Sunday, June 25, 2017

Rainbows


Several of my friends recently attended a General Assembly of a denomination in the Wesleyan-holiness evangelical tradition. Social media posts featured many smiling faces, stirring sermons, and lots of friends reconnecting. I wish I could have been there. I’m sure that I would have seen another familiar face around every corner. 

Controversy was stirred at this same event. The vendor hall featured display upon display of various ministries. One of the vendors represented a local church within the denomination with a rainbow-hued backdrop and the slogan “Love Wins. LGBTQ.” Alarms went off among the faithful. Myself included (see figure 1).



 
Figure 1


I don’t know the motive or agenda of the vendor. I don’t know if they are seeking to advance an LGBTQ agenda in their church. Apparently, they claim they are not. Attendees inquired and learned that someone in the church has been converted out of a LGBTQ lifestyle, and is launching ministry to people grappling with sexual identity issues. While the ministry outreach may appear laudable, the ignorance of the symbolic use of words and colors is disturbing.

For years, I have observed as the church and para-church organizations have been so influenced by the prevailing culture that they/we have co-opted the symbols of the culture and made them our own. We follow the culture’s lead and use the word “gender” when we mean “sex.” We adopt the language of neo-Marxism liberation theology and use the term “social justice” when we mean “Biblical justice” in the spirit of Christ’s mandate in Matthew 25. We use the world’s language to represent a Christian cause, and are shocked when the world’s baggage of meaning comes along with their symbols. Try as we might to sanctify the world’s language and visual symbols, we cannot, We are bound by the larger socio-political-cultural meanings. Gradually, I observe, we abandon our Biblical principles in a quest to be relevant.

Some folks make this compromise in direct capitulation to the world. They surrender the battle field. They declare loss to the enemy. They are defeated, conquered. Others, attempting to be relevant, adopt a lexicon of talk and images that is so laden with the world’s agenda, they cannot communicate a redemptive, transformational message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are compromised. Whether one is the compromising actor or the one who is acted upon by the prevailing culture, compromise with the world’s sinful agenda is always wrong.

At Wesley Biblical Seminary we faced a symbolic issue in the summer of 2015. We had redesigned our logo in 2013. The new logo was a beautiful color presentation of a “W” for Wesley, an open Bible for the inerrant Word, a fish for the fellowship of believers (koinonia), a flame for the abiding presence of the sanctifying Holy Spirit, and a triangle representing the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (see figure 2).


Figure 2

In the summer of 2015, the United States Supreme Court issues made same-sex marriage the law of the land, in its landmark Obergeffell v. Hodges decision. That summer, “Gay Pride” rainbows were everywhere.

One day, a Wesley Biblical Seminary teammate approached me with horror in his eyes. He showed me a photo of a rainbow hued condom wrapper that was being distributed at “Gay Pride” events (see figure 3).  The proponent of the blasphemy was the Chicago Theological Seminary.




Figure 3

Wesley Biblical Seminary responded quickly with symbolic awareness, and distanced ourselves from any brand confusion with the LGBTQ agenda. We moved to a blue monochrome logo which we continue to use (figure 4).



Figure 4

Here’s the issue. We, as Christians, had better understand the significance of the symbolic world in which we live. Noah’s rainbow from God has been hijacked by the LGBTQ agenda. I would love to retrieve our symbol from the abomination, but we will not redeem or restore the rainbow to its proper symbolic place by further compromising its colors with the language of the world’s agenda.

Our images matter. If we are living lives of holiness in this present world, we dare not compromise our distinct and clarion call to perfect love and Christian holiness. We reach all people for Jesus and the transformational challenge of His Gospel. The secular message will seek to situate sinners in their sameness. The Gospel of Jesus Christ calls all people everywhere to the healing power of His holiness and wholeness. We dare not misrepresent the transformational power of the Gospel symbolically or realistically. We must call people to the transformation that Jesus longs to make in our lives. Definite. Clear. Transformed.
 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Weary of Wandering from My God

“The Chap­lain of Glas­gow pri­son once found a young wo­man eight­een or nine­teen stand­ing in her cell with her hymn-book in her hand. ‘She looked up, and, hold­ing it out, said to me, ‘This is a “hymn which I’m much ta’en up wi’.’
I read the first two lines, and found my eyes fill­ing with tears as I looked at her and said, ‘Are you weary of wan­der­ing from your God?’
“The an­swer was ‘Yes, in­deed I am.’ There­u­pon I had the great pri­vi­lege of deal­ing with an an­xious soul.
“Next Sun­day we not on­ly sang the hymn, but I preached spe­cial­ly to wea­ry wan­der­ers. The fol­low­ing day an old man grasped my hand as I en­tered his cell, and in an ear­nest and sol­emn voice said, ‘When the great day comes there will be found a soul among the re­deemed, brought there through that hymn we sang yes­ter­day, for,’  he con­tin­ued, ‘when you read out, ‘Wea­ry of wan­der­ing from my God,’ I said, ‘That’s me. I’m wea­ry, and I’m rea­dy to re­turn,’ and,” he add­ed, “come back to my God I have.”’

Weary of wandering from my God
By
Charles Wesley (1749)

Weary of wandering from my God,
And now made willing to return
I hear and bow me to the rod
For thee, not without hope, I mourn:
I have an Advocate above
A Friend before the throne of love.

O Jesus, full of truth and grace
More full of grace than I of sin

Yet once again I seek Thy face:
Open Thine arms and take me in
And freely my backslidings heal
And love the faithless sinner still.


Thou know’st the way to bring me back
My fallen spirit to restore

O for Thy truth and mercy’s sake,
Forgive, and bid me sin no more:
The ruins of my soul repair
And make my heart a house of prayer.


The stone to flesh again convert,
The veil of sin again remove;

Sprinkle Thy blood upon my heart,
And melt it by Thy dying love;
This rebel heart by love subdue,
And make it soft, and make it new.


Give to mine eyes refreshing tears,
And kindle my relentings now;

Fill my whole soul with filial fears,
To Thy sweet yoke my spirit bow;
Bend by Thy grace, O bend or break,
The iron sinew in my neck!



Ah! give me, Lord, the tender heart
That trembles at the approach of sin;

A godly fear of sin impart,
Implant, and root it deep within,
That I may dread Thy gracious power,
And never dare to offend Thee more.