Thursday, May 10, 2012
After 35+ years in and around the "church" world, more than 30 years as an "ordained minister" and missionary, this is my conclusion: No man cares.... (Let's get through this now--All generalities are false, including this one. Sure, there is a man here and there who cares. I like to include myself in that cadre of "exceptions to the rule" So, "no man cares" is hyperbole, but barely) Examples of this non-caring abound. I'll give just a few, then move on to the conclusions I am drawing. First, a couple I know have in the past year been moved by God to take the Gospel to the streets by going among the homeless, the street people of their area. They provide food, clothing, kindness, counsel, company, and the love of Christ to the scorned, the shunned, the dregs, the hopeless. For their actions, their Biblically-sound church, well...."here's a nice pat on the back"..........and from the social activists, it's "well, thanks for the food, but lay off all that Gospel stuff; you're doing more harm than good" I was in a big, prominent church at one time, and in the early days used to ask stuff like: How about the jail ministry?......how about the nursing homes?.....how about street ministry?.......soup kitchen?......shelters? All this was met with responses like "Well, old Charlie used to go to the jail, but...." or "I think Betty goes to some nursing home, sometimes...." and then we went on to discuss the B I G "mission programs" where we sent several missionaries to foreign lands and at one time headquartered a large international mission operation. But those people right down the street, and in the state prison down the road, ........no one cares.
I worked in prison ministry for several years. Almost every prison has a Chaplain, a paid staff position pretty high up on the food chain. One big state prison in the South had 5 or 6 full time chaplains and a Head Chaplain. Most of these folks are nothing but bureaucrats. I can think of one exception but most of them do not care. It's a job, and a remunerative one; they're not going to rock the boat just because some private prison-for-profit (which profit pays their wages) is giving inmates substandard food, shocking medical inattention, poorly trained officers, and virtually no security. They don't care. Local churches are pastored by men who don't care. They'll be there Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. It's their job. Let some stranger come by and they will probably get a follow-up call or visit...once. Let someone attend for several years, then drift away. They'll get a call after a week or two....but soon be forgotten. "Well, it's up to them....we're here if they need us" What do these men feed their flocks? Mostly regurgitated sermons gleaned from books of the "Preacher X's Greatest Sermons".....one hour reading and you've got a nice little 3-points- and- a- poem and can spend the rest of the week at the golf course....unless some idiot member goes to the hospital. Congregations are starving for the Word (at least those members who are regenerated)...but these "shepherds" do not have the inclination or ability to feed the sheep. They do not care.
There are thousands of "missionaries" who do not care. Oh! How can you say that? Look at what passes for "missions"--all these 10-day trips to Costa Rica or some other tropical paradise where an afternoon or two is dedicated to a "prayer walk" or tract-passing in a market place, and the rest of the time is sight-seeing tourism passed off as mission work. Look at the comparatively wealthy American missionaries in third world countries--they live in relative luxury, employ household servants, sent their children back to the US for schooling, and take extended leaves as often as possible. Oh, yeah, on the mission field, but make it just like the USA as best you can....all the creature comforts. (For the record, I know some real missionaries....on the field for 20 years, has become a citizen of the nation he ministers to, his children schooled there and in the compulsory military service there, works there, his heart is there, not longing to be "home in the USA")
So, what kind of "church" demonstrates that it does not care, does not care for your soul, does not love the brethren? This is the prevailing church, this is the most visible church, this is the church of the news media and the general population in the Western world, that church that people go to ....when you ask "Do you know Christ? are you saved?" and they respond "I go to church".....This is their church. This is Satan's Church. Satan is the Great Counterfeiter, the Great Imitator. He knows Christ has a Church, so he wants a church. This has always been the case but historically, men have identified Satan's Church as the obviously anti-Biblical, pseudo-Christian, obvious examples: Rome at its worst, the other cults, the wackos who take Christ's name in vain, all the exaggerated cases. But, Satan is not stupid. To counterfeit $100 bills, he would not put George Washington's portrait on the effort. His modern-day effort is a pretty successful work. It has all the trappings--formality, social respectability, educated preachers, even espouses pretty sound Bible doctrine. It looks like a duck and it talks like a duck!
But, does it walk like a duck? You have to watch it very closely....And when you do, you'll find that it does not care. It's an act. It's a facade. Scratch beneath the surface and you draw no blood because there's no heart. No heart for souls, no love of the brethren. It's a business, it's a complex organizational structure with a big budget and a big name, but it's heart-less. And it's been built up to this enormous extent we see in 2012 by years of shallow preaching, Gospel-less "conversions" of the "repeat this prayer" type, and the resulting product is a church building where the pews are populated with unregenerated souls and even pulpits are filled by unsaved men, highly educated, articulate, efficient, Christless men.
Christ's disciples emulate Him. Hold up your congregants to that standard. "If any man loves the world, the love of God is not in him."....or that one. "A man who does not love his brother cannot love God"......or that one. Within this visible, miserable "church" certainly there are those who are His, but they are few and far between. "Few there be who find it...." weighs heavily on me these days.......few there be. "Many" however will be heard in That Day crying about all they did "in His name".....when in fact, they did not care.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Every month or so we get a reminder from Ahmadinejad when he quotes Khomeini's statement that Israel "must be wiped out from the map of the world."
Many efforts to do just that have taken place throughout history including the most familiar Holocaust during the 1930s and 40s.
When one considers the nature of this hatred, it seems to rise above other prejudices such as those forms of racial and ethnic animosity like whites hating blacks; blacks hating whites; orientals hating whites; etc, etc. All this is born out of man's sinful nature, a manifestation of pride, a sense of superiority to anyone who is not like himself.
The hatred for Jews seems to transcend these skin-color/cultural parameters. For one thing, Jews seem to be universally hated, not just hated by their Arab neighbors, for example. They are hated in the East and hated in the West; they are hated by men of all racial compositions. What is it about Jews which makes them the target of almost universal enmity?
