Monday, March 31, 2008

A Hypocritical Cup of Coffee

This morning I stopped by a convenience store and grabbed a quick cup of coffee, at least that is what they called it. It is far from the quality of bean and brew my taste buds desire. I guess that with age I have come to desire the finer better quality blend.

This hypocritical cup of coffee and an email from a “deacon” this morning, took my mind to Romans 8 – the focus of my time with God this morning. Many Christians are like convenient store coffee, low quality of a worldly blend, called by the name and having just enough resemblance to the quality God desires for us. God says, “the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7).

This morning’s cup of coffee looks about the same as high quality coffee; the cup is bright and festive, and the design is certainly marketable (even containing a “Satisfaction Pledge). Worldly Christians usually have the appearance of the real deal, are usually personable and well liked, and usually contain their own form of a “satisfaction pledge.” However, the one essential difference is that they do not have the mind of Christ. As a worldly or carnal Christian (I prefer the term church member), these people do not have the best interest of the Church at heart. Carnal Christians are more concerned about their own personal desires, then about caring for the body of Christ. These people do more harm to the body of Christ the unsaved people (Romans uses the term natural man) of the world. A carnal Christian will work against his or her pastor and church staff, are concerned about title and position, and thinks only of “self.”

Because the worldly Christians appearance is so much like the real deal, it is sometimes difficult to know the carnal from the spiritual Christian; however, at the time of the harvest, the wheat and tares will be separated. For God teaches us in Romans 8:14 that “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

Take inventory of your life and ask Jesus to reveal to you if you are the real deal? Read Romans 8:1-18. If Jesus reveals that you are a carnal Christian, then yield self fully to Christ and allow Christ to crucify self. Tell Jesus you want Him to be primarily in your life and that you want to die to every worldly desire. If God reveals that you are a spiritual Christian, thank Him and humbly ask Him to keep you near the cross.

Let me hear what God says to you from Romans 8:1-18. Well, that’s this cup of coffee!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Is Your Pastor Preaching Bad Theology?

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit” (Romans, 8:5, KJV). How I do enjoy fresh brewed coffee and Romans!

I read a thesis some years ago dealing with the consequences of bad theology taught in churches and the long-term effect of that bad theology on listeners. Today’s headlines convey stories ranging from radical Islamic terrorist to bigoted Christian preachers propagating hate and prejudice through the world. We know the consequences, but people do not speak of it, for it is not politically correct. Seventy years ago, the major population group in America’s prisons was young white males. Today, prison population is overwhelming young black males. I believe both are clearly connected to bad theology taught in churches.

Year’s ago, white churches spouted a white elitism where even pastors were often members of the local Ku Klux Klan. The result was more white males following their visible high profile pastor (the pastor is still the most important and influential person in the life of many youth) and carried that theology into action. Today, many African-American churches preach prejudice, justifying it by their history, and the results are young men and women with a disrespect of societal norms and a growing prison population. This is not unlike the bad theology spewed in the Islamic faith that breeds terrorism.

Ministers of the Gospel of Christ must understand that while we must speak out against injustice, we are to remain focused on the “things of the Spirit.” A white staff member in a local area African-American church that is growing in diversity recently told me that the church was shouting a promotional video and one of the members had a T-shirt promoting a presidential candidate. The pastor would not allow the promo to air. He did not want to give the idea that the church was promoting a particular candidate. This pastor understood the difference between the “things of the flesh” and “the things of the Spirit.”

For those of us that teach and preach, God holds us accountable for the bad theology we speak forth, and we bear responsibility to our congregations to teach them the things of the Spirit and not to lead them astray through fleshly theology. When we start defining theology (liberation, feminist, etc), it has left the true realm of theology and started expounding “fleshly” views, thus bad theology. So let's keep theology in the realm of the good, and not mix it with politices and personal prejudices.

Well, my cup is getting empty and I need a refill; why don't you get a fresh cup too, and let me hear your thoughts on the matter.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Are your prayers not being answered?

