Our Silence is Deafening

It is amazing how much the news is consumed with conflicts in the Middle East when it comes to Jews/Muslims or even Muslims/Muslims, but when it comes to Christians…

The tragedy of Mosul is finally getting some coverage. More and more Christians are showing some solidarity (finally) by showing the Arabic sign for “Nazarene” on their profile pics.

It’s honestly not a matter of trying to make the media more aware or any government more aware. The question really is: “Why is the CHURCH silent?”

We are so much more up in arms about Hobby Lobby and millionaire rednecks than we are concerned about whole Christian groups being wiped out in the Middle East.

We fight our “left wing” and “right wing” fights over where we’re going to eat a chicken sandwich, but we can’t somehow post prayers for our brothers and sisters in Iraq?

Shame on me. Just. Shame. On. Me.

Do with it what YOU want… but my heart is really starting to break. They cry out for justice… for prayer… and we’re silent because we’re too busy fighting each other over here about whatever the political hot button of the moment happens to be.

Please. Let us pray! WITH each other… for once…

Arabic N

Tested by Fire

Over the past several weeks we have been in prayer for a missionary friends who has battled for his life. There are so many spiritual elements in the equation and the prayers of the saints have truly carried on a spiritual war. So much is at stake. It’s the life of a missionary. It’s a closed country. It’s the lives of believers in closed areas. It’s the call to reach the unreached.

We don’t like tests. We don’t like fire. But tests are what we get in life. We almost seem to demand easy roads, but never… never… is an easy road promised in Scripture. Leave that to some preacher somewhere… but make no mistake… testing is promised.

If we don’t want tests we simply do not want true faith. We don’t want the Kingdom. We don’t want a fire testing the basis of our belief and it may be because the basis of that belief is so faulty it will go up in smoke at the first spark.

The faith of Christ is real and it stands the fire. The faith we have in Christ is precious and no test will ever take it out.

God help us walk in true faith.

In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Pet. 1:6-9)

The obligation of the Kingdom

Reflecting on society, laws, cultural wars… and having a lot of time to think while I was driving across Iowa… I began to think on what I practice but do not articulate very well. I am not sure I can still articulate it well, but this is my attempt.

No matter what laws are passed or are not passed in this country or any country regarding how to treat (or not treat) another person, there is NOTHING in an earthly law that can surpass the obligation of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God dictates a far higher respect for human beings than any human law.

Regretfully, we do not live this out as Christians. As liberals, we will point out how to treat people, or not treat people, and then proceed to point out which specific groups we are talking about.

As conservatives, we will hear a list made and then unintentionally (or intentionally) rebel against that list.

One example is women. In my denomination (which is conservative theologically) we have ordained women into ministry since our founding. But when “women’s lib” came along, all of a sudden we have a move to be “more biblical” and “put women in their place.” We will ordain women, but we have a serious undercurrent that questions that process and balks completely at actually voting women ministers into significant offices in our districts or at the national level.

Beyond my denomination are conservative movements that will not ordain women into ministry at all. Ignoring key passages on key women ministers in the New Testament (like Romans 16), they make declarations like “not bowing to current cultural trends.”

But if we will ALL step back and evaluate, the truth of the matter is that the Kingdom of God obligates us, as believers, to treat women better than any culture could ever mandate. Whether it is in the church and discussing the issue of ordination, or OUTSIDE the church and advocating for things like better maternity leaves in the workplace, the Church should be leading the way in doing better.

There isn’t any law or cultural trend that dictates how I treat women. My obligation to the Kingdom of God calls me higher. It should call ALL of us, as believers, higher.

My obligation to the kingdom of God calls me to treat any human being with far more respect than any culture here on earth could possibly demand of me.

19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

24 Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. 25 Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. 26 So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; 27 but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:19-27)

Remembering Steve Hill

It’s hard to believe the Brownsville Revival was almost 20 years ago. The Toronto Blessing and the Brownsville Revival were incredible influences on my life. I did not get to go to Toronto, and when Brownsville first broke out I did not have a chance to get there early. But I had a friend who was able to get to both and the impact on his life was so amazing. His spiritual life took some deeper direction in that time period.

When I finally had the opportunity to drive over to Pensacola with my wife for one service, the revival had been going for a year or two. The service was so intense. The worship was powerful. The passion for Jesus was refreshing.

And then there was Steve Hill.

I had not heard many sermons from him at that point. The revival was old enough to be controversial on Christian radio, so most of what I heard at that point was snippets where the hosts of the radio shows could then poke fun at him.

His message that night was not long. The worship was long. Prayer times were long. His message, as I remember, was not long. What I do remember was his frustration. He almost “growled” at the audience. (And the sanctuary was packed with hundreds in overflow areas watching by closed circuit TV.)

He shouted, “You’ve been enjoying this revival. You’ve come night after night and enjoyed the incredible grace of God in this place. You have watched the worship. You have watched the miracles. You have watched Lord change other lives. But night after night you have walked out those doors and kept your heart hardened. How dare you walk out those doors again without giving your heart to Jesus tonight!”

He let them know they could walk out with hard hearts that night as well, but there would be a limit to how many times that could happen. He pleaded with them to fall under the mercy of God.

And then… after that nerve-racking “call to salvation”… he said, “Charity is going to sing and you are going to RUN to this altar and give your life to Christ. You will not walk. Why play that game? You will RUN to this altar and receive the mercy of Christ!”

I was thinking, “Run? Really? This is going to be embarrassing. Who is going to…”

And the worship singer started singing… and… they… ran. 

The altars filled up as people literally ran to the altars and fell on their faces weeping before God.

For about an hour there was more worship as altar workers moved among those coming to faith, praying over them, praying with them, weeping with them.

They then cleared out the altar area and started over. This time they had worship and said, “If you’re a Christian and you need prayer for anything, THIS is your time. We have so many altar workers prayed up and ready and anointed by God. You don’t need Steve Hill or John Kilpatrick to come pray over you. You need to come to JESUS, not Steve Hill or John Kilpatrick.”

And the altars flooded with people again. I was one of them. It was an intense time in the presence of Jesus.

Several years later the Brownsville team came to Minneapolis to hold a citywide event. Their hearts for the lost had not changed. Their hearts for the church had not changed. There was always a deep passion for the lost and bringing people to Jesus.

Steve Hill went to his eternal reward over the weekend. A great warrior has gone home.

Eternal memory.

The horrors of addiction

The tragic news came of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. He was an actor I thoroughly enjoyed watching. I thought he was incredible in Capote.

It is a reminder of the depths of addiction. As one friend noted on Facebook, it is a reminder of Genesis 4:7.

“…sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

No matter how “high” you may climb in life’s arena, or no matter how “low” you may sink away from the limelight… there is an enemy waiting at any opportune moment to pounce.

As a talent, the media will lament the great loss.

As a human being, it is incredibly tragic, along with every loss to addiction.

Saying Farewell (for now) to a Saint

Yesterday we held a memorial service for an incredibly well-loved lady. It was the kind of service where I come away thinking, “What a life!”

It was a celebration of a dear lady who served our church with incredible faithfulness for many years, and the last couple of years did so while battling cancer.

No matter who I talked to about Mrs. Brown, there was always a kind word. Those who knew her through our church, other pastors who got her reminder phone calls every month for a meeting, vendors who did business with our church, even bus drivers, all had only kind words to say about this dear lady.

The reason I only heard kind words about Mrs. Brown was because when Mrs. Brown spoke, you only heard kind words about other people. She always spoke well of people.

The memorial service was full of wonderful memories of a lady who loved people and loved God. A simple life who impacted every other simple life she touched.

I told my wife last night, “I just want to be Mrs. Brown. I want to live life like she did.”

We all rejoice she is now pain free in the full presence of the Savior. And she is now fully loving the Savior she loved every day on this earth.

What a life.

 

Why the “generation of promise” may not be JUST 25 and under

I work part of the time in a college environment and we have a growing number of young adults in our church. I have three young adult sons. I can actually remember the “fire in my belly” coming out of college. (My memory isn’t completely gone.)

So, it’s natural to hear about motivating the generation and focus on this upcoming generation and talk about a “generation of promise.”

I read an interview our denomination’s head did and he was emphasizing the growing demographic of 25 and under in our denomination.

And I applaud that.

I also want to say… we need to realize that it is STILL a both/and world.

So while everyone under 25 is out to win the world before they get “old” (you know… 30), we may want to reevaluate all God did in the world BEFORE this current generation hit the scene.

We also need to realize that GOD STILL CALLS and regardless of what denominational officials may be looking for… God doesn’t seem to see age as a restriction in any direction.

I am preaching through Genesis currently and I am reminded of a word the Lord gave me last fall for my own life. So here are a couple of reminders when we think only those under 30 are capable of doing something great for God.

Abraham was called out of Ur of the Chaldeans when he was 75. He was 100 when Isaac was born.

Moses was 80 when he came back to lead Israel.

There are so many great examples across the age spectrum. We shouldn’t limit a “generation of promise” to the one coming up.

We have not failed, necessarily. We perhaps just have not begun. And it’s not too late.

Which led me to a moment last fall when I was getting hard on myself again for not “accomplishing” more to this point in my life.

The Spirit spoke to me and said, “Dan, Moses was 80 when he got started. Give yourself a break.”

Let’s realize that today is a great day… no matter your age… to be a part of a “generation of promise.”

 

Thinking about thoughtfulness

For all of my love for things tactile, like real books and real pens, I’ve lost touch in this fast paced culture.

I still get Christmas cards from people… and haven’t sent one out myself for years.

Well, Christmas is past, but I want to start something up again in my life: I want to jot a note… an actual note… to people when I think of them.

Of course, that means correcting another problem I’ve had over the years: I’ve let email and Facebook take up my space and I don’t have actual addresses of hardly anyone.

So, here is my project and YOU can help:

I truly want to write notes again. All through the year. Not just at Christmas. So, if you will take the time to email me your address, or message me on Facebook with your address, I promise I will jot a note to you. (Please don’t post your address on Facebook, or in the comments here.)

It’s not a big deal for you to get a note from me, but I sure would like to reinstate a habit in my life and updating my actual address book would be a nice start. It would be a big deal for me to think of you as I jot a note.

If you would like to help, just shoot me the info!