How Did Hitler Happen?

Adolf Hitler

Pre-Hitler Germany was a tenuous republic struggling with staggering debt, high inflation, and ideological and racial division. President Hindenburg was elderly and in cognitive decline.

Although Adolf Hitler’s 1923 violent coup should have permanently removed him from public life, he served only 9 months of a five-year sentence for treason, using that time to write Mein Kampf.

Upon his release, Germany was prospering, and the message of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazis) was diminished. Nevertheless, Hitler was patient and diligent. He slowly and meticulously expanded his influence. His SA (also known as the Brown Shirts) used fear, intimidation, and violence to disrupt political opponents, clash with police, organize mass protests, shut down debate, and demand political change. The government failed to deal with them due to fear, political calculations, and the weakened state of law enforcement.

When the New York Stock Market crash of 1929 reversed Germany’s short-lived prosperity, Hitler was ready to take advantage of the crisis. Like a chess master, Hitler maneuvered like-minded party members into the legislature, helping them gain power. When he was given citizenship through a back-channel deal it qualified him to run for President- he did.

Although he lost by a wide margin, he siphoned enough votes to demonstrate the power of the Nazi Party and convinced Hindenburg to name him Chancellor. A short time later the legislature was burned and Hitler reigned supreme. What he had failed to accomplish with his violent coup, Hitler now accomplish through the constitutional process.

Can Worship Be Too Emotional?

Worship Concert

A criticism I have heard about the current happenings at Asbury University is that it may simply be emotionalism. Is that fair?

When a couple “falls in love”, we often hear people say things like, “Isn’t that precious” or “Aren’t they sweet together“. In the early stages of a relationship, we seldom consider that the relationship may not be cerebral enough. We also know from our own experience that there will be times when the couple offends each other, purely by accident, as they do not yet know all the expectations of the other.

An important part of courtship is getting to know one another. Most relationships do not begin with a completed dossier. Real and deep love that transcends emotion comes with time as we commit to someone because of, and despite the other person’s opinions, personality, and behaviors.

Some teach that a genuine relationship with God is not about how we feel, but how we conform to God’s commands. There is much truth in this, but it is not complete. Conversely, some teach that how we feel is important to God. This is also true. Jesus was beaten so we could have peace. (Isaiah 53:5). But to engage fully with God, we need the one without discarding the other. In both the first and second covenants of the Bible, we are commanded to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all our soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:30).

If we love God with all our hearts, we are going to “feel” it. If we love Him with all our souls, we are going to want to “know” Him better. And, if we love Him with all our strength, we are going to “act” on what we know are His desires in a spirit of love.

But wait, here’s another shocker. Our relationship with God does not simply evolve from emotional love through cognitive understanding to religious activism. Instead, like any good long-lasting marriage, one feeds the other. We love Him, so we want to know Him more. As we know Him more we want to serve and obey Him to show how much we love Him. Feeling and knowing his joyful and loving acceptance of the gifts we give Him, through obedience, time, and service, causes us to love him more and consequently, we desire to know and do more. We fall in love over and over again as we learn and serve. Like David, we seek after His heart, and we become people “after His own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14).

God cares deeply about how we feel, but our feelings are not the most important thing on His mind. Like a child, we sometimes desire things He does not want us to have. Because He loves us He forbids or keeps things from us. He knows much more than we do about where the path we seek will lead. Too often that path is away from Him.

In the letter to the Ephesians (Revelation 2:1-7), Jesus celebrated the church for what they knew of God’s Word and the actions they took to keep the church doctrinally pure. Despite this, He said he had something against them; they had abandoned their first love. He admonished them to “Repent and perform the deeds they did at first.” He warned them that despite their theological correctness, they would lose their place in His kingdom if they didn’t return to that first love.

I get it. I’ve seen far too many people who love the idea of love more than they are committed to a lifetime of love. It’s easy to wonder where the initial emotional stage is going to lead. Too many are standing back judging the movement instead of praying for the individuals who make up the movement. For some, it is jealousy that God may pour Himself out on someone else and not on them.

Is God at work at Asbury? Absolutely! He is ALWAYS at work. Will some of these people look back on this time as a catalyst for their life? I’d bet on it. Are some going to walk away unchanged? Yep!

