Saturday, January 31, 2009


Really, a world desperate for heroes....The adulation of the airline pilot who landed his craft in the Hudson is another example of the on-going search by the world for a Hero. Two things about that specific incident before I go on to "make an application"--Captain Sully did a good job. But that's exactly what he did: his job. If he's anywhere near the man I think he is, he would be the first to tell you that 99% of professional pilots would have done the same. He's a fighter pilot. That says it all to anyone who knows pilots. Yes, he's good; that's what fighter pilots are. Secondly, I hope he eschews the glory being heaped upon him knowing that only the hand of God kept that from being a disaster, despite his skills and reflexes. Very few of the reports credit God with much in this matter, which is typical of the world.

What the world wants is a man to worship. Captain Sully is the Man of the Hour right now. We have often heard of men having a god-size hole in their being which only God can fill. Some truth in that; men have a need to worship, and their innermost desire is to worship themselves. We work to fit ourselves into that hole and seek to establish ourselves as God. Only the true and living One, the Creator/Redeemer Lord Jesus Christ can cast out that self-worship and establish Himself in our hearts. When men fail in establishing themselves as god, they seek other men to put into the place of worship. Thus the need for "heroes."

It's especially difficult to work around the true God's role in the advent of heroes like Captain Sully because even the most casual unbeliever casts a few crumbs of credit in the direction of his amorphous "god" for delivering the aircraft passengers. But, for the most part, care is taken to clarify that God would have failed had it not been for the uncanny skills of the crew.

This hero-seeking carries over into the church and professed Bible-believers. So often we hear Hebrews 11 referred to as the Hall of extraordinary appellation, equating those named therein with sports or music celebrities when in fact the scripture emphasizes the weakness and sinfulness of men who were nonetheless useful instruments in the hands of a great God.

What greater examples of man-worship and idolatry are there in the "church" today than the near-deification, at least beatification (the Protestant form of canonization...) of preachers and other church leaders? The triumphalism which runs rampant in the modern evangelical assembly is displayed by the boasting about large congregations ("we have 25,000; we have 35,000" nauseum); boasting about celebrity members in the congregations; and most egregious of all, boasting about the leadership--"Reverend Doctor Big Shot is my pastor!" "Brother Neverbeen Humble is my preacher!"

A good look at the New Testament should reveal that "being somebody," being a "hero," is not high on the list of Christian character traits. Paul said he would boast in being the scum of the earth if that's what it took for Christ to be the focus of his ministry. God chose the weak and foolish, he called the discards and the despised of this world for a reason: that no man could boast in the presence of God.

The world looks for "heroes" while God looks for His sheep. Sheep are pretty humble creatures, wholly dependent upon their Shepherd. There's only one Hero; His name is Jesus.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Well, I've had an interesting life.

I've seen a number of wars: WW 2; Korea, Vietnam, Gulf, Iraq, and numerous "small wars" in between.

Saw one president assassinated, at least 3 other attempts: Truman, Ford, Reagan; and had the job of protecting LBJ during my days at a Texas base where he landed to board ground transportation to his ranch. At least he didn't get shot on my watch.....

Went through high aspirations for a personal career in politics which culminated in working tirelessly for a candidate whose loss rivals Alf Landon's defeat by FDR. Then transferred that idealism to the world of military operations and offered myself in the battle to "save the world from the Red Menace". My mother's only two brothers were both killed in WW 2; in the Vietnam War, I lost dozens of friends and buddies, comrades in a way no one who has not been there will ever understand. I remember sitting in the snack bar lounge at Elmendorf Air Base in Alaska night after night as the medevac flights from Vietnam (via Tokyo) landed to refuel, seeing the walking wounded de-plane, come in for a coke, viewing their missing limbs and broken bodies, leaving me to wonder how much worse were the guys lying in hammocks on the plane, those who were unable to walk at all?

I came out of the military thoroughly radicalized politically, returned to university and joined with my old friends, some of whom had served and returned, others who dodged the draft and stayed home. United again, we took an active part in the anti-war movement, burned our 214s and threw our medals back toward any "establishment" figure. Being an active participant in that time, in that place, in that culture, I was a soldier in the Sexual Revolution and an entrepreneur in the Drug Business.

