Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Robert Park, a man from Arizona who is of Korean ancestry, walked across the frozen river which divides South Korea from the totalitarian, Godless North Korean police state. Apparently he is now in custody of their state police. How crazy is that?

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. "
(Mark 8:34-35)

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


Here's some "inside" background to the attack on John MacArthur I've referred to in earlier posts.

John MacArthur is not saved!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


If you scroll down, you'll find a post entitled: Batting .333 which reads:

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 previous post I postulated that the current "resurgence" of sound doctrine seems to have peaked and is now on a downward slope. My view of this is two-fold: Practice and Doctrine.

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


First, let me say that I am not only a premillennialist, my eschatology is pretty much standard fundamentalist Baptist stuff which means I see a real possibility of connection between the Church of Rome today and the future world government/church of the Revelation. That might be in the "less-than-dogmatic" column, however.

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


Greg has done a tremendous job with this. No, it's not perfect, but it's convicting, none the less.


Thursday, October 29, 2009


Recently I blogged about the outrageous expenditure of $$$ for extravagant buildings, etc, at "Christian" colleges and seminaries, with an additional remark or two regarding the SBTS honor afforded Bible-denier and former seminary president Duke McCall. That was prompted by the arrival of that month's issue of the SBTS magazine.

Yesterday, my current issue arrived. Apparently it is designed as fodder for my rants....because this current issue celebrates the 15th anniversary of the "Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism" there on the Louisville campus. Billy Graham!....ain't that wonderful?

Yes, that naming did take place 15+ years ago, but.....even then, I had a pretty good idea where Billy Graham was coming from, so it's hard to believe that Al Mohler, Thom Rainer, et al, were duped like the large majority of churchdom which still views Graham as a reincarnation of the Apostle Paul.

So, two issues, two great bits of man-worship: one guy who as a theologian was a great politician, and one man who made decisional regeneration and ecumenism the American Standard. (I might excuse Mohler and the teaching staff at SBTS somewhat because I know they do not make these decisions. This is the stuff decided by dollars; whoever pays the piper calls the tune. What I rebuke them for is not standing against these "honors" publicly)

Anyway, in the spirit of the moment, I am privileged to announce some future plans for Honors at SBTS. Several other such events are in the works; I am privy to the "inside dope" and am going to give you a peek at these exciting developments right here, and now!

The next three events will honor some well-known public figures who are also Southern Baptist deacons and leaders. Here are the names and the Honor which is forthcoming:

BILL CLINTON: He will have a chair endowed in his honor: The William Jefferson Clinton Chair for Ethical Studies.

AL GORE: SBTS is adding a wing onto the Science Building to be named in Al's honor: The Gore Global Warming Wing.

JIMMY CARTER: Another endowed chair--this one The Jimmy Carter Chair for Studies in International Diplomacy and Terrorist Appeasement

I'm sure you will all agree that those 3 Southern Baptist gentlemen are every bit as deserving as the two previously discussed.

The Powers That Be have also decided, in the spirit of ecumenism, to honor someone from outside the SBC camp. The first recipient of such an honor will be:

ORAL ROBERTS. This pioneer in televangelism and mass-marketing of religion will be honored with a new building on campus:

The Oral Roberts Student Medical Center

(actually, this will not be a large building.....more of a kiosk or gazebo-type structure which contains a portrait of Roberts and an icon or relic, perhaps one of his sweat-stained hankies. Students who are ill can come into the kiosk, into the presence of the portrait, touch the relic, and be healed!)

I'm sure all of you are excited by these prospects as I am....and I'm sure there will be more such Honors down the road--just so the $$$ keep rolling in to support this Kingdom Work.

Monday, October 26, 2009


I once wrote on the subject of dispensationalism's loosening grip (on me).....today it's a similar thing, in a way. My two-year-old fascination with Facebook is fading, fast.

Not Facebook's fault, either. It is defined as a "social networking" enterprise. Fact is, I am not "social". The older I get, the more single-minded I am. There's not much I'm interested in.

The problem with that is, I think others should be the same way....that ain't working out too well. I have only 70-odd "friends" on Facebook. I cull that list continually in an effort for it to be meaningful, not just a collection of names. It is, more or less, a small group of folks with whom I have much in common......and those interests are theological and, for the most part, fall within a very narrow view of theology.

Despite my best efforts, these people still will not "do right"! I think I'd be better off not knowing that "preachers" and "pastors" can spend hours, even on the Lord's Day, posting play-by-play results from whatever the Game of the Day might be. A pastor can post a "status" comment about an athlete and have thirty or more responses within an hour and all sorts of interest and excitement is generated. Contrary-wise, one can post some reflection on spiritual matters and perhaps have a response from one or two readers.

Now, I'm not as stupid as this might make me sound. I know this is not new; I know it is not Facebook's fault. It's really just my problem. First, I'd like someplace to fellowship with fellow believers where the things of God are the primary focus. It's me who's trying to force Facebook into a box for which it was not designed.

Secondly, I know that it's me who finds this national obsession with sports to be a dismaying idolatry not acknowledged by most Christians--apparently because they're into it themselves. Compounding my most recent upset in this area is the fact that it was on Sunday. Of course, I have all kinds of problems there......I guess I'm almost a sabbatarian. I'm one of those guys who cannot "get it" why God gave Ten Commandments but only 9 of them mean anything today.

So, I get all bent out of shape when preachers and ministers, not to mention their flock, cannot wait to get away from the church building, the preaching, the fellowship of the saints, and settle down in front of the wide-screen on Sunday after Sunday to watch whatever sport is du jour. I mean the "whew!....glad that's over.....now let's play ball" is palpable in some circumstances.

Sabbatarianism aside, can we not, even those of us supposed "elders" and "pastors," give over completely to the things of God, one day out of seven? Maybe I am oversimplifying, but the Word says that which comes out of our mouth is born in our heart and reflects its state....and I find all these believers barely out of the building on Sunday all excited and carrying on about ball players and so forth, with an expenditure of energy rarely seen in Gospel endeavors. I had the temerity to tell one group that it was too bad that the Gospel was not so exciting as the subject of the sports discussion.....but was promptly informed by more than one that they had done their Gospel duty earlier in the day......Well, good to get that drudgery out of the way, I guess....then we can have a good time.

Oh, well. I'm just old and tired.....really sick of this world and the way it has utterly corrupted the "church" and most of its membership....especially saddened and discouraged to see that the leadership is just as bad, thus offering no hope for change. Maybe I'll turn on the tv and see if there's a game on......

(I could extend this rant and substitute "political raving" in place of sports.....it's just as bad, just as distracting from the Gospel, and just as wasteful of the little time we have remaining......but I'll spare you for now)

Thursday, October 22, 2009


In a comment on my previous article, Brother Mike said "There seems to be a lack of "go do" in our churches today. At least there is on the local front.

Now if you call for a 'mission trip' to some country whose name is difficult to pronounce everyone seems to jump on board. Why? Because it's the trendy and popular thing to do."

This is an excellent example of the mind-set I am at war with. We have church members allowed to "fall through the cracks" right in front of our eyes because we can not or will not expend the effort because it's laborious, mundane, and (publicly) unrewarding. Fact is: our hearts simply are not in it.

