Thursday, July 30, 2009

Small Churches and SBC Committees

My friend, Les, has written a very insightful piece on his blog about small churches and their representation or lack thereof on SBC Committees. He writes:

I'll tell you where the small church leaders are NOT. They're not on Great Commission task forces. They're not on IMB Board of Trustees. They're not on NAMB Board of Trustees. They are not on Lifeway Board of Trustees. They are not on Guidestone Board of Trustees. They are not on the ERLC Board of Trustees. They are not on the SBC Executive Committee. They are not on any of the six seminaries Board of Trustees. They are not on the Committee on Committees. They are not on the Resolutions Committee.

Check out the whole article here. You'll find it a very interesting read.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Are You a Leader or a Controller?

I read something by Ron Edmondson that I thought I would pass along to you. In the church, some people call themselves leaders but they are really controllers. They don't actually shepherd anyone but drive them with the whip of their will. Ron describes the difference as follows:

Characteristics of leading people
Encourages creativity
Develops people rather than programs
Builds healthy relationships with followers
Models a healthy way
More focused on needs of followers
People follow by choice
Empowers people

Characteristics of controlling people
Stifles personal growth
Discourages creativity
Keeps followers at a distance
Insists on a set way
More focused on needs of the controller
People follow by force
Devours people

You can read the whole article here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Three Stages of Preaching

R.L Dabney writes in his book, Evangelical Eloquence, "And it is exceedingly instructive to note that there are three stages through which preaching has repeatedly passed with the same results. The first is that in which scriptural truth is faithfully presented in scriptural garb. That is to say that not only are all the doctrines asserted which truly belong to the revealed system of redemption, but they are presented in that dress and connection in which the Holy Spirit has presented them without seeking any other from human science. This state of the pulpit marks the golden age of the church.

The second is the transition stage. In this the doctrines taught are still those of the scriptures, but their relations are molded into conformity with the prevalent human dialectics. God's truth is now shorn of a part of its power over the soul.

A third stage is then near in which not only are the methods and explanations conformed to the philosophy of the day but the doctrines themselves contradict the truth of the Word.

Again and again have the clergy traveled this descending scale and always with the same disastrous result, May we ever be content to exhibit Bible doctrine in its own Bible dress."

Gee, I guess that guy called it just about right, huh? And Dabney wrote that book over 100 years ago. Wow.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Getting "De-Baptized"?

Reported in USA Today:

In a type of mock ceremony that's now been performed in at least four states, a robed "priest" used a hairdryer marked "reason" in an apparent bid to blow away the waters of baptism once and for all. Several dozen participants then fed on a "de-sacrament" (crackers with peanut butter) and received certificates assuring they had "freely renounced a previous mistake, and accepted Reason over Superstition."

And people wonder why infant baptism is meaningless.

HT: Jim West

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Matthew 6:25 Don’t Worry, Be Happy

People commit frauds in the workplace for a variety of reasons. Some people enjoy the thrill of doing something wrong and not getting caught—beating the system. For some people, they live beyond their means and use fraud to support their lifestyle. However, I read a letter one time by a lady who had been entrusted with the “Flower Fund” at her workplace. Employees would donate money at the beginning of a year and when someone died, was sick, or had a birth/death in the family, the office would send flowers. This lady began to steal to help make ends meet when her husband was hospitalized and subsequently lost his job. She said, in a letter she wrote, that she was so ashamed and intended to pay back what she had taken. She claimed that concern over being able to pay her bills led her to commit the theft. I can imagine how worried she must have felt. I’ve been there. The fact is while we live on this earth we’re going to have to pay bills, buy groceries, and put clothes on our backs and to do that we’re going to have to have money. However, as Christians our priorities should not be to make sure we take care of ourselves first because we know that we have a heavenly Father who takes care of us. Because of that, we should have a different mindset about money than the rest of the world.

First of all, Jesus reminds us why we should have a different perspective than the rest of the world. He says in verse 25 “For this reason, I say to you”. The “reason” He’s talking about is the ideas expressed in the proceeding verses—that we are to serve God as our number one priority. We’re not supposed to try to climb the ladder of success and serve God as His slaves. We can’t do that. We have to choose to not have a dual set of motives but rather our motive for service to God should be singular and pure. As Christians, we should use our possessions to invest in the kingdom of God rather than our own personal kingdom. It is on these previous verses that Jesus bases His next command.

The command is a simple one—“Do not be worried”. It is a present imperative with a negative which indicates that Jesus meant for them to stop doing something that they were already doing. In other words, “Stop worrying”. This divine cease and desist order makes perfect sense given the context. Why would someone have conflicting motives regarding money—trying to serve God and get all the stuff they can get? Well, I would suggest just like the lady I spoke about earlier that they are worried about being able to take care of things. Someone might cut ethical corners if they felt pressure to make sure they had the money to cover the bills. I can remember a time where I was doing payroll for a company as a staff accountant in an accounting practice. My boss probably didn’t pay me as much as she could have but I took the job knowing what she would pay me. I had a wife, a child, stacks of bills and I was in school full time doing a degree in accounting. I had access to the client’s bank account and could have created a ghost employee and sent myself money by direct deposit. I didn’t do it because the Holy Spirit convicted me of how evil that would be and the consequences of it. My point is this; worry over money can lead to making bad choices. Therefore, we should not be worried but must trust in the Lord. In fact, since Jesus commands us not to worry we need to be cognizant of the fact that worry is sin. There are no two ways around it.