Sensing the futility of that lifestyle, I walked away from it cold one night and moved to Louisville, then quickly on to Nashville. The morning after my arrival in Music City, I drove down Galatin Road and rented an apartment in East Nashville. Next door lived a young woman whose parking place I accidentally co-opted, necessitating a conversation and introduction. About 40 years later, she's still here, in the next room, hardly ever further away than that.

Reading this now, one can begin to see God's hand in all this: my survival of the war, my survival of the post-war madness; my meeting Carolyn. But at that time, I saw nothing. I was blind. The whole "move to Nashville" thing was for the purpose of establishing myself as a writer of music. Meeting and marrying this school teacher seemed to fit right in. She could teach and earn money while I sat at the typewriter all day waiting for the creative epiphany. That didn't work out. We married in April and she quit teaching in May! So, I had to go to work.

We moved to Florida, had our first child, moved back to Tennessee, and have been here ever since. We had five children, buried two, seen three grow to maturity, suffer, struggle, succeed, fail, fall, flounder and survive. We've given up work and business and have thoroughly retired to a place in the woods, quite primitive, which Carolyn described within minutes of first seeing it, as "the place I've always dreamed of".

In 1976, God by His unfathomable mercy and grace saved me from the wrath I justly deserve. Though I "surrendered" to a life of Christian service and ministry shortly thereafter, only in recent years have I had any sense of doing anything which really glorifies Him, and that in a very inadequate way. Through all this, through the teaching of His Word by His Spirit, He has shaped my thinking, re-shaped it from the view of the world where man is exalted to a view in which God is central.

So, when I look back upon all which at one time seemed so important, I understand the scripture which says: All is vanity. I see the country I once fantasized about leading politically, the country I took up arms for, the country I would not leave for any other residence on earth, going further and further into rebellion against God, further into idolatry, further into sin of the most depraved forms. I see no hope for this country. Though I could list sin after sin which blot the soul of this nation, I will mention only one for it is more than enough to justify God's wrath and destruction: the murder of millions of unborn children, murders which have been condoned, abetted, and even financed by the government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" of the United States.

Now, while most of the nation, yea, the world, celebrates the inauguration of our first Black President, I see the nation taking one more great stride toward destruction. The implementation of this administration's pro-abortion policies, already in motion on this first full day in office, sound the death knell for America. My sense is that we, as a nation, have "crossed God's deadline." There is no turning back. How can we undo 50 million murders since 1973? God has given this nation over to a reprobate mind; He has written "Ichabod" over the Seal of the United States. And I want to be clear that I am speaking of the nation as a nation, not about individual persons. God will save his children who are resident here, calling them out one-by-one as He has always done. This nation however is bound for judgment.

The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.
(Psalms 9:17)

So, as I see my life coming to a close here (though God might surprise me and keep me around a lot longer than I expect) I have no regrets about departing this world. I pray that when He takes me out of here, I won't be found clinging by my fingernails to the stuff of this world, trying to maintain a grip on this corrupt and dying society.

There is one thing I see which offers great encouragement so far as the affairs of men in this world. Though the "church" is corrupt and becoming more so every day, not just "in the world" but very much "of the world," there is always that faithful remnant. I see a whole generation of young preachers being raised up, preachers who are convinced of not just the inerrancy of the scriptures, but their sufficiency. These men have returned to the Truth which gave birth to the Reformation and they are preaching it faithfully. I think that in the 30 to 40 years it takes these fellows to get to my present age, God will make one "last call" for America. There will be that time of revival where His true church radiates the Gospel and God brings many sons to glory. I'm excited by that prospect. It would be nice to be here for it, but if not, I shall have a great view: I'll be among the myriads and myriads experiencing that "joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner who repents."

An interesting life, and very soon to be infinitely more interesting........

