Monday, April 20, 2015

Engage: Transitioning from Moral Majority to Missional Minority.

Does the rapidly changing and conflict-filled cultural landscape leave you feeling like a stranger in a world that is not what you remember it to be just a few years ago? Did you grow up with a basic assumption that most people thought the same way you do about major moral issues? Do you see conversations on social media that you have no idea what to do with? 

Christians are beginning to realize that our worldview is no longer the majority view in the culture around us.  Much of mainstream culture now thinks that conservative evangelical views on issues such as sexuality, marriage, religion, the Scriptures, and culture are antiquated and irrelevant. 

I believe that as Christians there are several different temptations we must be careful of in responding to this shift. Some of us are tempted to respond with anger and hatred towards those with whom we disagree. We just want to scream louder at people and warn Christians that we need to 'win our country back before its too late.’  Others of us are tempted to retreat and hide in a Christian sub-culture and pretend like everything is status quo. A third temptation is to just simply affirm the changes. 

The major problem with all three of these responses is that they each fail to engage in the Great Commission. Throughout the New Testament and Church History, Christians have found themselves in the moral minority rather than the moral majority.  As Christians we must not run and hide, we must not affirm unbiblical cultural shifts, nor should we hate those whom Christ has called us to love. We must engage the people in the changing culture. We must engage in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. We must learn to contend for the truth of God with compassion for our neighbors in this culture. We must make the transition from moral majority to missional minorities. 

We invite you and your church to join us on May 2nd at 7:00 at Freedom Church (125 E. Main St. Lincolnton, NC 28092) where Daniel Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, will help us think through these issues. Join us for: Engage: Transitioning from Moral Majority to Missional Minority.

Reserve your seat:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

One year ago today....

Our Wreck, His Glory

We are particularly grateful today to God for this testimony of His grace, mercy and protection. Life is precious. I pray you are encouraged reading or re-reading His goodness to us one year ago today.

Her eyes were open unusually wide.  Blood quickly filled her entire right eye and flowed down her face, glass was everywhere. “Rachel, are you okay, what hurts baby?” She couldn’t respond but just stared at me and moved in slow motion with this look of terror and confusion. Eden was screaming and Nias was crying. I placed my hand on her bleeding face, “Rachel are you okay, baby are you okay?” The door was crushed in just over her lap so she couldn’t move. I took off my shirt and told her to put it on the side of her face, she nodded in response. My hand was shaking violently and my phone was covered in her blood.  I looked up at a young man outside of Rachel’s door who began, “I’m so sorry, I just looked at my gps, I’m so sorry are you okay?”  I yelled, “its okay just call 911!” I kissed my wife told her I loved her and that I needed to check on the kids. To my relief they were both still strapped in their car seats. I got Eden out as she had a mouth full of blood but thank God it was just from biting her tongue. A man off the street was rubbing E’s face as I held her and another asked me if he could get Nias out of his seat.  Nias didn’t have a scratch. “Rachel baby are you okay?” “We were just talking...we were just talking...” she replied --Finally she was talking and beginning to cry, she was going to be okay. “Baby its okay, you are going to be okay, you can cry its okay, the kids are fine, its okay baby.” Grayson’s car turns left to avoid the intersection and I see him touch his breaks as I imagine he realizes it is us. I turn to see some friends, Tayler, Phil, and Bolick on the sidewalk. “Eden go to Tay Tay baby.” I race back over to the car with Nias as the medics are cutting my wife out.  “Are you okay baby?” They told me I had to back up but they think she is okay.  I fill out some paper work answer some questions and then me and the kids load up in a separate ambulance.  At this point I feel hopeful because she wasn’t in much pain and her body wasn’t mangled up, seemed like just a cut. I called our parents and finally got to the hospital.
    The kids checked out fine and Rachel suffered only a gash between and just below her temple and right eye. All 4 CT Scans came back negative. No broken bones, no internal injuries, only a bad cut that an expert face-doctor stitched up.  I loaded up the kids with a friend from our home group at church and Eden said, “That man hurt us. He threw rocks at us.” She always keeps things fun. I explained to her that we had a wreck and that those rocks were glass from the windows.  We are now home and recovering.

What happened?