I think the answer lies in the perception, not just held by Bible believers but by the world in general, that Jews are in one way or another representative of God. Men naturally hate God, are at enmity with God, are alienated from God by their sin. Since Jews are almost universally viewed to one degree or another as "God's Chosen People" this hatred of God is transferred to the people considered to be His.
One could ask, considering the present state of Israel, how this Christ-less, God-less political entity draws any fire from God-haters. It is as God-less as any nation on earth; it should be right at home with the rest of the world. The present state is as rebellious, unbelieving as ever in the history of the Jewish people. Nevertheless, the world system through its spiritual father, Satan, recognizes both the history and the future of this people created for God's purposes....and because the world hates God, they instinctively hate Israel and the Jews.
Well, it's one thing when the unbelieving world acts out its sin nature and hatred for God in this way--hating a group which is closely associated with God. It's entirely another matter when we find the professing church demonstrating the same attitude, albeit sometimes more subtly. When the German government led by Hitler began and perpetrated their efforts to eliminate Jews from the population of the world, the "church" was silent and consenting for the most part. The leadership in Rome has been condemned for their acquiescence and accused of complicity.
The Protestant "church" in Germany was silent. Apart from a few courageous leaders like Niemoeller and Bonhoeffer, the pews and the pulpits turned their heads as the Jews were led to the gas chambers and ovens.
Today, I see a similar situation. I say "similar" with the intention of being clear that it is not "identical"......maybe "reminiscent".......similar.....like this:
First, we have a political force, growing in strength and openly advocating and diligently working toward the eradication of the Jewish state and the Jewish people. That group is Iran and all its Islamic Jihadist friends and neighbors, some more covert than others.
And then you might ask: Where is the parallel to the professing church's complicity and consent? Especially in view of the obvious "Zionist" element in evangelical circles, the John Hagee types and their ilk, those heretics who have manufactured in their minds the salvation of Jews apart from Christ and solicit millions from the sheep for such projects as moving Jews to Israel from all over the world.
Two things about that group: they are vocal but tiny in numbers; and they are clearly outside the realm of orthodoxy. It's more of a cult. Their abberant views are even further removed from Biblical truth than the majority view which is in my sights here.
Rome played a role in the Holocaust. Rome is playing a role today in the minimalization of Israel. Note how "ecumenical" Rome is these days.......note their efforts to bring back into the fold, for example, the Church of England. Note their outreach to Mormons and Muslims....note their efforts toward building a one-religion world (the capitol of which is Rome, of course).......note further, than there is no equivalent outreach to Jews or Israel.
The Protestant churches were involved in the most recent eradication effort, if only by their silence. Many are involved in today's more subtle efforts, not so much by silence but by proclamation--the proclmation that God is finished with Israel; that their time is past; that God has moved on in His plan, and that the Church has replaced Israel, has been named heir to the promises of God made to Israel and will be the recipient of all blessings once directed toward Israel.
I'm not going into a detailed description of this "replacement theology"...you can look it up, or look up 'supercessionism" for expanded study. My point is that this is a majority view in the professing Protestant church. It allows Christians to say: Israel has no importance to the Church today. God is finished there. The theologians who promote this view are clever word-masters who spiritualize vast portions of scripture which promise future blessings and earthly activies for a restored nation of Israel.....like Jeremiah 33 and the millennial temple passages in Ezekiel 40-48.
The question here is this: Why? What is the motivation for "doing away with" Israel and the Jewish people so far as their future in the plan of God? I cannot help wondering if this is not a much more subtle manifestation of this natural enmity with God and with the things of God. Even as I write this, I am aware that it seems harsh....and I do not mean to condemn any individual who holds to this viewpoint. At the same time, I see no valid hermeneutics at work in arriving at the supercessionist viewpoint. So, what is the source? What is the impetus? What presuppositions are at work when one casts out lengthy passages of scripture, negating them with obfuscatory jargon, rather than taking God at His word?
Saturday, April 23, 2011
This link is to an emotion-laden article in the Fox "News" on-line tabloid but reflects thinking which extends far beyond the tabloid mentality.
Look at this exceptionally wicked crime, and now the perpetrator is about to get an expensive medical procedure at taxpayer expense! (Insert gasps, gags, and cries of despair)
Our much-vaunted "justice" system is supposed to be a rule of law rather than rule of mob-mentality or popularity poll. We take men and women out of our general population and incarcerate them when they are convicted of crimes. The crimes are stipulated and the punishment outlined in L-A-W which supposedly is what we're all about.
It is a well-established legal position that incarcerated persons are still human and still have the right to medical care and that care is to be at the "community standard"--that is to say, we do not have inmates treated by veterinarians or shamans.
The questions which arise when sensational cases like this appear are disturbing:
Shall we admit, as a nation, that our heart is indeed so depraved that we would rejoice in seeing offenders locked up without any medical care?....."let 'em die like dogs!" Maybe we could quit feeding them, too?
Suppose this case involved: a woman, not a man? a woman who shot an abusive husband, for example (or something which inspires some sympathy....)? The volume of protests would be much lower, I'm sure. So, maybe for some crimes, for some offenders, the sentence ought to include "no medical care, no food, and no television for 40 years" ?
And, let me include this thought: I'd be happy to see laws changed to include the possibility of the death penalty for such crimes as this guy did....I have no sympathy for him, but I would like to see us obey the law, respect it as the Law, all the while we are bemoaning his law breaking.
Maybe we should take a poll. That's how much policy is determined these days. I wonder what portion of our population would be content to simply execute all felons upon conviction? No muss, no fuss....Guilty! Take him out and shoot him. No more overcrowded prisons, no more escapes, no more medical care for perverts,
The fact is that the State takes on a great responsibility in instituting a legal system such as we have. It does allow that convicted criminals are still human and have human rights. Supporting that highly moral legal code is an expensive project. I think our culture is disintegrating rapidly and that this is questioned at all is an indicator of how sick a society we are.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
In Christ alone my hope is found....
