Love Wins, Except When It’s Hidden

Much controversy has stirred recently surrounding Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins which releases today. Some Christians label Bell a universalist for his views, while others defend him—appalled by the mere fact that certain Christians would call out other Christians on their theology. Obviously we should never be mean-spirited in our dialog with any one, especially our own, but is staying silent and allowing what appears to be theological error really what the Bible calls love?

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. ~Proverbs 27:5

The purpose of this post is not to comment on the book—I think Kevin DeYoung already responded gracefully enough in a recent review (read here). What I AM thinking about is how often we define LOVE as some pithy and “let others be who they are” sort of mentality. We live in an individualistic society where a common belief is that everyone’s beliefs are right and to tell someone they are wrong is just… wrong. But this isn’t what the Bible calls love and love like that doesn’t win.

True love is making hard decisions. It’s dying to your selfishness for the betterment of others. Love is not easy, and it certainly isn’t for the weak. Love is passionate. Love is tough and love is humble. Love put Jesus on a cross and held Him there. Love raised Him from the grave. Love runs into burning buildings to save a life. Love tells a child not to touch a hot stove or run into the street. This kind of love makes children cry as they wonder why they can’t get what they want. Love doesn’t hide the consequences and say everything will be okay as someone self destructs.

Could a mariner sit idle if he heard the drowning cry? Could a doctor sit in comfort and just let his patients die? Could a fireman sit idle, let men burn and give no hand? Can you sit at ease in Zion with the world around you damned? ~Leonard Ravenhill

Some people think telling others about hell isn’t a loving thing to do because it involves fear, but maybe it’s fear that really keeps us silent on the subject of hell in the guise of love.

We are called to love others. We share the gospel became we love people. And we don’t share the gospel because we don’t love people. Instead, we wrongly fear them. We don’t want to cause awkwardness. We want their respect, and after all, we figure, if we try to share the gospel with them, we’ll look foolish! And so we are quiet. We protect our pride at the cost of their souls. In the name of not wanting to look weird, we are content to be complicit in their being lost. ~Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, Crossway, 2007, p. 27

Love speaks.
Humbly.
If love remains silent… it loses.

No Good. Know Best.

Good ideas aren’t bad—they are by nature good. So why is it that I find myself saying “no” to so many good ideas?

I think it’s because I understand that not every good idea is the best idea when it comes to ministry. Good ideas can easily derail mission, and therefore waste much time and energy. You see, sometimes “no” can ultimately release the freedom to say “yes” to what matters. Having a clear ministry focus and vision will keep mission driving the church rather than a random good idea.

One of my favorite examples of this is in the book Confessions of Reformission Rev by Mark Driscoll. Let’s just say it involved a Brethern family, a couple kids that played hand-bells, and a church in the heart of Seattle trying to reach young men in their twenties. Classic!

Read the story on Google Books here (p62-63).

At Praise Chapel Chicago, our vision is WIN – BUILD – SEND (evangelism, discipleship, and church planting). Thus everything we say “yes” to should ultimately enhance this vision in the context we are in. If not, then it just isn’t worth our time pursuing.

When satan pulls an intervention

Three years into church planting and I can clearly see patterns in the way satan attacks a young church (yes, I believe in a literal devil and demonic forces).  I have known these patterns to be true throughout my Christian walk, but lately they just seem so much more obvious.

Recently, we called a 3-day fast at the church.  Lives started changing, there was a stirring in people’s spirits, and new believer’s were excited!  We concluded on a Friday night after prayer meeting with great expectation and passion for Jesus. That was close to a month ago.

Since then some good people have given into compromise, others have lost their passion, and one has even stopped attending service all together.  Don’t get me wrong. The church isn’t in despair or anything, but because we are a church with vision the enemy attacks not so subtly.

So, what exactly happened? Well, there is an old saying that goes like this, “New levels, new devils!” and more often than not it rings true. People sometimes fail to realize, or simply refuse to recognize, that they are in the midst of a spiritual war—a battle for their very soul.

Ephesians 6:10–12, “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Look at it this way. When a person is not really living for God, or maybe as a Christian Atheist, the devil really has no reason to wage war against that person. They are simply not a threat. (Though the devil still might choose to mess with an unsuspecting hypocrite if pushed –> Acts 19:13–16.

But when a person begins to align their life with the teachings of Jesus, when they begin to go to prayers meetings and fast, when they put away selfish desires and allow themselves to be filled and led by the Holy Spirit—watch out because the devil will sneak in and try to pull a spiritual intervention (lights dim and the curtain opens)…

As Committed Christian arrives home after a late night prayer and worship  at the church, he opens the door, and there sit his old friends satan and his crew.  A somber chill fills the air.

“Christian we need to talk. Sit down, would ya?”

“What’s this all about?”

“Me and the boys, well frankly, were concerned. We haven’t seen much of you lately.  You’re always at the church or praying in your room with the door closed.  We’ve even noticed you have been skipping some meals lately. You’re hanging out with the wrong crowd. We just feel, you know… it’s time for an intervention.”

“Seriously, satan?!?”

