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.
Our friends the Afghanis are set to hang a Christian brother for the dread crime of turning away from Islam, which he did eight years ago. We have spent precious blood, much toil, and a whole lot of money to bring this nation out of Seventh Century tribalism, and what have we gotten?
Basically, Seventh Century tribalism. With little confidence that America is going to stay the course, the population is turning away from us. The Afghan government so many had put hope in is turning out to be increasingly weak and corrupt. And we are reduced to negotiating with the Taliban.
The abominable apostasy and blasphemy laws are how Islam keeps it reign of fear and coercion intact. They also are used to destroy others for strict personal gain.
That after all we have poured into Afghanistan, an innocent Christian man has been imprisoned, badly abused, and is in immanent danger of being executed is simply unacceptable. That the government of our nation has not pressed strongly for human rights in this case is a cause for national shame. We see people clamoring for freedom all over the world, and spilling their blood to get it. And from the White House we hear…. nothing.
Christian Post reports on a tweeting campaign for the freeing of Said Musa. This is a good thing, as evidently the only thing our leaders hear is political volume. Perhaps it will draw Obama away from opining on the situation in Wisconsin.
I’m enclosing below an article from Open Heaven on Said. It is dramatic testimony of what the Lord is accomplishing through him. Our brother is a physiotherapist with six children, and he has held faithful through a hellish experience. Let’s pray that he is saved from this tribal injustice.
And here’s a link to an encouraging report on how with all this repression and upheaval Muslims are looking for something that will take them out of their tragic centuries-long rut of futility and backwardness. They are open, like never before, for the liberating truth of Christ. Please pray. Here’s the first article:
Afghanistan: Jesus appears in prison
A brother in Christ and an employee of the International Red Cross, Said Musa, was arrested in Afghanistan in late May 2010 after footage was nationally televised of Afghan Christians being baptized and participating in prayer gatherings. The broadcast triggered protests throughout the country and calls to execute Christians, including from a deputy leader in parliament. Musa, a father of six and an amputee with a prosthetic leg, explained in a letter written from Oullayat prison in Kabul that he had been beaten, forcefully sleep deprived, and sexually abused by prisoners. He added that Afghan judicial officers granted him no protection and at times encouraged the abuse.
On December 11, 2010, he wrote from his jail cell that he rejoices in the Lord amidst great suffering. “I saw a vision during my sleep one night. I saw the heaven opened and a person, his cloths like snow, his face in dazzling light. He came to me and put his hand on my shoulder and on my head, and told me: ‘Please he happy, I am always with you in this jail. I chose you and you should announce my good news to the people of Afghanistan and all over the world.’ On that moment I was shaking and trembling with fear. I fell down and could not stand on my feet. He took my hands and I woke up.”
“In my dream a very light person told me: I am Jesus Christ.”
Five days later, on December 16, he wrote again about an unusual occurrence, this time involving a Taliban prisoner: “A person who is accused of murder is sleeping in front of me in the corridor of the jail. He’s a hundred percent extremist, a Talib person. One night he wanted to kill himself. I prayed for him and told him: ‘Please be patient, believe in Jesus Christ, he’s the only person to forgive you and save you and release you from this jail.’ At first he began screaming and insulted me. He told me: ‘You’re not clean, you’re not a Muslim!’ But I told him: ‘Oh my friend and brother, please think about my word.’ Then I prayed for him throughout the night.”
Musa continued: “While all the prisoners were at sleep, he woke up and sat on his place. He came near my bed and told me: ‘Please forgive me, brother. You’re really a true person. I have seen wonderful dreams. A very light person spoke with me. He was an amazing person. I fell down on my knees and to the ground. He told me, please believe in your friend Said Musa. I am the Lord Jesus Christ. I forgive you now. I was shaking in my body from fear and then I woke up.’ He told me he now believes in Jesus Christ.”
Various human rights organizations have taken up Musa’s case and call for prayer for him and his family.
Word just came in that Congresswoman Giffords of Arizona has been shot dead, along with several others. I don’t know if there was political motivation behind this, or just a slightly purer form of mental illness, but this is a terrible event for this nation.
I recall way back when violence was introduced into the anti-abortion movement. Overnight the prolifers became marginalized, as fear gripped the public that the abortion controversy could destabilize the nation. Those fears were understandable and justified.