So, how true is that for you?......for me? My "thinking spell" led me down the paths of all these debates and discourses on Facebook, blogs, forums, etc. I have friends and have myself been involved in the calvinist-arminian debate; I have friends who turn all colors over the young earth-old earth arguments; I've been bent out of shape by paedo-baptist proponents. Now I have a friend who is majoring on "family integrated" assemblies, eschewing age-graded classes, etc.
Wandering further back into time, I revisited my "intellectual" roots. I was an absolute, total, vehement skeptic, unbeliever, "religion is the opiate of the masses" type of guy who by God's grace found himself married to a Christian woman (thank you, Lord!). Early in our marriage, I remember being asked by an acquaintance, a wicked, lying, crooked woman lawyer, "are you in that religious hooey?" meaning "like your silly wife?" I told her, Nah, she does her thing, I do mine.
A few years later, I decided to settle her hash about all that Bible stuff. "Read the Bible, read the Bible, read the Bible......" I kept getting that from her.......So, I said: I will read the Bible and I will show you, for your own good, what a load of baloney it is! I got me a nice "intellectual's Bible"--the Jerusalem Bible--a nice Roman Catholic production with twice as much text in scholarly footnotes as in Bible. I waded through most of the Pentateuch and was getting nowhere....made no sense whatsoever.....and she said: Go to the New Testament, read the Gospels. Yeah, right....
I never got all the way through the Gospels....the conviction of sin was so great, I was literally calling out: What must I do to be saved?!! Just another example of the power of the Word of God....absolutely remarkable, outside reason, outside intellectual understanding, simply supernatural. I pitted my intellect against God and it was no contest.
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
(1 Corinthians 1:20-21)
I need to wake up every morning being aware of this: In Christ alone my hope is found
My "great understanding" of scripture is not a source of hope; my hope is not in the truth of calvinistic soteriology. I think there is a real danger of straying into this intellectual realm, the realms of heated discourse or civil conversation are equally risky. We must not lose sight of Christ. This intellectualism is an aspect of the flesh, a manifestation of pride. Oh, I am so smart......I've got this nearly figured out! All those on the "other side" are so dense; how many more hours must I belabor them before they see the light?
I encourage you to think about these issues in the context of our presence in this world populated with lost and dying men. What's important? How much time do we have for debating, for example, "young earth vs old earth"? Do we want to be known as an outspoken leader in the field of "family integrated worship"? I am very skeptical of the field which is called "apologetics" because it seems over-run by debaters whose primary goal is outscoring an opponent, some sort of intellectual victory.....made him look like a monkey, I did! (Yes, there are a few men in this field who are doing a good job of making the Gospel the center-piece, and I am not referring to them, obviously)
Let's think about a "good debate"--suppose I call out some arminian and he and I debate "limited atonement" I'm an experienced debater (high school and college, albeit half a century ago)....I make him look like that monkey mentioned earlier; I score all the points. Does that make him a calvinist? More likely, it makes him bitter, having been humiliated, and more cautious about whom he debates in future. Me? It just puffs me up a bit more.......Then, I take on an unbeliever, a Muslim, or a cult member and really show them what's what. At the conclusion of the intellectual drubbing I deliver, will they convert? I think not; more likely, they will not see the same result I see, rather thinking they carried the day and affirmed all their own errors....so, both parties leave claiming victory and the lost are still lost; only my pride is enhanced.
I urge you to focus on the Gospel. Lost people do not need to be lectured or hectored about young earth vs old earth.....they are going to Hell no matter how old the earth is. Their only hope is in Jesus Christ........that's Christ the Person, not Christ the intellectual concept which you have garnered from your books........Christ the Person, the one of the song: In Christ alone my hope is found
Preachers, your congregations don't need you to be driven by "family integrated" church structure thinking; they sure don't need a spiritual leader who thinks he's CEO of a million-dollar business enterprise. They need the Gospel! What percentage of your congregation is lost? And you want to spend all your time selling some organizational concept? I'm talking about your FOCUS....incidentals have to be dealt with, I know.....but I'm talking to the way-too-many who are one-trick ponies, monomaniacs who get on some elaborate hobby horse generated by their fertile imagination and ride that poor horse to death, while their congregations starve spiritually for want of the Gospel.
Bottom line is: I don't care if you're young earth, old earth, or middle earth. I don't care if you have age-segregated classes or not; I don't care if you're supra or infra; I don't care if you are a total abstainer from alcohol or a wine sipper; I don't even care if you sprinkle babies! All that is between you and God. I'll tell you this for sure: Unless your hope is in Christ and Him alone, you're lost. Your intellect, your wisdom, your skills, your personality, your charisma, your experience, your education, your superior abilities in so many fields, you will carry them with you (or not) into eternity, lost.
In Christ alone my hope is found
ADDENDUM: A few hours after I posted this on my Facebook page, I added a comment there about preterists. That started a big debate which at the 4-hour mark already had nearly 40 comments.....a lot of them mine, of course. That debate is a great illustration of just the kind of intellectual rabbit trails one can be sidetracked by. Only a few folks probably read this, which I intended to be a call to the Gospel....but a good fight on some doctrinal hair-splitting draws a big crowd.
I also found this photo (which was not credited, so I cannot give credit here as I'd like to).....this is a visual illustration of just exactly what I've been trying to state verbally.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I love folks who are so consumed by the love of Christ that their pride and self-consciousness is buried and buried deep.
Earlier I wrote about that "crazy Christian" Robert Park who barged into North Korea with the stated intention of taking the Gospel to the leadership there. He's back in the U.S. and silent....I have no idea what happened to him or what his heart is.....but his actions were crazy! In the eyes of the world "crazy" that is.....