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 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, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
(Titus 3:3-7)


The inaugural fol-de-rol and subsequent events surrounding the new administration have the cable news folks and their talking heads spinning non-stop. It's interesting to the point of fascination to see how this carries over in "Christian" discourse and discussion.

I've been convinced for a long time that, in general, Christians demonstrate a real lack of discernment when listening to the voice of the world, even on non-spiritual matters such as business, science, and certainly politics. I'm going to pick on Fox News maybe, but I intend this only as one example. The woods is full of other examples. Fox News is a business with an agenda. It is dominated by the Roman Catholic worldview. Their major players are Roman Catholics, e.g. Sean Hannity, Neal Cavuto, et al. If anyone is tempted to rebut this by throwing out the name of Mike Huckaby, resident Baptist, let me remind you that he is the type of "Baptist" who opposed the conservative resurgence in the SBC in the 70's and sided with the Bible-denying apostates in the seminaries.

Because these celebrities occasionally throw the name of our Lord into their conversation, they are viewed as "fellow-Christians" and thus command the respect and influence the thinking of countless undiscerning Christians. Because of this overly-generous view that FNC is "on our side" we allow them to shape or at least influence our worldview.

Take note of the newest addition to the Cast at FNC: Glen Beck--arch-conservative talk-show type in the mold of Hannity and Limbaugh, but...........BUT! He's a Mormon. And politically conservative Christians sit at his feet and lap up the pearls which drop from his lips without the slightest hesitation. You want some Mormon influence in your worldview? This is no surprise to me considering the "chumming-up" of Rome and Salt Lake City. What a lovely ecumenical couple. One wonders where all this "unity in the church" will lead.........or does one need to wonder? If you indeed wonder, I refer you to the Revelation of Jesus Christ there at the end of your New Testament.

What we are talking about here is another bit of idolatry practiced by Christians (at least professing-). We are subjecting ourselves to the influence of the Godless world, a subtle influence, thus the more dangerous. In his book, WE BECOME WHAT WE WORSHIP, A Biblical Theology of Idolatry, G.K. Beale wrote:

"...when was the last time you were watching the evening news and the anchor introduced the day's newscast by saying "Let's ask for God's wisdom in order rightly to interpret the world events that have happened today"?.......Of course we don't hear such things in the secular media because they don't have a Christian world-and-life view.

The media's worldview has subtly become an idol we easily reflect. And that mindset--that God is not active in the daily affairs of people--can destroy us. What we revere we resemble, either for ruin or restoration."

Monday, January 19, 2009


During a quick trip into town, I just met a fellow who has been pretty much "out of sight" for a few months. He's a wonderful brother and I love him greatly. Whenever we or anyone else would run into him on his job or around town, he always presented Christ. He ministered to the poor and despised; he witnessed boldly to the rich and powerful. He has a heart for the lost.

Then he fell. A hobby-business involving guns got him into a mess with the feds and he is facing criminal charges in federal court. He lost his job and, much worse, he has lost his testimony. He's no master criminal. It's a technical thing which might go away next year, but the damage is done. Whether he was just stupid or acted out of greed, I don't know, but he will never been viewed again as he once was by the community here.

In Second Corinthians 4, Paul makes a wonderful description of the Gospel then says:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

The glorious Gospel is a brilliant Light, but God puts it in plain clay vessels to demonstrate that all the brilliance and glory is His, not ours.

Those clay pots are fragile, too. Earlier, in the First Corinthian letter, Paul had written:

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Ah, the heart-breaking thought--preaching to others, then being "disqualified" oneself! Paul knew it could happen to him, and he made every effort to avoid that disaster. (Please note: we are not talking about losing salvation here, but being disqualified for service)

Paul used the word ἀδόκιμος (adokimos) which can be translated "rejected" "unapproved" or "castaway" as in the KJV. In everyday language, determined by the Greek papyrii of that time, it was often used to describe household vessels--cooking pots and so forth--which had been damaged. In the economy of the time, they often were not discarded but set aside, "put on the shelf" until they could be repaired and returned to service.