“Yeah. No more church for you buddy.  From now on we are just gonna have to give you some excuse that you can’t go. And prayer… fugettaboutit.  You need your sleep.  You work hard. Don’t worry, we are gonna make everything easy for you to come down off your spiritual high and face reality. We will take it slow, but don’t worry—we will be with you every step of the way, just hanging around to make sure you don’t ever fall down that slippery slope of, ugh, Christianity again.”

To the discerning Christian, the strategies and interventions of satan are obvious in this type of scenario.  When the devil shows up right after we decide to live all out for God, commit to a volunteer ministry or perhaps a 3-day fast, we should see right through it.

Matter of fact, the next time the devil pokes up his ugly mug after you invite Jesus deeper into your marriage, family, relationship, or life just tell him to “go to hell” where he belongs.  Don’t worry, it is Christ-like to tell the devil that—Rev 20:10.

Ephesians 6:13-18 (NLT), “Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”

If you find yourself getting closer to God remember to stand strong and stay on guard.  The devil might just be waiting in your car, home, or office for the right moment to pull…  an intervention.

Some days are better than others

195168_7394I acknowledge it. It’s officially been a long time since my last post.

It’s been a rough season the past few months in my life and in those times I tend to get a bit quiet and lately I feel like I am riding an emotional roller coaster.

Recently, I found out my day position will soon be cut due to the economy.  Some days I feel like God is answering my prayers for something with better pay, while other days I feel expendable.

Expectations of where I should be with the church plant sometimes blow my mind and at other times, honestly, lay me flat with discouragement.

You see… some days are just better than others.

One day I find myself crying out to God as the pain in my gut seems too unbearable. Another day, I rejoice in worship for I know He is refining me in the midst of the fire—teaching me what it means to follow the cross.

Some days I find myself wondering why blessings come to others so easy and why everything seems like a fight for me to obtain. Other days I am overwhelmed by God’s favor poured over me like fragrant anointing oil.

Some days I wonder why I have to face this trial again; feel this pain again; know this weakness again? Yet other days, I taste the sweetness of victory, the peace of healing, and the power of strength.

There are times when friends comfort me in my affliction. Yet other times, they cut me deep.

Some days I am so proud of those that call me pastor. Other days I wonder why they even call me such.

Could it be that day-to-day Christ is all sufficient in my life? That I could actually lift my hands up on this roller coaster? That the words of Paul the Apostle could pound passionately beneath my skin,

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” 

Some days might be darker than others, but that doesn’t change who God is.  Through it all I have chosen to follow Jesus. My bridges are burned. There’s no turning back. It’s not about good days and bad day—it’s about his unfailing love that wraps me through it all.

So…

May the light of God burst into every dark day with the light of His presence and may we know the depths of His love when we beat against His chest and then fall asleep in his arms.

Psalm 139:7-12 (NIV)
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

  If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
        if I make my bed in the depths,
              you are there.

  If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
        if I settle on the far side of the sea,
              even there your hand will guide me,
                    your right hand will hold me fast.

  If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
        and the light become night around me,”
              even the darkness will not be dark to you;
                    the night will shine like the day,
                           for darkness is as light to you.”

Enough faith?

throwAt age 17, I had been given the opportunity to give a message to a tribe of people up in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico. I had my message all prepared when not more than 5 minutes before I was to speak, God nudged me to preach the Gospel from Mark 16. I did just that and by God’s grace, over 90% of the small rural church responded for salvation.

As the service was coming to close, I proclaimed that God not only saves but is also a healer.  I opened the front for anyone who needed a miracle. Numerous people came forward, but a short elderly woman stands out clearly in my mind.  Slowly she nudged her way through the crowd up to the interpreters. She spoke softly to them and they turned to me with anticipation in their eyes, “She is deaf in one ear and would like you to pray for God to restore her hearing.”

I believed God could do it, but in the moment I was overwhelmed but my own inadequacies. I turned around and faced the back wall for a moment. “God, I am not sure I have enough faith for this, but I trust you.”  Tears began to stream down my face as I turned back and faced the woman. Laying my hands on her ear, I began to simply pray for God to heal her.

When I finished, one of the interpreters began to whisper in this woman’s deaf ear. A smile stretched across her wrinkled cheeks as she began to jump up and down with utter enthusiasm shouting something in in her native language.

“She can hear!!! She can hear!!!”  

I crumpled to the floor in awe of a merciful and tremendous God who loves all His children, even those lost in the mountains of southern Mexico.

Since that day, I have prayed for healing of others on numerous occasions. Some have been. Others not. But I’ve realized my job is just to act in faith (pray) and leave the results to God.  I don’t have to question the why or how.  Faithfulness is just being willing to step out and trusting God with the results based on His character.  

You see, “enough faith” is acting in a way that displays trust in something we believe to be true. It has nothing really to do with results. Matter of fact, it is quite the opposite. It is action when we aren’t sure of the outcome, but trust that God does.  It’s knowing God in the moment and understanding his will.  Faith is something we believe enough to move us to action.

That is enough for me.  The rest is up to God.