Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Matthew 6:19-21 Sound Investing Advice

Bernie Madoff was sentenced today to 150 years in prison for defrauding investors out of billions of dollars. Now, what he did was wrong but I would say that at least some of the people he defrauded were motivated by greed—they had money and wanted a lot more money. Their avarice prompted them to ignore the sage advice given by many parents to their children “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. The fictitious returns on the investments Madoff supposedly managed were about as plausible as a pig flying. While the people he ripped off are victims, there is something to be learned from this sad story. We can’t put our trust in our wealth. In fact, Jesus says here that our wealth shouldn’t be the focus of our lives. Rather, we should have God’s kingdom as our priority.

First of all, observe with me what Jesus tells us not to do with our money. In verse 19, Matthew records that Jesus said to His audience “Do not store up for yourselves treasures”. The sentence reads in the Greek literally “Do not be treasuring your treasures”. He indicates here that our habit, our lifestyle, should not be to hoard up money as if we’re collecting as a possession to be kept and hidden rather than as a resource to be used. The word translated “store up” carries with it the idea of something, in this case money, being stored up for safekeeping. Now, is Jesus then against the idea of saving for a rainy day? I would say not, because we are told in the book of Proverbs to take note of how the ant stores and prepares the things it needs (Proverbs 6:6). Is Jesus then saying we shouldn’t prepare to retire? Probably not, although the idea of an idle Christian is certainly not something you would get from the Bible. If someone were able to retire from full time work so they could serve their church and community or contribute in some way to a ministry (i.e. a retired accountant serving a church or ministry because old bookkeepers never die, they just get out of balance) that would be a meaningful, God honoring way to spend their later years. However, I’m not so sure that sitting around watching reruns of Matlock and Wheel of Fortune is exactly the kind of life that God called us to when He saved us assuming we are physically and mentally able to function. The idea here is that we should not hoard up wealth just to see how much we can amass.

Why, you might ask? Because everything on earth is temporary and, therefore, you “can’t take it with you”. All the stuff that we acquire is stuff that our kids will have to sort out after we’re gone. It won’t do us any good because after we die our spirit goes to be with the Savior. However, even while here on earth we shouldn’t let our possessions possess us because at any time we may find that “moth and rust” have destroyed our treasures or they’ve been stolen. Simply put, a lock only keeps an honest man out. If a crook wants in your house bad enough and wants your stuff bad enough, they can get it. Our treasures, then, are not only temporary but they are perishable. We can’t and shouldn’t hold on to them because they are fleeting. God is eternal—our stuff is not.

With this in view, Jesus tells us what we should do with the wealth and possessions that we’ve been made stewards over. He says we should “store up for [ourselves] treasures in heaven”. In other words, I believe the text tells us we should use our material possessions in a way that honors God and builds His kingdom. In the end, how much money we had, what kind of car we drove, and what kind of house we lived in won’t matter. What will matter is what we personally did to provide resources for ministries that are reaching the world for Jesus. It will matter in eternity how much sacrifice we made not only of our money but of our time and talents. In the final analysis, those are gong to be the only treasures we have stored up in heaven and they will last because in heaven “neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal”.

In verse 21, we see the point Jesus was making with this teaching. Our focus determines our priorities. If our treasure is in heaven, our heart will be there as well. We will be concerned about God’s holiness, becoming more Christlike, and sharing the gospel. We will be concerned about building His kingdom and not our kingdom. We will rightly recognize that we are steward’s who are entrusted with the management of earthly possessions and that they are not ours in the first place. Furthermore, we will be constantly reminded that we are strangers in this world and that our home, our real home, is in heaven with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Abusive Pastors--What to look for

I recently came across an article by Dr. Ed Curnella titled "The Yeast of the Pharisees: Spiritual Abuse by Pastors and Counselors". If you or someone you know suspects they are in a church with abusive leadership or if perhaps you're looking for a church and want to know some danger signs to look for, Dr. Curnella lists twelve traits common to abusive pastors. If more than a few of these are present, I'd be more than a little wary if I were you.