Many criticized Jesus’ earthly ministry. Some thought it would merely fade away. For Judas, it did, but for the other disciples, it set the courses of their lives. Other’s thought it was the beginning of a new kingdom. It was, but not yet, and not in the way they expected.

Instead of cheering or booing from the stands we should take this opportunity to examine our own lives and relationships. Do we love God with our whole being? Are we taking every opportunity to get to know Him better? Are we acting like we love and know Him? This is not an opportunity to judge others, it is an opportunity to judge ourselves and to pray He pours out His Spirit on all of us.

Shalom!

Jesus Loves Us Too Much to Not Speak Truth

I Am the Truth

Many muse about what Jesus would preach and support if he walked with us as He did the early disciples. Arguments rise from both the secular community, who want Jesus to be a mascot for their preferred lifestyles, and by church leaders who believe they can bring people to their church through positive marketing and theological spin.

But Jesus has always refused to fit into man-made molds. In Luke 4, Jesus overcame the temptation to yield to Satan’s lies and supposed short-cuts to His destiny and purpose.  He then returned to Galilee, “in the power of the Spirit”, where he taught in the synagogues and “was praised by all.” News spread, and he increased in popularity and favor.

When he came to Nazareth, where he grew up, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood to read. Turning to Isaiah, he read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because he anointed Me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind…” It was an encouraging message to those who felt oppressed and discarded. The listeners were thrilled and spoke well of Jesus, yet they expressed surprise that these gracious words came from the mouth of one of their own.

Jesus could have taken the opportunity to bask in the praises of those he grew up with; instead, He looked past the excitement on their faces and peered deep into their hearts. He knew their real priorities included wanting to ride the coattails of his popularity, and having their needs and selfish desires met. They weren’t looking for the Lord, they were looking for affirmation.

Jesus admonished the crowd for having the same attitudes as their forefathers who lacked faith and were therefore overlooked by God as He poured out blessings on the widow of Zarephath and Naaman of Syria.

The mood changed quickly. Those who considered Jesus a voice from God only moments before now considered Him their enemy because He had dared to hold up a spiritual mirror to reveal their true nature. They were “filled with rage,” and they drove Him outside the city and attempted to throw Him down a cliff. As it was not yet His time, he easily passed through the crowd and moved on to the next town.

The people of Nazareth could have examined their lives, repented, and joined the King of Glory in the greatest story of human history. Instead, they held onto their mindsets and missed the Kingdom of God.

When God puts the mirror in front of us today, how do we respond? Do we fall on our knees in repentance, find favor in the loving arms of God, and become transformed more into His likeness, or do we get angry and search out a message that affirms who we already are?

Selah

Creflo Dollar’s “Great Misunderstanding” on Tithing Message

Examination of Creflo Dollar’s “Great Misunderstanding” message requires more than a simple review of the stated topic. It demands a dissection of much deeper issues with truth and the faithful delivery of that truth in this postmodern culture. My review is not intended to be comprehensive, but perhaps it will help bring clarity to the importance of hearing beyond the soundbites. Here we go…

Creflo Dollar’s recent message is considerably different from how it is being portrayed in the press which is only pointing to his belief that tithing is not part of the New Testament Church. I believe this is largely related to his emphasis on shock value instead of the heart of his message. After a complete review, I believe the central theme should be, “Giving is a declaration of God’s ability to take care of you.” If that had been the headline, the message would have been far more valuable to the Body of Christ.

I will include links below for the Message and a few news articles.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

I understand and applaud Creflo’s effort to distance himself from some of his past teachings, which were clearly manipulative. He is a talented and dynamic speaker, but, at least in this case, his hermeneutic and rhetoric leaves much to be desired.

Here are a few quick things I would have liked to have seen him do differently:

LAW & GRACE

His explanation of grace and law is superficial and incomplete. As is often the case in contemporary culture, the emphasis is on God’s grace in our salvation, rather than grace in our living out the expectations of the Spirit. Romans 5-8 are really addressing the latter. His use of this passage in this message is out of context and misleading. In context the passage discusses our struggle to overcome temptation to sin, which is only possible though the power of grace.

ARGUMENT FROM SILENCE

Dollar makes several arguments from silence concerning what Jesus / Paul did NOT say. If we accept this as reasonable rhetoric, then we must also accept progressive/liberal arguments that Jesus said nothing about homosexuality or fill in the blank. Was all of that only “under the old law” as well? Certainly not! See Romans 1 for starters.

DISMISSAL OF JESUS’ STATEMENT ABOUT TITHING

Dollar argues that in Mt 23:23, Jesus was speaking as an OT prophet and, therefore, his commendation of tithing is unimportant to us today. If so, why is it a part of the church record? Why didn’t he clarify he was overriding it as he did with Peter and his vision of the sheet, or with Paul on circumcision? This argument is very similar to those I hear/read from modern day cheap grace “preachers” who submit that all the Second Testament was written for sinners, not saints. If we’re saved, we can just ignore it. Or so the argument goes. “Love Wins”. This is not a faithful rendering of the passage and it flies in the face of 2,000 years of Church History.

MIXTURE OF LAW AND GRACE

Dollar says, “Nothing ever happens when you are under a mixture [of law and grace]”. If that is truly the case, and it is NOT, most of us would be in deep trouble. We are constantly working out our salvation and reaching for more grace while seeking to shed legalism. (Ph 2:12)

TYPES OF LAW

The message contains no mention of the 3 types of law: Moral; Civil; and Ceremonial. We have recently seen what happens when people try to ignore Moral and Civil Law. The principle of sowing and reaping still applies. (Galatians 6:7) We end up in turmoil personally and corporately. Moral and Civil law remain. God has not told us to worrying about murder, adultery, coveting, etc. We must be careful when we dismiss all of the First (Old) Testament.

Ceremonial law, including feasts, sacrifices and circumcision is the area that Paul spends most of his time on. He dismisses the need for circumcision of the gentiles (which was intended for Israel in the first place). He also dismisses strict observance of festivals and certain foods. It should be noted however that he arranged his missionary schedule to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost (Acts 20:13), went to the temple regularly, and observed other rituals because he continued to view them as important-even if not required.  

Since tithing is not part of Paul’s heated discussions, we don’t know all his thoughts on the subject. He certainly encourages giving and as Creflo stated, he wanted it to be done with joy and without manipulation. This is part of the real central theme and should have been the headline. (I know, gotta make it go viral…)

EISEGESIS

Creflo emphatically states, “Paul OBVIOSLY (emphasis mine) didn’t want them to follow [tithing]” but only supports the statement from silence (see #2). This is clear eisegesis (making your point without proper scholarship). As a result, it warrants no rebuttal, only a footnote.

HYPERBOLE

In a clear move toward hyperbole, Dollar states that the Widow didn’t have 10% to give. In truth, she gave 100% according to Jesus, “And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” (Mark 12:43-44)

CONCLUSIONS

This message and its media fall-out represents a grave problem in modern church and culture. Clickbait and hyperbole seem to rule the day. Posts state as absolute truth one side of an argument that people of good faith can legitimately debate. Pontificators often make statements that are more focused on getting attention than they are at conveying truth. These statements are then often abused by those whose hearts are far from God. They use the script as evidence of why people don’t need church or tradition as part of their “spiritual experience”. And they do this, even though the Bible is clear on the importance of doing community together under the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers. (Ephesians 4:12)

The people of Israel were expected to follow Eli even when the tabernacle [church] was a hot mess. Jesus affirmed this in the Second Testament as well: “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So practice and observe everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, burdensome loads and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.…” (Mt 23:3).

People who truly love Jesus and believe they know what went wrong with the Church are obligated by the Holy Spirit to pray and take action. Like Martin Luther, they should call for reform according to Scripture. They need to show up and speak the truth of God’s Word in love. After all, it is Jesus’ Church. The very one He said he would build, and the Gates of Hell would not prevail against it. (Mt 16:18). Wouldn’t it be a shame if what Hell could not do, Christians did by their retreat. We are to be one Body and one Spirit using our unique gifts to build His Church. (John 17, 1 Cor 12, Eph 4) Let’s quit trying to tear it down. After all, Jesus was clear, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25)

All that Jesus said and did could not be contained by books (Jn 21:25), but today, everyone wants to distill everything into a soundbite or clickbait. God help us rightly divide the Word of truth! And God help us do it together. Amen!

Links:

Junteenth

Juneteenth flag

As we celebrate and reflect on Juneteenth (aka Freedom Day and Emancipation Day), I am thankful for all those who risked their relationships, their employment, their reputation, and even their lives to fight for abolition long before it was popular.