Jesus says we should not worry about the things we need to sustain our lives, food and drink, or even the clothing we will wear. He tells us that our life is “more than food” and our body is “more than clothing”. Our life is not just this shell that we live in, feed, and clothe. Our life is eternal and God has promised us a home in heaven with Him forever. In comparison with that, any problems we have here on this earth related to procuring food or clothing is pretty inconsequential. Further, if God is going to take us to heaven because He loved us before the foundation of the world and sent His Son to die for our sins, would He not also take care of us while we are here on this earth?

We have a loving, kind, and gracious heavenly Father who we can trust with our very lives. Because of that, we can serve Him wholeheartedly knowing that we don’t have to look out for our own best interests. He’s already taking care of that and He never slumbers nor sleeps.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Honest Scrap??

Stan, my blogger friend over at just after sunrise (in addition to being a blogger he's also a CPA so you know he's uber cool), tagged me in something called Honest Scrap. The rules are that I should share 10 honest things about myself and then tag 7 bloggers to do the same.

So, 10 honest things about me:

1) I really, REALLY hate cutting the grass.
2) My bark is much worse than my bite.
3) I didn't go into accounting because I was interested but rather cause it looked like a pretty easy way to get a job.
4) I enjoy singing my daughter to sleep probably more than anything else I do regularly everyday.
5) I am an unashamed 5-point Calvinist who has no interest in converting other Christians to Calvinism.
6) Leaving the church we just left was the absolute hardest thing I've ever done.
7) I went to see the new Star Trek movie a 2nd time at the drive in theater before my eye surgery because I was afraid I'd never be able to see again and I wanted one of my last sights to be something I did with my family.
8) My wife is my hero.
9) I try to act like an old crumudgeon, but in fact I'm a real softie.
10) I am so thankful that God is gracious to me and that He forgave my sins.

Now, I tag the following people:
Eric Carpenter
Nathan W. Bingham
St. Lee
Bart Barber
David Worley
Matt Svoboda
Greg Alford

Here Come the Thought Police!!

Last week, the Senate passed Hate Crimes Legislation which, it is claimed, does not prevent pastors or anyone from preaching that homosexuality is sinful. However, as Barrett Duke, the ERLC's vice president for public policy and research notes, "The amendment protects the pastor as long as his speech or other action was not 'intended' to lead to an act of violence. (Who decides if it was "intended" to lead to violence? A liberal judge I bet.) However, it does not protect a pastor from government scrutiny if a member of his congregation engages in an act of violence against someone in one of these protected groups after he has heard a negative statement from the pastor about the group. So, anyone who speaks against homosexuality or other aberrant sexual behaviors may be presumed guilty of inciting violence and be forced to prove his innocence."

Read the whole article in Baptist Press here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

II Peter 2:4-8 God the Righteous Judge Part III

As we look at this world and see people disrespect God and His word, it’s easy to get discouraged. I would imagine many of you pray sometimes, just as I do, “How long, Lord?” We want to see God’s righteousness and justice become a present reality in the world not just some sort of high and lofty concept. While we wait for that day to come, we can take comfort in the fact that scripture clearly reveals that God has dispensed justice and distinguished between the right and the wrong. Because He has done so, we can trust Him to do it again.

As we saw in the previous post on these verses, God “preserved Noah” who was described as a “preacher of righteousness”. Lot’s story is a little bit different. If you read the account in Genesis, Lot chose to live near Sodom and Gomorrah. He was offered by his uncle, Abram, the choice between the land of Canaan and living near Sodom and he made the choice of Sodom. Now, Genesis tells us that the folks living in Sodom were wicked. So, Lot gets there to Sodom and he’s living there around these wicked people. He sees for himself the sorts of people they are and how wicked they act and what does he do? He continues to live there. Then, a few chapters later he and his family get captured when a local war breaks out between some of these kings. After his uncle comes and rescues him, you might expect him to say to himself “Ok, these people are wicked and the area is not safe with all this warring and strife. We need to move”. However, that’s not what happened. He stayed in this unsafe area surrounded by wicked people.

So, when God brought judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, He didn’t preserve Lot like He did Noah. God “rescued righteous Lot”. Of course, we recognize that Lot was righteous the same way that anybody becomes righteous—he had faith in God. We can commend Lot for that but the fact that God had to rescue Lot tells us something. The Greek word translated “rescued” (rhoumai-4506) means to snatch away from danger. Lot didn’t go willingly, remember—they had to drag him out (Genesis 19:16). He and his family left Sodom though it was not of their own accord but they did make it out before God’s terrible judgment fell on those wicked people.

However, even though he had to be made to leave, let’s listen to what scripture does say about him. As we have noted, Peter writes here in verse 7 under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that Lot was righteous. The people he lived with in contrast are described as “sensual” (not restraining any of their passions-“if it feels good, do it”) and “unprincipled” (athesmos [113]-not willing to be subject to the rule of law). Peter writes that in this environment, Lot was “oppressed” or worn down by their vile behavior. He was burdened. In fact, Peter in the next verse describes Lot as feeling “his righteous soul tormented day after day”. The word “tormented” translates a word that was sometimes used to describe torture and it also was used to describe testing precious metals with a touchstone. The evil deeds he saw as he lived there in Sodom were a constant, daily source of anguish. While he might not have lived the kind of life that Moses did and allowed his lifestyle to preach the goodness and judgment of God on these people, we can at least acknowledge that he did not allow himself to become contaminated by the putrid lifestyles of the sinner he lived among not did he partake in their “lawless deeds”.