Authoritarianism. Rather than modeling and teaching obedience to God, abusive leaders expect believers to obey them. Councils of elders, deacons, etc., are expected to rubber stamp leaders’ intentions rather than provide accountability. (i.e. Lack of transparency related to financial matters. Let me tell you, if a church leadership team does not offer financial reports to you but instead you have to ask for them, there’s a reason for that and it’s probably because they don’t want you to see something.)

Coercion. Rather than respecting freedom and conscience, as God does, and offering messages that persuade based on scriptural integrity and reason, abusive leaders use strong-arm tactics to coerce believers into overruling better judgment and following their demands. (i.e. A leader might tell someone that in order to love biblically you have to assume the best about someone’s intentions. While that is true most of the time, if your “Spidey-sense” is tingling and they can offer no good or reasonable explanation you may very well be right in your suspicion that something is amiss. Suspension of disbelief is not a spiritual gift.)

Intimidation. Rather than building up the Body in the bonds of love, abusive leaders use threats of punishment, excommunication, and condemnation to force people into submission and continued church membership. (i.e. Being told “Don’t you dare walk away from me” or “I’m the leader in this church”. If a church leader has to say “I’m the leader” they are not exhibiting the qualities of a godly leader.)

Terrorism. Rather than inviting people to follow Christ with the Gospel of love and forgiveness, abusive leaders intensify believers’ fear, shame, and false guilt, teaching that problems in believers’ lives are due to the believers’ personal sins.

Condemnation. Rather than refraining from judgment lest they be judged, an abusive leader liberally condemns those who leave his church, outsiders, and those whom he defines as sinners. The message is that believers will join the ranks of the condemned should they deviate from the leader’s teachings or leave his church/denomination. Individual members become the scapegoat when something goes awry in the congregation. (i.e. Preaching sermons from the pulpit that use personal conversations with those who disagree with the pastor as examples. Speaking about members who have left the church with phrases like “God is purifying His church” when there was no sin involved on the part of the person departing. Claiming that their church is the only church doing things “right”.)

Classism. Christ was no respecter of persons. Abusive leaders are preoccupied with power, promoting church hierarchy, referring to and treating people according to their titles and roles. Those lower on the hierarchy are taught that their needs don’t matter.

Conformity. Abusive leaders have the greatest hold over inexperienced, naïve, and dependent individuals who are seeking a strong leader. These individuals suppress their objections to the leaders’ teachings for fear of being shamed or ostracized. Hence, abusive churches often appear unified, but beneath the surface there is discontent, anguish, whispers, rumors, secrets, and a desire among many to leave. (i.e. Calling people “divisive” if they question the leaders and their authority or if they ask other believers in the church for their opinions. For the abusive leader, it is very important to not let congregants “compare notes” so that the folks who have or recognize a problem feel like they are isolated. Further, the elders want to make sure they meet with the malcontent church member one on one so that they can further intimidate the person)

Manipulation. Rather than taking scripture in context, interpreting the Bible with the Bible and according to long-held Christian beliefs, abusive leaders twist scripture to convey their personal opinion rather than God’s intent. (i.e. Doing hermeneutical gymnastics to make 1 Timothy 5:17’s “double honor” mean “high salary”)

Irrationality. Because scripture is manipulated, one interpretation may contradict another. Interpretations may contradict reason and obvious reality. This requires suspension of critical thinking. Some abusive leaders claim to receive direct messages from God about their church or individual members, but these messages typically deviate from Scripture and reality.

Legalism. Rather than treating others with love, grace, and forgiveness, as Christ commanded, abusive leaders offer little grace. They communicate instead that one’s worth and the amount of love one deserves depend on performance and status in their church. Abusive leaders expect believers to make heroic financial, time, and emotional sacrifices for their church and its members.Isolation. Rather than respecting family ties, community obligations, and friendships, abusive leaders are concerned that such influences will interfere with their control over believers, so they encourage isolation from family, friends, and the outside world, and wage war against the outside world as a sewer of sin devoid of anything redeeming.