This seems such a powerful picture of my fallen brother and others in that same situation. They, as we, are the fragile clay pots God has chosen to contain his Gospel. We fall into the sins of this world and are damaged, rendered unfit for use, and God puts us on the shelf--ἀδόκιμος.

The implication is there that repair will be done and the vessel returned to service. God the Holy Spirit is in the business of mending these damaged clay jars and restoring them to active service in the household of God. What a gracious God we serve!

My prayer is that my friend's state be a warning to all of us in the ministry. Maybe he compartmentalized his life. Maybe he had a "Christian activity" and a "business activity" dichotomy. The failure on the "business" side has damaged the Christian side. In fact, there are no compartments for us to hide in. We need to be watchful that we do not fall into sin. It is deadly.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
(1Cor 10:12)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Review: For the Tough Times by Max Lucado

I thought I'd begin this review by comparing Max Lucado's new book FOR THE TOUGH TIMES, Reaching Toward Heaven For Hope to C.J. Mahaney's LIVING THE CROSS CENTERED LIFE, Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing.

Both books are about the same size. End of similarities. Lucado does not even come close to reflecting the Biblical truth which underlies Mahaney's work, nor is the Lucado book Christ-centered, rather it reflects the man-focused religion which dominates modern "Christendom."

FOR THE TOUGH TIMES is a small book. It is small in size; it is small in content; it is small in value to believers and dangerous to non-believers.

Mahaney is able to take serious theological concepts and present them in an understandable form so that one does not need to be a seminary grad to get his point. Lucado wants to be "readable" for a general audience as well, but his methods involve taking the things of God and trivializing them. Such childish rubbish as "God's address is 1 Billion Starry Sky Avenue" is not "putting the cookies on the bottom shelf where even the kiddies can reach them" but putting rat poison in the milk.

Lucado's presentation of theological concepts is not only flawed by such trivialization but fraught with error. I'm not going to spend time refuting much of this, if any. I'll just let his words demonstrate the shallow-at-best understanding of God and His character and work:

"He (God) invented Grace"

"He (God) placed His hand on the shoulder of humanity and said "You're someting special"

"Your prayers may move God to change the world"

and First Honors for:

"...upon learning that God would rather die than live without you...."

This is the first Lucado book I've ever read. He is presented as "America's leading inspirational writer" I believe it. He is teaching exactly what Mainstream Christianity believes and wants to have reinforced: It's all about Me. God thinks I'm really Special. The whole of creation revolves around Me. I am so powerful I can get God to change His plans! Me, Me, Me!

To his credit, the chapter on Good and Evil and the role of Satan is pretty solid Biblically. Lucado credits 3 other writers in this work: Erwin Lutzer, John MacArthur, and Anthony Hoekema. He should have leaned more heavily on them.

Initially I was going to offer the criticism that there was not good continuity between chapters; the change is often abrupt. Then I happened to read on the copyright page:

Most of the material for this book has been adapted from (4 previous titles)
ISBN 978-0-8499-2144-5 (repackage)

So, it's not only a small book (barely 10,000 words I'd guess), it's a rehash of already published stuff.....

Bottom line: Hallmark appearance, shallow content, Gospel-deficient.


I have been a "preacher" for quite a long time. Later this year I'll observe the 30th anniversary of my ordination (and I was preaching for some time prior to that date).

Quite recently, however, I started to learn what it means to be a "minister" as opposed to a "preacher". My early experiences as a pastor were major disasters because of my status as a "novice" combined with total ignorance as to what it means to minister to God's flock.

Most of the N.T. references to "minister" in the King James (usually rendered "serve" in the ESV) are instances where Paul used the word διακονέω (diakaneo)--the same word from which "deacon" comes, and with the same import: servant, serving. Interesting to muse on the weakness of the King James there in that it has allowed countless readers, myself included, to consider "serving" something done by the deacons whilst us preachers carried on nobler work.