We were on our way to church. Rachel was sharing her testimony, so it was a big day. We took Market St into downtown and turned left on Edgeworth. The kids were jamming out to Lecrae and we glanced back to see them both bobbing their heads (it was hilarious). Then a second or two later we passed through the intersection of Edgeworth and Friendly which are both One-way streets. There is a large house on the corner so there was no ability to see any traffic coming down Friendly, nor could they see us. A young man from out of town, Temitope, was looking at his GPS as he didn’t know where he was going, and never saw that he had a red light.  He said he was going 45-50 mph and I don’t think he ever hit the breaks. He ‘T-Boned’ us perfectly pushing us through the intersection.

Where was God?

My wife is a soldier. Last night as we lay in bed crying and praying she concluded her prayers with, “God we are just so thankful for the great blessings of this day.”  The number one emotion we felt last night was sober, authentic, thankful worship. And that is my main reason for writing this blog. I want you to know of the Providential Protection of our King in 3 very specific tangible and now miraculous ways.

A Week Ago

Nias hasn’t liked riding in the car recently and we have driven non-stop over the last month.  So last week we decided that instead of having Nias’ behind the passenger, we would try to squeeze him beside Eden’s car-seat which was behind the driver, so that she could entertain him.  So for 9 months and 3 weeks of his life, Nias was directly behind the passenger seat where the Ford Explorer T-Boned us. For a little over the last week he has been in the middle of the car instead.  Our son is named after Ananias in Acts Chapter 9 whose name means: ‘The Lord is Full of Grace’.  On the day Nias turned 10 months old, God displayed that He indeed is full of grace and specifically full of grace towards our little man. God orchestrated and ordained our lil man to not like the car over the last month, so that we would move him to the middle of the car, possibly sparing his little life.

Two Days Before the Wreck

    I love music. I am almost 30 years old but I have an amp and sub that was given to me years ago.  It has sat in my office for a while unused.  Friday I had to go do some yard work at the house that we lease to our staff in Wingate (that we bought, in part, with a $10,000 gift that was given to us from a couple whom we had never met. Specific answer to prayer.)  So I decided I’d hook up the speaker     in the CRV for my 4 hours on the road.  Therefore, I moved the kids car-seats to the Passat (that was given to us as an answer to prayer almost exactly 1 year ago.) Why is this significant? Both the CRV and the Passat have high side-impact crash ratings but only the Passat has side airbags. I really believe  that God providentially moved me to move the car-seats on Friday to protect Rachel from worse injury.

For the Last 6 Months

    I don’t know if it has been exactly six months but somewhere near that long, I have had this intense caution that I was going to be in a wreck in an intersection.  I have never been in a wreck before yesterday, but this suspicion was so intense that I told Rachel about it a month ago.  On the way back from Myrtle Beach I was at an intersection and my light turned green.  One car passed through just after it did and I waited for another 2 or 3 seconds and a second car sped through the same light. I called Rachel and told her that about the feeling I had and that I though maybe it was God keeping me from getting in that wreck on Highway 52 (the car was probably going 65 mph and would have hit my side).  Well, maybe God did give me that suspicion for that moment, but He surely did for yesterday.  Yesterday as I saw the Ford Explorer out of my periphery it was exactly what I had envisioned.  Now while I had pictured this in my head, I was always alone. Thats where God’s providence comes in. Through the Grace He gave via adrenaline and through what felt like 6 months of preparation, I was able to keep my head, think clearly and help my family in this moment of need. I am deeply thankful that He gave power in my weakness.  Today I let it out and really cried on the way too and from Chick-fil-A. God gave such grace for me to keep it together until then.

So what is the answer to the question, “Where was God?” He was near and active with us 6 months ago when the visions started. He was near and active with us a week ago when we moved Nias to the middle. He was near and active with us Friday when I moved the car-seats.  And He was near and with us as we left our house, turned left on Edgeworth, and entered the intersection.  He was near and active lining up the Explorer to perfectly T-Bone our car going 45mph.  He was near and active protecting Rachel in the impact, and keeping me calm. He was near and active in keeping me and the kids from having so much as a scratch. He was near and active as our church looked for Rachel to come up on stage to give her testimony and couldn’t find her, causing a man to calmly say, “I saw a wreck, maybe we should pray.”  He was near and active as one stranger gently stroked my daughters cheek and another got my son out of the car. He was near and active as firemen cut my wife out of the car and at the hospital where she was treated. He was near and active as our Home Group from Church took our children home, cleaned the house, got us some chocolate cake and organized meals for us this week. He was near and active through our parents presence at our home.  He was near and active as we cried and prayed together last night.  He was near and active through text messages, emails and phone calls. He was near and active as I rocked my lil man to sleep this morning and as Rachel read a book to Eden. He was near and active as He ministered to me as I let it go in the car to and from Chick-fil-A. He is near and active as your read these words because this is the kind of God we serve, Immanuel, God with us. He is Sovereign and He is good. I find much comfort in knowing it was His will for us to have the wreck and I have hope that any other “wrecks” me and my family will go through in this life, He will be near and active.