But let come the announcement of that "mission trip" to Mexico, Costa Rica, Alaska, etc, and it's "Sign me up, brother! I want to reach people for the Lord!" (I know in advance that this is a real "rant arena" for me and I'm trying to stifle myself....a bit) Maybe some good comes of these things; I'll allow that I am probably not 100% right on this.......however, I am probably never going to be convinced that in most cases these things are not simply glorified vacations which serve further to assuage the consciences of church members who have never lifted a finger on the home front. Their neighbors are untold; their family is untold; their work associates are untold.....but they want to spend $6000. to go to Timbuktu for a week and "win souls"

And this can be extrapolated (with some loss of accuracy, I'm sure) to entire congregations which "Go For The Glory" They have elaborate, well-promoted, well-funded foreign missions programs. Most all this involves supporting financially men and women already on the field, around the world. The maps are up in the hallway and reports are received regularly. Missionaries on leave come by the "supporting church" and do the slide show....."We're a Missionary Church!"

This same church, it might be noted, has no prison or jail ministry; they have no nursing home ministry; they have no food pantry, kitchen, clothing supply, disaster work crews, homeless care ministry, etc, etc, and ETC. None! Fact is, they have no local outreach at all. This "Missionary Church" says to the community where it lives: "We don't have time or patience to deal with you; we're involved in the Lord's work all over the world."

Please correct me here.....but it looks to me like it boils down to this: "We're a Missionary Church" ain't hittin' a lick except to write the check once a month to fund someone else to do the dirty work....and that does not translate into anything local. I mean, it's hard to send out a missionary to your own town, right? So, we can have this big budget, big annual meeting, and big map on the wall, and we can look really good! The idea of actually gettin' off the pew and out into the streets and talking to real people, even dirty, uneducated, uncouth, people not of "our kind"......now that's a bit much. Don't even talk about going into a nursing home to those smelly, pathetic, mindless old people....or a jail or prison and associating with those people!

"We're a Missionary Church" all right.....just so we can keep it convenient, clean, with lots of acclaim, and maybe even get some time on the beach, huh?

Friday, October 16, 2009


Despite loud (very loud) protestations to the contrary, it seems to me that the local churches are writing off a certain number of folks who "fall through the cracks"....just as in a business model where there are bound to be losses through shoplifting or breakage: part of the game, they say.

Mostly this is a characteristic of large congregations.....how large? who can say specifically? It does seem to me, in my thoroughly subjective view of this, that the larger the congregation, the more likely it is to happen, and the more likely it is to be "written off" as a natural consequence.

It's like there is an unwritten protocol, a time frame in which absent members or wayward members are dealt with. If a family absents itself for a week or two, they get the phone calls, perhaps even personal visits. After a month, this contact diminishes; after two months or so, all communication ceases. The times vary but the end result is the same: "members" of the body are amputated. The attitude out of which this is born reminds me of the old Hollywood line "What have you done for me lately?" If someone is not currently behaving in a manner befitting your ideal, they are to be cut off and forgotten!

If my reader here is naive, he might be thinking I am harsh. Let me give you just one example. Several years ago, we joined a prominent church in a new (to us) community. I was in the very early days of prison ministry. Our new pastor gave us a directory of church members and I spent some time looking though it, identifying folks whom we'd met and wondering about those whom I'd never seen in the services. Most of the photos were of families or couples but there was one which caught my eye: a single man, 35-40....I'd never seen him around. I asked the pastor about him. "Oh, he's in jail I think...."

"Have you been to see him?" I asked. Nah, he thought some one had, one of the deacons. I asked around and no one knew much. (Turns out I asked the wrong people, but didn't learn that til later) About a year later, after we had started weekly meetings in one of the state prisons in this county, that very fellow from the directory walked into the chapel. He'd been in prison for 4 years at that point. He'd had no contact with anyone from the church.

That story has a happy ending. He is out on parole now, working, and attending church regularly (not the church where he was once a member, however...nor am I, for that matter). You see what I'm saying?....after a certain period of time, people are just written off, forgotten. "oh, he doesn't go here any more"

I know I said "one example" and this is not another, just a generality. Nursing home residents are another forgotten group. At one time, we did a lot of nursing home ministry. I cannot tell you how many folks I talked with week after week and asked if they were Christians, if they were "church members" and so forth, and how many responded along the lines of "I used to be a member of such and such a church"...but they'd lived in that nursing home for years and had no contact with their "church family"

"Well, they quit coming......." Yep, sure did! Locked up, shut in, disabled, paralyzed, mind's slipping, immobilzed by aging and illness.....they quit coming. And the "church" quit caring......

No, the "church" never cared. It was all "form" When one is there, in the proper place, making the proper sounds and motions, they are cool......they are part of the show. When one becomes anomalous, some effort is made to bring him back into the expected pattern, but if those efforts fail, the anomalies are quickly abandoned. Too much effort required, too much a departure from the routine, the sacred routine.

As we used to say in the insurance business, when 90 or so of us gathered for the hated, mandatory "sales meeting".....and the start was delayed because one guy was late..."One monkey don't stop the show"....The church is down with that! Those who fall by the wayside are left after minimal, token efforts....we cannot slow down the juggernaut simply to minister to a single person or couple. You win some, you lose some......

Wednesday, September 30, 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.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I think it's time for another Reformation. The first one did great things with regard to theology, particularly the theology of Justification. Unfortunately, those reformers carried over the trappings of the Roman church with regard to nearly everything else.....paedo-baptism, formalism, this firmly-entrenched clergy-laity dichotomy, the idea that a church building must rival the Taj Mahal, the idea of centralizing power in one man (within a congregation or within a denomination).

House churches could be the genesis of such a reformation. The potential is there, but so is the potential to end up with something which is different but not better. I saw a poignant example of that the other day on the website of a prominent house church advocate where a guy was railing against the perversion of "authority" in traditional churches, "one-man dictatorships" and how the church should be a democracy. Then, in the next breath, as he made the pitch for selling his sermon recordings, he warned that his sermons were "harsh" dogmatic and might seem mean-spirited........So, in his effort to unseat the present problem, he acts just like his "enemy"......wonderful!

The old cliche about "throwing the baby out with the bath water" is apropos in this situation. I do not dispute that traditional churches are fraught with problems. The problems do not exist because these churches are following the Biblical examples and instructions, however, but because they are not following them. The house church which begins by ignoring or manipulating clear Biblical structures is bound for failure...failure to be a Biblical church, anyway. It might be a success in the eyes of those who were looking for an escape from church discipline, from accountability, etc, but it will be no better than the traditional off-course congregation of today......just same mess, different location.

I've been reading house church stuff since the 70's but I don't pretend to be an expert on all the "schools of thought" in the field. I've been a leader in 3 church starts, one of which began in our living room 30 years ago. Nearly every camp I've visited soon throws a curve regarding Biblical structure. One early leader had my attention until he advocated the ordination of women; the idea of "democracy" is very big in some circles nowadays. "We're all teachers" I've heard over and over. That stuff reminds me of the old, worthless Sunday school nonsense "and what does this verse mean to you?"