Have you ever felt that God was not answering your prayers? In Psalm 66:18 David writes “If I regard iniquity in m heart, the Lord will not hear me” (KJV). I translate it this way, “If I allow evil, sin, or injustice in my life, the Lord will not hear my prayers.” If Christians want God to answer their prayers, God must first hear their prayers. This means that Christians must learn how truly to repent of the evil, sins, and injustice in their lives. I have found that most Christians do not know how to repent. Repentance has five steps.

First, you must acknowledge that you are wrong. You must acknowledge that you have actually been disobedient in what God desires for you. More often than not, this has to do with our thoughts and motives. Remember, God is always more concerned about the motive than the act, the opposite is true with humankind. Second, you must acknowledge that you are sorry, sorry for what you have done, not that you have been caught. Most people today are only sorry that they have been found out, and it would do us all well to remember that the Bible teaches that every Christian will one day be known as God know each heart. Third, you must ask for forgiveness. You must actually say, “Lord, I was wrong. Lord, I am sorry. Lord, forgives me.” Unfortunately, this is where most Christians stop, but you should always move on to steps four and five. The fourth step is that you must ask for cleansing. When my sons were growing up, I would occasionally find their rooms cluttered. They would usually acknowledge that they were wrong, tell me they were sorry, and ask for my forgiveness. However, the room was still cluttered and in need of being cleaned. This is how it is with repentance. The first three steps do not clean our lives. This is why you must move on to the fifth step, you must ask for empowerment. My boys usually need my help in cleaning their rooms. They needed a “power” that they did not possess. Sometimes it was equipment like a vacuum, or cleaning supplies they could not afford, and other times my sons needed my physical strength to move the furniture. They need power that could only come from the father. Likewise, Christians need power greater than their own, power from the Father.

So, if you find your prayers are not being answered, and you believe it is because your sin has closed God's ears to your prayers, look inward…..
….. as you find sin, tell God you are wrong.
….. tell God you are sorry.
….. ask God to forgive you.
….. ask God to cleanse you.
….. ask God to empower you.
As you fully repent, going through all five steps, you will find you life transforming and God hearing your prayers once again. AS you are cleansed and empowered, you will break the vicious circle of sin in your life.

That's my thoughts for today; I would live to hear yours. My coffee cup is empty, and I must go to get another cup. Life is always better when you enjoy a cup of coffee with God!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Looking for Strangers?

As I sit here this morning with a fresh cup of coffee (Hazelnut Cream), God and I are talking about “strangers.” No, we aren’t gossiping about strange people with strange behaviors, but rather dialoguing about strangers. You may recall that Jesus spoke about strangers in Matthew 25. As a Christian, I want to hear Jesus say, “I was a stranger, and you took me in” (Matthew 25:35c). Knowing that we sometimes entertain angels unaware and more often Christ unaware, I simply want to know what a stranger looks like so I can meet this expectation. With one hundred people groups in our city, it sure would be nice if I you and I knew what a stranger looked like so we could take them in and please Christ.

Hebrews 13:2 teaches us to “to entertain strangers for his sake.” Scripture is full of references about “strangers.” We are to show strangers love and hospitality, providing room for them in our hearts and even in our homes. God says there is a common love that we as Christians owe to all people, but there is a special love owed to our brothers and sisters in Christ who are of the “household of faith.” After all, Christians are a strange and peculiar people. This special “agape” love is a generous love that causes believers of wealth, even limited wealth, to give generously to brothers and sisters in need. In fact, this special love demands that we are to seek our opportunity to show mercy.

As a seminary President, I see students struggle to prepare to serve God in area churches. Some of these students come as strangers to our country, leaving behind family and friends, to study to preach and teach the wonderful Gospel of Christ. Many students live in poverty and a few are even classified as homeless. As I travel throughout Charlotte among some of the most blessed people on our planet, my heart breaks for these men and women who need basic necessities of life as they prepare to be tomorrow’s leaders in our churches. If you want to please Jesus and you are wondering what “strangers” look like, email me at and I will show you a “stranger” that is a believer, and explain how you can adopt a student and help them prepare to serve in our Lord’s Kingdom, or how you can give to the Christian Vocation Scholarship that helps to support most of our “strangers” as they are equipped to change the world for all eternity!

Remember, life is better if you take time to have Coffee with God!