- 2019Nov 18
For the last several years it has felt to me that Thanksgiving has become a bit of an afterthought to Christmas. And trust me, I love Christmas. My favorite movie is "It's a Wonderful Life", and I have been listening to Christmas music since....well...I never really stopped.
Here we are in Mid-November and Christmas movies are already on TV, Christmas music is already hitting the airwaves, Christmas lights adorn our neighborhoods and Christmas displays are up and buzzing in every store we visit. As a Christmas kinda guy, I love all that.
For as long as I can remember, Christmas and Thanksgiving have been bundled together, and that is a good thing! Any kid in school can explain why Thanksgiving means that the teachers lighten up just a bit, and Christmas break is all that much closer. But what I don't enjoy is when Thanksgiving simply gets lost in the Christmas hustle and bustle, becoming a mere gateway to "the Holiday Season".
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the blessings we have been given in this turbulent world we call home, to give praise to God for all He has carried us through. It is a day to remember those who are less fortunate than we, and to consider ways to be light and a helping hand to those in need.
From the Pilgrims who first joined in peace, cooperation and celebration with Squanto and the Native Americans, to George Washington who appointed a day of thanks to "the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation",
to John Adams who asked that we give thanks and pray to God "that He would smile on our colleges, academies, schools, and seminaries of learning, and make them nurseries of sound science, morals, and religion",
to Abraham Lincoln, who solidified the last Thursday of November "as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens... and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to to heal the wounds of the nation..."
Thanksgiving is and should be a special and unique time to give thanks for what we are blessed with, confess our sins to a loving God who is faithful to forgive our sins, ask Him to heal the wounds of our nation, and ask His peace and favor to be upon us as we seek to do His will in the coming year.
Thanksgiving is a special time, and much much more than just pre-Christmas.
- 2019Nov 05
It's easy to say that this whole "Jesus is King" thing is not real, that this is somehow a publicity stunt, that Kanye isn't REALLY a believer. But there have been no reports of anything other than the Gospel being preached and lives being eternally changed.
I think of the Temple Pharisees, who hated the first followers of Christ because they weren't one of THEM, and weren't doing things THEIR way. Those religious leaders said that God's salvation could only come on THEIR terms and on THEIR timetable through THEIR traditions. No revival was going to happen unless THEY were leading it and THEY got the credit.
They they they...we we we...
Turns out they were wrong, and there is a lesson to be learned.
Many have been praying for revival in this nation. But when revival happens, it generally doesn't come from the places we might expect. Don't be caught complaining about people turning from darkness to light because it didn't happen the way you thought it should.
When God moves in the hearts of people, I will choose to be thankful for it and celebrate the salvation that can even save a wretch like me.
- 2019Oct 28
This weekend, I, along with the rest of America, took some time to listen to Kanye West’s latest album release, Jesus is King“.
I have never been a Kanye fan before. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of jam sessions to some of his greatest hits like Stronger, Heartless, and Gold Digger, which could be considered to be some of the pillars of 2000’s music. But I have never listened to one of his albums all the way through. When he announced his conversion to Christianity would be followed by a worship album I was extremely intrigued.
I had many thoughts while listening to Jesus is King. Musically it is incredible. It’s Kirk Franklin meets Lecrae and everything one could hope for from a Gospel album. What surprised me was how each song revealed the truth of the Gospel. As each song played, I was encouraged and convicted and even reminded of my calling as a believer.
However, there was one song that genuinely upset me; track nine on the album, a song titled Hands On .
Here are the words that disturbed me:
//Said I’m finna do a gospel album
What have you been hearin’ from the Christians?
They’ll be the first one to judge me
Make it feel like nobody love me
Told people God was my mission
What have you been hearin’ from the Christians?
They’ll be the first one to judge me
Make it feel like nobody love me//
These lyrics unfortunately proved to be true. This past weekend I’ve seen countless tweets, Facebook and YouTube comments, magazine and newspaper articles, and blogs that have something to say about Kanye West and his newfound faith. Most of these words are either criticizing or doubting West’s intentions and many of those come from within the Church.
Kanye’s faith is not the first that the church has questioned.
Look at this response to Saul’s conversion:
“Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.””
Saul, who was later renamed Paul, is widely recognized as one of the world’s greatest missionaries to ever live. The man who once murdered Christians was used by the Lord to share the hope of salvation, and is still being used by the Lord today through his Spirit-inspired writings in Scripture.
How about this response to Matthew’s conversion:
“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.””
Matthew was a despised tax-collector, and he became one of the twelve men that was closest to Jesus here on earth. After Jesus returned to Heaven, The Lord used Matthew as a vessel to bring the Word of God to those who had not heard. And just like Paul, Matthew continues to be used by God through his Spirit-inspired words in the Bible.
Brothers and sisters, it is never our responsibility to judge the soul of another, regardless of an individual’s past. The Lord “has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12) If God is willing to send His son to die to atone for and forgive the past, present, and future sins, of ALL people, we should be more than willing to do the same. In fact, we should be excited when God’s child repents and returns home.
I hear Mr. West’s story and I am encouraged. Kanye’s story is just one of many. Everyday God is saving countless sinners, just like Kanye, just like you, and just like me.
So I don’t know about you, but I will be turning up Kanye’s new album and celebrating the fact that Shepherd has been reunited with his lost sheep.
//I know I won’t forget all He’s done
He’s the strength in this race that I run
Every time I look up, I see God’s faithfulness
And it shows just how much He is miraculous
I can’t keep it to myself, I can’t sit here and be still
Everybody, I will tell ’til the whole world is healed// (Song: God is)
I encourage you to listen to Hands On , and reflect on how we as a church view Gospel transformation. Join me in praying for our new brother Mr. West, and our many other brothers and sisters as the Lord begins to work in their lives and work mightily through them.
Photo courtesy: Kanye West/GOOD Music/Def Jam Recordings