Monthly Archives: January 2014

Are You Anointed?

If you’ve been around the church world for any number of years, I am sure that you have caught on to our nomenclature and sayings.

“I’m blessed.”

“God is good all the time. And all the time God is good.”

“Purpose”

“On mission”

“Gospel-centered”

“Missional”

“Fellowship”

“Biblical Community”

And the list goes on and on. But there is one term that is used quite a bit in certain church contexts and songs that, due to how it has been taught, has generated some confusion and, as it seems, has unfortunately helped to build a sort of spiritual caste system in the minds of many believers. It is the word: anointed. Just to be clear: the word “anointed” (anointing, or to anoint) is a biblical term; its use – not misuse – should therefore not be disparaged by any of us. So, how exactly is the term employed in Scripture? Here is a cursory look through both Testaments. I’ve sought to categorize my research for clarity purposes.

Ceremonial

The anointing oil was a blend of fine spices and olive oil that was used ceremonially to consecrate the tabernacle/temple and all its items, as well as the priests for their service to God concerning the people and the tabernacle (Exodus 30:22-33, cf. also: 29:7, 40:15; Leviticus 8:10-12; Numbers 3:3).

Certain people were selected or permitted by God to serve as the kings of Israel/Judah and were therefore ceremonially anointed by a prophet or priest (1 Samuel 10:1ff, 16:1-13; 1 Kings 1:28-39; 1 Kings 19:16; the kings of Israel, particularly Saul and David, were called “the Lord’s anointed” – 1 Samuel 15:1; 2 Samuel 1:14, 1 Samuel 24:6; 2 Samuel 19:21).

Relational/Purposeful

God’s people as a whole – and even a pagan king – were called His anointed, communicating that they were chosen as His possession – i.e., the people of Israel – or for His purposes – i.e., Cyrus of Persia (1 Chronicles 16:22; Habakkuk 3:13; Isaiah 45:1).

Physical

People would anoint themselves with oil as a means of cleaning and refreshing their skin and perfuming their bodies (Ruth 3:3; Daniel 10:3; 2 Samuel 12:20). The Greek verb “to anoint” simply means to spread on, which, for example, is what Jesus did with the mud that he made from his saliva to place on the blind man’s eyes (John 9:6).

Christological

Jesus is said to have been anointed by God and is called the anointed one (i.e., the Messiah, Christ, Chosen One), both of which are related to his person, his ministry, and his work of redemption (Mark 14:8; Luke 4:18; Acts 4:26-28, 10:38).

Spiritual

And then there is the last sense (which I am not dogmatic about in terms of my interpretation of the two primary texts referenced in this paragraph) where to be anointed has to do with believers being called or chosen by God to fulfill a specific ministry, as seen in 2 Cor. 1:21 with Paul and Timothy (and Silvanus?; cf. also, 2 Cor. 3:1-6), or the universal church having received the Holy Spirit who is possibly referred to as “the anointing” in 1 John 2:20, 27 (which is where the point of application lies the most for us today; cf. also, John 14:25-26, 16:13-15; Acts 10:38; Note: The anointing in 1 John 2 could instead be understood to mean a grace work of the Holy Spirit, or the truth concerning Christ/the word of life that all believers have received.).

The point I am making is that nowhere in Scripture, particularly the New Testament, do you hear of there being different degrees, levels, or types of anointing, or that only a few elite Christians have the anointing and the rest of us do not, or that you have to go through some form of difficulty or sequence of “spiritual steps” in order to receive a deeper level of anointing. As far as I can tell, all of this type of talk or teaching has no legitimate basis in the Scripture.

So let me bottom line this article in closing: Are you as a Christian anointed? Yes…just like every other believer in Jesus.

