In the latest episode of the G3 Podcast, Jeremy Vuolo and I talked with Costi Hinn, the nephew of Benny Hinn about his life, his new book, and theology. He was explicitly clear on the dangers of the health, wealth, and prosperity theology. If you haven’t already done so, add the G3 Podcast to your podcast downloads.
As we approach the precipice of 2020, it’s essential to remember that to glorify God is not to lead a boring life. It’s actually quite the opposite. To live a life of submission and obedience to God with a goal of glorifying God is to live a life that is not only thrilling, but is one that actually enjoys God himself in the process.
Paul writes these words in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” As we find ourselves at the crossroads of life in this upcoming decade—will we intentionally evaluate such decisions and directions of life to see if we are bringing God glory and honor? As the catechism states:
Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: To glorify God and enjoy him forever.
Perhaps you are considering some resolution for the upcoming year regarding your health or finances, but have you considered your spiritual life? Have you asked honest questions about what it means to life a life for God’s glory? Before we focus on our waistline or bank account—perhaps we would do better to consider the fact that we have been purchased by God with the high price of Jesus’ blood. Therefore, we do not belong to ourselves. We have a Master that we belong to and we must submit ourselves to him.
What is God’s will for you in 2020? That may be different for all of us in regard to our business, jobs, or ministry work—but one thing remains the same—we are called to glorify God. The focus on glorifying God in our body, as Paul says in his letter to the church in Corinth, is intended to bring to the surface the actions that are precipitated by the inner motives of the heart. It’s the way we put our faith into action. And we must always remember what James said, “For as the body apartfrom the spirit is dead, so also faithapartfromworks is dead” (James 2:26).
So, whatever you find yourself doing in 2020 and beyond—may your decisions and commitments glorify God so that you will not lead a boring and miserable life focused on yourself.
Psalm 19:14 — Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
Never underestimate the power of a word. Words can usher in worlds of unspeakable joy or become the catalyst of immense pain. Whether we know it or not, our life depends on words in order to function. We review instructions for food preparation as we pre-heat the oven, examine a bottle of prescription medication for instructions, review road signs as we navigate the highway, and read a contract before we sign on the dotted line.
Words matter in the world of politics, in military conquest, and in all spheres of life. Perhaps nowhere do we see the importance of words on a higher level than we do in the world of religion. Rightly so, because he who controls the dictionary controls far more than you can imagine.
Words Matter Because Meaning Matters
In recent days, Merriam-Webster unveiled “they” as their 2019 word of the year. It wasn’t a completely random choice. It was based on data from their online searches which revealed something interesting and quite troubling about our world. According to Merriam-Webster:
“Our Word of the Year for 2019 is they. It reflects a surprising fact: even a basic term—a personal pronoun—can rise to the top of our data. Although our lookups are often driven by events in the news, the dictionary is also a primary resource for information about language itself, and the shifting use of they has been the subject of increasing study and commentary in recent years. Lookups for they increased by 313% in 2019 over the previous year.”
The pronoun controversy is indicative of a sick culture, but sadly, we are living in a day where a word can be officially changed in the dictionary in September and by December become the official word of the year. Why is this the case? Because of cultural pressure. People can demand that the actual real meaning of a word be changed to accommodate the desires of a culture. Notice what Merriam-Webster said in explaining their choice of the 2019 word of the year:
“…they has also been used to refer to one person whose gender identity is nonbinary, a sense that is increasingly common in published, edited text, as well as social media and in daily personal interactions between English speakers. There’s no doubt that its use is established in the English language, which is why it was added to the Merriam-Webster.com dictionary this past September.”
We are living in a world where real men are pretending to be real women. In some cases, real people (male and female) are choosing to not identify as either male or female. This transformation culture rejects absolutes and the postmodern framework of rejecting truth and exchanging it for imagination has precipitated a world where words are being changed in order to change the whole society. Just take marriage as an example. This is more than a squabble about words on paper. It literally affects the whole of civilization.
Deconstructing a Denomination
In Jacques Derrida Of Grammatology, the ideas of deconstruction and his method of analyzing human language has led to the deconstruction of the hierarchy of vocabulary. Once again, this is far more than arguing about words. If the meaning of words can be changed—it will lead to change in the world. Make no mistake about it, the liberals and enemies of the gospel are very much interested in changing denominations—and we see this through ongoing scandals and debate on social justice. At the heart of the social justice debate is the battle for the dictionary.