It's clear in the Word that God gives His local churches gifts including teachers. Not everyone is a teacher. Not everyone is a deacon. Men are so pride-filled they are unable to sit down and learn, to shut up and listen....even when God has provided teachers for that very purpose--fulfilling the local church's mission: the edification of the saints. That edification does not come about through a bunch of scripturally-ignorant people sitting around in a circle nattering about "what this verse means".

I'm not sure what it will take......an act of God, for sure.......to put the house church movement on the right path. Too many times, the ones who rise to the top are the most vocal, stridently so, axe-grinders, the disaffected, the hurt, the bitter, out of the traditional church world. Their "house church" becomes a cult of the personality, every bit as much as the traditional church they disdain.

On the bright side, I think most of the negative stuff is localized in the U.S. Elsewhere in the world, where folks have not (yet anyway) been poisoned by the koolaid of "American Christianity" house churches do very well. Missionaries who are where they are for the purpose of declaring the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than westernizing someone's culture are able to plant churches more in line with the "Jewish community" model as opposed to replicating American-Constantinian model churches (see part 3 regarding this nomenclature).

Sunday, September 20, 2009


A friend asked recently, in so many words, "Should we not move on from all this emphasis on the Cross....move on to the Throne, where Christ is now?"

Of course, "No!" pops into my mind immediately. Following that, as I began thinking about the ramifications of the question, I posted this blurb: "...the centrality of the Cross. No event in history approaches the magnitude; no event in eternity will overshadow it. Nothing good or worthwhile is possible apart from it."

But, the question deserves more than a one-word answer or a clever blurb. It's difficult first of all because it's impossible to know exactly what a questioner means, what's in their heart, how they define their terms, etc. So misunderstanding and miscommunication are real threats. Nevertheless, I am going to undertake if not to answer, to open up this area for thought and discussion.

The original question included the phrase "...Cross more of a doorway to the throne where we ought to be" We'll start there....Background: we have a race of fallen men, sinners, alienated from God because of their sinful state/nature......and we have God who wills to reconcile some of those fallen men to Himself for His glory. In order to maintain His righteousness, to continue to be the Just God, He must execute His wrath, His justice in response to those sins. He chooses the only way to be both Just and Justifier: the sacrifice of His perfectly holy, sinless Son in the place of those whom He will redeem. That work took place on that cross and is referred to in various terms like "the Cross" "the Blood" and "the Death of Christ"....all connected to this work of sin-bearing, wrath, expiation, atonement.

The questioner's specific reference to the "throne" came from Hebrews 4:16--

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Yes, we may now draw near to this throne of Grace and receive mercy and grace.....but it seems impossible to leave the Cross out of this picture. A couple of random thoughts:

1. Throne. Generally, God's throne is pictured as a place of judgment. Often it is portrayed as a courtroom scene where guilty sinners stand before a Holy God to hear their doom pronounced. In this instance, the throne is a "throne of grace and mercy".....How can that be? Because of the Cross! The required Judgment has been executed upon Christ for those who are His.

2. This throne is not a "dwelling place" for believers, but a place to which we can draw near as necessary. So far as positional standing, Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:6 that believers are presently (right now) seated with Him in heavenly places. Note well the last three words of that phrase: in Christ Jesus. This is spiritual positioning. Believers are "in Christ" so we are wherever He is, spiritually.

Paul (ok then, the "writer of Hebrews...lol) says "draw near to the Throne"....How are we able to do that? What man can stand before the Throne, in the presence of God? Only the man who is "in Christ"...Further along in Hebrews, chapter 10, it is written:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,
.....let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

See? The only means by which we can "draw near the throne" is the Blood of Christ, the Cross. They are inseparable.

Believers are still sinners--saved sinners, to be sure--but sinners. Were we not "in Christ" we could never approach the throne except as we were dragged before God in judgment. Believers are commanded continually to avail themselves of this cleansing stream. Though spiritually seated with Christ, we are physically still walking in this filthy world, in our sin-corrupted flesh, and are wracked by sin.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1)

So, what are believers to do about their sin? If we've left behind the Cross, we're in trouble, because God's provision is:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. .......If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1)

We must visit the Cross regularly, daily. It, the Blood of Christ, is the birthplace of the forgiveness we receive from God. It's not a "one time deal" from we can "move on" to higher or better things. There are no "higher or better things"!

For some, this kind of question may be born out of a low view of the Gospel (not the case with my questioner, but others I have met). There is this notion that the "gospel" is some one-trick pony in which a lost man recites a wrote prayer and presto-chango becomes a child of God. Recently I was engaged in an internet discussion where a man reduced the "gospel" to one verse in his argument that there was so much more of importance in the Bible than the Gospel.

My view is that there is nothing in the Bible but the Gospel. God's word is His revelation to man of His plan and work for redeeming unto Himself a people and glorifying Himself in so doing. The redemption of sinners, their reconciliation to a Holy God is the Gospel. The centerpiece of the Gospel is the Cross. Every other "good thing" which believers have is a product of the Cross. Apart from it, we have nothing. We dare not leave it behind.

I feel that all scripture supports my view on this but am particularly led by a couple of passages from Paul's epistles:

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
(1 Corinthians 2:2)

To this troubled church in Corinth, Paul had only one message and it was born out of that foundational event--the crucifixion of Christ--the Cross.

Earlier he had written to the church in Rome of his desire to come to them and minister to them.....what did he say specifically?--

So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
(Romans 1:15-16)

See that? He wanted to preach to this church, this local assembly of believers.......and his desire was to "preach the Gospel" to them. There is no "moving on" in his heart. The Gospel is the power of God to those who believe!

Really, this is much of what's lacking in today's churches. They have moved on.....and now get sermons on financial practices, sex technique, and electoral politics. But lives are not transformed by that; God is not glorified by that.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
(Ephesians 2:13-16)

HOUSE CHURCHES part 3--TC A "Spectator Event"?


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Thursday, September 17, 2009


Recently I read parts of a doctoral dissertation by a Facebook friend. It's over my head; I am finally acknowledging that my lack of formal education is a handicap, not something to boast about, but it's too late!

Anyway, the portion of this thesis which caught my eye was on the dichotomy of Constantinian church structure versus the Jewish community structure. Most of what follows here is what I infer from what I have read so far, which quantity is really insufficient for drawing the conclusions I'm heading for.......so I'm subject to correction (as always) and open to criticism.

To me, the ideal local church has always been one modeled after Acts 2:41-47. This is also the "church" which I've never found......it seems not to exist today. Apparently this is the "Jewish community" model which dominated Christianity for some time after Acts 2--until the fourth century when Constantine came into power.

The Constantinian model is described as "a move from house churches to large basilicas, infant baptism (since now citizenship in the state was equivalent with membership in the church, which was no longer voluntary), a move from multiple church leadership to more authority vested in the priest and in the church hierarchy, and a shift of emphasis from awaiting God's final victory over the powers in the age to come, to primary concern about the fate of each individual's soul."