Peter’s point in these verses has been that God does punish sin and redeem those with saving faith. Because He has done it in the past, we can trust that when He judges in the future it will likewise be righteous. We can be thankful that we will not suffer His wrath if we are His children but we should therefore be even more motivated to call men and women everywhere to repent of their sins so that God will forgive them. That is our mission and our privilege.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Signs that your church leadership is abusive.

This is part of an article by Steven Lambert, ThD, titled The Signs of Spiritual Abuse. Be on guard for signs like this in your church and if you see them, my advice would be to do your best immatation of Speedy Gonzales.

The following are some of the common signs and symptoms, or common characteristics, of authoritarian abuse manifest in hyper-authoritarian groups, churches, networks, and ministries, especially those identifying themselves as Charismatic or Pentecostal (I have also seen it in a reformed Baptist church-joe). It simply is not feasible to elaborate extensively on each of them in an article such as this. However, I have addressed most of them in various books, booklets, and articles I have written on the topic. Bear in mind that the list is by no means exhaustive, and that these are somewhat general, rather than, exact descriptions. Many variations on these basic themes exist in authoritarian groups. Bottom-line is: any ministry in which more than one or two of these signs of abuse are manifest should alert you to the undeniable fact that it is a hyper-authoritarian organization, regardless of how large, popular, or well-known it and its leader are. And, if after reading this list, you cannot recognize and admit to yourself that your beloved church or ministry is practising, unbiblical and ungodly doctrines and practices, then you are definitely brainwashed and under the spell of "deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons" and these demonic lies are "seared in your own conscience as with a branding iron" (1 Tim. 4:1,2). And, that means you need deliverance to be set free from Satan's bondage and deception. It also means you are deceived about who you are serving. You are not serving the true Jesus, who is the One who died to set the captives free, but rather you are serving false gods — idols — which is idolatry, which means you are an "idolater," and idolaters do not inherit eternal life or have an inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God (Gal. 5:20,21; Eph. 5:5)! The only way for you to escape HELL and eternal punishment and enter into Heaven and the Kingdom is to REPENT! Then RUN from your captors and RUSH into the arms of the True Jesus, who died to set the captives FREE! "He whom the Son sets FREE is FREE INDEED!

*Apotheosis of the leadership — exalting them to God-like status in and over the group;
*Multi-level authority/government hierarchy;
*Absolute authority of the leadership;
*No real accountability of the leadership to the corporate body (especially regarding financial matters-if a church leadership team does not offer financial reports for you to look at you can be sure it is probably because there is something they don't want you to see-joe);
*Hand-picked sub-leaders, based on their demonstration of submissiveness to the ultimate leader rather than on the basis of their leadership skills, spirituality, and anointing and appointment by God;
*Pervasive abuse and misuse of authority in personal dealings with members (i.e. telling someone "Don't you dare walk away from me-joe);
*Paranoia and insecurity by the leaders;
*Abuse, misuse, and inordinate incidence of "church discipline;"
*Personal materialism, covetousness, and self-aggrandizement by the leaders (i.e.-A leader who feels they deserve a high salary-joe);
*Members and/or sub-leaders must make a "spiritual covenant," sometimes a signed covenant agreement, pledging their total commitment and financial support to the leadership and church/ministry;
*Partitioning of the group into smaller groups that are led by internally "raised up" lay-leaders who have not been anointed or appointed by God for leadership within the church;
*Financial exploitation and enslavement of the members (i.e. telling a congregation "The average salary for this area is $60,000 per year. We should have more than enough money to cover expenses-joe);
*Inordinate attention to maintaining the public "image" of the ministry (i.e.putting candid pictures on a picture board which had portraits of the members because so many members had left that the board looked bare-joe);
*Doctrinal demeanment and devaluation — the requisite of espousing and teaching "sound doctrine" is demeaned and devalued;
*Theological incompetency by the leadership, especially with respect to the rules of hermeneutics and Bible exegesis employed in the formulation of doctrine, giving license to twisting and adulteration of Scripture in order to provide proof-texts for unorthodox and invented doctrines (i.e. saying that "double honor" in I Timothy means "high salary"-joe);
*Spiritualism, mysticism, and unproven doctrines;
*Abuse and misuse of prophetic giftings as a means to dominate and intimidate;
*Devaluation, disallowance, disregard, and displacement of the true Fivefold Ministry within the church;
*De facto legalism, or works mentality, and its resulting loss of the "joy of salvation," though "freedom" is forever preached from the pulpit and the church is constantly touted as being a "safe church" by the leadership;
*Esotericism — hidden agendas and requirements revealed to members only as they successfully advance through various stages of "spiritual enlightenment," i.e., unorthodox, unproven indigenous doctrines;
*Isolationism — corporate and individual, especially with respect to exposure to outside ministry sources;
*Performance-based approval and promotion system of members predicated on "proven" "loyalty" (i.e., submission) to the leadership;
*Devaluation, suppression, and non-recognition of members' bona fide God-given talents, abilities, gifts, callings, and anointing, as a means of subjugation (i.e.-being told by a pastor "Don't you come tell us what you can do."-joe);
*Requiring members to perform menial tasks, such as cleaning toilets, setting up chairs, and acting as the leader's personal valet or slave, as a supposed means to humble them and teach them to "obey their leaders;"
*Constant indoctrination with a "group" or "family" mentality that impels members to exalt the corporate "life" and goals of the church-group over their personal goals, callings, and objectives;
*Members are psychologically traumatized and indoctrinated with numerous improper fears and phobias aimed at keeping them reeling in diffidence and an over-dependence or co-dependence on their leaders and the corporate group;
*Corporately, there eventually develops an inordinately high incidence of financial, marital, moral, psychological, mental, emotional, and medical problems, including sudden deaths and contraction of "incurable" and "unknown" diseases;
*Lack of true personal spiritual growth and development, especially in terms of genuine faith and experiencing the abounding grace, forgiveness, goodness, blessings, kindness, and agape-love of God;
*Members are required to obtain the approval or "witness" of their leader(s) for decisions regarding personal matters;
*Frequent preaching from the pulpit regarding not getting out from under the "spiritual covering" of the leadership (or the suggestion that there is never a biblical reason to leave a church-joe);
*Members departing without the prior permission and blessing of the leadership leave the group under a cloud of manufactured suspicion, shame, and slander;
*Horror stories frequently told by leaders about individuals or families who left the group without the prior permission and blessing of the leadership, and the terrible consequences and curses they suffered as a result;
*Departing members often suffer from various psychological problems and display the classic symptoms associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