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“Make Way” by God’s Servant (Christian Rap Music Video)

Single off of upcoming album “Diadem” – Release date: January 28, 2014 (Lamp Mode Records)

8 Tips On Delivering An Invocation

This morning, I was privileged to offer the invocation at the Dallas City Council’s regular Wednesday session. Although invocations of this sort are usually brief (I was allotted one to two minutes), I believe we as Pastors, Ministers, and just Christians overall shouldn’t approach this task casually, but rather with appropriate seriousness and thoughtful preparation. So, coming away from this opportunity, I had a few thoughts that came to mind that I hope will serve to help us steward these moments well.

1. Dress for the occasion

I know, pretty obvious. But you have to know me to know why I would even bother to mention this. There was a time when I would wear whatever I wanted and could care less about dressing for the occasion (with the exception of funerals and weddings…well, maybe just funerals.). But I guess my father’s advice, along with my wife’s loving admonishment, finally began to settle a little on me a few years back – I said, a little, not a lot. In essence and in my words, what they impressed upon me was this: Dress the part so as to not distract from the purpose for which you are there.  In other words, there are times in which we should put aside our tastes for a greater task.

Listen, I am not a suit guy…at least not at this moment. I don’t have anything against wearing them. It’s just not my preference. Put me in some jeans and a t-shirt or some urban/business casual or prep outfit and I am good! But I knew going into this City Council meeting that those in attendance would be in business attire and that it would probably be best for me to follow suit to at least demonstrate courtesy.

2. Arrive early

Whatever time the meeting is scheduled to take place, plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early. As far as it depends on you, don’t put yourself in a position where you have to apologize for your tardiness to a room full of dignitaries who had to stand around waiting on your arrival to begin the meeting.

If punctuality is the politeness of kings, then it is no less true of us commoners. Don’t get there on time; arrive early.

3. Express appreciation

Be sure to publicly thank whoever was responsible for extending the invite to you to come and give the invocation. See this opportunity as a privilege and honor because, after all, they could have chosen someone else. Leave all sense of entitlement at the door.

4. Honor the time limit

If they give you 2 minutes max, don’t pray longer than that. Yes, our local, state, and federal government officials need prayer, lots of it, but that is not the time to hold an impromptu altar call, inviting them to hold hands or to stretch them out towards the American flag, or to make their way to the podium where you stand, or to walk around and anoint each representative with oil and lay hands on them. Okay, I am being facetious, but you get the point.

They have business to attend to, so please keep it short and sweet.

5. Write out your prayer (and if necessary, read it at the podium)

Last night, I stayed up and meticulously wrote and edited my prayer.  Why? Two reasons: 1. I wanted to make sure that I did #4 on the list, and so doing this would afford me the opportunity to rehearse to see if my prayer would fall within the time constraints, and 2. I didn’t want to risk praying extemporaneously, which could have given room for me to trip up on my words or to forget them altogether because of nerves. So I wrote my prayer out to ensure that I was clear and concise.

And, yes, I read my prayer while at the podium. Unless you have strong memorization ability, you will probably forget a few words or mix them up, especially if it is your first time, as it was mine. Better to be safe than sorry. And by the way, reading your prayer is no less fervent or genuine.

6. Pray, don’t preach!

We are to be praying TO God FOR our leaders. This is not the time to careen off into a litany of exhortations or “close” with Calvary and Early Easter Sunday Morning (my fellow African-American pastors/preachers – as well as any of those who have spent time in a traditional black church – know what I am talking about here).

7. Pray, don’t politicize!

It is my contention that it is best to stay above the political fray in your prayer. I would humbly suggest the more suitable route would be to pray a general prayer of wisdom, guidance, and integrity for all elected officials as they manage the affairs of the city, state, or nation.

8. Pray and sit down!

To many, what I am about to say is obvious, but it needs to be said. You have been entrusted to stand in the chamber to offer prayer. Once you have discharged that responsibility, sit down. Do not stand up at the podium afterwards and attempt to address the council, or whomever is present, with a statement or a proposition. Don’t take liberties that have not been rightly afforded to you. If you have issues which you would like for the council to address, follow the appropriate protocol.