That quote is from an article by Lois Barrett:


She actually identifies 4 models of the "church" but I think the first 3, generally speaking, can be lumped together with the Constantinian model in opposition to the Jewish community model. One of the others is described as follows (this is so good I kept expanding the quote...so it's quite lengthy....but "Hello, 21st Century 'church'"!!!

"...the church as voluntary association in somewhat like a religious civic club. This model assumes a segmented life: the soccer club takes care of one's recreational needs; the business association takes care of one's professional needs; the church takes care of one's spiritual needs. The church is a place to mold good citizens, civil people, good people who will go out and do good things that benefit society as a whole. Relationships with government are often of the reform variety. The good people in the church are sent out to work in their particular vocation in a Christian manner. Churches of this model can be liberal or conservative, evangelical or mainline. They are interested in operating by democratic principles. They sometimes have a type of civil religion. They think that the real power lies in Washington and Ottawa. They are as much a part of the establishment as the previous model."

(more to come....)


I've made a few comments about unBiblical house churches which have stirred some hysterical reactions, from coast to coast, Syracuse to LA......mostly cases of "hit dogs yelping"

Lest I be misunderstood by the brethren, however, I thought I might make a few observations about what I hope is the great majority of house churches--the Biblical ones.

Most of us agree that the majority of local churches today, which from here on will be referred to as "traditional" or "TC" for the sake of brevity, most of these are greatly flawed, ineffective, and often worse than that.

So, what goals should one have in mind, what motivation should one have, if he is starting a house church?

1. First, it must NOT be about you. This is the category I've been belaboring in other posts and I'll not dwell on it here. Churches started by men who are in rebellion, had their feelings hurt, etc, are not "churches" Local churches are established by God as the Holy Spirit leads Godly men, for the purpose of bringing glory to His name.

2. House churches must not be ingrown, insular, isolationist...as are so many TC. The commandment from God is still to "go out" to the world, not sit in your pew and wait for the lost to come to you....especially not come to you because your "church" looks like the Ringling Brothers Circus or MTV live.

3. House churches should spread by division, like cellular growth. I've seen TC with a dozen, or 20, or 30 preachers in the congregation. What in the world are they doing? Nearly all of us will be quick to complain that there are so few doctrinally-sound churches....but here we have the manpower to lead a dozen or two dozen congregations, men who are doctrinally sound.....and they are sitting in the same room on Sunday rather than ministering to the countless hundreds and thousands of folks who wish they had a "good church" to attend.

That's among the worst of mistakes in the TC which house churches should avoid.....it's quite avoidable if folks keep their eye on the Vision. Briefly, the Vision for house churches should be something like this:

It begins with a gathering of 6-10 of God's redeemed and over time, as God moves, grows to 40 or 50 or 100.......All during this growth time, it sends out (ordains) church planters to new areas, new neighborhoods, adjoining towns, and another 6-10 folks repeat the process. This kind of growth by division will lead to the Biblical idea of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, ends of the earth.

What you will not have is this TC stultification, this "delegation" of the Great Commission to "someone else"--contentment in financially supporting a few missionaries overseas or sending a check every month to some mission board; contentment in the hearts of 99% of the "church membership" who never lift a finger toward spreading the Gospel.

Neither then will the house church ever get into the Castle on the Corner mentality where the driving force in their congregation is to have the finest physical plant of any group in the city. They will never be Big.......because they keep splitting off and going rather than staying put and building $40 million "campuses"

Nor will they ever become "magnet" churches like some TC--those institutions which have become prominent perhaps even world-wide, known for strong preaching. Too often, these magnets attract people from far and wide who then end up in one city, one congregation, and who sit there for the rest of their lives enjoying the "good preaching, good teaching" but without a burden for those who can't make the long drive or move to another city and remain "churchless" and untaught. That kind of stuff is what I mean by "insular" and "ingrown"

(end of part 1)

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Those of you who have previously written me off as an ascetic and a crank can just skip this post...nothing new here folks, move along!

Recently I saw a blog post which included a comment about being entertained by Paige Patterson and Mrs Patterson at "Pecan Manor." That's the mansion provided for the President of South Western Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft Worth.

That picture of the house was taken by Dr Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louisville. He also took this picture of the mansion he lives in there....(on the right).

So, I'm wondering why it is necessary for the "Church" to provide luxurious living like this for its leadership? These guys are not President of General Motors (ooops, bad example.....showing my age)...these are servants of Christ's church.

Financial data on such situations is hard to come by. I'm good at "finding stuff" by searching the internet....I can find your phone number, address, maybe a picture of your house or at least the street you live on; I can find out how much the President of AIG makes.....but I sure can't find out what these two fellows are paid. It's even tough to find out what some Big Name pastors are paid....their salary is lumped into large budget categories, thus obscured, like "Preaching Ministry" $1,000,000. That could include 3 or 4 salaries, for example.

I'm trying to keep this short. I'd like some discussion. And I'm not picking on Al Mohler or Paige Patterson.....they were just in the room when the thought hit me. They are not the problem; they are just in a problem-fraught system.

Thinking about the book of Amos. "Come to Bethel and transgress" In chapter 4, Beth-El "the place of God" had become representative of corrupted religion.

"Hear, and testify against the house of Jacob," declares the Lord GOD, the God of hosts, "that on the day I punish Israel for his transgressions, I will punish the altars of Bethel, and the horns of the altar shall be cut off and fall to the ground. I will strike the winter house along with the summer house, and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall come to an end," declares the LORD.
(Amos 3:13-15)

In this world populated with lost souls and impoverished men, it is incomprehensible to me how the "Church" can possibly justify corporate-level salaries and aristocratic mansions for the leadship...leadership which according to Biblical example is humble and self-sacrificing....in a Church where those who "had" were willing to sell all and give to those who "had not"

We've come a long way.......
We've come to Bethel.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


This past month has been such as to get me thinking about death--particularly about my death, impending as it is. (Heb 9:27) I am not being maudlin, nor am I morose, but I am certainly MORTAL.

Of course, in its wanderings my mind strayed soon enough to Philippians 1 and Paul's comment "to live is Christ, to die is gain" Really, what a thing to say! Frankly, for me, the second clause is easier than the first. I have no doubt that my death will usher me through a doorway to inexpressible joy and eternal blessings. And, I grow weary of this world. The political situation in this country is ugly and offers no sensible hope for improvement in the near term, rather going from bad to worse. That doesn't weigh on me too heavily, however, not nearly so much as the decline of the church. (See my previous blog article for some of that)

All the forces of the flesh continue to hammer away at the professing church and more and more inroads are made, undermining once-sound bodies with one form of theological HIV or another. The "American Church" stands aloof from the persecuted church in China, Africa, Asia and elsewhere.....seeming impervious to persecution and martyrdom. Unfortunately, the reason it is untouched is that it is not an offense to the world. So long as this "church" goes along, it gets along. Millions warm a pew for an hour or two on Sunday morning, then spend the remaining 166 hours of the week living the most worldly, Godless lives, totally indistinguishable from the non-church going, non-Christ-claiming population.