So...what to do? Well, here's a few questions for you to ponder:

Do you know what the signs of hyper-authoritarianism, control, and domination in a group or church and how to recognize them?

Do you know if the signs are simple, overt, and obvious, or are they sophisticated and complex, covert, and hidden?

Could you be objective enough about your church or group and leaders to correctly analyze if authoritarian abuse is taking place at your church?

Do you know how to explain what the signs are to prospective or suspected victims in order to convince them they are under it?

Do you know how to throw out a lifeline to rescue them?

Do you know what steps are necessary for victims to recover from the psychologically traumatizing and spiritually damaging effects of years of subjection to spiritual abuse?

Do you know why hyper-authoritarian doctrines and practices are unscriptural and Biblically-prohibited, and could you cite some of the Scripture passages in which God condemns them?

Do you know from a biblical standpoint if God requires you to always "obey your leaders," even when they set requirements that contravene Scripture or your conscience, or when they behave as unscrupulous and undisciplined tyrants rather than model the characteristics of servanthood that Jesus modeled and instructs His under-shepherds to likewise model?

These are just a few of the questions needing answers concerning this prevalent problem of authoritarian abuse plaguing the church today. Being able to readily identify the signs and symptoms of authoritarian abuse and psychological enslavement that is rampant among church groups today is absolutely essential for every believer in their quest to know and be personally related to the Great Shepherd, who is the Prince of Peace and the true "Guardian of our souls."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Is Political Liberalism a Religion?

Dr. Albert Mohler wrote a very insightful article this week that speaks to that question. I highly recommend you read the whole article, but I found the following quote to be particularly interesting.

"This explains why talking about abortion or same-sex 'marriage,' for example, with certain liberals is usually futile. It is like trying to persuade a committed Muslim to accept Christ. Because his religion forbids it, he can only do so by converting from Islam to Christianity; he cannot accept Christ as long as he remains firmly committed to Islam. So it is with firmly committed liberals: Their 'religion' forbids any concessions to the 'conservative' agenda, and as long as they remain committed to their secular ideology, it is futile to hope for such concessions from them."

The Lord does not save through the Republican Party nor would I suggest that all true Christians vote only republican. There are Democrats who are not pro-choice or pro-homosexual marriage. However, Christians should always stand on the side of what the Bible clearly teaches and the Bible clearly teaches that homosexuality and abortion are both sinful.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Matthew 6:24 No Moonlighting Allowed

I remember when I was a child watching some sitcom in the 70’s I remember an episode where the main character was trying to hide the fact that they were working an after hours job from the boss of their day job. They would come in to work with bags under their eyes fighting sleep the whole day and the hilarity would ensue from their mistakes resulting from sleep deprivation. I always found it funny that a boss would tell his employees they couldn’t work more than one job. Of course, we have no such issues today in our society. In fact, I would dare say we all probably know someone who works more than one job out of preference or necessity. At one point, I worked 3 jobs while going to college to finish my accounting degree. It wasn’t fun and I’m glad I don’t have to do that now but through sheer force of iron will I was able to do it. However, we need to see as Matthew records here that Jesus teaches an unswerving devotion to God and to His glory.

First of all, we should consider the context of what Jesus says here in the Sermon on the Mount. He tells us that we should invest in the kingdom of God rather than focusing on acquiring wealth simply to acquire wealth (vs 19-21). Jesus tells us that we should serve God with a pure motive instead of trying to focus on God and the things of this world (vs 22-23). He then progresses logically to a question that I’m sure someone has or will ask—why not serve God and try to acquire stuff? I mean, Solomon had a lot of stuff, didn’t he? What’s so wrong with wanting to own and enjoy things and serve the Lord.

First of all, because Jesus says it is an impossible task. He says at the beginning of the verse that “No one can serve two masters”. At the end of the verse, He says “You cannot serve God and wealth”. The fact is, the two masters He refers to are so different that to serve them would be to try to turn right AND left at the same time. To serve God involves a dying to self and a total submission to the will of God. Chasing after the things of this world, in contrast, demands that you be on the lookout for how you can better yourself and in some cases a willingness to do whatever it takes to get ahead. Brothers and sisters, this is not just a case of a sitcom character working til the wee hours of the morning and arrives at their day job looking haggard. “No one” includes everyone. When Jesus says “You cannot” He means the plural “you” not just His audience. I can’t do it. You can’t do it. No one can do it.