David Brainerd was crazy like that. He devoted the last 4 years of his short life to preaching the Gospel to Native Americans in New England, living among them and suffering with them. This was a guy who could have had a cushy life, going to Yale (from which he was expelled) and living in "civilized" America, but he chose to act like a crazy man.
Next century we find a guy like C. T. Studd.....heir to a fortune, sports hero of the British Empire.....gave it all up and spent the rest of his life on the mission fields in China, India and Africa, eventually dying in the Congo. They all told him he was crazy! I suspect he told them a thing or two since he was notable for very "plain talk" (a man after my own heart....lol)
E. P. Scott was a missionary to India. Despite warnings to avoid the area, he was traveling inland to evangelize a warrior tribe when he found himself surrounded by spear-toting, aggressive men. He figured he was a goner, armed only with his violin......he closed his eyes, tucked the fiddle under his chin and began to play and sing "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" Those warriors were captivated....rather than kill him, they took him to their village where he lived and preached to them for a couple years, seeing souls saved. The man was "crazy"!
We have some crazy missionaries on the fields today, too. Sadly, not enough of them. I am blessed to know one personally who is really "crazy"--he is in the Middle East, preaching the Gospel of Christ in the streets of places where Christianity is "outlawed"--Christians are under death threats and certainly subject to physical abuse, imprisonment and other persecution. He is undeterred, by the grace of God.
Too often missionary work is presented as a "tour of duty" like doing 3 years in the Army or something. Some churches promote these so-called "mission trips" which are nothing more than exotic vacations for folks who want to say they were on a mission field. They'd be better off taking the two or three or five thousand dollars they spend on these shallow endeavors and supporting a real missionary. I know indigenous pastors in Cuba who could live for a year or two on the amount of money some fat-cat American Christian spends on his glorified, "sanctified" mission trip to Costa Rica.
Real missionaries go where God sends them and they stay there til God calls them out (or Home). They do not go to take American culture to the "natives"--they go to carry the Gospel to the lost. They live with the "natives"--they live like the natives. It's incredible to see that there are still so-called missionaries in primitive cultures who insist upon having western-style housing, conveniences, and benefits, living far above the people to whom they supposedly care so much for.
In my wildest dreams, to show how "crazy" I am, too, there should be a way for missionaries on my field to "go native" There should be a way for prison missionaries to go into prisons and stay.....live as an inmate, live in a cell like any other inmate, eat with them, work with them, be one of them. He should stay there til his work is done. He should be subject to all the restrictions, rules and regulations, deprivations and degradations as his people. I speak from experience when I say it's easy to go into a prison and preach to men about the great blessings of Christ when I know in an hour I can just walk out the gate and return to the comforts of my home, family, plentiful, tasty food, and the freedom to do what I want.
Can you imagine how few candidates the NAMB would have for such a field? Naturally, this is for single men. No married man could abandon his family for this field where it would be impossible for them to accompany him. It costs about $30,000. annually for a state to maintain a prisoner. So, the NAMB could offer to pay the state that cost each year its missionary was in the prison. Of course, there would be a million waivers of liability involved should the missionary be hurt or killed or suffer from the lame medical care which most inmates get. But the IMB sends dozens of missionaries into dangerous places every year without a second thought.....why not into the danger zones of the U.S.?
I know there are a lot of practical complications of monumental proportions in this "modest proposal".....probably never happen, but it should happen--somehow. What passes for "prison ministry" is in many ways lame: give it a lick and a promise, make the gesture. We are weakened by chaplains who are drawing a check, mere bureaucrats with no heart for the inmates; we are weakened by Big Show performances by traveling circuses who think mission work is putting on an afternoon's entertainment for the inmates--a motorcycle jump and a couple songs.....we are weakened because the lack of sincerity on the part of some is discerned by the inmates who are then suspicious of all ministries.
How few Christians are willing to even look foolish for Christ! We have our pride--indeed we do. Just the idea of being rebuffed in efforts to make a Gospel witness at work or at the grocery store is intimidating most people into silence. How few there are who will really risk anything, let alone everything--or more than "risk" it, to forsake it! How we struggle to dilute this passage of scripture in order to continue in our self-justified inaction--
And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
Friday, March 19, 2010
I've posted a number of photos of church signs with those incredibly vacuous, insipid, Gospel-less slogans -- ostensibly a way for that church to "reach" passers-by. Reach them with what is not quite clear....
A friend commented recently "wonder what goes on inside a church which puts that on the outside?" I told her the same type stuff was being proclaimed from the pulpit as from the sign. How could we think otherwise?.......surely no doctrinally sound pastor would allow such drivel as their public witness.
So, this is the "connection" I refer to. There is a dismaying amount of drivel falling from the lips of preachers, even some from whom we might expect better. Just recently, I've been exposed to a flood of sloganeering by supposedly sound preachers. These guys are masters of the quip and the quote. They can wow you with blurbs from all the Big Names.....MacArthur, Tozer, Spurgeon, Piper, et al.
This is a variant of the "spring board sermon" where the preacher starts with his idea, his theme, his point.......then he searches the Bible to find a verse (note: a verse) which he feels supports this idea. Building his structure upon one verse, he springs into action, lambasting the hearers with his own pet ideas whilst claiming Biblical support from the out of context verse.
Now we can get instead of a verse, a one-liner from Spurgeon or one of the other icons. From then on, the preacher goes where his own imagination takes him, having justified his thoughts by appealing to one of the Masters.
Another variant is the "borrowed sermon" These guys read Piper, MacArthur, Spurgeon (less so) and next thing you know, they have a sermon! Nice little 3-pointer, sometimes complete will illustrations. This, of course, has been going on for centuries. Some of the most popular books I sell are collections of sermons by Clovis Chappell, Clarence Macartney, and F W. Boreham. Those sermons have been preached and re-preached for nearly 100 years.
