ministry, Calvary Chapel, and Frisbee’s issues with sin have yet to be seen. All are worthy of discussion as we come to a fuller understanding of God’s grace and redemption.

However, the theme of the movie appears to be how the Gospel of Jesus Christ is exactly what our dark and deeply divided nation needs to hear, and if we are willing to reach out to those whom we fear or don’t understand with the Gospel, souls will be saved and lives will be changed.

In essence, if the church of God will re-center itself on the Gospel and return to the mission of God, which is the preaching of that Gospel throughout the world, who knows what kind of revival we may see in our day.

Like our forerunners in the 1960s, we face a rise in sin and immorality, a rise in Godlessness, a rise in darkness and division, with an up and coming generation with a lifestyle and values system that scares the very generation that brought us the hippie movement.

Our options are simple. We can, like Kelsey Grammer’s depiction of Chuck Smith early in the film, sit back on our couches and complain about the direction of society. Or, we can, like Jonathan Roumie’s depiction of Lonnie Frisbee, reach out into that darkness with the light of the Gospel and show a lost generation that God’s door is open to those who repent and believe.

My prayer is that we do the latter, which is why I am excited about this film. I hope it inspires our current generation of churches, and a new generation of churches to truly commit to, and do, the Great Commission.

Yes, Virginia, You Can Go to Therapy

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Progressive pastors never miss an opportunity to enrage the fundamentalists, and the fundamentalists never miss the opportunity to be enraged. Such was the case recently on Twitter when a progressive pastor of whom I have never heard posted a tweet encouraging people to attend churches where the pastor goes to therapy, and encourages the congregation to go to therapy. The result? An onslaught of fundamentalists decrying this pastor’s statement, saying in essence, “all you need for mental health is the Bible.”

I’m going to be real about this. If I were to ever find myself in a position where I needed therapy, I would probably remove myself from the pulpit. I would feel that I would not be fit for Spiritual leadership, and that the church deserved better. But that’s an expectation I place on myself.

As for therapy and the Bible, let’s begin by setting the stage by defining what the Bible is and what the Bible teaches.

First, the Bible is the inspired word of God, penned by prophets and apostles who had God’s word given to them either through vision, angelic message or by direct dictation by God Himself. You can see the inspirational process in action when you read Revelation. The Apostle John, banished to the Isle of Patmos, saw the resurrected, glorified Jesus. Jesus then told John what to write. Throughout the book of Revelation, John sees things and tries to describe them. Angels tell him what to write, and at times, the Lord dictates to Him as well. However, the entire thing came from God, and thus is God’s word.

The Bible, being God’s word, is all we need for faith and practice. It’s all we need to learn more about God, to build our faith, and to live our lives in accordance with that faith. However, to say that all we do is drawn from scripture is an error. Not all church traditions come from scripture, neither are all of our personal choices.

Scripture did not teach the church to open the worship service with Doxology, recite a creed, do a responsive reading, sing three hymns, collect an offering and receive a sermon from the professionally paid pastor. There are a lot of beautiful traditions in the church that I believe praise and honor God, but many of these traditions are not explicitly laid out in scripture. Some point to certain passages and say that it can be inferred that these traditions were in place among the apostles, but that is a mighty big assumption to make.

Since we find that, in the church, we can make decisions and do things that scripture did not specifically teach, but still honor God in so doing, it follows we can do the same thing with our personal lives. Scripture says very little about how to pick a career, how to choose a college, or whether to send your kids to public school or private school. Scripture does teach us how to work (do all for the glory of God), but it does not tell us how to go about choosing what kind of work to do. The lesson is that you can still honor God by making these choices.

Does that mean that scripture lacks direction for believers? As Paul would say, “No, in no wise!”

Scripture was not given to teach us how to do church, how to live life, how to make money, etc. Scripture was given to teach us how to have a right relationship with God. And that right relationship comes through two steps, (1) learning, understanding and accepting the Gospel as truth, and (2) repentance and faith.

The central message of the Bible is the Gospel. All scripture either sets up the Gospel, illustrates the Gospel, explains the Gospel, or declares the Gospel. The Gospel is defined in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”

Jesus Christ died for our sins, meaning that His death on the cross satisfied the judgment and wrath of God for man’s sin, thus we can walk away scot-free from His judgment, if we believe. Christ took that wrath upon Himself and shielded us from it. The fact that He rose again proves his power and victory over death. By defeating death, He brought in eternal life, so we can have the confident expectation (hope) that we will be received into His Kingdom (Heaven) when we die.