There is a good reason no one can do it. You see you and me, dear reader, think of this verse as describing two different jobs. Like the sitcom character, we imagine that if we could get enough caffeine in our system, we could hold down these two jobs of serving God and money for a while at least—even if we were tired. But you see, the task is impossible for someone who seeks to serve God because of the incredible responsibility that service entails. The word “serve” translates a Greek word that is related to the word for “slave” (doulos). We’re not employees who are attempting to eek out a bit of extra spending money because our day job doesn’t pay enough. We are not servants. We are slaves. That means we are property or as I’ve heard people refer to them “Shovels that can walk and talk”. A person can work two different jobs but a slave only has one master. The slave is that master’s property to do with as they please. The slave does not get a choice and, obviously, would not be able to choose to serve two masters. Therefore, from a practical standpoint it’s pretty easy to imagine the problems dual ownership would create.

In fact, I submit to you for a slave to even try to serve two masters would produce inescapable conflict. As Jesus goes on to say, one master is going to get a poor effort or the short end of the stick from this slave. Jesus says the slave will “hate” and “despise” one master. They will be antagonistic in word and deed toward this one master. They will also “think down” on them (“despise”-kataphroneo [2706] means literally to think down or think lowly of). The slave will “love” (agape—not a love of emotion but a love of choice, a sacrificial love that always seeks the best of the object of the love regardless of personal cost) and “be devoted” to the other master. The slave will demonstrate his devotion to the one master in excellent service and loyalty and neglect the other master. After all, he’s only one slave. There is no way he could totally devote 100% of his time, energy, and resources to the one master and have anything left over to give to any other master.

Friends, if you and I are going to serve Jesus Christ as Lord, He must be just that—Lord. We must realize we are His slaves and as such we must make a total commitment to Him and His purposes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

II Peter 2:4-8 God the Righteous Judge Part II

Have you ever had to give someone bad news? In my job, on several occasions, I’ve had to go to an auditee and tell them I’ve found a problem and I’m going to have to include it in our audit team’s published audit report. For instance, I found an auditee that was paying an estimated $50,000 per year for telephones that no one was using. You can imagine how happy they were to get that news. We as Christians have to bring bad news to people—they are suffering from an incurable spiritual cancer that is the result of their birth and their choice and they will die from it. However, we don’t just communicate this message with words. Our lives also provide a testament to the world of the judgment that is to come.

Peter, as we have seen in these verses, clearly demonstrates that God will judge sinners. However, as we observe in verse 4, He also “…preserved Noah…with seven others”. Now, why would God preserve Noah? Well, the short answer is because God was pleased to do so. He is God after all and doesn’t owe anyone an explanation. However, we notice in the account given in Genesis that while God saw the people on the earth only concerned themselves with how much meanness they could get into and how quickly they could get into that meanness (that’s from the Baldwin County Translation of Genesis 6) that Noah was found to be “a righteous man, blameless in his time”. Now, we know that all men are sinners (Romans 3:23) so the text couldn’t mean that Noah never sinned. Noah attained his right standing with God the same way any of us do—by faith. He didn’t earn his salvation by doing good works, going to church a certain number of times a week, or professing allegiance to a certain organization. He became righteous by faith. Noah and his family were saved from utter destruction by God as God was judging the rest of the wicked, sinful world.

We see then why God choose to save Noah and his family. Peter also tells us what Noah did upon receiving this revelation from God. Peter notes that Noah was a “preacher of righteousness”. The word translated “preacher” is the Greek word for a herald or town crier. The picture is of someone announcing the advent of a great king or one of relaying a proclamation for the king. As we read the text in Genesis, we see no sermons are recorded that Moses preached so in what sense was he a “preacher of righteousness”. We can imagine him building this huge ark—a sight that could be seen quite a ways off, I would imagine. I have to believe somebody asked him “Hey, Noah, whatchu doin’?” Of course, he would have told them and they would have asked why I imagine. At some point, the conversation probably turned to the fact that God was going to destroy the world because of the wickedness of the people and that Noah was being obedient to God by building this ark.

Therefore, by his obedience to the call of God he preached in his actions to the people around him. We don’t have any conversations recorded in Scripture as to what he said to anyone but it’s not outside the realm of possibility to suggest that he also told them what was coming. He may have even pleaded with them to repent and call on God. In any case, we see here a picture that looks an awfully lot like the time that we’re living in now, don’t we. People ask us “Hey, why do you think gay marriage is wrong?” or “You know, what’s all this big deal y’all make out of abortion? Why is that?” In our words and deeds, we should be testifying to the truth of scripture. People should see from our lives and hear from our lips what God has to say about this wicked world. In much the same way as Noah, we are privileged to have the revelation of God. Therefore, we each also have a responsibility to be a “preacher of righteousness” just as Noah was in his generation.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Missing the Point of Missions Part III

In a recent comment stream, I had a gentleman who apparently does "church marketing" trying to convince me that church marketing and trying to be appealing can't be all bad if it gets people in church. I came across an article written by one of the men from 9Marks, Andy Johnson, titled "Pragmatism, Pragmatism Everywhere!" While his subject is primarily missions, I think it can also apply to evangelism very easily. I'm going to repost his three main points here and I commend the entire article to you.

Assuming the Bible Is Silent About “How”

Finally, it seems to me that many assume the Bible is silent on practice—the “how” of evangelism and church planting. Books and leaders don’t say this up front. But the fact that they do not carefully interact with Scripture to find, understand, and test missionary methods suggest as much. For example, if you never consult your Bible when changing the oil in your car it suggests that you don’t believe Scripture addresses the topic. And you’re right. Likewise, based on what’s been written and spoken about missions, or not, I take it that many missiologists and missionaries assume that Scripture is largely silent on that topic of the “how.”