My preaching for years, after my pastoral failures, took on a drive-by approach. Preach at 'em and run. Let the Holy Spirit finish the message....No one-on-one contact, no involvement with individuals. God has been changing me with regard to this over the past few years. I had a couple of very influential experiences recently and as I was mulling them over, I received this quote from an internet source I subscribe to:

We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them. So often Christians, especially preachers, think that their only service is always to have to "offer" something when they are together with other people. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking even when they should be listening. But Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either; they will always be talking even in the presence of God. The death of the spiritual life starts here, and in the end there is nothing left but empty spiritual chatter and clerical condescension which chokes on pious words. Those who cannot listen long and patiently will always be talking past others, and finally no longer will even notice it. Those who think their time is too precious to spend listening will never really have time for God and others, but only for themselves and for their own words and plans.

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Those words, even upon an eighth or ninth reading, still affect me like a slap in the face (deserved, too). "...clerical condescension choking on pious words...." Ouch!

Two experiences in the past 10 days reinforce the lesson Bonhoeffer teaches: 1.) In our Tuesday night Bible study at a prison, my brother Elvis is teaching through Matthew. We got to chapter 19 which begins with the discourse on divorce. This is a sensitive area for inmates, particularly Christian inmates. Most are divorced. Most have been subjected to the preaching and teaching of the modern-day Pharisees and often condemned to Hell because of their marital mess. The believers are broken over their past sin and infidelity and divorces. As we got into that reading, God gave me the chance to minister His grace to a dozen or so men in a way I have seldom if ever experienced before. I am convinced that He changed lives that evening; that He drew some of His children closer to Himself; that He lifted some burdens; and that Grace became more than a word, became a force in the life of more than one man.

2.) I'm a poor counselor. So, I try to avoid getting into situations where I have to counsel anyone. But.....I got into one, a serious one, and I decided I needed help getting help for someone. I located someone I thought was right for the job and gave him the details and anxiously awaited the much-needed help. What I got was a plethora of platitudes smothered with generalities. My first reaction was: What? Did you not read what I wrote? The response was almost totally irrelevant to the case at hand. Now, I see in the Bonhoeffer quote, what I got was the "clerical condescension," the non-response from a non-listener. He never stopped talking long enough to hear what I was saying, what I needed.

Oh, LORD, I beg you, don't ever let me be like that again. I know I have done that countless times, missed countless opportunities to minister the Grace of Jesus Christ because my mouth was engaged and my heart was closed. Please.....for His great glory, Amen.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Did you ever experience something which was radical and life-changing then wonder if anyone else ever experienced that, or if you were the only one in the world?

Then, as time goes on, you find out that it is not a unique phenomenon but that it happens to others, and they even have a name for it--a Latin name, even! (No, it's not a mental disorder, thank you.)

Now that I've started this I've got to deal with another problem. I learned the name of the phenomenon by reading an article in Christianity Today (bad enough) written by Richard Foster (unthinkable!) So, there it is: public confession. I read it; I even learned something from it; and still, I am not Emergent. Please don't bother writing to tell me what an ogre he is....thanks.

You see, the first 25 years or so of my Christian experience were quite orthodox, maybe hyper-orthodox if there is such a state. It was all about Doctrine (and Standards, in one phase). It was decidedly not about feelings or emotions, ever. I "grew up" (as a 30-something) in churches where if someone said "Amen!" the rest of the congregation would pop a vertebra craning around to see who let in a charismatic. The idea of one lifting his hands in praise during singing or preaching (or anytime other than to wave bye-bye in the parking lot) was totally unacceptable, probably considered heresy.

Now, this isn't about that kind of expression but something much deeper. I said that only to set the tone for what follows. I was Dead Orthodox with emphasis on the Dead. I was to "love not the world, neither the things which are in the world" and occasionally I worked on not loving the worldly "stuff" which I still loved. My orthodoxy enabled me to trash the social-gospel practitioners who went about feeding the hungry, treating the sick, but not giving them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "Do-gooders" trying to earn a place in Heaven.....

Then God put me into prison ministry. Five years down the road of working with these guys whose lives are or were totally disrupted by their criminal actions and the consequences, families destroyed, futures dimmed, worldly hopes weak to non-existent, I find myself weeping over their plight. My heart is more aligned with "pastoral ministry" than ever before, even when I was a "real" pastor. These men have wayward children at home whom they wish to keep from following in their destructive footsteps; they have wives and mothers and fathers who are sick, broke, angry with them, or any combination thereof.