Pronouns and Ministry
Merriam-Webster has made it clear—pronouns matter. We face choices on how we will address people in our culture as well as within our churches. Will we call them by their preferred pronoun or will we address them according to their actual gender? In recent weeks, J.D. Greear who serves as the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention has made a distinction between what he calls, “generosity of spirit vs. telling truth.” Greear goes on to specify that he holds to a “generosity of spirit” position which he explains is much like what Preston Sprinkle refers to as “pronoun hospitality.”
While manners are important and we should demonstrate a love for all mankind based on the imago Dei—no matter how severe the image of God has been broken by sin, the role of the pastor in the local church is to tell the truth and to feed God’s sheep. If our ministries are designed upon a pragmatic foundation seeker sensitive approach, undoubtedly postmodernism will seep through the cracks and influence our methods of ministry. All confused sinners need to hear God’s truth. This goes for the redneck who drank too much beer on Saturday night and decided to commit adultery on his wife and the man who desires to be referred to as “ze” in the church’s foyer after the service.
The gender debate and pronoun controversy is not one that John Knox was having to deal with in Edinburgh. We are living in confusing days, but at all times, we must remember that the Bible is sufficient. If we abandon the regulative principle of worship or turn our backs on the Scripture’s sufficiency in the midst of massive confusion it will only lead to more confusion. A ship on the sea at night in the midst of thick fog needs the radiant beam of the lighthouse to provide clear direction. How is it possible to demonstrate real hospitality and love for sinners without telling the truth? If we adjust our vocabulary in the foyer it will have an impact upon the vocabulary we use in the pulpit.
In 2018 the controversy over the roles and responsibilities of men and women within the SBC erupted through social media leading into the annual SBC meeting in Dallas in June. Today, that controversy has continued to burn and the heat has greatly increased following the release of the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel.
Bold attempts have been made to advance a firm egalitarian position into the ranks of the SBC, but those attempts have been smaller in nature. The popular trend has been to shift the meaning of complementarianism to embrace a narrow view that centers on the office of pastor alone which supports the function of women preaching in local church settings so long as she is not holding the office of pastor / elder. Other attempts have been made to discredit the term complementarianism altogether by attempting to connect the dots of the recent sexual abuse scandals to the position of complementarianism. Karen Swallow Prior who has recently been hired by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has gone on record as stating that she rejects both egalitarianism and complementarianism.
The point is clear—there’s a fight over a word taking place in the SBC. Once again, this is not just a think tank discussion that will have no lasting impact. Make no mistake about it, the future of the SBC is largely hinged upon how this debate is settled. Churches are already leaving the denomination and others are posturing themselves for a departure in the upcoming days.
Moving forward, the words that leaders choose to employ should be evaluated and considered carefully. This is not the time for political posturing nor is it the time for leaders to sit back and pretend that nothing is wrong. There are real attempts being made to deconstruct our denomination and one of the great weapons of war that anyone can use happens to be the way in which we employ words.
Words serve as the building blocks of theology. All of our theology is derived from words, sentences, and paragraphs from holy Scripture. This complementarianism debate transcends far higher than whether or not Beth Moore could serve as the president of the SBC or whether or not Lottie Moon should have preached to the people in China. Unless we carefully guard the meaning of words, any thief or robber will be able to steal away words and drastically alter the direction or even the existence of our denomination.
During this festive time of the year, you will often hear adults make the remark that “Christmas is really all about the kids.”
It’s really easy to get swept away in the traditions and festivities only to realize that there really isn’t much genuine celebration happening. This is true especially when it comes to financial stress in order to get the right present or the right number of presents for the children.
Are you a Christian? Why is the world dictating to you the rules of Christmas? Why are you so unhappy during this season of celebration? Could it be that Christmas isn’t really all about the kids after all?