The question is: Why do they do this?
The answer is: They don't have nothin' else.
Some birds (pigeons and doves, maybe some others) feed their babies by going out, finding a nice meal and eating it.....back in the nest, they regurgitate that meal in a form palatable to the babies. This is called "pigeon milk"
Lots of congregations of hungry Christians are being fed on regurgitated theology. Those preachers read a clever bit on Piper's website or a MacArthur book, or had a good time on Phil Johnson's Spurgeon site.....and they carry this bit into the pulpit with them Sunday morning and spit it out for the starving sheep.
Baby pigeons thrive on that stuff. Baby Christians will starve.
Much as I like all the Greats I have mentioned here, their writings are inadequate food. Where have we read that:
Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word which comes from the mouth of Spurgeon (Piper, etc)? No, that's not it. These guys who are imitating some other preacher, "borrowing" his sermons, quoting him endlessly, in fact, worshiping some man.....are on dangerous ground. They are in danger and their congregations are starving.
I have lots of books; I have lots of commentaries (though I will say I don't use them much these days except for a word study perhaps)...but what I need is a Word from God, not from Spurgeon. Some preachers think a dream come true would be them locked away in a luxury hotel room, with tons of food, hundreds of books to read and "study" and at the end of that stay, they'd be a more powerful preacher. I'm going to tell you that the ideal would be locked up in a bare room with some water and saltines, a pencil and paper, and the Word of God.....after a couple weeks, a changed man would emerge.
All this man-made stuff lacks nutrition. Preachers need a Word from God. They will not get it from reading second-hand stuff, even if it's written by Godly men. Cut out the middle man! Go to the Source! Lock up all those commentaries and sermons books and get into the Word! Your congregation is hungry, some of them are starving,
Feed my sheep!
Monday, February 22, 2010
Some time ago, I commented about a pastor who "snuck in" a new member for his congregation by concealing the fact that the man was not "scripturally baptized"--that is, according to Baptist practices and tradtions. Most all my experience in this regard (or any other) is Baptist in one way or another. I read about other denominations; I see talk among the "reformed" folks about baptism as a "means of grace" and all that but don't buy into it.
Anyway, the thinking I've done since writing about that membership issue has led me to a more radical position regarding church membership in general. Within the tradition, what I said about that particular incident is correct but now I question the validity of the tradition itself. I have several questions for us to ponder and am uncertain as to the order in which to present them. Let's start with this one: What is baptism?
Baptism is the center of much controversy in Christendom. I think it's clear from Scripture that there are two forms of baptism: Holy Spirit baptism and water baptism. It seems that the two are often confused, though I don't know why, unless it's a deliberate effort to support an otherwise untenable doctrine.
Water baptism is purely symbolic or pictorial. It is not efficacious with regard to salvation. As I understand "means of grace" it is not a "means of grace" It is testimonial; it is an effort to demonstrate visually to an audience something which has transpired on a spiritual level, to wit: one's death to the things of the flesh, his burial with Christ, his resurrection with Christ to live a life in Christ, for Christ, and by the power of Christ. Water baptism is an act incumbent upon a believer; it is to be done because of the transforming work of God which made that believer a "new creation"--it is done after salvation, as a demonstration of what God has already done. It is not done in order to effect change but to demonstrate the change which has been effected.
That change, that transforming work of God in the life of a man results from the "other baptism"--the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is not an external, visible thing in which man plays a role, but the sovereign work of God. This is the work by which God makes men "new creations" and unites them with Christ. Some groups make a big deal about what man immerses another man in water baptism....they actually boast about it (in a spiritual way, of course)..."I was baptized by Jim Bob Miller!" Idolatry takes many forms......
Well, if one is gonna brag, he should go to the Top. As a believer, I can say I was baptized by Jesus Christ. Yes! He is the Baptizer....in the baptism which is most important: the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
John the Baptist in Matthew 3:11 "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
The confusion over two baptisms and the conflation of purposes has led us into a real mess about church membership, baptismal regeneration, and numerous other issues. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,,,,(1 Corinthians 12:13) Water or Holy Spirit baptism? Clearly, "one Spirit"--so, what is this "one body"? And he is the head of the body, the church. ....(Colossians 1:18). So, believers are, by the work of the Holy Spirit baptism, united with the Body of Christ, the Church.
This forces us to state what the "Church" is and is not. The Greek word ἐκκλησία is rendered "church" throughout the New Testament when referring to both the Body of Christ and to local assemblies. This is the underlying source of confusion. Men begin to equate the local gatherings of believers with the Body of Christ. I have even heard pastors refer to their congregation as "the Body" when in fact they are not. Does Christ have more than one body? No. These local congregations, at least the truly regenerate persons therein, are members of the Body, but the entire Body is not there. I think we would be better off if we were able to purge our minds of the idea that these local assemblies are The Church (but that's probably impossible). If only we could call them something other than "church" so as to give the only True Church its full import and standing.
From my limited experience, I have the feeling that Baptists are particularly bad about overstating the nature of the local assemblies. I rank as one of the most outlandish statements ever heard one from a Baptist pastor who was "teaching" through Ephesians that "Ephesians is all about the local church" It was notable also that when he finished Ephesians and started into Philippians, he told his congregation that "Philippians is all about the local church" So, maybe his view of the local church is a bit warped.....
And, it's out of this confusion that we see arising ideas about water baptism and "church membership" To all my Baptist friends, what is the scriptural basis for this idea of being "baptized into church membership"? You see, it must be born out of the "by one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body"....the confusion of water baptism with Holy Spirit baptism and the confusion of being united with Christ by that work of God and becoming a "member" of a local assembly by immersion into water.
In my work as a missionary to prison inmates, I have been criticized by Baptists for baptizing inmates. "What church do you baptize them into?" "What church has given you authority to baptize those men?" Can you believe those questions? They're real....from sincere brothers. I ask them "What church did Phillip baptize the Ethiopian eunuch into?" "Where is the scripture outlining authority to immerse converts?" You want to tell me that the gathering of believers I met with last night is deficient with respect to being a local assembly of God's children? Oh! They don't have business meetings, they don't take up offerings, and they don't belong to the ministerial associations......and I'll assure you, some of those gatherings are closer to the model given in the Book of Acts than 99% of modern "churches" I'm familiar with.
So, what is this "membership" thing? The only Biblical references to "member" (primarily in I Cor 12) refer to individual believers being members (as in body parts) of the Body of Christ.....united with Him by the work of the Holy Spirit. There is no mention of being a "member" of a local assembly; there is no procedure outlined for "joining" a local assembly. Men and women can join clubs, become members of Rotary or the Country Club, but there is no provision for "joining" a local assembly of believers via the baptistery. This is a man-made tradition and has the effect of continuing misunderstanding and promoting ignorance about baptism and the constitution of the Church.
We are commanded to forsake not the assembling of ourselves with other believers. God gives teachers and pastors to local assemblies for the purpose of edifying His saints. That assembly is not, however, a club or society which we "join" by being immersed (or by any other means). Believers are "members" of only one Church--the Body of Christ and union with that Church is effected by the Holy Spirit.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
ONLY ONE LIFE
Two little lines I heard one day, Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart, And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgment seat;
Only one life,’ twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice, Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave, And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, a few brief years, Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill, living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
When this bright world would tempt me sore, When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way, Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Give me Father, a purpose deep, In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife, Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Oh let my love with fervor burn, And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone, Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one, Now let me say, “Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call, I know I’ll say ‘twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’ twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Why did he do this?
Park reportedly carried a letter addressed to Kim and other leaders calling on them to repent.
“I proclaim Christ’s love and forgiveness towards you today. God promises mercy and clemency for those who repent,” Park said in the letter, which was made public Saturday.
Reaction from around the world is nearly unanimous: Park is "stupid"--he is "deranged"--he is "suffering from a martyr complex"
I've not seen any positive view of his actions, even from the "church world" Understandable, in that his actions certainly are not in keeping with the methodology of the modern "church"
Now, I do not know Park at all; never heard of him until he did this deed. I have no idea of his mental state; I have no idea of his theology. He might be a deranged person. He might be a heretic. He might believe in common-cup communion or trine immersion. It's possible that he's on the wrong side of the "supra vs infra" argument.
So, I'm really not talking about Robert Park, per se, but more of Robert Park as a "type" of Christian. This type is so rare as to be unrecognized by the very church which he serves. Allowing that there are a few exceptions, I stipulate that, he is completely out of character for a 21st century Christian.
He is a throwback to the Book of Acts. He is behaving as if he takes literally the commandments of Christ: things like Luke 9:23. He has read Matthew 24:9 and is undeterred. He acts as if Paul's stirring declaration that "to live is Christ, to die is gain" is literally true.
Why does he not just settle down in Arizona and act like a normal Christian? You don't see the rest of his congregation jumping on planes and flying to Korea to join him across the river, do you?....or Christians from any other congregation. Well, they're different.....they're not like him.
The difference is: he has a burden. Burdens are something normal Christians take great pains to avoid. Those things are not called "burdens" for nothing.....they are a real nuisance, a disrupter, yea a destroyer of our comfortable life. Congregations love to sing "Jesus Saves"....."we have heard the Macedonian call today...." Singing it is fine....just don't get carried away!.......like Paul did:
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:9-10)
See, when Paul heard the Macedonian call, "immediately we sought to go...." That's where the "crazy" part comes in. Paul and his team went...they didn't just make up a song about it......they went! They went because they had a vision, a burden; they went because the love of Christ constrained them. They went because the knowledge of perishing souls was more than an intellectual concept to them; it was a matter of heart.
So, Robert Park has a burden for the people of North Korea. He has gone. He might lose his life in the bargain. Just for a moment, let's imagine what could happen if the church had a burden. Imagine now that 100 Christians were burdened by God for North Korean souls......and they followed in Park's footsteps across that river.....and the authorities take them and do whatever they do to folks who come into that country with Bibles and Gospel tracts and the Word of God in their hearts.
And 100 who heard the call are swallowed up......but God is not finished. Following the 100, come 1000 or 10,000 with a burden for lost souls, led by the Spirit of God. Imagine an Army of God marching across that river singing "Jesus Saves"...sung by those who have really heard the call! Imagine a local congregation, maybe like yours, with a $3 million budget and a thousand members, responding to the call by saying: We'll go! Three chartered 747's filled with all the membership, flying to Seoul, busing to the river bank, marching across under the Banner of the Gospel......
Yeah, wild idea......vivid imagination. Never happen. Why? Is God not calling? Does He not care for North Korean souls? ...or those in another equally "dangerous" place? As Spurgeon said, He called. He called, but men ignore Him. We don't want to hear it. We do not care for their souls. We love to make the appropriate noises, to go through the motions, but when it comes to laying our life on the line, we are staying here where it's safe and comfy and warm.
"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. "
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Not surprisingly, there is a lot of talk about "evangelism" in the church world. Probably everyone reading this knows the English word is derived from the Greek εὐαγγελίζω--a compound word meaning "to announce or declare good news"......and Gospel means "good news"........So primarily , evangelism is declaring the Gospel. I would postulate that any effort which does not declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not evangelism, not matter what else it might be.