Paul said the only reason he would stay in this world was for the benefit of his flock-- " I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,..." I do not mean to equate myself with Paul in any way except to say that I feel like that with regard to the ministry I have. So long as I am useful, able to minister the Gospel to my inmate brothers or elsewhere, I am content. It is disconcerting to think of being physically unable to do anything like what I consider ministry. This is at war with my intellectual understanding that God has people paralyzed in hospital beds, incapacitated in nursing homes, etc, all for His glory. Me, I'd rather just go on..........(not that He's going to ask my opinion)

Albert Barnes' listed 7 ways in which it is gain for a Christian to die:

1. The Christian will be freed from sin. (Hallelujah!)

2. He will be freed from doubts.

3. He will be freed from temptation.

4. He will be delivered from his enemies.

5. He will be delivered from suffering.

6. He will be delivered from death.

7. He will be immediately and eternally ushered into the presence of our Savior. (which makes the other 6 almost irrelevant)....and if we ever get accustomed to His presence, we will also be in the presence of all the saints of all the ages, forever!

So, understand me when I say with Paul:

My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
(Philippians 1:23)

Death is the crown of life:
Were death denied, poor man would live in vain:
Were death denied, to live would not be life.
Were death denied, even fools would wish to die.
Death wounds to cure; we fall; we rise; we reign!
Spring from our fetters; fasten in the skies;
Where blooming Eden withers in our sight.
Death gives us more than was in Eden lost,
The king of terrors is the prince of peace.
(Edward Young
Night Thoughts, iii.)


The Church has been under assault in this country for over 100 years--primarily, or initially, by the modernists, the "higher-criticism" crowd, the "Jesus was just a good man" crowd, and so forth. In the past 30 years or so, a new front opened by forces within the Bible-believing church. This front is waged upon the ground of God's sovereignty vs Man's ability. Decisionism and various aspects of pelagianism and semi-pelagian theology are involved on this front.

During the time I've been watching this war, a new front opened and I just about missed it. Maybe it hasn't had much action yet, but I can see major battles forthcoming in this area. In the back of my mind, I've been aware of what I'll call the "Americanization of Christianity"--the conforming of church practice and teaching to the underlying tenants of American cultural fundamentals. Politics and this Americanized Christianity are often melded. Churches have big patriotic services on national holidays, do the pledge of allegiance, feature American flags on the podium, allow politicians to stand in the pulpit, etc.

The American concepts of democracy, freedom, individual liberty, etc, are incorporated into some theologies as fundamentals of the faith. Essentially, men have taken the Biblical Christianity which was born in Eastern culture, in enslaved nations, among enslaved people, and labeled it: Made in U.S.A. In order to pass as genuinely American, however, some changes had to be made! This nation of rugged individualism, self-made men cannot be brought down to the point of submission, humility, and meekness called for in the Christianity of the Bible. Some modification required.

Just today I saw some signs of what might be the beginning of the end for Biblical churches in the United States. Right-wing politics has always been more comfortable in the Bible-preaching world than left-wing politics. The lefties, if claiming Christ at all, tend toward the social-gospel, liberal churches. At least one right-winger, would-be presidential contender, Chuck Baldwin, is touting on his website a new organization of churches.

This is a group called "Black Regiment" churches. (Named after a Revolutionary War situation, apparently. I'm not certain if there is any historical accuracy in that). Baldwin is creating a directory of churches which "will courageously preach and promote the principles of liberty and independence....Men who support and defend the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence."

In all the qualifications for making this directory, the Gospel is not mentioned; the Bible maybe once. What is important to them is the political structure of the nation. Baldwin states that his list has churches which represent a wide divergence in theology, but he leaves that to us to "discern"......Never mind they're heretics, boys; they're on Our Side!

The really scary part of this to me is that I can see it being very popular. I've written before about church members who have their worldview shaped and influenced by Fox News, etc, rather than by the Word of God. Those folks will fall right into this mess. Churches led by men whose grasp of the Bible is weak and shallow, by men who can more easily play on the emotions of patriotism and nationalism, than preach with power in the Spirit of God, will thrive in this environment, especially during these days when we are seeing the destructive effects of left-wing government for the first time, up close and personal. It will be very easy for men to be swayed into answering the siren call of political activism, nationalism, even revolution, rather than resting in the promises given by a Sovereign God in His Word.

Churches in this movement will abandon the Gospel, if they have not already done so. The political icons will be seen as equal to or greater than the Word of God (if they are not already so seen). Men will follow the politicians with the loudest voices and most appealing agenda.....and they will be led down this path of destruction by "pastors" in such movements as this.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Based on an interview in which MacArthur cannot pinpoint the exact date and circumstances of his conversion, a handful of internet "preachers" are now pronouncing him "unsaved." I've not seen the interview and am not focused on it at this moment.

My concern is with these accusers. We are somewhat accustomed to the calvinists accusing the arminians and vice versa. This is a case of fratricide: calvinists slandering calvinists, making it all the more disturbing.

Just for the record, those of us who were converted as adults (I was a week short of 32, for example) can usually remember the date, etc, but what if God saved you at age 5? How much do you remember of your life from that time? That was 60 years ago for me, and if I had been converted then, if would not have been from a life of open, blatant immorality, so I can understand being unable to pinpoint a dramatic change.

Regardless, this slandering of a brother is inexcusable and, I suspect, is born out of other, unresolved grievances, out of bitterness. The "ringleader" of this group of accusers has previously written to me complaining of how he was treated by folks including MacArthur. I suspect this bitterness is festering in him like a poison and that he has been seeking something like this with which to avenge himself.

The sad part is that one bitter soul can have a cult-like following, younger believers who think whatever the Leader says is gospel...and they fall for the accusation and start to parrot the poisoner. Let me refer all these "preachers" to a couple passages of scripture:

First, God does not say we will recognize His children because they can recite date and time for His regenerating work in their lives. He says "by their fruits ye shall know them." John MacArthur's fruits are out there to be seen. Mr Accuser, where are your fruits? You might have the date and time down, but where are your fruits?

Second, that this takes place among brothers, especially brothers "like-minded" theologically, is an abomination. I urge you to take a serious look at Ephesian 4:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:29-32)

If MacArthur offended you, you need to confront him in the Biblical manner. You're instructed to forgive him. Give up your bitterness and forsake your slander. Your words serve not to give grace to the hearers but to strengthen the enemy.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

PASTORAL HERMENEUTIC? (part 3--conclusion)

When I started this series, my intention was to frame it like the old preacher's joke: "3 points and a pome" (poem to you literate folks). The first two posts took forever and intervening posts have come and gone; frankly, I've lost momentum on this train of thought.

Except for the "pome" The poem was the dramatic conclusion to the sermon, the moment of pathos where all the intellectual brilliance and spiritual power of the 3 points landed with a thud in the hearers' hearts, breaking those hearts and driving the hordes to the altar of repentance, rededication, and reconciliation.

So I've been haranguing pastors for haranguing their congregations, demanding obeisance and other forms of blind following; exhorting the sheep to fill the coffers so the $25 million dollar pile of bricks can be properly maintained and the million dollar payroll continued without interruption.

Now I want to shine the spotlight on myself for a few words. I was a pastor once. November 2009 will mark the 30th anniversary of my ordination to the Gospel ministry. At that time, I was serving as interim pastor for a little country congregation who had, in their deranged state of mind, decided to call me as their pastor.

