This is a half-hour film that I wish everyone would watch and consider. Give it a chance. It could be a life-changer for you or someone you know. Warning: it does contain some graphic images.
I have inside word that Joel Osteen is under stress. It seems a woman has been stalking him in one manner or another. While precautions have been taken, these things can take their toll. Even Jesus found it necessary – and increasingly difficult – to escape physical jeopardy, until He willingly accepted it when it was His time to go to the cross. We need to be praying for Joel, and all the church’s leaders.
I wish the body had a broader perspective toward ministers such as Joel. Joel is not perfect. I don’t go to him when I want a catechism answer. But there was a time in my life when I did go to him for encouragement, and to be reminded of the love of God. In fact, he was the only TV preacher I could listen to for a season.
Yet because he doesn’t harp on sin week in and week out, some accuse him of distorting the Gospel. They don’t understand that when Joel exhorts us to have a better attitude, or exercise faith that God is working on our behalf and will bring good out of difficult circumstances, it is implicit that our sinful attitudes must change and we must draw near to God.
It also escapes the understanding of some that the Gospel is about more than just initial salvation. Salvation is an ongoing process by which we are continually sanctified – “from glory to glory” is the way the Bible puts it – and we need encouragement and exhortation to be walking according to the fullness of our heritage in Christ. Joel is a modern day “bar Nabus” (son of encouragement), bringing us that uplifting word.
There’s also one other thing that some don’t realize. A great portion of the world’s people live trapped in dark lands where the love of God is suppressed. Joel’s message of love is beamed into those lands via satellite and the Internet. Imagine you have been born into a repressive cultural milieu, and live in terror of arbitrary and legalistic religion. Now you hear of a God who acts on our behalf from selfless love. You even see the minister quite frequently getting emotional talking about Him. What amazing evangelistic power this can have. God loves these souls, and we need to reach them with that love.
As I said, Joel is not perfect. But he has been faithful with the light he’s been given. He helped me immensely during a season of my life, and for that I will always be grateful and bless him. We need to pray for our leaders. Until the Body comes together in the unity of faith and love, we will suffer together with a lack of power.
There’s an excellent article today by Ryan Mauro on the comparative growth rates of Christianity and Islam, and also on the quality of the faith of those who believe. If you live in the West you’re probably under the impression that Islam is growing by leaps and bounds. It is – in the West, because of immigration and high birth rates, but that is not the case in the rest of the world.
Indeed, in the second and third world nations Christianity is growing at unparalleled rates, though it’s underreported. That is one reason why so many Islamists are alarmed and are resorting to increasing levels of radicalism and violence to maintain their “market share”, as it were.
Too, the article points out, many of the Muslims who immigrate to the West become lax toward their religion. Muslims in America now fall behind Evangelicals in considering their sacred book literally true.
Now couple that with the fear and coercion that drives many Islamic cultures, in which no deviation from, nor even questioning of, Islam is tolerated, under penalty of death, and you begin to see that Islam’s numbers do not necessarily reflect heartfelt belief.
In contrast, Christianity has been growing like wildfire around the globe. Africa is now half Christian. China probably has 120 million Christians, despite decades of brutal persecution. I am convinced that the global church will teach us in the West the meaning of enduring adversity without compromise.
It’s all very encouraging. The Kingdom is growing, not only within us as the Lord cleans us up and raises us to greater levels of glory, but also in numbers of precious souls who are coming out of darkness and into His marvelous Light. Keep this in mind as you daily hear of the horrendous atrocities coming from these dark regions. The cost is great, and when one part of the Body of Christ suffers the entire Body suffers. But the rewards are far greater still.
Let’s continue praying for the faithful witness of our brothers throughout the world, for their comfort, and for the abating of the brutal persecution that they face, as much as is possible.
Love and blessings in Him.
When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. -John 19:30
When Jesus cried out, “It is finished”, He wasn’t saying that His personal ordeal was over. He was proclaiming that the task He had been sent to perform had been accomplished. All the suffering and sin of lost man had been poured out on Him, and now the price of our redemption had been eternally secured. The doorway to heaven had been opened, and we had gained the right to become partakers of the Divine nature.
And when Jesus gave up His spirit, He was not overcome by death. In the Greek, paradidomi means “to give into the hands of another; to deliver to one something to keep, use, or take care of; to permit, allow”. And it is recorded in the active tense, meaning that Jesus’ spirit didn’t just leave Him; His task being done, Jesus dismissed His own spirit into the hands of the Father.
Think of that. All during His passion, Jesus was in complete control. Every tearing of flesh by the lictor’s whip, every driving of thorns into his head, each nail, each unending agony of heaving breath while on the Cross – at any time, Jesus could have ended it at will, with one word (see Mt 26.53). He endured the unspeakable agony of not only the physical pain, but far worse, the righteous wrath due our separation from God.
He did it all to free us from the captivity of satan, sin and death, and to reconcile us to Himself forever. As has been written, it wasn’t the nails, it was Jesus’ love that held Him on the Cross – and when He was on the Cross, we were on His mind.
The nation of Iran nears a boiling point. Street clashes are intensifying and turning increasingly violent. There has been a incendiary statement, purportedly from military leaders who are ready to turn on the evil Islamic regime. Whether legitimate or not, the statement will have effect. Adding to the tension, the opposition has called for a general strike today.