The so-called evangelical world has seen some strange practices in the name of this "evangelism" In my early days as a believer, there was a very prominent Baptist preacher who taught and practiced what I call "easy-believism"--an extreme form of decisional regeneration, which still infects the Baptist world. This fellow boasted of encounters during his door-to-door "soul-winning" efforts in which he duped confused people into saying the "sinner's prayer" and thereby, according to his theology, led them to Christ. This preacher regaled us with stories such as meeting with a young couple who were desperate financially, unable to pay their apartment rent. He offered to pray with them, those two unbelievers, about their plight and "cleverly" had them recite a form of the sinner's prayer during their plea for help paying the rent. Following that, he pronounced them to be "born again"! Similar stories abound but all are the same with regard to trickery and emotional sleight-of-hand being used to manipulate people into reciting the "magic words" of the sinner's prayer, as if that had any effect on the eternal state of those misguided souls.
A second area of cleverness is in church signs. Of course, these are quite a topic of conversation. There's even a blog dedicated to them. These signs are literally a "declaration"--too bad so few of them declare the Gospel. For the most part, they declare nonsense; they declare insipid sentimentality; they declare vulgar trivializations of the Word; they declare unscriptural, humanistic philosophy. It's a rare church sign which declares Christ. Above is a photo of one I saw recently. When I posted it on Facebook, without comment, there were actually favorable reactions to it. People think it's clever! The fact that it diminishes the Glory of Christ, equating His work and being to something mundane and worldly does not even register on some readers.
I have it in my mind that we are commanded to bear a certain attitude when approaching lost people with the Gospel. We are ambassadors for Christ, are we not? Does not a calling like that require us to behave in the manner appropriate to a servant of the King? Yet, in street preaching and other situations where opposition is met, there is too often a confrontational attitude which does no credit to our Ruler. We can also be tempted by the ways of the world, by the appeal of clever marketing, subtle trickery in order to gain the foothold we feel is necessary for "success" I saw a gospel tract recently designed to be distributed to shoppers--in a store or in a mall. The "gospel" aspect of it looked good, but the opening sentences were along the lines of "Welcome to this shopping facility. The management appreciates your business......" I'm sorry but that's just too clever for me. Does that not imply "management's" endorsement of the tract and the person handing it out? Does it not imply authority from the store/mall ownership to be there? And, more than that, I have to ask: Why? Is it even necessary? Why cannot one simply hand out a tract bearing the Good News without the deception? How dare any believer take it upon himself to speak with the authority of a business owner in a situation like that. Oh, you may say "very few will take any notice of that..." True, probably.......very few will read the tract at all; but how about the ones who do and see through this trickery? More ammunition for the enemies of the Gospel....giving the enemies of God cause to blaspheme. We are called upon to be blameless in our behavior, especially since we represent Him before this lost world.
Clever, clever, clever........men are so clever. In my book-selling business, I make lots of trips to the post office. Every time, no matter how familiar I am to the clerks, how many hundred packages I have mailed previously, they always ask: Does your package contains anything liquid, fragile, perishable, or potentially hazardous? It's their job; they have to ask that. I'm sure it's much more boring to them than it is to me. I heard about a preacher who was shipping a box of Bibles and decided that was a good opportunity for "evangelism"......During the question, he interrupted the clerk with clever comments like: "liquid?--it's the Water of life"......"fragile? well, no, but they contain the Ten Commandments and we've broken all them"......"perishable? unless you repent you will likewise perish..." Then he gave the clerk a gospel tract. Is that clever, or what? I am at a loss as to how exactly that behavior glorifies God, declares the Gospel, or is in any way the type of evangelism we are commanded to do. I've been embarrassed by the public performances of some preachers in the past but I am grateful I was not there for this monumental display of cleverness.
One more example.......just the other day, I saw one of those ubiquitous fwd emails with the recommendation that all believers send a Christmas card to the ACLU. Of course, this was motivated by the anti-Bible, anti-Christian lawsuits and so forth which the ACLU gets involved in. They are notorious for being on the "wrong side" most of the time. Most revealing in this appeal for the clever action was the statement, yea, the hope--that the great influx of mail would have a devastating effect on their operations and cause a great deal of inconvenience, expense, and so forth. So clever!......but is this the heart of Christ? Is this evangelism? Is there any indication of love for the lost herein? Or is this merely, as it appears to me, a way of retaliation, a bit of clever warfare.......harmless, right?
Harmless and clever. Are these the criteria for our efforts in the name of Christ? Is there Gospel in any of this? Where's the Good News? What does this say about the heart of the perpetrators? And, these things are from "the church".....this is what is offered to a lost, dying, hopeless world. No wonder the world laughs at "the church"....sometimes it's just as clever as the rest of the world.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
If I'd ever been good enough to play pro baseball, a .333 average might have been pretty good.....but in this world of picking and recommending doctrinally-sound ministry sites, it ain't too hot.
That's what I did about 2 or 3 months ago when I posted an article here recommending 3 sites I had just discovered.
About a month later, I had to delete one when I found out the main emphasis was the bitterness of the author who used the site for his personal ax-grinding.
Today, I had to delete another one, having learned that the leader of this one is just another "I am not accountable to anyone" ego-driven juvenile. I'm sure there are lots of Godly people involved in that one but fear that they'll not get much guidance from this "pastor"
Sad, but not surprising.
Here's an update: I am now batting 0 for 3. The last of those 3 "exciting" ministries has showed itself to be less than one would hope. The idea of exposing the Word of Faith wolves is still commendable but the leadership there has been carried away by various winds of doctrine, trying to be all things to all men in the worldly way. Currently they are enamored of all the anti-Obama nonsense: "he's a Muslim" "he's the Anti-Christ" and they seem to find this much more urgent than striving for pure doctrine in their churches.
I expressed my thoughts to the leadership there and found that criticism is not wanted.....lol. Actually the leadership did not bother responding to my personal email but threw out a few public comments and then did the ultimate dismissal: he defriended me on Facebook! So, I'm in mourning over that.....
Seriously, though, I recommended this ministry because I appreciated what they were then doing. I now un-recommend it (for what that's worth) because they have lost their way. We're praying (I'm not the only one who has been discarded) that God will lead them back to the battlefield.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
In the area of Practice: Local churches arose during this resurgence, preaching the doctrines of grace, aiming at a truly-regenerate membership, exercising Biblical church discipline, emphasizing expository preaching, etc. Now, at this point in the journey, I see the leaven beginning to work. All around these "sound" churches were the world's pseudo-churches with their Word of Faith, prosperity "gospel" teachings, big crowds, big budgets, high-flying celebrity preachers. Some of this has been assimilated into the doctrinal assemblies.
One begins to hear the distant echo of "prosperity" preaching amongst the nuggets of Truth. As budget shortfalls occur, as leaders try to maintain their salaries and their multi-million dollar edifices, the appeals for increased offerings include tales of "how God blessed me" for various feats of giving money. Of course, since my experiences are almost 100% Baptist, one is never far from Malachi 3:10 and the absolute dictum that all giving must come to the local church.
The Doctrine side, however, is even more telling, it seems to me. Basically, the Reformation was about Justification by faith alone, apart from works. Now, as we approach the 500th anniversary of Luther's declaration, we see this doctrine in dispute again. Today, however, the idea of Justification by faith alone is not being undermined by Rome and their Tetzels selling indulgences....but by men who are labeled by themselves and by others as "reformed".
First, a bit of an aside as to what I see as an underlying element in the problem today. If one is labeled "reformed" he is "in".....whatever else he might say or do is acceptable to the "reformed" world. That's why we have foul-mouthed pastors like Mark Driscoll being pampered and tolerated: oh, he's "reformed" That's why we have theologians pushing heretical doctrines like "conditional justification" being welcomed by prominent leaders: oh, they're reformed.
I'm not going to re-hash all the fine points of the doctrines involved here. I've ranted about them elsewhere and any Google search you do will provide loads of details if you are not familiar with the "New Perspective on Paul" born out of the writings of N. T. Wright and the idea of "Federal Vision" promoted by Doug Wilson among others. These are tied in with modern views on Second Temple Judaism and all involve "conditional justification" in one way or another.
What is eye-catching: the "welcome mat" being rolled out for these heresies by John Piper and those who are in his "camp" within "reformed" theology, within this resurgence of the past 30 years. Piper defends to some degree or another both these men and their philosophies and flatly will not say that they are preaching "another gospel" when in fact that is exactly what they are doing. These guys are great intellects. Calvinism has always had a weak spot in that there is such a great appeal to the intellect; calvinists are often accused (and often rightly so) of being intellectual snobs and possessed of an air of academic superiority over the lowly, ignorant arminians. The younger set in this resurgence is enamored of Piper and now enamored of the following generation: Driscoll, Chandler, Chan....They are also impressed by the intellectual prowess of Wright and perhaps of Wilson (who is not an academic). There is some fallow ground for these poisonous seeds......and here's the "father-figure" to all these young calvinists fawning all over these heretics.
R. Scott Clark has written very well on the technical, theological aspects of this, far beyond my abilities. I want to give you a brief, summarizing comment from one of his articles:
"Here's a gift and here's what you have to do to keep it" isn't good news for sinners who cannot do "their part," not even with the help of grace. If "grace and cooperation with grace" is such good news, why not skip the FV and simply become Roman Catholic? Honestly? That's been the consistent Roman doctrine since the early middle ages. It's been the official Roman doctrine since the session 6 of the Council of Trent.
"...simply become Roman Catholic".....exactly! That's where this is heading folks....not a surprise if you've ever read the Revelation. A week of so ago, I was reading on a particular point in The Catholic Doctrine of the Atonement by Oxenham. Their idea of "infused" righteousness as opposed to "imputed" righteousness fits right into this "conditional justification" heresy. The idea is, basically, that rather than having the Righteousness of Christ put on us as sinners (imputed), we have righteousness put into us (infused) by Him and thereby become righteous in and of ourselves. And now, Wright and Wilson say that in the final judgment we shall learn if we did well enough with that "righteousness" and have earned the reward of eternal life.
And this kind of stuff is coming from "reformed" preachers and being promoted by the leadership of the "reformed" church today. I think I can see the Seven Hills on the horizon.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
What's more clear is history. There was a Reformation. Certain dramatic changes transpired as Protestant churches were born out of the move to correct Rome's perversion of Biblical teachings.
Another thing clear, to me at least, is that the Reformation was not complete nor perfect. Many (most?) of those Protestant churches did more to correct doctrinal error than other aspects of Romanism, like liturgy, iconography, other trappings which were to some degree or another carried into the "new" churches.
One would have hoped, had he lived in the 16th century, to see the purification of doctrine continue through the years, getting purer and purer as time went on. I don't think this happened either. It peaked somewhere. Someone with a better grasp of church history might be able to pinpoint a date.....my guess is that the peak of "improvement" was long before 1840......maybe in the mid-1700's.
Since that peak, whenever it occurred, the doctrinal stance of the Protestant churches in general has been on a downhill slide. Consider a few factors: mid-19th century: Finney-ism begins, the German Biblical "higher criticism" begins; early 20th century, American "modernism" begins, led by the Fosdicks and Van Dykes among others. By the mid-20th century, we have the new permutation of Finney-ism promoted by the "fundamentalists" so-called, the decisional regeneration movement from Billy Graham to Jack Hyles.
A reaction to that superficial theology of the late 20th century gave birth to a resurgence of calvinist soteriology, especially in the Baptist world. The idea that God is truly sovereign regained a place of prominence in some circles. From 1990 or so, we have been taught and led by men like Al Mohler, John Piper, John MacArthur, and many others, and this has led to to a renewed appreciation of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, A. W. Pink, the Puritans, and other sources of solid Biblical teaching from the past.
I think another peak has been reached and passed, however, and will elaborate on that thought in Part Two.
Saturday, October 31, 2009