I was painfully reminded of that experience a month ago when I met a pastor-friend not quite my age but who started younger and probably has about as much time in ministry as I have....30 years or so. After a handshake, the first communication from him was: "I'm really disgusted with my congregation. I don't know if half of them are even saved." (as an aside: I feel that way about most congregations.....the number of church members who are really saved has to be low)

But, I didn't say anything, just let him rave on for a few minutes about how his congregation did this and didn't do that, and now it was summer and attendance was down from 100 to 50-60, etc, etc, etc. What I was tempted to ask him was this:

How much time do you spend praying for those people?

Have you ever, I mean ever, wept over them, their apparent coldness, their lack of spiritual growth?

See, he sounded just exactly like I sounded, and acted, 30 years ago. I went into that little country church and told them "what for". The next week, I raked them over the coals because they had not changed......."What is the problem? I told you a week ago how you should live, and still you are unchanged!"

I rode my hobby horses all over their turf. I had come out of the independent Baptist world into this Southern Baptist association and I spent half my time condemning the SBC and urging this congregation to leave the association and go independent. I had 5 deacons, one of whom showed up for the services faithfully. Three others were there most Sunday mornings but never at night or on Wednesday. One showed up for Easter or something like that. One day I had them all in a Sunday a.m. service and called them to the front of the congregation and gave them "down the road" Now, every one of these men was older than I, and had grown up in that church. But I told them to either "deac" or hit the door!

I am sickened by my past behavior and attitude. I'm grateful to God that His longsuffering permitted me to even live through that kind of behavior, let alone continue in ministry to this point where, finally, I have some sense. So, it was really disturbing to hear this "senior pastor" talking just like I used to be 30 years back.

I doubt God will ever put me back into a pastorate. In many ways, I consider myself a "pastor" to my inmates but it's not quite the same since I am restricted by rules and regulations about exactly what I can and cannot do regarding their families and so forth. I know that my heart is more of a "pastor's heart" today than ever before.

If I were a pastor, and I say this to those who do serve as pastors, two things: If you don't have a heart which is broken over the souls of the folks who face you every Sunday, get out! They do not need you to lecture them, harangue them, scold them, or fleece them. Secondly, if you do have that heart, you will do this without me telling you--just preach the Word faithfully and trust God to do His work in their heart. If He does it instantly, praise the Lord; if you preach there 20 years before you see change, praise the Lord. During those 20 years you'll have spent most of your time on your face before God praying that He move upon those folks because you 1.) love Him and want to see Him glorified in their lives, and 2.) because you love them and want to see them transformed into the image of His son.

Anything else that happens is secondary at best, probably less important........new buildings, new carpeting, doubled membership, all the stuff the world uses as a measuring stick. The greatest joy a pastor can have is seeing his folks changed by the power of God.....I wouldn't trade that for 3 twenty-five million dollar buildings and a television ministry.

Friday, July 31, 2009


The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. (Luke 18:11)

Any Pharisee blood in you, brother? sister?

I've got some. God calls it to my attention regularly. I am constantly in repentance for that, among my other sins. This life in Christ is very much about learning to be a repentant sinner.
Pharisee-ism is one of the great weaknesses of the professing church today. In the mind of many, the church is a place for the Perfect Ones. Those of us who have "arrived." The less-than-perfect are not welcome among us, lest they soil the pew cushions or track mud into the sanctuary.

May I remind those who think like that, Jesus said:

And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
(Luke 5:31-32)

His Church is made up of sinners......saved sinners to be sure. Church rolls are crowded today by the names of folks who've never been born again. (That's another sermon....) I want to address this to those who are indeed His, those born again from above, washed in the Blood, made new creations in Jesus Christ by the miracle of the New Birth.
Do you now rest in the assurance of your salvation and look down upon those who struggle with sin, those whose sins are more public than yours, those whose sins carry more social consequences than yours? Have you forgotten where you were when Jesus found you?

My ministry is conducted behind razor wire and electrified fences. To get to my meeting place, I am searched, x-rayed, and run through a metal detector. The men I deal with are state prison inmates who have been convicted of every imaginable crime against the State of Tennessee and its citizens: drug crimes, sex crimes, murder.....
Some of these men have been saved out of their life of sin by the grace of an amazing God. Their testimonies break my heart. I'd love to take them home with me, to take them to church with me, to show off these "trophies of Grace" which God has on display for all eternity.

I am a member of a Biblically sound local church--great preaching, wonderful missions outreach, sweet fellowship--but the sweetest fellowship of all for me is during the time I am with my brothers in those tiny little chapels, just a handful of us, sometimes only 3 or 4, sometimes 20 or so (we're not in the numbers game, for sure).
There's something wonderful about being with folks who KNOW they are sinners. These guys are not going around thinking: "Well, I'm not so bad....I'm a pretty good citizen, I pay my bills, etc" like the regular "free-world" church member. These guys KNOW. So, if they're saved, they know they've been saved out of something: SIN.

Too many times, you start talking to "church folks" and soon realize that sinners are "those people"......not them!....it's someone else. "We're not like them!" I have wonderful brothers finish their sentences or get paroled, go back out into the world and can't find a church which will welcome them. "We don't want their kind...."

"God, I thank you that I am not like these men: convicted dope dealers, robbers, drunks, wife-beaters, rapists, killers......."

You fool!

You are just exactly like them. The only reason you are not doing time with them? God's grace! That restraining Grace with which God hedged you up and kept you from going any further down the road to destruction than you did go....(Hosea 2: 6,7)
God has described you perfectly in Romans 3: 10-18....you, me, and every man who has ever drawn a breath. If you are now God's child, it's because of what He did......not because of anything you did! Do not sit back in your pew and spew like a pharisee that you are "not like those people"....whatever your pet target might be: poor, ignorant, another social class, another race, another neighborhood, another ethnic background. Convicted criminals? They broke man's law. They paid the penalty for it.

You broke God's Law. There's nothing you can do to atone for that! Only God can redeem you from the certain, eternal death which that Law-breaking calls for.

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, (Titus 3:5-6)

Let's repent of this pharisee-ism. We are, in and of ourselves, no better than the worst we can imagine. If you are a Christian, the good in you is there by the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit of God. We need to repent of this sinful pride which causes us to look down on any other men You think you are Somebody? You think you have Something? Hear the Word of the Lord:

For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
(1 Corinthians 4:7)

Monday, July 27, 2009


What a state the "church" is in today.....led by so many "preachers" who are abysmally ignorant of the basic doctrines taught in the Word.

For the past couple weeks, I've been interacting with a group of pelagian-style heretics on Facebook. Over the weekend, one of them responded to a Spurgeon quote on another fellow's page, throwing out the usual straw-man stuff about all calvinists consigning to Hell those who die in infancy. As his presentation developed he made the expected denial of the doctrine of Original Sin then advanced to denying the Impeccability of Christ.