Elitism. Rather than modeling and encouraging humility, abusive leaders beam with false pride and teach the same to believers. An attitude arises of, “We’re it! We’re special! Everyone else is condemned!,” partially compensating for the shame and worthlessness that believers feel because of other experiences in the abusive church. The leader instills that believers must protect the church’s image at any cost.

Ensnarement. Rather than promoting maturity among believers, abusive leaders inevitably promote self-doubt, guilt, and identity confusion, since believers struggle with the contradiction between what their conscience and reason tell them and what they are being taught. This ambivalence, coupled with fear of condemnation and loss of direction and fellowship, make it difficult and painful for believers to leave abusive churches.

Think about a cult, for at its most severe, a spiritually abusive church is a cult. It has so diverged from solid Biblical teaching and grown so warped in the authoritarian rule of one man, that it has become a place of idolatry where God is no longer worshipped. “Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough… Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees…” (Galatians 5:7-10, Matthew 16:6).

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday is for Stalkers

I have my site registered with Sitemeter which tracks the hits this blog gets and where they come from. As much as anything, I was just curious as to how many readers I had and what it was that they looked at when they were on the site. I've found something funny that I thought everyone else would get a kick out of too.

I have one hit that keeps getting to my blog by searching "Joe Blackmon" on AOL search. Like, this happens multilple times a week. I'm not sure if I should be creeped out that someone would be seraching for me by name online or if I should feel sorry for them that they don't know how to work internet explorer well enough to add this page to their favorites. Haa haa

I thought this was pretty funny and thought y'all would get a kick out of it too. And since my blog is pretty well idle on Sunday, I thought it would be a little humor to brighten your day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Help Children in Need

A friend of mine from Elementary school, Theresa, has been writing on Facebook about a little box named Max that she is in the process of adopting from Hati. She and her husband are adopting this child from the Lashbrook Family Ministry in Hati. Upon looking at their website, I saw some of the needs they had listed and wanted to pass that info on to you. If you can help, I would encourage you to do so.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Shack isn't that bad.

I mean, dude did win several NBA titles and over the course of his career developed into one of the great centers of all time. I guess I was wrong about all that heresy stuff.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Broadway Baptist No Longer SBC

There have been times I have thought about leaving the SBC. For instance, when I found out Lifeway was going to sell The Shack I considered leaving. However, I have stayed because I believe overall the convention does the right thing when it comes time to do the right thing. Case in point--today the convention voted almost unanimously to disfellowship Broadway Baptist Church for its approval of the homosexual lifestyle.

I am so proud to be a Southern Baptist. Particularly today after this vote.

A Good Pastor Should Be A Shepherd

The other day, a gentleman named Mike left the following comment on a post I had written on The Shack:

Joe- I appreciate your zeal and your willingness to call a spade a spade! Heresy is Heresy, the fact the lukewarm American "Christian" churh can't recognize it, or have the kahoonas(sp) to speak out against it, only proves how prevelant sin is. Now I'M an intolerant ideolog, but I just got wind that my church is going to host a class on the inspirational aspects of this text, and I'm flat FIRED UP. I am constructing a presentation to our elders right now, to challenge them to execute their biblical duty and protect the church from bad teaching and heretical doctrine.

It got me to thinking about some of the biblical qualities and responsiblities of a pastor to shepherd a church. Obviously, a pastor should remain faithful to biblical doctrine. It would be shameful for a pastor to say "We, as elders, affirm [insert biblical doctrine here] to be true" and then turn around and violate that very doctrine but play word games to justify their unfaithfulness to God's word.

My prayer for this church and this Christian brother is that the elders of that church mindfully consider their responsiblity to faithfully protect the church of God from error and false doctrine. I trust you will join with me in that prayer.

Monday, June 22, 2009

SBC Executive Committee Does the Right Thing.

The Executive Committee has done the right thing and recommended unanimously to sever ties with Broadway Baptist Church. You can read the whole story here.