Today, I find myself not just teaching and preaching Doctrine, which I certainly do, to a fault probably in the eyes of some who disagree with my dogmatic presentation of Scripture, but writing to and speaking with wives and parents, seeking churches to minister to parolees, looking for Christian workers in this town or that town to go visit the wayward son of an inmate and tell him about Christ.

An internet friend, a Godly brother-preacher, wrote recently of his heartbreak over starving children in Africa, the down-and-outs of America, and all the miserable, hopeless fellow-humans across this globe who are generally and royally neglected by those of us in this wealthy, comfortable tiny corner of creation. He wondered if he was being untrue to his theological bent, seeing as how he is one of those cold, calculating calvinists like me. You can read his article here.

And that's where Richard Foster stepped in....What he describes as the "cultural mandate" begins with contemptus mundi..
"being torn loose from all earthly attachments and ambitions" OK, I have a strong dose of that. "In the beginning God plucks the world out of our hearts......we experience a loosening of the chains of attachment to positions of prominence and power...We experience a glorious detachment from this world and all it offers." Not wholly there, but I'm closer to this point than even 5 years ago.

Foster goes on: "And then just when we have become free from it all, God hurls the world back into our heart--amor mundi ...We deepen in our compassion for the bruised, the broken, the dispossessed. We ache and pray and labor for others in a new way, a selfless way, a joy-filled way."

Now, I might want to totally disregard much of what Foster says in this article and most of what he writes in general, and I'd like to pick at him over the two different meanings of "world" as in "For God so loved the world....." and "Love not the world...." Nevertheless, he has given me some insight into what I've experienced in recent years and I'm grateful for it. And now, when I find myself with passionate interest in the lives of my inmates and their families, and excited by my brothers who are working with the "street people" in Nashville, feeding and clothing them as well as preaching to them, I take some comfort in knowing that it's more than just me "goin' liberal" in my old age.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Well, I was in Kroger's today and had sent a clerk into the storeroom to see if they had any Ginger Ale since none was on the shelf. To while away the time, I opened a letter from one of my congregants. In it was a check from the State of Tennessee drawn against the inmate's account, payable to the prison ministry. So, the clerk comes back, says "no ginger ale" and seeing the tears in my eyes must think this guy really wanted that ginger ale.....

I went down the dog food aisle and spent a few minutes scrutinizing the labels on the bottom shelf......had to get on my knees to do that. God continually reminds me of His great power to change men, to re-create them. I am not only grateful that He does this, especially that He did it for me, but that He constantly parades His trophies of Grace before me, blessing me with their testimonies and the evidences like this of what He does with those who were once dead in trespasses and sin.

What does it mean that I see so much more of this behavior from my convicted felon brothers than I see from the respectable, pillars of the community church members? We've had an inmate who gave his tithe every month, in the form of postage stamps, to the prison work. We have inmates who because of their poor vision get large-print periodicals by mail and when they are through with them, give them to us to place in nursing homes. I've told you the story of the paroled men who pooled their funds to pay the deposit at a half-way house for one of their brothers who had no money (He is there; arrived the 31st).

I'm trying to figure a way to compare the generosity of these men to the experience we've had with free-world churches, but don't think I can do it without being misunderstood as a whiner or seeming to hint for a handout. Suffice it to say, this brother who sent that check surpassed the total amount we have ever received in support of this prison work from all churches, ever. That's fine in that God has always provided in His own way and I've learned enough to look to Him rather than depend upon men in any way. But that's quite a commentary in my on-going rant on churches and money.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

MONEY: The Central Idol of the "Church"

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
(Matt 6:19-21)

What do you suppose that means?

Obviously, it cannot mean what it says, literally, or about 90% of the pastoral leadership of modern churches would be in serious trouble, along with 99% of their congregations.