Advent: The Coming of the King
The word advent means coming. Typically arranged during the four weeks prior to Christmas, Christians around the world remember the time when the people of God were living in true anticipation of the coming of their King. The four weeks of celebration is a reminder that God’s promises are true and that the long-awaited King of glory—prophesied by Isaiah (see Is. 7:14; 9:6) came just as it was foretold some 700 years before his birth! John writes with poetic excellence and gospel hope:
John 1:14 – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
I recently read a story about a little seven year old boy who woke up his father early in December in a panic on a Saturday morning. He was worried that their family would not have any meaningful Christmas at all because their inflatable of Frosty the Snow Man was in the garage with a hole that needed to be patched. He said, “Dad, wake up, we have to get Frosty in fixed. It’s Christmas time.” For the little boy’s brief life, he had only been taught that at Christmas the family puts up a cheap inflatable in order to properly celebrate. How is the world changing the way you celebrate Christmas? Are you distracted so much that advent isn’t something you even put an emphasis upon?
Incarnation: God in Human Flesh
It may come as a shock to you, but atheists celebrate Christmas too. As you walk through shopping malls looking for that hot ticket item, people who reject God and claim to believe that there is no God at all will be standing in line with their children to get their annual picture with Santa, competing with you to find that special gift, and just enjoying the festive music and seasonal décor all throughout the shopping mall.
During the Christmas season, the world is caught up in myths that center on elves who never seem to sit still on shelves, flying reindeer, and a jolly old man who knows more than anyone else and will reward kids based on their morality—“so you better be good for goodness sake.”
Have you paused recently to quietly read Luke 2 and consider that God became a man? What story of an elf or a bearded man with a magical bag of presents could compete with the story of the incarnation?
When you pause and consider the reality that God, the Creator of the heavens, the Creator of the earth, the high Sovereign and exalted King of glory, entered a young woman’s womb and was born in the likeness of men is absolutely beyond anything the world has ever seen or heard. The miracle of the incarnation is the purpose of Christmas celebrations. Far superseding any super hero movie plot and far superior to any drama series on television, and far more amazing than any message you could read in any other book is the message of Jesus’ birth.
Salvation: The Real Gift of Christmas
What did you get your kids for Christmas last year? Do they even remember it? How long did they play with it? How long did it satisfy them? You know the drill, right? You spend lots of money and time to buy things that really never come close to satisfying the hearts of your kids.
Christmas is not all about the kids. In fact, it’s not all about the presents either. No gift lasts forever, right? Well, actually there is a gift that lasts forever and if we emphasized that gift at Christmas we would have true and meaningful celebrations with our families.
Jesus was born in order that he would become the sacrifice for our sin. He would be the sin offering to the Father—literally taking away our sin. Listen to what 1 Peter 2:24 says:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
The hymn writer Charles Wesley, in his famous Christmas carol, “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” described the purpose of Jesus’ birth by writing:
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die:
Born to raise the son of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King !”
The real purpose behind the birth of Jesus was his saving mission that would culminate on the Roman cross where he would lay down his life for his people. As atheists stand in line to get their children’s annual picture with Santa, Wesley’s carol is played over the speakers and they mumble the words although they refuse to believe. They embrace Wesley’s song much like they do Santa—without any real belief—after all, it’s Christmas.
Certainly there is more to Christmas than a fruitcake and mystical stories that have no real meaning. This is why the church of Jesus Christ should take the lead in the celebration of Jesus’ birth. If you strip away Christmas trees, candy canes, festive lights, decorative wreaths, chocolate, mistletoe, gifts and gift exchanges, hot cider, eggnog, silver bells, jingle bells, festive music, Santa Claus, reindeer, shopping malls, and elves—Christians can still have a true and meaningful Christmas because Jesus’ birth is what we celebrate and his gift of salvation is one that endures with great satisfaction for all of eternity.
Christmas is not all about the kids—it’s all about Jesus, and your kids desperately need to know it. I’m not arguing that you should abandon all celebrations during the Christmas season. Not at all. I’m actually making the point that as a Christian your celebration should be far more meaningful and filled with satisfaction.
Matthew 1:21 – She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
In recent days, precipitated by the ongoing growth of the G3, we have launched a podcast that covers doctrinal and cultural issues facing the church in our day.
The podcast is co-hosted by me and my friend Jeremy Vuolo. We both live on opposite sides of the country. I live and serve near Atlanta and Jeremy is near Los Angeles. While we enjoy rich conversations about doctrinal and practical issues regarding the faith—we also bring on special guests to talk about various topics as well. You can find the G3 Podcast online in various places such as the G3 Conference website, G3 app, G3 YouTube channel, iTunes, Google Play Music, and more.