When they voted in February to table the decision until June I was worried they were going to lose their nerve and not make this recommendation. I am so proud of them for doing the right thing. I have no doubt this will be voted on positively by the messengers and we can officially say to Broadway Baptist "Buh-Bye".

Albert Mohler on Expository Preaching-Part 3

Recently, the Southern Seminary Magazine published an article by Dr. Mohler on expository preaching. I was greating encouraged and have decided to share it with my readers. Below is the third and final part of the article.

Expository preaching must be at the center of Christian worship

It is worth noting again: Worship properly directed to the honor and glory of God will find its center in the reading and preaching of the Word of God. Expository preaching cannot be assigned a supporting role in the act of worship. It must be central. In the course of the Reformation, Martin Luther’s driving purpose was to restore preaching to its proper place in worship. Referring to the incident between Mary and Martha in Luke 10, Luther reminded his congregation and students that Jesus Christ declared that “only one thing is necessary” – the preaching of the Word (Luke 10:42 NASB). Luther realized that the most important reform needed was to reestablish the reading and preaching of the Word as the central act of Christian worship.

That same reformation is needed in American evangelicalism today. Expository preaching must once again be central to the life of the church and central to Christian worship. In the end, the church will not be judged by its Lord for the quality of its music but for the faithfulness of its preaching. The preacher will be judged for his preaching and the congregation will be judged for its hearing – and for the preaching it has demanded.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Albert Mohler on Expository Preaching-Part 2

Recently, Southern Seminary Magazine published an article by Dr. Mohler on expository preaching. I found it most encouraging and thought I would share it with my readers.

Authentic expository preaching creates a sense of reverence among God’s people

The congregation that gathered before Ezra and the other preachers demonstrated a love and reverence for the Word of God (Nehemiah 8). When the book was read, the people stood up, an act that reveals their sense of expectancy as the Word was read and preached. Expository preaching both requires and eventually cultivates an attitude of reverence on the part of the congregation. Preaching is not a dialogue, but it does involve at least two parties – the preacher and the congregation. The congregation’s role in the preaching event is to hear, receive, and obey the Word of God. In so doing, the church demonstrates reverence for the preaching and teaching of the Bible and understands that the sermon brings the Word of Christ near to the congregation. This is true worship. Lacking reverence for the Word of God, many congregations are caught in a frantic quest for significance in worship.

Christians leave worship services asking each other, “Did you get anything out that?” Expository preaching demands a very different set of questions. Will I obey the Word of God? How must my thinking be realigned by Scripture? How must I change my behavior to be fully obedient to the Word? These questions reveal submission to the authority of God and reverence for the Bible as His Word. Likewise, the preacher must demonstrate his own reverence for God’s Word by dealing truthfully and responsibly with the text. He must not be flippant or casual, much less dismissive or disrespectful. Of this we can be certain – no congregation will revere the Bible more than the preacher does.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Albert Mohler on Expository Preaching-Part 1

Recently, Southern Seminary Magazine published an article by Dr. Mohler on expository preaching. I found it most encouraging and thought I would share it with my readers.

Expository preaching is characterized by authority
The Enlightenment culture that gave birth to modernity was subversive of every form of authority, though it has taken some centuries for this rebellion against authority to work its way throughout society. In the postmodern culture of the West, authority is under attack in every form, and a sense of personal autonomy is basic to contemporary ideals of human rights and freedom. Some homileticians suggest that preachers should simply embrace this new worldview and surrender any claim to an authoritative message. Those who have lost confidence in the authority of the Bible as the Word of God are left with little to say and no authority for their message. Fred Craddock, among the most influential figures in recent homiletic thought, famously describes today’s preacher “as one without authority .” Contrasted to this are the words of Marty n Lloyd-Jones: “Any study of church history, and particularly any study of the great periods of revival or reawakening, demonstrates above everything else just this one fact: that the Christian Church during all such periods has spoken with authority . The great characteristic of all revivals has been the authority of the preacher. There seemed to be something new, extra, and irresistible in what he declared on behalf of God.”