Please pray for Temitope. I text him yesterday assuring him that we were okay and not angry at him. He thanked me and apologized over and over. I assured Him that God had forgiven us in Christ for more sins against Him, that Temitope could ever commit against us.  I asked Him if we could get together for lunch so that I could share more about this God with him. He said he would love to. Pray it happens and that Jesus would spare his eternal life the way he has spared our eternal and temporal life.

“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” James 4:14-15.

Today I am reminded why I exist. Life is but a precious vapor. Don’t waste it. By God’s grace live for the Glory of Christ and others joy in Him.  Protect and foster your relationships, first with God then with your family, your church and the lost and dying world.  His Grace is sufficient. I Corinthians 12:9-10.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Music, Movies and Personal Holiness

How does God feel about whats on your iPod? How, as Christians, are we to enjoy entertainment for the Glory of God, specifically in the area of music? I believe the argument I will lay out applies similarly to movies, tv and video games, but I will deal mainly with music because I can quote songs I haven't heard in years and there is no deleting them from my mental hard drive.  Before I get into the actual argument, let me give a few disclaimers:
1. I do not claim to be an expert on the topic and need to continue to research the topic, primarily in the Scriptures and also in Christian literature.
2. I am deeply passionate about Evangelism and desire like Paul to become all things to all men that by all mens I might win a few. (1 Co. 9:22). 
3. I am appreciative of the Dutch Reformed influence that teaches Christians should transform the culture and specifically the arts, rather than be fundamentally against culture.
4. I have learned much of what I will argue through my own mistakes and therefore write this blog in the context of humility that deep conviction and brokeness brings, not in ‘holier than thou’ judgement.
5. My primary passion is God’s glory, His people’s good, and His people’s witness to a lost and dying world.
Let me start by telling you where and how this burden originated with a few brief stories.  6 years ago I walked out of an amazing time of worship on New Years Eve with hundreds of other college students at a Campus Outreach (Campus Ministry I have worked for the last 7 years) New Years Conference and into a “Dance Party.” I entered with several non-Christians who were exploring Christ and young Christians who wanted to grow. Surprisingly over the speakers I heard a hit song of that year, Usher ft. Ludacris “Yeah.” The song’s beat and catchy hook were undeniably good, but the lyrics of this song include Luda saying, “So gimmie the rhythm and it’ll be off with they clothes, then bend over to the front and touch your toes.” After this song and a few other club bangers, I went over to the CO staff that were running the music and asked them if we were really playing club music at a Christian Conference Dance party. He assured me it was okay because they were the “edited version.” Unfortunately, all this meant was that the curse words were bleeped out or changed, but the lyrical pornography was blasting for Christians, non-Christians, new Christians and seekers a like to enjoy. This word enjoy is very important to me and I will explain why later. 
I had previously played questionable music at similar events in the name of being relevant and “becoming all things to all men,” until a few things happened. A non-Christian student whom I had been ministering to walked into the event and after hearing the music looked at me and said, “I thought this was a Christian event.” He made this statement because he knew the God I proclaimed and the message of the songs I was playing were clearly at odds with one another.  I also had a convicting conversation with a brother in the faith that helped me see the conflicting messages I was sending to those seeking to know more about Christ.