The people are no longer just calling for new elections; they are calling for the end of the tyrannical Islamic pseudo-republic. The terrorism of the regime has stepped up, with some ten dead this weekend alone, including the nephew of an opposition leader.
The freedom fighters have shown incredible courage in the face of official brutality that has included the widespread systematic torture, rape and murder of detainees in the notorious prisons. The patriots have been an inspiration to people everywhere who have been watching and encouraging from the sidelines.
In Iran there has been a daring new openness and reevaluation of many things long held sacrosanct. One significant group issued a public apology for the seizure of the American embassy and hostages thirty years ago, and some of the original hostage-takers were signatories.
Two-thirds of the Iranian population are under thirty-five years of age. Many of them have new ideas and have no stock in the 1979 Islamic revolution, which proved to be a total fraud, devastating the Iranian social fabric and making the nation a most evil player on the world scene.
What’s more, many people are not merely questioning the validity of the regime, they are questioning Islam itself. Voice of the Martyrs has reported that there is an astonishing wave of conversions to Christ taking place in Iran, so much so that the authorities are alarmed and have stepped up religious repression. Just a mention of the name of Jesus brings numerous inquiries into what Christianity is all about, often quickly followed by the reception of Christ as Lord. This is beyond exciting!
Please pray for the protection of the patriots and that their courage would hold out, and pray that the evil regime would be toppled with no more bloodshed. Pray that this highly-repressed land would once again be free, and would be open to the spread of the only Gospel that can bring true freedom. Jesus truly loves the people of Iran and wants to set them free.
The thief does not come except to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. -Jn 10.10
Therefore if the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed. -Jn 8.36
Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and do not again be held with the yoke of bondage. -Gal 5:1
God bless the people of Iran.
11:34pm: Obama has finally spoken on Iran, and here’s video of Krauthammer demolishing his words. Obama comes off as, well, a community organizer. I’m positive he was great at that task, because he retains the aura. That is not something that is going to impress our enemies. He is utterly unconvincing in speaking of these matters of profoundest import, as behind it all one senses a lawyerly negotiator preferring to take it to a committee. But even a community organizer should like a good showdown. Where’s the street fighter here? Even the European leaders have easily outdone Obama on Iran. Six months late, and he’s still falling short of a target that has moved.
Several months ago a family moved in next door. We live on a lake, but their house is maybe 50 feet below mine, as I’m on a steep slope going down to the lake.
Everything was fine for a while. They seemed like a nice family, though because they’re on a different road than me we never got to meet.
But then there was the dog. Read more…
I’ve been processing some pain lately, and I’ve felt the need to trace it to its root. When we have recurring spontaneous pain, it’s like the warning light on a car’s dashboard. It’s a sure sign that there’s something going on under the hood that needs our attention.
Ultimately, exactly how we are co-laborers with God in our own salvation and the salvation of the world is a mystery. But we have enough light on the matter to be able to function and bear fruit. On a practical level, I am increasingly convinced that precious little, if any, spiritual advancement happens automatically. We need to be diligent about it. We need to direct our attention to it and press in. When we find obstacles or hindrances, we need to devote ourselves to their removal.
And so as I was making breakfast this morning, out of the blue came a twang of spiritual pain. I tried to rush past it, but then I realized that I needed to deal with whatever was behind it. So I asked, “what was that?”, and it was quickly revealed to me that the pain was from rejection.
Immediately I saw my error. Rejection cannot hurt me unless I am trying to gain my significance from man’s acceptance. If I direct my need for acceptance and significance to God alone, what can man’s rejection do to me? And that is exactly what God wants us to do. Read more…
Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl
Dating Jesus is very well written. Ms. Campbell is a bit younger than I, from a different part of the country, and of a different gender, but she is a great storyteller and her reminiscences of growing up in church were very engaging.
I don’t think she meant it to be so because she doesn’t dwell on it, but the most piercing memory I took away from the book was when a normally kind Sunday school teacher publically shamed her as a young teen, for asking too many questions about gender limitations within the church. That kind of thing sickens me. It seems not to have affected her as much as it would I. Read more…
Mary, by Sholem Asch
I’m posting here my Amazon review of Sholem Asch’s book, Mary. If I can introduce anyone to the outstanding Christian works of Asch, I will have done a good thing. -p.
When I was done reading this book, my soul sat in a collapsed heap, drained but cleansed, awaiting the Spirit’s rejuvenating touch.
I was first introduced to the works of Sholem Asch some 25 years ago by an old and dear Jewish friend in NYC. Though he wasn’t sympathetic to Christianity, he just loved Asch’s vivid writing. He gave me a copy of Asch’s phenomenal The Apostle. I had to wait a bit though, for him to find a copy that he hadn’t annotated during his many readings of the work. Such was his devotion to Asch’s writings.
Through the wonders of online browsing, I recently came across Mary, the earliest part of Asch’s trilogy about Christ. Thinking I could use some easy background reading to break up my more serious pursuits, I started skipping around early parts of the book. But the descriptions of Yeshua growing in stature and favor began first to interest me, then to arrest me.
It turns out that Jesus wasn’t air-dropped over Israel as the full-blown Messiah. Just as it is with us, his destiny didn’t come automatically. He had to study the scriptures and interact with people in a developmental way, over what we call his hidden years. Read more…