The Gospel teaches that I am broken, that I am a sinner, that my rebellious and selfish choices have inflicted harm upon myself, and those around me. However, through the Gospel, Jesus can heal my broken spirit, wash away my sin, and restore me and those around me from the harm I’ve caused.

Since many mental health issues stem from the issues of sin and brokenness, it is entirely possible, and very common to find healing in the Gospel and the Gospel alone. As a pastor, I counsel individuals through this process. I can, using only the Bible, show the source of the pain an individual is in, show how comfort and healing can be found in the Gospel, and give my congregant hope. I can, from the scriptures, demonstrate God’s divine purpose in suffering, and in so doing provide comfort for the one seeking my help.

And while I have seen people healed through this ministry multiple times, I can also say that there is a time when one needs to seek a qualified therapist who believes the Bible. I say this because I can demonstrate everything I have listed, but I cannot teach someone how to identify and control triggers.

In the Bible, I can show hope, but I cannot manage a chemical imbalance, or the brain patterns of someone whose mind has been altered by repeated mental, emotional and physical trauma.

In the Bible, I can listen and be non-judgmental, but sometimes people want to talk to a stranger for another view, another set of eyes and expertise.

And that is okay. I have on a couple of occasions referred people to qualified counselors who hold a Biblical worldview. And those folks got the help they need.

So, if you’re having issues, let’s talk. If I cannot help you, or you need more intense therapy, let’s get you to a counselor.

So, yes, Virginia, you can go to therapy.

Chan: Forget it, I’m out!

In his final address to the students at Azusa Pacific University, former megachurch pastor Francis Chan announced that he is leaving the United States to pursue ministry in Asia.

In his message to the students, Chan noted that the people of Asia are open to the Gospel and cleaving to the Lord. He compared his ministry in the United States to fishing in a fishing hole that was over-fished, such that the fish no longer bit the lures. As part of his message, Chan expressed frustration at the way scripture is being de-emphasized and how more people are building beliefs on what feels good rather than the truth of the Bible.

“We only believe what we want to believe!” Chan said. “Name one thing in the Bible that you believe that you don’t want to believe.”

He went on to say that there is absolute truth, and that truth can be found in the scriptures.

Chan exhorted students to take the Bible at its word, and not to try to twist its meaning through endless word studies. He criticized the way the current generation (as all generations have) rejects prior wisdom, believing they have found their own wisdom.

“Are you ready to surrender to the Word?” Chan asked. “Let God be true and every man a liar. If your thoughts contradict this book, then you need to come under this book and change your way of thinking.”

The entire message is posted above.

When Rome falls

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You find the most interesting things on Facebook.

Scrolling through my news feed this morning, I came across this gem, comparing the distraction most Americans enjoy via the NFL with the distractions most Romans enjoyed via chariot races, gladiator “games,” and the Olympics.

And while the Roman government deliberately built elaborate stadiums to distract the masses from the crumbling empire and human rights abuses, in America, we distracted ourselves.

Now, I’m not bashing sports, or the NFL. I enjoy watching football, and even have been able to attend a few Big-12 College Football games, and one Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day game.  I will probably continue to enjoy watching sports for the foreseeable future.

But for some reason, seeing the above-posted meme on Facebook was kind of an eye-opener for me.

Do you know why the NFL protests were so controversial? And subsequently, why the NFL protests have, at least in part, played a role in the decline of NFL ratings? It’s because, once the players used their platform to advance a socially conscious agenda, they reminded us of the social problems that remain in America.

Whether you agree with Colin Kaepernick or not, seeing he and his followers take a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner reminded you that the reconciliation we thought we had accomplished hadn’t advanced us as far as we had thought. Having that bubble burst, watching football became a reminder of the deep-divides that remain in American society. Once that happened, watching football wasn’t as fun as it was before.

And that’s why the NFL protests were so controversial. People don’t like to be reminded of their problems as they try to escape them. So, we had the controversial debate over the past two years, and we quit watching football.

The good news is that we can use our newly raised awareness to make good things happen. True change will not come through legislation, political action, or by socially-conscious NFL players. It will come through the small, daily decisions made by each individual. So, to borrow a phrase, “be the change.” Extend random acts of kindness to others, and let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in Heaven.

And Go Bulldogs!