We gain nothing by our resistance to the corrupt dominant culture unless we hold the high moral ground. If we lose our witness to the character of Christ, we lose everything.
Those tempted to use violence to impose their will on the nation need to study very carefully the principles of Just War that have a long venerable history in Christian thought. They carefully apply Biblical principles and natural law to the difficult questions of human governance. In a nutshell, they endorse armed resistance, but only as a last resort and only when there is a probable means of succeeding.
If the person responsible for this atrocity proves to be of the political right wing, that will be all the excuse the governing elites need to come down hard on the legitimate TEA movement that is struggling to bring this nation back to its roots, where it belongs.
God can work good out of anything, but we shouldn’t be challenging Him with such grievous sin. This is a sad day for America.
My prayers for the families of the deceased, that they might find comfort and peace, and that good will indeed come out of this.
An excellent message received via the ElijahList, dealing with different ways we can be hurt, and how to find the power to overcome and turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones.
In Betrayal – “I Love You”
While He was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss Him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”—Luke 22:47-48
“Beloved one, I am Love that will not let you go. To those of you who have walked in the pain of betrayal from dear ones you have trusted and loved, I release the grace to overcome such pain and crushing disappointment. My Love is more than you will ever need to forgive betrayal. Reach deep inside of Me and find a place of forgiveness from which to draw upon. Rest your souls in Me. Let Me cover the scars of betrayal with the healing power of My love. Be not battle weary, but allow Me to kiss away the effects of the lies, the greed and the fear from others that led to your betrayal.
“You have shared in My cup of suffering, so that you might also share in My cup of Joy. My heart overflows with love for you. My love is freedom, My love is unchanging and all-powerful in the pulling down of strongholds that would keep you from flowing fully in My grace. My love is your storehouse in times of great need. Child of My heart, I love you; betrayal is overcome by the Cross.”
In Denial – “I Love You”
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.
God gave the nation of Israel feast days so that they would remember and affirm who they were as a called-out people. They were to recount from where God had taken them, through what He had taken them, and to where He had taken them.
We’re in the New Testament age now, and there is no compulsion to maintain feast days. And when I started out many years ago, I didn’t place much value on them, but now I accept them unlegalistically and I see good in them.
(I love that about the Word. When I didn’t value the holidays, I had the freedom not to. When later it seemed good to me to enter in, I was free to. The Holy Spirit was free to minister to me according to my individuality, on His own timetable, not man’s. Not being under law is an advantage of our exalted position in Christ.)
I think the New Year holiday is a good time to reflect back on where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going. Jesus often exhorted the first disciples to “come apart to a desert place”. We need to periodically change our mental scenery so that we can get a fresh perspective on ourselves. It could be a change of geography, it could be getting on a motorcycle or taking a walk, it could be a seminar or fasting in the prayer closet. But we need to break the dulling, hypnotic effect of daily patterns and responsibilities so that we can see ourselves afresh and creatively, as with the honest eyes of a child.
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be. But we know that when He shall be revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. – 1John 3:2
Twenty centuries ago God established a beachhead in enemy territory. Unlike D-Day, this one came quietly and was barely noticed. Most people just continued going about their lives, not knowing anything had changed.
But everything had changed. God was finally executing His long-held plan to redeem fallen creation. And the Lord of Love was going to do it meekly, “through the frailty of [His] Son”, by giving Himself.
Had Jesus come merely to repopulate the earth with godly seed, none of the issues the devil had raised in his rebellion would have been resolved. And the new race could have fallen just as easily as had the first. But Jesus didn’t come to replace, He came to redeem. The Incarnation is only half the story, the other half being the Cross.
Every once in a while – ok, every once in a great while – a really classic Christmas song comes along. It’s too rare these days that a good tune also has lyrics that you can dig into, meditate on and learn from. Back in 1988, Michael Card penned To the Mystery, one such tune.
I pray we can embody the Christmas message and take it to a world in need of hope.
To the mystery
When the Father wanted to show, a love He wanted us to know,
He sent His only Son and so, became a holy embryo.
That is the mystery, more than you can see.
Give up on your pondering, fall down on your knees.
No fiction as fantastic and wild — a mother made by her own child!
The hopeless babe who cried, was God incarnate and man deified.
Because the Fall did devastate, Creator now must recreate.
And so, to take our sin, was made like us so we could be like Him.