In today’s episode, we talk with Allie Beth Stuckey about life, faith, politics, and social justice. You will want to take time to listen and subscribe to our podcast for your commute as it drops each Thursday. Thank you for listening—spread the word.
During the advent season, when Christians are celebrating the birth of Jesus, there’s one song that is often sung by churches, choirs, and soloists—telling the story of the incarnation of Jesus with brilliant words and stunning musical arrangement that often stands out among the other carols and Christmas hymns. Originally known by its French name, “Cantique de Noël” (meaning “song of Christmas”), the song “O Holy Night” remains a favorite song of the Christmas season.
Perhaps you never knew the story of this well known carol that was penned by a nominal Catholic and the music arranged by a reluctant Jew—for a midnight mass on Christmas Eve. You might not have known of the controversy the song created in France when the author left the Catholic Church resulting in it being banned before it eventually made its way to the United States. You also might not have known that this song was the very first song to be played across the radio airwaves in world history on December 24th 1906. Even with all of this history, perhaps you have overlooked something else in the song, namely a message nestled within the third stanza that deserves our attention.
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
It is no secret that today’s evangelical church, especially in America, is greatly divided over the social justice movement’s methods and message. Rather than promoting love and peace, the social justice movement breeds resentment, animosity, and division. Social justice by default flows out of a long history of postmodernism and with a functional goal of deconstruction—the movement itself demands reparations rather than forgiveness, penance rather than repentance, and social activism rather than unity in gospel transformation.
This beloved carol was introduced to America during a time of division over slavery. The third stanza spoke the truth with poetic power and moved the hearts of people. It was a needed message during a time of great division and darkness in our nation’s history. Indeed, in Jesus we learn what true love is—sovereign love, servant love, and saving love.
The devil is quite crafty and uses something as shallow as skin color to divide people from one another. This has been the case all throughout human history. Sadly, the world and the church are both tempted to find answers to brokenness through social justice rather than the gospel of Jesus. This leads to a hyper-focus on social activism, marches, tearing down statues of historic figures, burning historic flags, and demanding change that’s focused on the shallowness of skin color rather than the heart, the mind, and the actual abilities that people are gifted with.
Social justice, being a rather complex movement, is not only focused on ethnic division, but also on areas such as the roles and responsibilities of men and women in the home, the society, and the local church. Rather than celebrating the roles of both men and women as image bearers of God in this world and within the local church—social justice demands equality of roles and functions—something that God never intended. The social justice message creates bitterness rather than love, division rather than unity, and chaos rather than peace. Looking for freedom in a world of brokenness—advocates of social justice become slaves to ideas, methods, and ultimately doctrines that flow out of the pages of postmodernism rather than sacred Scripture. This is not the message of love nor will it lead people to peace.
Today, we are experiencing much chaos as the social justice train continues to roll through denominations, institutions, organizations, and local churches. We are witnessing a unique and trying time in our history where longtime friendships are being severed and denominations are being stressed to the point of implosion. It seems that there is no light at the end of this long tunnel.
As we consider our current place in human history and within the history of the church, we must keep our eyes fixed on Christ. The birth of Jesus was promised in the midst of chaos (Gen. 3:15). All throughout human history, God would often remind people of the coming of Christ in the midst of turmoil and chaos as was the case when the prophet Isaiah penned his promise of hope. When people needed hope—God pointed them to the birth of a King, but not just any king. The prophet writing 700 years before the birth of Jesus pointed the people to the one who would bring true justice and eternal peace.
Nestled in this famous carol is the promise of Isaiah 9:6. While we look back at the birth of Jesus, we must remember that as the prophet wrote Isaiah 9:6 long before Jesus’ birth, he didn’t stop in Bethlehem. He looked beyond, to a day in which Christ would usher in his visible Kingdom and upon his return would rule with perfect justice and ultimate peace. When Christ returns, all oppression shall cease. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord upon his return, and all forms of sinful oppression will be no more.
Only in Jesus will ethnic division among Jew and Gentile be settled. Only in Jesus will ethnic pride and divisive racism be swallowed up in victory. Our hope for a world without division, chaos, bitterness, pride, and confusion over our roles and responsibilities as men and women will only be realized fully when Christ returns and makes all things new.
Until then, we look back to Jesus’ birth with joyful hearts and long for the day of hope when our King shall descend in radiant splendor. Come Lord Jesus!