In all true expository preaching, there is a note of authority. That is because the preacher dares to speak on behalf of God. He stands in the pulpit as a steward “of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1), declaring the truth of God’s Word, proclaiming the power of that Word, and applying that Word to life. This is an admittedly audacious act. No one should even contemplate such an endeavor without absolute confidence in a divine call to preach and in the unblemished authority of the Scriptures. The preaching ministry is not a profession to be joined but a call to be answered.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Matthew 6:19-34 The Christian and Possessions-Introductory Thoughts

Dave Ramsey is one of my favorite radio personalities. I appreciate the common sense approach he has to handling money and the fact that he counsels people using a biblical worldview. As he has pointed out, the bible has quite a bit to say about money and how we should use it. In my opinion, the verses recorded at the end of Matthew chapter 6 are some of the clearest directives in scripture regarding how the people of God should view money.

First of all, as we study this section of scripture, we will observe that how we use money is indicative of our heart attitude. We are told in verse 21 that where our heart will be where our treasure is located. Our trust should be in God, but we can sinfully allow our hearts to trust in money to take care of our daily needs (vs 25-34) or we can actually make money a god unto itself (v 24). Secondly, we are challenged to trust God rather than money. Jesus does not make suggestions as we read these verses—in fact, they are commandments. The result of having a right heart attitude toward money and placing our faith in God rather than worldly riches is that we are able to use money to glorify God. We can make decisions that honor and exalt Him because we know that, ultimately, we are not responsible for ourselves but we can trust in the fact that God truly is our Shepherd and will meet our needs.

In the end, having a right view of material possessions gives us opportunities to minister to folks. When we find out about needs (i.e. someone comes to us and tells us there are going to be out of work for a short time) we can help meet those needs rather than passing the buck to someone else. When we know about missionaries and ministries that need help, we can share our resources so that God’s kingdom is advanced. Recognizing that we are simply stewards of these resources, we should invest in the kingdom of God. However, we will only make that investment when we have the right attitude toward the money that God has entrusted to us.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

II Peter 2:3b Ready or Not-Here it Comes Part II

Ray Stevens is one of my favorite singers. I mean, he sings really goofy stuff but it’s funny and you can have a good laugh about it as a family. One of his songs that is my particular favorite is “Santa Clause is Watching You”. I can remember as a kid being told around Christmas that I had better be good because Santa was watching. Of course, being the smart aleck that I am, I would always think “Well, there are a bunch of people in this world. One Santa can’t be watching all of them all the time. The odds are in my favor that I’ll get away with hanging my sister’s Barbie from the ceiling fan and not have ol’ Saint Nick catch me”. Some people have the same idea about God or at least they live as though they do. They defy God’s holy word and openly mock the truth with their sinful living—and sometimes it’s people in the church that are most guilty of this kind of behavior. However, God is watching and He will judge in His own good time. Those who teach false doctrine and lead other people astray will find that there is in fact a payday and they will receive the penalty for their sins.

First of all, notice that Peter describes just how final their judgment is going to be. He uses the Greek word “apoleia” (684) which is translated in the text as “destruction”. It’s the same word used in verse 1 to describe the kind of heresy’s these false teaches taught. The word does not mean destroyed as in obliterated but rather carries the idea of a loss of well being—the idea of having suffered a loss from which these false teachers will never recover. Once they are eternally condemned to hell and are suffering for all eternity as payment for their sins they will never receive a pardon. They will be punished with unquenchable fire and they will be tormented endlessly. God may suffer their mocking and disrespect for a time but they will suffer His wrath for all time. These false teachers, Peter says here, are doomed and their doom is sure.

