The Gospel was made for this

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I saw a video (see below) about Oprah Winfrey’s religion, which is nothing more than a mix of pluralism and panentheism. She’s even recruited Rob Bell to help her cause and is promoting her system of beliefs to millions online. The video is a warning to Christians and a call to pray. I certainly agree that Christians should pray but is Christianity in trouble because of Oprah Winfrey?

Should Christians be worried? Maybe. Or, maybe not.

  • On a side note, maybe we should be worried more about the people who are propagating a false gospel under the guise of Christianity. But, that’s a different discussion for a different day.

This video and the entire discussion of how quickly American culture is turning into a pluralistic, everyone is right, every path leads to the same place mindset gives me good reason to pause and take a fresh look at the nature of the Gospel. Why did God give us this good news? Where does it work? For what culture was the Gospel made?

You may be saying, “that video is old. I watched it a long time ago. Why are you talking about it now?” Well, according how we process information these days the video is ancient from all the way back in 2009.  Since it was published, as I mentioned above, Rob Bell has joined Oprah’s cause and her web presence and  audience has only grown. But, that actually helps me illustrate a very important truth.

 The Gospel was made for this!

Let me remind you of the cultural environment to which the Gospel was first delivered. It was as pluralistic and confused as a culture could be. There was a different god on every corner and a culture that thought knowledge and enlightenment was the key to all. This culture was also, at times, very hostile to the message of the cross. It was seen by many as a “stumbling block” and “folly,” (1 Cor 1:23)

If you are a Christian with just a little knowledge of Bible history, here’s something of which I don’t need convince you: the Gospel not only worked, but flourished, in this very culture. So much so that the early couriers of this truth were known as “men who have turned the world upside down.” (Acts 17:6)

So, should I worry about what Oprah, Rob Bell and others are peddling? I think it needs to be confronted, but, the religion she is peddling is a path that leads to nowhere. And every person who searches for truth down that path will ultimately be left wanting, just like the people who heard the Gospel at the beginning of its history and were made new and alive through Christ. Worried? No.

The Gospel was made for this!

Will it be easy for the church to reach people in this culture with the Good News of Jesus? Was it easy in the early church? No. However, those of us who have a love for God and a passion for others will reach. Why? Because the Gospel was made for this and, in the last 2,000 years, it has flourished in cultures just like this one. Never forget that.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

The Heart of Christmas

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God looks on those with low estate,
the ones the world can’t see,
His light of life shines on our face,
His grace and peace; it’s Christmas.

But how will He if grace to be,
come to all who have such need?
Through angel’s speech he starts his reach,
a gift to all; it’s Christmas.

A world that’s dark with little hope,
heard herald promise long ago,
fear to flee, injustice cease,
the world is pleased; it’s Christmas.

His love uncommon ways to show,
His choice through young and poor,
Is this the way in stable stay?
This Good News; it’s Christmas.

Now light has dawned without much splendor,
the manger lay the humbled king,
a child to grow in precious wonder,
we come with gifts; it’s Christmas.

A cross this leads to answer pleas,
of what God’s plan entails,
He’ll save through death and bring to rest,
this is the heart of Christmas.

Dear Jesus

Writing with pen

One of our Life University classes on Sunday night this semester was a class entitled “Walk with Christ.” It was taught by Paul Smeltzer and was an in depth study of the last three days of Jesus’ life. I can tell you, though I’ve studied the Gospels extensively, it was eye opening.

Last Sunday’s class wrapped up Jesus’ actual death along with the last three hours of his life. At the conclusion of the class we were asked to write  a letter to Jesus in order to tell Him how his last three days impacted us. It was difficult to begin, actually. Where do you start in writing such a letter to such a person? But, once I got started….. We were given a limited amount of time to write it. For me, that was probably a good thing. But, I felt my emotions welling up as I reflected upon what Jesus had done, not just on the cross, but through His determination that brought Him there. So, here’s my short letter to Jesus:

Dear Jesus,
 
I noticed many things about your walk to the cross and what it said about you. Here are some of the things that have great impact upon me. First, that you were deliberate. I’ve never witnessed a person live such a deliberate life. You came with a purpose and plan and never let anything distract you from it. The most amazing thing is that your plan, of which you were so incredibly deliberate, included me. 
 
Second was the cost you were willing to pay. I will never understand the price because I’m unable, in my humanity, to pay it. Yet, through my inability you chose to pay it for me anyway. 
 
Third was your sacrifice. You came, completely settled in your own mind to sacrifice yourself and not require anyone else to do that with you. And you sacrificed yourself for me! How can I not live for you?
 
Finally, I’m amazed by your resurrection. You left no doubt that your substitution and sacrifice were enough. You have given me such amazing reason to place my faith in you as you have demonstrated such amazing grace and power! How can I not live for you?
 
I love you because you first loved me. Your child,
 
Jeff
 

What would you say to Jesus today?

The Unlimited Gospel

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Difficulty in ministry and even difficulty in declaring the Gospel does not indicate what God is doing with your labor or with His Gospel.

When Paul goes to Thessalonica (Acts 17), initially, both Jews and Gentiles respond favorably to the Gospel. Paul reasons in the synagogue and proves that the Messiah must have suffered and died, a concept lost to the Jewish people in their religion. Many people, Luke records, come to the faith in Jesus.

But, like usual for Paul and those who labored with him, jealousy with the religious group who worried that they would lose their power and influence began. Paul will be swiftly run out of town and left to wonder if the Thessalonican people will continue in the Gospel and whether the church will grow. Paul does not get to return to find out. These folks are so vicious they even follow Paul to Berea and try to disrupt the delivery of the Gospel there. Unable to go to Thessalonica himself, Paul sends Timothy to see what has become of the Christians and the church there.

This is where we get to see the incredible power of the Gospel of Christ. Against all odds, not only does the Gospel continue in the hearts and lives of those who heard and responded to it, but the church in Thessalonica becomes arguably the greatest church founded by Paul. As Paul writes to the church he tells them, even a little bit to his surprise, what he’s heard about them:

“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-9)

Wow! Can you imagine being Paul and hearing Timothy’s account of what he found when he went to visit the Thessalonian church?!

This leads me to two conclusions:

First, the Gospel is not limited, in any way, by external circumstances. The Gospel is that powerful!

Secondly, whether you’re in vocational ministry or a volunteer, if you find yourself leading and ministering in times and places of difficulty, remember this: your labor for the Gospel is producing more than you would ever dream. Sometimes you don’t get to see it but the Gospel is still producing. It’s that powerful!

God’s at work, always at work, even when you can’t see it. Whether your a leader or volunteer in your church remember this, God’s ability is wrapped up in His Gospel not in our ability. Just declare and live the Gospel, give your life away and watch God do things that will glorify Him that will surpass anything you ever dreamed!