I am grateful for preachers, such as Quaker Benjamin Lay, who bucked the status quo to preach the true message of the Bible, that slavery is sin. I am inspired by their action of ex-communicating slave-traders, and slave owners, from their churches. I am saddened by their all-too-frequent disappointment with those churches and self-described Christians who refused to hear and obey the truth.

I am inspired by businessmen similar to Matthias Baldwin who sacrificed popularity and wealth to make a moral and political stand against slavery. Baldwin hired black workers in his locomotive factory and fought for the African American vote as early as 1837 even though it cost him business in the South.

My creative nature stands in awe of Harriet Beecher-Stowe – daughter of Rev. Lyman Beecher – and how she used her extensive Biblical knowledge and deep passion for the oppressed to weave the tale of Uncle Tom’s Cabin into the most provocative and mind-changing story ever produced in America. The 1852 book and subsequent stage play did more to change the hearts and minds of Americans than any other single action or event.

In the same manner, I am stirred by John Sullivan Dwight, who translated the timeless work “O Holy Night” into English in 1858. He added a verse which pricked the conscience of our nation and called us to righteousness:

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is Love and His gospel is Peace;
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise his Holy name!

I feel blessed by those involved in our national founding, such as Physician and Statesman Benjamin Rush, who–though they could not persuade the majority at the time–planted the early seeds for abolition which were to grow up into freedom and equality for all.

I am astounded by early African American leaders such as Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, and Frederick Douglass who leveraged God’s amazing transforming power of grace and forgiveness to create critical positive change not only for the black community but the entire world and all its people. My admiration of them, all they overcame, and all they achieved can not be overstated. They amaze me! I will consider my life successful, if I accomplish just a little of what they did.

Closer to today, I am grateful to have learned from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. who taught us that love, not hate, is the only thing that will bring lasting change. As I reflect on all these heroes today, one thing in particular fits so perfectly into Pastor King’s worldview. It was not the color of their skin that mattered, it was the content of their character.

May the content of our characters fare as well in our generation.

Happy Juneteenth!

National Prayer Breakfast 2020: Was Trump Acting Christian? Part 2

In my last blog, I addressed some of President Trump’s less-than-Christian remarks at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast. It amazes me how the press, who often disdain everything Christian, quickly judges the worthiness of those who refer to themselves as a believer.

While I agree with the President’s critics that he failed to live up to the high standards called for by Scripture, I also pointed out that all of us fall short of these aspirations. Trump himself acknowledged that he often makes things difficult for believers who support him. The audience laughed with understanding. God is still working on all of us. Thankfully, He doesn’t disown us every time we fail.

Continue reading “National Prayer Breakfast 2020: Was Trump Acting Christian? Part 2”

National Prayer Breakfast 2020: Was Trump Acting Christian? Part 1

When I saw the headlines in my newsfeed last evening, I sighed. President Trump’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast were the talk of the airways, and they were not ideal. Less than two days after what was arguably his most presidential speech yet, the president was jumping back in the mud. While the State of the Union Address was controversial, it was missing the petty digs and character assassinations that all too often emerge from Trump’s twitter feeds and off-the-cuff remarks. The Prayer Breakfast seemed to return to business as usual–or so the headlines implied.

Continue reading “National Prayer Breakfast 2020: Was Trump Acting Christian? Part 1”

Finding Peace in a World at War

Recently, there has been much buzz over the President’s State of the Union Address as well as the associated protestations of his detractors. Opinions abound. Numerous comments, in both professional and personal media, sadly reinforce already well-established biases. Often, today’s commentators abandon critical reasoning, and instead, resort to spinning every societal happening into confirmation bias.

Linguistic yoga has reached a new level as polarized pundits witness the same event and then mutilate the facts in such a way as to advance their own pre-determined agendas. These pontificators of cultural righteousness see nothing wrong with their side and everything wrong with the other.

Continue reading “Finding Peace in a World at War”

The Power of Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is my sincere hope that you are giving this important day every bit of the attention God deserves. Put down those Black Friday sales papers (or mobile device) for a little while. Focus more on your family than you do on television. Take plenty of time to count your blessings. Thank God for all He has done for you. Continue reading “The Power of Thanksgiving”