Pray and quietly take your seat…and you just might be invited back. If nothing else, you will leave knowing that you honored God by faithfully and wisely handling this opportunity.

Bonus: Pray and say His name! Obviously, you won’t be able to plumb the depths of the Gospel in  your prayer or extend an invitation for people to respond in repentance and faith, but there are ways to point people to our God and Savior, Jesus, as you will see I tried to do at the conclusion of my prayer below.

Invocation

To the only eternal God and Father of The Lord Jesus:

 I come this morning thanking you for each elected official that occupies a seat on this council, and the other officials and staff that make up our city government.

God, according to Romans 13 of the Christian Scriptures, we know there is no authority except from you, and those that exist have been instituted by you.

 I pray today that the members of this council will continually understand and embrace this truth: that ultimately it was not the will of the people that placed them in these positions of power but it was due to your divine prerogative.

May they have an acute awareness that all their deliberations (in heart and on record) and their decisions are ever before you to whom they must give an account.

 May they, therefore, seek to carry out this sacred trust with all integrity, veracity, and equity. 

Grant them the wisdom they need to handle the affairs of this city in a way that promotes peace and prosperity for all its citizens.

 And lastly, grace them with the personal discipline to remain qualified for office during their terms of service.

I offer this prayer in the name of Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and the Soon-To-Return King and Judge of heaven and earth. Amen.

Christianity in America: Being Liked vs. Being Loyal

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Intolerant. Bigotry. Religious Jerks. Evangelical Wackos. Dumb Theists. Primal. Homophobic. Hate Propagandists.

The list of pejorative words and names that we have been called and that have been used to describe us as Christians could go on and on. There was a time, generally speaking, when people would at least extend the courtesy of respectfully dialoguing with us in public forums. Many would say that was due to us being the moral majority. But we no longer hold that place in the collective mind of our American, post-Christian society. Consequently, we are seeing pockets of people and groups around our country who openly display their disdain of Christians and our Christo-centric, biblical worldview. One such incident happened to one of our brothers in the Lord, Doug Wilson, as he gave a lecture at Indiana University (see the brief clip that captured the protest here). To be clear, the majority of IU students in attendance seemed not to be in agreement with how the small contingent of protestors acted (evidenced by the audience’s applause as they left the lecture hall and after being addressed by the Assistant Dean of Students), and some vehemently spoke out against it.

Some of you might be thinking, “Are you serious, Ed? That was not that big of a deal. We have fellow believers who are being beaten, imprisoned, and killed for the faith around the world and are not even allowed to speak about or worship Jesus publicly. On the contrary, this brother was invited to freely express his beliefs at an institution of higher learning and left the campus alive and able to head back to his home, family, job, and church to resume his normal way of living.”

Point well taken. My purpose for making reference to this incident (and for this post altogether), however, is not to incite comparison, solicit compassion (i.e., pity) from those outside of our faith, or foster in us a persecution complex, where we bemoan even the slightest expressions of opposition. Instead, it is:  1. to highlight the growing hostility in our country towards biblical beliefs and values, and 2. to encourage us to stand firm in our commitment to the Lord Jesus and His Gospel and Bible, regardless of the mounting pressure from the world to compromise our convictions and condone theirs.

Over the years as I have stood by and watched or read reports and interviews of fellow Christians speaking to the hot-button, controversial topics of our day (e.g., abortion, same-sex “marriages,” homosexuality, etc.) and the disagreeable responses by the non-Christian world (and even by some who consider themselves believers of Jesus), I have come to realize that there is a prevalent dilemma that almost always presents itself that each of us as followers of Christ will encounter at some point in time; and that is, you and I will be faced with a decision between two opposing realities: to be liked by the world or to be loyal to God.