Prior generations have made similar mistakes. We’re not the first people to affirm the authority and sufficiency of the Bible yet deny them in our methods. In his classic work of 1954, An Introduction to the Science of Missions the Dutch theologian and veteran missionary to Indonesia, J.H. Bavinck wrote,

The conclusion might easily be reached that the content of preaching is given in Scripture but that the manner of preaching, and the question of missionary approach, is a matter of personal tact and of applying oneself to the given circumstances.

He continues,

According to such a solution, the Bible provides the content, the “what” of preaching, but the manner, the “how” of preaching must be discovered otherwise.

But Bavink calls such a solution “too simple” and suggests that

theoretical problems concerning principles, which can be answered by Scripture alone, lurk behind the countless practical problems which beset the church.[5]

When we deal with issues that touch on the heart of the biblical message (evangelism and the church) and yet act as though Scripture has little to say that’s practical, haven’t we fallen into the same error?

HT: Bart Barber

Friday, July 10, 2009

Missing the Point on Missions Part II

In a recent comment stream, I had a gentleman who apparently does "church marketing" trying to convince me that church marketing and trying to be appealing can't be all bad if it gets people in church. I came across an article written by one of the men from 9Marks, Andy Johnson, titled "Pragmatism, Pragmatism Everywhere!" While his subject is primarily missions, I think it can also apply to evangelism very easily. I'm going to repost his three main points here and I commend the entire article to you.

Evaluating Numbers, Not Faithfulness.

Also, I’ve noticed a trend for mission organizations to focus on numbers of “responses” rather than the biblical faithfulness of their workers as their primary evaluative metric. Again, it’s not that these organizations are wholly unconcerned about theological integrity. They likely have their workers sign a doctrinal statement, and they might be quick to address open heresy. But at the functional level, they seem to assume their workers are faithful and then actually test them by measurable, immediate, visible results—“numbers.”

I don’t know of any organizations who say that numbers are their sole metric. But their published reports focus entirely on the number of Bible study groups formed, decisions made, baptisms performed, and churches planted. So you start to wonder.

Now, I trust that all true Christians would rejoice in numbers insofar as we know that they represent true converts and true churches. But we must also remember from Jesus’ parable of the sower (Matt. 13:1-23) that the number of immediate, visible responses can prove hugely deceptive over time. I often get the feeling that most evangelicals haven’t internalized this warning and tend to think that the faithful ministry or method is the one that “works.” It’s as if we think numbers, not biblical faithfulness, vindicates methodology.

HT: Bart Barber

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Missing the Point on Missions Part I

In a recent comment stream, I had a gentleman who apparently does "church marketing" trying to convince me that church marketing and trying to be appealing can't be all bad if it gets people in church. I came across an article written by one of the men from 9Marks, Andy Johnson, titled "Pragmatism, Pragmatism Everywhere!" While his subject is primarily missions, I think it can also apply to evangelism very easily. I'm going to repost his three main points here and I commend the entire article to you.

Arguing From Results, Not Exegesis

First, I’ve noticed the exceeding popularity of books on missions that seem to argue their method based primarily on their results rather than on biblical exegesis. With some hesitation, I’ll mention a couple of examples of this pragmatic approach to missions, starting with a book written by a person with whom I’m somewhat acquainted and who evidences a great love for Jesus and the lost: David Garrison, Church Planting Movements (WIGTake Resources, 2003) [see the review in this eJournal]. Garrison uses the image of “reverse engineering” to describe with candor how he developed his CPM methods, not from Scripture, but by analyzing a movement that was producing the results he wanted. Or, for an example of this trend in a popular missionary journal see the April 2009 edition of the Evangelical Missionary Quarterly: John Tanner, “A Story of Phenomenal Success: indigenous mission training centers and Myanmar” EMQ 45(2), 152-157. Both works are written by self-professed evangelicals, but both base their arguments mainly on results, rather than on the biblical faithfulness of their approach.

Sadly, I could list dozens, maybe hundreds, of similar books and articles, especially on the topics of contextualizing the gospel, evangelizing Muslims, and planting house churches. The Bible isn’t rejected by these books, it’s merely regarded as if it doesn’t have much to say about the “how” of global evangelism.

HT: Bart Barber

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Matthew 6:22-23 “What’chu lookin’ at?”

As I wrote on my blog a month of so ago, I had some problems with my right eye. The retina had detached. For the period of about 2 weeks, I really couldn’t see anything out of that eye. It was very frustrating. If you’ve never had problems with your vision it may be hard for you to imagine but just take my word for it—I was terribly frustrated. I had many times taken my vision for granted but I now count it very precious to be able to see my wife, my children, sunrises, flowers, as well as being able to read. Jesus uses the eye in this passage not to refer to what we see physically but rather to describe our priorities with regard to money and possessions.

Jesus uses a metaphor to teach these truths in verse 23 by saying that “The eye is the lamp of the body.” Now, that makes sense because while we have other openings in our body the eye is the only one where we can perceive light coming in and it’s the only one where we can interpret what that light shows us. We should remember of course, as we begin to study this passage, that we control our eyes. I mean, what do we look at? We look at what we want to see. Someone might choose to look at their child, a flower, a TV show, or any number of things but it is very rare that we fix our eyes on something that we don’t want to look at. In fact, it is what we do with our eyes that Jesus uses to make His point in these verses.

Jesus tells us there are two “settings” for our eyes—two ways we can be viewing the world. He tells us in verse 22 that our eye can be “clear” or that our eye can be “bad”. Now, since He uses two words here and He is obviously contrasting them (“But”) we can assume they are intended to be opposite. But the opposite of bad isn’t clear—it’s good. So I’m confused. However, a look at the Greek used here might help us out some.