These, along with several other stories that I will save for the book that this blog would be if I’m not careful, lead me to seek the scriptures and really analyze the lyrics of pop-culture’s biggest hits. It also sent me into evaluating my beliefs and motives behind why I was playing and enjoying much of the music that I was. So with that brief history I would like to propose the following thesis as the argument for this blog:
It is impossible to Glorify God by enjoying entertainment that explicitly and intentionally boasts in that which is offensive to God and therefore it diminishes your capacity for true joy.
I state this thesis negatively because it is mainly an argument against an error I have made and have recently run into again. I will break down the thesis briefly in three separate phrases. 
Impossible to Glorify God
I start with this phrase because I believe glorifying God is the reason we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. We were created by Christ and for Christ’s glory (Col. 1:16, Is. 43:7). We were bought with His precious blood to display His beauty, goodness, grace, mercy, and justice in the person and work of Christ and we do this in our bodies (1 Co. 6:20). We are to display His glory in our bodies in all things, even simple things such as eating and drinking (1 Co. 10:31).  With this presupposition now acknowledged I start off with the statement, “It is impossible to Glorify God...” It is impossible to live according to your ultimate purpose in entertainment if you enjoy that which explicitly and intentionally boasts in sin.  God’s glory must be the motive of all that we do, even and especially in our entertainment.
By Enjoying Entertainment that explicitly and intentionally boasts in that which is offensive to God.  
Having acknowledged the motive of God’s glory, I now move into the actual argument. I want to first highlight the word enjoying. I am specifically talking about entertainment (music) we choose for the sake of pleasure. There are some whom I believe must, for the sake of the Gospel, study all types of art, including music, in order to understand culture and/or to develop their own art form (this should be done prayerfully in community).  That is not what I am addressing here.  So I wouldn’t say, “it is impossible to Glorify God by listening to music that explicitly and intentionally boasts in that which is offensive to God,” but instead say, “It is impossible to Glorify God by enjoying music that...”  This word is key to why I am willing to use the massively terrible phrase, “Impossible to Glorify God.” 
Most would very quickly agree with this conclusion if I was talking about murder or adultery. No Christian would argue with the statement, “It is impossible to Glorify by God by committing adultery” yet when it comes to playing a song like Party Rock Anthem, (lyrics: some Christian’s would argue that the song was “rescued” or “redeemed” by being danced to in a Christian context. These statements usually come from those who are deeply passionate about reaching the lost, (which I couldn’t applaud more than I do) yet haven’t thought deeply about the wrong beliefs behind such a statement.  When I played music that had explicit and intentional boasts in that which was offensive to God, there was a wrong underlying belief that God needed help being relevant and cool enough to reach the kind of people I was trying to reach. This belief is full of ignorance and arrogance. Ignorance because the Scriptures are clear that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation (Ro. 1:16), Christ is the wisdom of God that those who are perishing see as foolish but those who are being saved see as the Power of God (1 Co. 1:18-31) It is ignorant (lack of knowledge, not the demeaning sense of the word) that makes us think God needs help saving lost people, but worse it is also arrogant. I laid on my apartment floor confessing this to God years ago.  I was deeply convicted that I thought the Creator and Redeemer of my soul needed my help to be cool enough to save others who didn’t know Him.  What I have learned from the wisdom of older saints is that, “what you win them with you win them to.” Win them with entertainment, then you will keep them with entertainment. Win them with the Gospel, you will keep them with the Gospel.  Win them by being cool, you keep them by being cool.  Win them with Christ, keep them with Christ.
So promoting a song with content that is anti-God is surely a terribly wrong application of “becoming all things to all men that by all means I might save a few” (1 Co. 9:19-23). Paul was surrendering his rights and cultural preferences to serve those whom he was ministering to, but by no means would the Apostle encourage promoting messages or messengers via art that contradict God’s character by boasting in sin.
I need to pause here and say that I really am not seeking to expose any one particular person or specific event. I am the chief of sinners in this category and have had this conversations with literally dozens of people.  Many who observed the most recent experience with me will think I am trying to correct an individual or a group of individuals, but that is not the case.  The most recent experience just inspired me to blog about what I have taught and been talking about for years.  My goal is to promote passion for the Glory of God, trust in His sovereign power to redeem sinners and encourage all of His people to pursue personal holiness in the category of enjoying entertainment.