However, some might say, as a child might before Christmas, “Does He really see everything?” To quote Ray Stevens—“He’s everywhere, He’s everywhere”. God is omnipotent and omniscient. He knows what we’re doing and what we’re thinking. While there may be times my children can do something wrong and I might miss it, our heavenly Father is always watching and so the destruction of these false teachers “is not asleep”. There is no time where God has nodded off and missed something. Furthermore, just because their destruction has not come upon them, these false teachers should not assume that God has forgotten to set His divine alarm clock, metaphorically speaking. He is not taking a nap so as to be distracted from His divine appointment to judge these people. God is fully alert, awake, and prepared to execute his divine wrath.

We can be as sure about the destruction of the wicked as we are about our salvation. Being aware that such judgment is coming should motivate us to be even more diligent to share the truth with this lost and dying world. The time grows short and judgment is coming.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Failure of our Christian Witness

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus asked the question “if the salt [of the world] has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?” (Matthew 5:13) I believe Jesus was saying that we as Christians can contaminate our witness to this world, our distinctiveness as ambassadors of Christ, by becoming polluted with sin and worldliness. I was reading an article about Christian media on MSN.com and I came across the following statement.

In the old days, efforts by Christian or secular companies to "cross over" into foreign turf were considered quixotic. But the popularity of the book The Shack and the music of Carrie Underwood, not to mention The Passion of the Christ and the selection of Kris Allen as America's newest Idol, demonstrate how defunct the conventional wisdom has become.

Do what? Carrie Underwood sang a song titled “I don’t even know my last name” about having gotten married after a wild night in Vegas to a complete stranger. The author of The Shack denies that Christ was punished for our sins. Folks, the world thinks that kind of garbage is compatible with Biblical Christianity. This is not a perception we should be proud of but rather we should humble ourselves before God and pray for Him to transform us and conform us to the image of Christ so that a lost world sees Christ in us.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Matthew's Memorial Baptist Church--Living God's Love

Nearly a month ago, the retinal specialist I was going to with my eye problems gave me some really bad news--I had a small retinal detachment. It was small enough that it was fixable, but to fix it he was going to have to do surgery.

He told me the recovery was going to be two weeks, possibly three. That was going to be a problem because I had about 3 days worth of paid leave. Obviously, my first thought was "How are we going to pay bills?" I mean, we're not broke and living in abject poverty but we don't have a huge surplus every month either. Taking two weeks without pay off was simply going to wreck the budget.

I let several people know about this problem. One of them was my dear friend Ken Matthews, the song leader at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church (No, the church wasn't named after him or his family. Haa, I knew you were thinking it). I served as pastor of that church for 6 years. I told Ken what the problem was and asked if the church could help.

I really hated to ask. It felt like begging. I just didn't know what else to do. Ken didn't take the opportunity to try to make me feel bad. It didn't turn into an inquisition. I didn't have to produce an audited set of financial statements and give a DNA sample. He just said he would ask the church if they could help. I didn't ask for a specific amount. I would have been grateful for any help they could have been.

A few days later, Ken called and asked for my address. A few days subsequent to that, we got a check in the mail for $500. I cried. I was so overcome with thankfulness for their generosity. It was a huge help in plugging the hole in my budget. They sent the check in the sweetest card with the message "We're praying for you".

See, to my way of thinking, that is God's love lived out in real life. It's like James said (in the Baldwin County Translation) "If you know someone who's hungry or cold and you tell 'em 'Alright, well go on get you something to eat and warm up' and you do nothing to help them all you've don't is beat your gums together".

Lord, please help me love like that. Let me help first and interrogate later.

Bibleworks 8 giveaway at Cal.vini.st

Nathan over at Cal.vini.st (clever name, eh) is having a first anniversary giveaway of the software program Bibleworks 8. Check it out. That way, you can congratulate me when I win. Haa!!!

Being Divisive or Christian Unity

For more similarly funny posters, click here.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Momma's, Don't Let Your Boys Grow Up to Be Girls

When I was a kid, I liked to pretend I was a superhero. I would tie a towel around my neck and I'd make believe I was Superman or Batman. However, as much as I would have loved to see if I could fly by jumping off the top of our car I knew my mom wouldn't let me try any of that foolishness. Why? Well, because she loved me and wanted to protect me. She made sure she taught me about what was real and what was make believe.