The word used here for “clear” is the Greek word “haplous” (573) which is the root one term used in genetics to describe a cell that instead of having pairs of chromosomes only has one of the strands of chromosomes. The word means single or simple and it is used here to describe someone who doesn’t have duplicitous or ulterior motives. Therefore, Jesus probably means the word “bad” (Greek poneros [4190]-evil in active opposition to good) to mean someone who has motives that are neither simple nor pure. Further, consider the context in which these verses appear. Jesus talked about someone who viewed money as a thing to be stored for here on earth rather than something to be used for God’s glory. In verse 24, He talks about serving one master rather than trying to serve two. When we allow our possessions to own us rather than acknowledging God’s ownership and therefore our stewardship of the possessions we have, we are no longer looking at life with a clear eye—a single purpose which is to glorify God and serve Him. We begin to have a bad eye, an eye that is trying to look at the myriad of things that our flesh lusts after rather than the only thing that should matter which is God’s glory.

In fact, if we abandon our singleness of purpose in seeking God’s glory and begin to look for the things that will bring us pleasure with a bad eye, we will find that we are no longer able to see spiritually. Jesus says in verse 22 that if our eye is clear our “whole body will be full of light”. However, if we have spiritual double vision because we are trying to look to the things of God and the things of the world we will find that our “whole body is full of darkness”. Now, when I was born I developed cataracts in my eyes. The lens of my eyes clouded up and I wasn’t able to see. I was a baby so I don’t remember much about it. I have a friend, however, that recently had that surgery. He said he could see but his vision wasn’t clear before he had the surgery. After his surgery, he could see much better. For those who have a bad eye and therefore have spiritual cataracts, the little bit of light they have is “darkness” when compared to the light of a clear eye. Therefore, as Jesus says, what should be light to these people is a “great…darkness”. They think they can see but they cannot because their eye does not give them light. Their eye does not give them light, metaphorically speaking, because their priorities are wrong. May we pray that God will help us keep our priorities in line.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Spiritual Bait and Switch

Jay Limke has written an article titled Church: It's Time to Stop the Spiritual "Bait and Switch". He makes some excellent points. Church marketing, particularly to seekers, is not only fruitless from an evangelistic standpoint, but is also deceptive. He writes:

So why, in the church of all places, does such apparent dissimulation exist? Many in the American church seem intent to communicate under false pretenses, even as the secular world is learning its lessons. We'll bring people in with music, food, fun, and games; and we'll make them think being a Christian is about whatever interests them. We'll play on their felt needs, and we'll do research to determine what "seekers" want in a church. We'll stick our collective fingers in the air and then we'll become what people what us to be. Finally, after all of that work, once we have people in the church, we may eventually get around to telling them, "Oh, by the way, Jesus died for your sins." In my public relations world, that's called the old "bait and switch."

It's sad and unbiblical. We don't need Madison Avenue tactics to reach the lost. Paul wrote that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).

HT: Nathan W. Bingham

Monday, July 6, 2009

Charismatic Child Prodigy

I had actually posted this video about a year ago. When I was pastoring a church part time, my daughter would ocassionally make it up on stage. We didn't freak out about it because she really wasn't hurting anybody. Everybody knew she was just playing and at that point she didn't really "talk" it was more just baby talk. However, the church in the video below seem to honestly think this child is bringing a "word from the Lord". I'll bet you a wooden nickel this kid shows up on TBN with the lady with that big pink hair. I'm sure the Charismaniacs will call him a child prodigy.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Blog Link-When Should You Leave A Church?

I recently read part two of an article titled "When Should a Christian Leave a Church?" I would say that the majority of the time when people leave a church it is for no good reason. Having a spat about what color to paint the new nursery, why someone didn't eat your gooseberry cobbler (which is HIGHLY overrated anyway), or how the preacher looked at you when you were coming in the door (nevermind that he was trying to see who it was in the glare of the sun) would not be reasons for someone to leave a church. If you or someone you know are in a church, however, where the leadership exists with no accountability and they pick and choose which parts of the Bible apply, I would say "Get out!!" Churches with hyper-authoritarian leaders often wound people spiritually, as the author writes below:

How many sincere sheep do you know who "have been scattered" because of the tyranny of pastors and elders? How many sincere believers do you know who have been "afraid and terrified" even to speak what was in their hearts for fear of the elder's discipline? How many husbands and wives have been alienated in their affections from each other because of the intrusion of the church or elder into their relationship with each other. Many of you who read these lines have seen in practice what the following verse describes:

"The prophets follow an evil course and use their power unjustly." (Jeremiah 10:23)

I would pray to God that some of the preachers who have split churches over the issue of "elder authority" would ponder Ezekiel 34. Usually when people are run out of a church for refusing to obey the "duly authorized elders" (which, interpreted, means refusing to sell your conscience in "unquestioning obedience" to the eldership), they are never visited personally by the pastor. They are not contacted in any manner except to be informed in a "duly authorized" letter that quotes a lot of verses (mostly out of context) and then informs the "rebel" that he has been "duly" excommunicated from the church, or cult, as the case may be. Sometimes, not too often, the rebel is told that the elders are willing to consider receiving him back as soon as he will genuinely repent, which of course means, kiss the pope's ring in submission.