As I think about the inroads made into "sound churches" by the pervasive, perverted "prosperity gospel" at one moment I am befuddled at how this could happen, then the next moment, it seems no mystery at all. The so-called "church" of the Western world, the US in particular, is populated by people who are absolutely in love with comfort, and that comfort is provided and maintained by their great god Mammon.

I'm having one of those spells where it is just beyond me to understand how any body of professing believers with even a superficial knowledge of the Word of God can justify their extravagant lifestyle at the expense of a world where the other 98% of the population is starving for both the Gospel and/or a good meal.

We have reached the point, the degree of compromise, the level of rationalization, of self-justification, that we think nothing of paying pastors $250,000 a year to reign over congregations which meet in $25 million buildings. And so glibly excuse such actions by saying: "...worthy of double honor..." "maintain the standard of living of the...." etc, etc. That's life in the culture here....Gotta compete.......Just like top nauseum.

Now, I refer only to "sound churches" with regard to doctrine. The clown-led entertainment centers featuring Cashflow Dollars, Ken $opeland, and that bunch, are not worth discussing. There's nothing right about them; they preach "another gospel which is not the Gospel." But how about these churches where the Gospel is indeed preached? There's this great gulf between Doctrine and Practice!

So many have the Doctrine down...they are puttin' out the Word, regularly. Great....but how do they live? Extravagantly. Why? Because we love Comfort. We love Luxury. We love Stuff. More is better than Less, much better. Comfort is Expected; it is Deserved; it is Our Right as Americans!

So, I pose a few questions, first to Pastors/Elders/Evangelists:

How can you look yourself in the mirror after taking that $150,000. or $250,000. salary when you know there are struggling pastors/church planters risking their lives, living in huts, scraping out a living in the jungles and in the ghettos of third-world countries as they minister the Gospel to their mission field?

And to you, Mr Church Member:

How can you support this idolatrous practice of building multi-million dollar palaces and paying pastors and staff corporate-level salaries? It is so self-centered, self-perpetuating, almost incestuous. Take a church with a $3 million dollar budget. Often 60-70% of that goes for salaries and benefits for all the staff/employees. Most of the rest goes for debt service. A mere pittance might go for outreach of some kind.......maybe.

So, for $3 million, who is reached? "Oh" you say "We baptized 50 last year..." Great! Lots of those baptisms are "internal" family children, members who were recently converted after years of membership, etc. How many are from really reaching outside, from actually obeying the Great Commission? I'm gonna mark it on the wall here: very few.

Of course, there are exceptions. Thank God for the exceptions. I'm not about the exceptions; I'm talking about the vast majority of these self-sustaining, self-perpetuating, modern, doctrinally-sound churches which maintain a facade of evangelicalism, but in fact are mostly internalized and nearly worthless.

You know, you could take one of these places where they spent $2 million on staff salaries/benefits, cut that in half...poor pastor--now only making $100,000/year!--and for the $1 million freed up by that action, you could support 200 indigenous pastors in various third-world countries; or, you could build 100 church buildings in some of those countries; or, you could build 200 decent homes for those pastors who are living in huts, etc, etc....and that's from one church budget, in one year.

Don't even ask me what could be done with the difference in money between that $25 million building program and a $1 million utilitarian building without the basketball court, sauna, and coffee bar.

I know that this will probably never happen...rarely at best. Comfort is our goal; Mammon is the god who provides. We have an image to maintain. This is America. We have to treat our pastor right. We need a fine building to attract (fill in the blank).

I've been called an ascetic for this kind of thinking. More mockery is probably forthcoming. Simple living is un-American, I guess. I know this: we live on a whole lot less than $250,000. a year...about 90% less. We have decent vehicles (too many), a fairly warm house, air conditioning, running water, electricity, insurance, satellite tv, computers, internet, real estate, more food than we need, medical care, and do this without being on the dole. No one will ever convince me, I'm sure, that this idea of the church living up to the standards of the world is justifiable in any way. It's compromise. It's shameful. The Western church is spared judgment only because of the long-suffering of God. May he grant us repentance, and quickly!