I made a couple responses to his "born innocent" comments then wrote him off, following the admonition in Titus 3:10. Others continued to respond as he went into his "Jesus could have sinned" statement but no one ever confronted him on either heresy (or either component of the same heresy, as you wish). This was on the Facebook page of a preacher who never raised his voice against the man's heresy at all. None of the others involved in the conversation ever even mentioned the issue of Christ's impeccability.

This made me wonder: Do they even know that this is an issue? Do they not recognize heresy when they hear it? Apparently not, because this thread dissolved into a "well, we must agree to disagree..." cop-out. Now, I will "agree to disagree" over instrumental music in church or over the use of a common cup for the Lord's Supper, but the idea of letting slide a major heresy is pretty lame! Will you also "agree to disagree" over the Deity of Christ? ...or the Virgin Birth?

So, I wrote to the preacher on whose page this took place asking him specifically if he was aware of the heresies involved or was he ignorant of them. His response was a non-response "Sorry if I offended you...." This seems to be a modern-day catch all which must mean: I am really offended that you asked that so I am going to apologize and put an end to the discussion. Even allowing the possibility of my tone, being one of combined outrage and incredulity, might stretch to him seeing me as an offended party, the question still hangs there unanswered: Do you or do you not understand the doctrines involved here and their importance?

So, this guy is out there preaching but unable to answer questions from those who will ask about original sin or the idea of whether Jesus could have sinned but set a great example for us, etc. I suspect the nation's pulpits are filled with similar examples of ignorance, and not just ignorance but a willing ignorance, one which shows no interest in learning, in study, in pursuing the details of the Truth revealed in God's Word.

Are we not commanded to "study to show ourselves approved of God......WORKmen who need not be ashamed....because we can RIGHTLY divide the Word"...??? I have deliberately avoided detailed discussion here of the details on these doctrines....because I wonder about you--do you understand them? Do you have a clue what I am talking about? Do you realize the importance?

If not, here are a couple links which will introduce you to the issues:




This McCormick essay contains an interesting footnote: "One scholar (Bartmann) has pointed out that the ancient heretics, however divergent they were in Christology, did not attack or question the Impeccability of Christ."

Even those ancient heretics did not question what these modern day heretics assail in their efforts ultimately to discredit Christ's Deity.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

ON MINISTRY (Part 2--The Point)

I wrote that lengthy, detailed article about Carolyn's surgery and hospital stay for two reasons: to get myself in motion writing and to provide some background for this, the main point, if anyone is interested in detailed background. Feel free to skip it.........lol.

What I want to write about is suffering, and caring for those who are suffering, those who are helpless, and what I have learned about those things during the past 3 weeks. This was my wife's 12th major surgery so in some ways it wasn't exactly a new experience for me (or her!). In a more important way, however, it is a remarkable experience, a life-changing lesson. My greatest fear in attempting this is that I shall fail to communicate verbally something that is so purely experiential.

As we anticipated this surgery and all that comes with it (anticipated most of the stuff, anyway), I had this intellectual grasp of what I would be doing. I've done it before. You have a helpless patient, a pain-racked patient, and it's someone you love dearly. Things need to be done--things which despite long years of intimacy are still discomforting to the one who cannot care for herself as usual. I'm not going into specifics--y'all know the kinda stuff, not limited to holding a basin for someone to vomit into, or washing their face afterward, but stuff like that.

So, I've done that before and I don't mind doing it. I don't. And she knows, as much as humanly possible, that I don't find such things repulsive or disgusting. I love her; I'd do anything to help her when she's suffering. But this time it's different. God has taken me in hand, put His arm across my shoulders, and drawn me a bit closer, let me see a bit more of His grace through His son.

As I sat through those worst hours there in the hospital, doing my little routine with the basin and the wet cloths on her forehead and so forth.....sometimes I sat and waited for the next call to service and realized that I wasn't being a dutiful husband, suffering through these menial chores with a stiff upper lip, deserving of so much appreciation for my dedication. What I was is this: Blessed. I experienced something which previously I had only read about: the joy of serving another person, the blessing which God bestows upon His children as they learn something about "ministry"

I want to say it out loud: I love caring for her. It's a joy to care for her in whatever way I can. I'm so grateful to God for taking me past that selfish state of "being noble" and suffering dutifully. Jesus said He came not to be ministered to, but to minister. Have we ever twisted that word into something grotesque! Most "ministers" haven't the foggiest concept of ministering.

We all know the story of the "Last Supper" from the Gospel accounts. As the apostles arrived, Jesus garbed Himself as a servant and washed their feet. And we hear a lot of sanctimonious preaching about how we need to do likewise, and some denominations take that literally and have services during which folks wash one another's feet. What do you suppose they are thinking when they do that?

What do you think Jesus was thinking as He did that? "I'm gonna do this to teach these guys how to be humble" If you think that, you are making Him out to be disingenuous at best. This was a cultural practice, a courtesy extended by hosts to their arriving guests. The household servants washed the guests' feet because they were dirty! Jesus Christ came as the Servant of Jehovah. This was His heart on display; He loved those apostles. He wasn't thinking "Yuck, I've got to do this just to make the point"

If we love the brethren, we will serve them with the same heart....not begrudingly (well hidden, of course) but joyfully. It was Christ's great joy to serve His children. It will be so in all eternity as well.

We're home now and Carolyn is regaining some mobility and can care more for herself but still needs help. I am still in service here. I still rejoice in it. I am beginning to feel that I've failed in my attempt to communicate this. May God make it clear to all who read this, despite my poor effort. Ministry is servant-hood. Poor, pitiful folks who think "being like Jesus" means being King......or some other big shot. The Christ whom the church is to emulate is that Humble Servant, joyfully washing the feet of the disciples.

ON MINISTRY (Part 1--Background)

You might want to read Part 2 first...this is the "deep background" for it and might not be worth reading at all...

This seems to be my toughest-ever writing assignment.......self-imposed as it is. Been thinking about it two weeks and just can't get started.....so here we go:

June 22 Carolyn had knee-replacement surgery. I spent 4 days and 3 nights at her bedside in hospital and have been her 24-hour per day "nurse" since her return to the house.

The Monday evening after the surgery, all day Tuesday, and Wednesday morning were rough! She came out of surgery about 2:30 Monday afternoon. Surgeon called me and reported that all went well and she would be in Recovery for a while. About 4:00, they let me go back into the Recovery Room and visit her. At that point she was in excruciating pain and the staff was baffled and in a well-controlled frenzy trying to figure out what the problem was. During the surgery she had had a spinal block (short lived but highly effective) plus an epidural anaesthetic (longer term). At the end of the surgical procedure the anaesthesia team did a block of one branch of the femoral nerve which was intended to control the pain as the spinal block wore off and when the epidural catheter was removed, ending that relief.

Bottom line is the femoral nerve block failed....so she had no anaesthetic benefit at that point only 90 minutes after the incision was closed. She was in agony and the staff was doing a major running analysis there at her bedside, so they ran me out, promising to call me back when they had overcome the problem.

At 5:30 they called me again, saying that Carolyn was fine and ready to go to her own room. We didn't get the information immediately but the short form of the story is that there are 3 branches to that femoral nerve and they either missed the first attempt (my guess) or it was necessary to do a second block on another branch (their spin). This is not intended to be critical....that stuff happens and I'm impressed at the concentration of brain power and intense effort the whole staff put into resolving the situation as quickly as possible.

An attendant rolled her bed down endless corridors and through a couple of elevator banks to another building which must be a quarter mile away. We ended up in the old Vanderbilt Hospital building, 6th floor, in a huge (by hospital standards) room. From her arrival there, Carolyn was pitifully nauseated off and on for the next 24 hours. She has always suffered from this post-surgery misery and though this was not the worst-ever, it was pretty bad at times. As time went on, we figured out is was a reaction to the high-powered pain killer they were giving her by IV (oxycontin). After 3 doses at 12-hour intervals, she told them...."Don't do that again; I'd rather hurt!" They switched her over to some oral stuff of lesser magnitude and the nausea was greatly abated.

Tuesday morning, they announced that her blood level was low and they were going to give her a transfusion. We were prepared in advance for this possibility and she had given a pint earlier which they had on hand......so she would be transfused with her own blood. This is about a six-hour procedure and would delay her physical therapy for just about the entire day. At this point it looked like we were losing a whole day in the scheduled process geared to her being sent home on Thursday.

Three hours into the transfusion, she was racked by more excruciating pain. Worse, she says, that the undiminished post-surgical pain when the nerve block failed. Once again, the staff was baffled! We had this tremendous charge nurse, a young woman originally from Colombia, and she was doing the transfusion.....but she fell victim to the same sort of thing which happened in the Recovery Room.....something outside the "way it ought to be" Severe back pain is a side effect of blood transfusion. They know that. BUT....it isn't (according to The Book) supposed to happen when you are being given your own blood. The nurse was smart enough to see no other proximate cause and turned off the blood flow. Within minutes, the pain eased, and Carolyn went to sleep. Watchfully, the nurse turned the drip on again, and the transfusion was completed without further incident.

Wednesday was really the beginning of physical therapy, the progress in which is a determining factor in when and whether one goes home on schedule. It did not go well. Carolyn was still nauseated off and on, more or less a day behind, acting like someone whose surgery had been Tuesday not Monday. It was discouraging to hear talk of going to a Rehabilitation facility for 7-10 days rather than going home on Thursday as we had planned. At the same time I forced myself to face that possibility, I also resolved to do all I could to get her home.....and that "what" was to beseech God to do a work regarding her condition.

Thursday morning a new day dawned but I was so exhausted from the 3 days of stress and sleeplessness, I wasn't too cognizant of the change until mid-morning. Carolyn was simply "much improved" The physical therapist could hardly believe she was the same person who could barely do anything 18 hours earlier. Carolyn was up, taking steps with her walker, sitting in a chair, getting up, etc. By noon or one p.m. the charge nurse was saying things like: I think you'll be going home. When I, still a bit stupified, said "When?".......she floored me with "this afternoon"......and sure enough, at 3:05 Thursday, she was in the car and we were merging into the traffic outside the hospital driveway.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)

Familiar text, is it not? I've seen pastors who managed to get around to that at least every month. I want to undertake an examination of this verse and the way it is used or mis-used.


I. The verse as seen by those who use it to "keep the sheep in line"

This one is pretty obvious. Probably all of us have seen this kind of "pastoral" abuse. Rather than recount the extremes, let me say we need to be aware of the more subtle forms which bring about the same results. There are those who call for blind obedience to the leadership. As they do so, they will deny that "blind obedience" is their call. The justification is phrased along the lines: We are God's anointed ("called" "appointed" "ordained") leaders and God expects you to obey us. Those who do not follow their lead will, perhaps after some counseling efforts, be culled from the flock.

One of the hallmarks or distinctives of Baptists has always been the concept called "Priesthood of the believer" This doctrine was (and is) promulgated in direct refutation of the Romish idea of the "clergy" being possessed of superior knowledge and advanced revelation which they will impart (when appropriate) to the "laity."

Luther made a strong case for such priesthood or what is sometimes called "soul competency" But the true basis for such a doctrine is the Word of God, not merely the writings of any man. God has equipped each of His children with all he needs to discern the will of God and the truth or falsity of teachings. The indwelling Holy Spirit guides believers in all truth. We are instructed to "test the spirits;" we are assured of His spirit witnessing with our Spirit. We are told the there is one Mediator between man and God, the man Christ Jesus. There is no need or provision in scripture for any man to act as intermediary or priest or dictator over the flock of God's sheep.

Yet, in a day when the slightest hint that liturgical worship might be introduced in a Baptist congregation results in loud protests, a far more insidious Romish practice has very nearly smothered this idea of individual soul competency. Pastors and Elders are established over so many congregations in a ruling hierarchy reminiscent of the Soviet Presidium. Edicts are handed down and they are to be swallowed by the congregation because the have been issued from "on high."

Generally, these are not matters of doctrine. Certainly a believer in a congregation where false doctrine is being promoted needs to do just one thing: flee! These anti-Baptist pseudo-popes are freely handing down practices regarding budgets, buildings, music practices, missions and other programs, etc, in the "I have spoken" format. Whether these dictatorial pronouncements emanate from the single-elder dictator or the multi-elder board (which is usually a rubber-stamp facilitator for the "chief elder"), the result is the same. The congregation is told: This is how it is. We have decided what's best for you.

In maybe 90% of cases, it doesn't matter. Where it gets rough is in the other 10% of cases where there is real cause for questioning the Edict from On High. But, questions are not allowed. The prevailing mindset is: Obey. We are responsible for your soul, therefore you just do what you're told. We know what is best.

It's a variation on the old: Trust me. I'm doing this for your own good. If one has the temerity to question the Edict, it can get ugly. "You're undermining the pastor's ministry" "You're bitter" "You have a critical spirit" Never is it even considered possible that the leadership could be off-track. Never is it considered that all God's children are priests, all are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, all have the Spirit of discernment, and in fact, each believer is just as competent to discern God's will as the best-educated, highest-paid Elder in the land.

I'm tellin' ya.....this is the Baptist Road to Rome. Baptist means nothing these days, of course. But I call your attention to these concepts which were once definitive of Baptists: the priesthood of believers; the idea of congregational polity. I'm all for church governance by a plurality of elders, but I think there is a whole lot more weight on the "authority" side than there is on the qualification to hold the name "Elder."

The church has been corrupted by assimilating business models and by emulating Rome. The age-old dichotomy of clergy-laity is becoming more and more a "given" in the Baptist world. Pastors and Teachers are among God's gifts to the local church. Elders are to be selected from among the membership from those few who meet the qualifications. Being chosen by God for any of these jobs does not impart spiritual superiority to anyone.

Too often we hear the "obey me because I have this authority"......without ever being convinced that the person is one who should be followed. That "obey" in the KJV has hints of "confidence" in it. In combat, soldiers are under orders, as always, to obey their superior officers. But when the bullets are flying and lives are at risk, the officers who are obeyed are those who inspire confidence in the followers.

(This is supposed to be part 1 of 3....but has taken me a long time just to get here....and this is off the top of my head and not very well-organized...but it's a start, subject to some editing I imagine)