I also need to insert a caution before I give some categories that have been helpful for me. I want to talk about a hot button word that I consistently hear from young zealous but immature believers when this category is brought up: legalism. I saw a Christian artist defend his use of the acronym H.A.M. on twitter and then warn people to not, “get all legalistic.”  So let me get this straight, questioning the use of a symbol that represents “Hard as a Mother F*****” makes me a person who trusts in good works for salvation? No! A person is guilty of legalism when he/she is trusting in good works to earn God’s favor, not when he/she is seeking personal holiness because of the grace God has given. A passion for personal holiness has been present in every revival that the church has ever seen.  This is a passion that is to be fanned into flame not corrected or quenched by the fear of being called a legalist.  But to be clear, in no way, shape or form is what I am about to give as helpful categories a way to earn God’s favor. Only salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus will give you God’s favor.  Out of the overflow of that favor, He will give you a passion for personal holiness and love for His glory.   
While I stated before that I believe in redeeming the culture, including the arts, these categories help me distinguish between that which is redeemable and that which is to be abhorred.
Christian/Spiritual - Music, Movies, TV...These are in line with Col. 3:16 (psalms, hymns and spiritual songs). Clearly songs that talk explicitly about God can be enjoyed for the Glory of God. However, I would exhort you to pay attention to make sure Christian songs content is teaching truth and be aware that some of it can also be self-boasting and man-centered and therefore could be as destructive as category 3 below. 
Mainstream/Secular - Music, Movies, TV...these would be songs that are songs about life that don’t mention God necessarily but are just an expression of art where an individual is processing some aspect of life. These fall in line with Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” I believe the Gal. 5:1 freedom can be cited for this assuming it has Gal. 5:13 as its bookend context. Lovely, gifted expressions of art are shadows of the beauty of the Creator and if we can celebrate the art as an expression of worship, then by all means we can Glorify God by enjoying it. However all art has an agenda and a worldview and even if it is not vulgar it may be promoting and teaching a satanic worldview (normal course of this world is satanic) that could be destructive to you (Ephesians 2:1-3). This category is extremely slippery and I would encourage you to process it in community with older mature saints who have a high standard of personal holiness, a good understanding of the scriptures and are aware of current pop-culture. If you err, err on the side of personal holiness not satanic entertainment. 
Sin Boasting - This is the category that this blog is about. Songs (movies, music, tv) whose central theme/thesis/goal is to promote or boast in that which God forbids.  The scriptures are clear on how we are to feel about and treat sin...Romans 12:9 “Let love be genuine, abhor what is evil hold fast to what is good.” and I Thess 5:22, “Abstain from every form of evil.” 
This last category is to be abhorred and abstained from, therefore it cannot be enjoyed for the glory of God. We can rescue the art form and the expressions but we cannot rescue that which God has destroyed on the cross, namely sin. This is what Christ rescued us from and is what is enslaving the very ones we seek to minister to. May we use this category for God’s glory by exposing the lies that it promotes. If the world, the flesh and the devil are the three enemies of our soul, I think sin-boasting entertainment is the pulpit from which our enemies preach. We must expose their false teaching with truth to rescue sinners from their deceitful snares, starting with ourselves.
And therefore it diminishes your capacity for true joy.
Sin always leads to death (Gen. 3, Romans 3:23, James 1:15). Sin is never a better option because it is fun or relevant. As Christians it doesn’t add to our ability to minister to others because we are relevant in a particular sin. This is already true because we are human. We need not work to be more relevant in sin, but give hope that Christ can save and transform sinners. But here is the best news, God is not out to stop your joy or fun, but instead explode it. Sin offers to temporarily gratify, but never satisfy. God offers full and forever lasting joy (Psalm 16:11). God’s manifold wisdom and goodness is on display in creating us for the purpose of His glory in that we find the most joy when we live according to this ultimate purpose. Our happiness and His glory are not enemies, but the closest of companions. I am forever indebted to God for the beauty of these truths that I have learned from John Piper’s ministry, especially His classic Desiring God. He summarizes these beautiful truths, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” So know this Christian, God wants you to enjoy music and entertainment more not less.  The only way to enjoy entertainment more is to enjoy The Artist behind all beautiful art. God is the greatest musician of all time, He created the notes, voices and ability to craft poetic rhyme schemes. He is the greatest director of all time unfolding the greatest story of all time that He wrote you into! His masterpiece of creation is what inspires every artist who has ever picked up a brush.  So be encouraged, the Author and Creator of everything you enjoy invites you to more and refuses to let you settle for less. He hates sin yet loves sinners enough to save us from His wrath for sin, by crushing His Son instead of us. May we come to Him through the Lord Jesus and seek His glory in the entertainment we enjoy

I pray that you are stirred to ask this question:
Is what I am enjoying in this entertainment a means of enjoying God or a means of enjoying that which He crushed His Son to save me from?
I would love any responses...
Grace and Peace,

For More on this issue please read CJ Mahaney’s short book Wordliness. Bob Kauflin’s treatment of music (Ch. 3) is excellent. Also check out a lecture from Shai Linne here: and a couple articles at Gospel Coalition: