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 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.