"This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourself with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock." (Ezekiel 24:2, 3)

If you were a pastor whose church was sacrificing to pay you close to $50,000 a year in salary and benefits and putting less than $1,000 a year into any kind of mission work, how should you feel when you read the above words from Ezekiel? (By the way, if you ever have an elder board tell you "We can't pay him [the senior pastor] enough", that is not the case. The IRS has rules regarding non-profits and how much they can pay those that work there. Yes, a church falls under those rules as well. Romans 13:1 says that we are supposed to submit ourselves to the governing authorities and that means we have to follow the IRS's rules and regulations. As an outlandish example, a church which paid 50% of it's annual revenue as the pastor's salary would probably have an auditor asking "Ok, where does he keep the incriminating photos he has of the other elders". See here and here [pg 5].)

"You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back strays or searched for the lost. You ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered...." (Ezekiel 34:4, 5)

If you are a pastor who has driven families out of your congregation only because they dared to disagree with you, and you have never visited one of them to try to resolve the difficulty, who do you think God is talking about in Ezekiel 34:2-5?

Many who read this will say, "none of those things could ever happen in my church." You may be surprised! If you have a truly Godly pastor, these things will not happen regardless of how wrong your view of Elder authority may be. However, if your system is that held by many Reformed Baptists, you have a ready made situation for these same things to happen in your church at a later date with another pastor.

A good man in a bad system will not misuse his authority. A good system can deal with a bad man and get rid of him. A bad man in a bad system is an untouchable pope simply because he is protected by the system. He may be the worst of tyrants, but nothing can be done by anyone. A sincere sheep has only one option in such a case.

When one of these sheep finally gets enough courage to leave such a church, or in one writer's words, "...with a sigh of relief some sheep escape such ministries," I guarantee you that God does not view this "escape" as rebellion against His "duly authorized church." He views it as a refusal by a sheep to follow a false shepherd. When a child of God flees from that kind of tyranny, he is being obedient to the voice of his one true Shepherd and he is rejecting the authority of a false prophet.

If you find yourself in this kind of church, know that you have God's blessing in leaving it. Get out!! Feel the FREEDOM!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

II Peter 2:4-8 God, the Righteous Judge Part I

I didn’t get in trouble much in school, but there were a few times I got disciplined for being a knucklehead—and rightly so. However, I remember one time in 9th grade when my grandmother died that I had to miss a practice at Band Camp. Anyone who missed part of band camp had to help clean up the parking lot after practice the next day. My band director told me and the others who had missed to go out and clean up. I tried to plead my case with her saying “I was at my grandmother’s funeral”. She wouldn’t hear it but told me to go on out there. I didn’t think that was fair. I was innocent and was being punished. However, as Peter writes here, we Christians can look forward to a perfect day where true justice shall be done. The righteous will be rewarded and the guilty, like the false teachers described in this chapter, shall be punished by a sovereign, holy God.

Peter, in the first three verses of this chapter, has explained what false teachers look like, what they do, and what ultimately will happen to them. They will be punished. As he says “Their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep”. Some might defiantly say, however, that God has not judged me yet so how can you say He’s going to judge at all. We see first of all, that Peter points to the very distant past that God in fact judged even the “angels when they sinned”. Now, I’m not going to tell you that I know exactly what Peter is talking about here. In fact, I won’t even tell you that there’s agreement by most evangelical commentators as far as I can tell. There are people who take this passage as being parallel with Jude 1:6-7 and interpret these angels who sinned as angels who somehow impregnated humans as described back in Genesis 6. I personally lean toward that argument because it makes sense to me.

However, it isn’t necessary to determine why God judged but we should take note of the fact that He did judge. The way this is written in the Greek, it is stated as a matter of fact that God did actually at sometime in the past judge these angels. Now, if I’m just a flesh and blood, here today tomorrow gone like the grass of the field false teacher, I should sit up and take notice. Because if God judged the angels when they sinned, whatever that sin was, I can be sure that I’m not going to escape. See, we know that God judged Satan and some of the angels rebelled with Satan. Furthermore, we know the extent to which He judged them. He didn’t just “cast them into hell” a place of utter torment. Rather, He went even further and “committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment”. Just as sure as that happened, we can be sure that God will also judge these false teachers.

Furthermore, observe that was not the only time God judged evil. Peter points in verse 5 to the cataclysmic event where God “did not spare the ancient world…when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly”. God looked upon the evil and sinful hearts of men and brought a deluge of rain over 40 days and 40 nights to wipe them out. Again, this is written as a matter-of-fact event that happened in the past. Once more, Peter drives home the point that God “did not spare” those who deserved by their vile actions to be judged. He was not lenient regardless of how long He took to execute divine judgment. Therefore, the flood provides yet another reminder that God is a God who judges sin.

However, just like the old Ginsu knives commercial “But wait, there’s more”. Peter reminds his readers of a more recent, and in some ways more chilling, act of divine retribution by God against unrepentant sinners. Because of the sin of homosexuality and sexual depravity, God “condemned the cities of Sodam and Gomorrah”. The Greek word translated “condemned” is the root of our English word catastrophe. In other words, God brought complete and total ruin to those two cities. I mean, you don’t recover from having fire and brimstone rain down from heaven turning the city to “ashes”—not rubble, but ashes. Again, it is pointed out that this terrifying portrait of God’s vengeance should serve as a warning sign. Peter writes that God did this to provide “an example to those who would live ungodly lives after”. The sense of the Greek is that this judgment came in the past and was a completed action with ongoing effect (perfect tense). In other words, when people see the judgment of God that was brought against those two cities, it should cause them to stop in their tracks and repent of their sin.

As we have seen here, God does judge. Because He has judged we can be sure that He will judge. However, as we will see next time, we can also be sure that when He judges, He will judge justly, punishing the wicked but saving the righteous.