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!

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:

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”

How the Progressive Left Proves Christianity True

justice-2060093_1920Over the past several years rhetoric against American history, white privilege, gender inequality, Christianity, and more has been championed by secular organizations, college professors, and politicians. The fervor has become increasingly intense. Students violently protest speeches that haven’t even been given yet. Average citizens assault politicians in public restaurants and elevators. Police officers are shot while sitting in their car, and celebrities rant on the nightly news. Continue reading “How the Progressive Left Proves Christianity True”

It Doesn’t Matter What You Think!

supreme-court-building-1209701_1920He said, she said, they said, I think…

WHERE IS OBJECTIVITY?

As the unofficial modern civil war continues in the United States, political professionals, pundits and arm-chair commentators imagine the future in a never-ending march of “if this – then that” discussions that continue 24/7 on television sets, break rooms and social media. It would seem that the days of objectively reporting facts has been replaced by an endless march of conjecture and almost giddy imaginings of personal destruction. Continue reading “It Doesn’t Matter What You Think!”

Kavanaugh & Ford: Truthful Fiction?

nerve-cell-2213009_1920Is it possible that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is both lying AND telling the truth? Sound ridiculous? Read on.

While there have been too many theories flying around the past few weeks to keep track, I am surprised by what I haven’t heard. Is it possible that Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser may be honestly lying? Continue reading “Kavanaugh & Ford: Truthful Fiction?”

Lessons from Florence

I40In the aftermath of Florence, emotions are wildly fluid and, at least for the moment, many here in the Carolinas are reflecting on the experience. Like most things in life, perspective is key, and there is no lack of differing ones.

Devastating Losses

Practically everyone in my general geography has lost something. The most devastated have lost loved ones to the tragic effects or consequences of the storm. A one-year-old died when his mother couldn’t hold on after her car was swept up in flood waters. A mother and her infant were killed, and the father hospitalized, when a tree crushed their home. Another man died while trying to convert to generator power. Over 35 human deaths have been attributed to the storm so far.

In addition to human life, the estimated loss of farm animals is currently estimated to be over 3.4 million. That means a lot less chicken, pork and beef for America’s tables. Crops were lost and refrigerated food in stores, restaurants and homes was lost due to power outages.

Many have lost nearly everything as flood waters rose in their homes, cars and businesses. Many churches, including ours, has suffered damage from the torrential winds and rain. Continue reading “Lessons from Florence”

Reconciliation: Is it Really Possible?

hands-2888625_1920Bred for Hate

Born and raised in a perfect storm of loss, hatred, racism, and pain, JP was a poster child for the case against injustice. He had every reason to hate and precious few reasons to trust anyone. His life was on a collision course that would echo repercussions around the world.

During the hot summer of 1930 on a cotton plantation in Mississippi, JP was pushed into this world. He would quickly experience racism, class envy, bootlegging, gambling, frequent fighting and more. The family was rough and tough; but some might argue it was the only way to survive the times and the geography. Continue reading “Reconciliation: Is it Really Possible?”