Think about this with me: generally speaking, are we not becoming even more inclined towards the idea of people liking us? Even something as minute as the “likes,” “favorites,” “thumbs-up,” functionality on social media sites seems to reflect this, does it not? How many times have you, like me, come back to your FB posts or tweets to see if people liked, shared, or re-tweeted them? Come on, it’s okay. You can admit it. In and of itself, being liked by people is not necessarily a bad thing. But it quickly turns sour when we choose to say or do something that displeases God in order to please people so they will look favorably upon us. This, I believe, is one of the main reasons why some of us Christians in America are capitulating to the non-believing world. We like to be liked by people.

But this temptation to please people over against pleasing God is not a novelty of the 21st century. People in the Bible, especially followers of Jesus, dealt with it as well. At times, some failed miserably, like Peter (Matthew 26:69-75; In his case, Peter more than likely denied Jesus that day because of the fear of what people would have done to him if he publicly associated himself with Jesus. To say it simply, Peter gave in to the fear of man, which is what fuels this temptation.). And then there were other occasions when they stood strong, choosing to be loyal to God. There are many that I could point to – and, yes, Peter would be among them – but I’ll just choose one, namely John the Baptist. Here, I’ll let you read it for yourself:

So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison. (Luke 3:18-20; ESV)

As an aside, did you notice that John the Baptist not only preached about/for Jesus, but that he also spoke against Herod’s immorality, which was the reason why he was put in prison (see also: Matthew 14:1-12)? As faithful disciples of Jesus, we don’t get to choose what we will be for or against; it has already been laid out for us in the Bible.

What an amazing encouragement it is to read of John the Baptist standing up for Jesus and the things of Jesus in spite of the opposition that he faced!

What about you and I? Will future generations of Christians be able to recall how we, by God’s grace in Christ through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, lived our lives in loyalty to God rather than to be liked by people?

If you are still not convinced that this dichotomy of being liked versus being loyal is all that crucial in our day and time, let me give you just one example. On a recent episode of “Celebrity Big Brother” (the UK version), Evander Holyfield engaged in a conversation with one of his fellow contestants regarding gay professional athletes openly professing their sexuality. As you can imagine, that exchange circulated very quickly over the internet. Martin Rogers picked up on the story and wrote a brief article about it over at Yahoo Sports.  Here is his last sentence in that piece:

He would be well advised, however, to keep his more controversial opinions under wraps in the future or risk the fondness with which he is remembered. (emphasis mine)

Did you catch that? Let me restate it in my words: Evander, you might want to zip your lip about this subject if you want to continue to be liked by people who remember you as one of the most beloved fighters in the sport of boxing.

I am by no means endorsing how Evander went about addressing the topic with his housemate. Should he have refrained from responding, or try to re-frame what he said, or restrain himself from speaking further after stating his conviction on what the Bible says concerning homosexuality? Given the situation, either of those would have probably been the best thing. By the way, apologizing for or amending how we go about communicating God’s truth is in some cases needed and warranted. But it’s altogether different when we are willing to dismiss, distort, or downplay God’s Word to appease people.

But I hope you didn’t miss my point for bringing up this article. Being liked vs. being loyal is one of the major societal realities that we will continually face as Christians here in America. The question becomes then: what choice will we make in 2014 and in the years to come? We must decide now and each day of our lives because the Bible is clear that the sinful, rebellious, moral decadence and deception of the fallen world is going to continue and grow worse (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 12-13).

May God give us the strength to be wise and winsome as we engage the world, but to never water down the Gospel or the Bible (i.e., to attempt to take the natural offense out of God’s truth – e.g., by not mentioning sin, repentance, God’s eternal judgment, the exclusivity of salvation through faith in Jesus alone, etc. and only highlighting God’s love, mercy, kindness for all people) just to be liked by people.

May the Holy Spirit help us to be loyal to Jesus like John the Baptist, even if it means we lose loved-ones, friends, jobs, respect, popularity, promotions, freedoms, benefits, invites, positions, opportunities, money, and, in some cases, our very lives.

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39; ESV)

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