Too bad the parents mentioned in this Fox News story didn't feel the same way.

A west Omaha couple says their 8-year-old son has asked for years to wear dresses and change his name, so they're enrolling him in a new school where he can live openly as a girl.

The parents say their middle child is transgender, and he's asked to be called girl since age 4.

"One night she said, 'Every night when I go to bed, I pray my inside will match my outside. But it never happens,"' the mother said, recalling a conversation with her child.

Notice, this isn't on the Left Coast. It's right in the middle of America. That's right, folks. The abdication of reason and conscience for the tyranny of political correctedness (is that a word?) is upon us. Instead of parents raising their children and teaching them the difference between right and wrong, they let the child tell them what's right and wrong. Topsy Turvey. Stop this train 'cause I wanna get off.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Matthew 6:16-18 Fasting for whom?

Hearing God say “Well done, good and faithful servant” should be the goal of all disciples of Jesus Christ. What we should not seek after, however, is the accolades of other people as we serve our God. The Pharisees wanted people to recognize their devotion to God in their giving, their praying, and in their fasting. Jesus, in this chapter, denounced their religious pretentiousness and explained what our true motivations should be as we worship and serve the Lord.

Matthew records what Jesus taught here about fasting. First of all, observe with me that Jesus appears to assume that His audience was in the habit of fasting regularly. The Lord doesn’t say “If you fast” but rather “Whenever you fast”. I must confess that I have no personal experience with fasting. The idea is to abstain from food so as to devote yourself to prayer and worship. In my country, we live in a culture that takes practically everything to excess so the idea of denying oneself food or anything is odd. However, I think the idea of disciplining ourselves and bringing our desires under control is healthy. Certainly, if someone decided to fast for a period of time they should do it as a personal choice without feeling compelled and they certainly should take precautions for their health.

The Lord then commands us how we should not fast. He tells us that we should not attempt to draw attention to ourselves so that people notice that we’re fasting by putting on “gloomy faces”. When I was a freshman in college I was a saxophone major. Branford Marsallis was playing a free concert in Auburn, Alabama and I wanted to go but I had to work the next day. Now, I shouldn’t have done this but I went to work at my part time job and pretended to be sick so I could call in the next day. I put on a “gloomy face” so that people would see how sick I was. In much the same way, these Pharisees wanted people to say “Look at ol’ Levi. Boy, that dude is fasting hardcore.” They wanted people to think of them as being religious and holy.

There are people in church today who do the same thing. Anything that we do can be a religious activity if we do it out of the wrong heart attitude. The question to ask ourselves is “Who do I want to impress here?” Do we want men to admire us or do we want to serve our Lord. Instead of making it obvious to people that we are fasting, we should “anoint [our] head and wash [our] face”. In other words, we should do whatever we would normally do in preparing for our day. Our goal is to not draw attention to ourselves but rather to make this act of devotion noticeable only to God.

We can overcome our prideful, self-centered desires to gain the acclaim of people by concentrating on what should be our true motivation—serving God from a humble heart. When we fast or worship the Lord in any other way, we should devote ourselves to the only thing that should truly matter to a disciple of Jesus—the glory of God. When we do that, our “Father who sees what is done in secret will reward” us.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

II Peter 2:3b: Ready or Not, Here It Comes! Part I

I had occasion recently to confront someone about a particular sin in their life. This individual told me they were at peace with their situation (they profess faith in Christ) and that since God knows their heart they do not consider what they’re doing to be a sin regardless of that fact that the Bible calls it sin. Anyway, after lovingly calling this person to repent, waiting a week or two, and talking with them again I asked them “What does your pastor think about this?”

I’ll add at this point that what we’re talking about here is not a questionable issue where men of good conscience can and do disagree. This individual is living with their fiancé. No gray area there—the Bible is quite clear that living together is wrong on several levels. This individual said “My pastor is ok with it.” I was incredulous so I called the man. He said “Well, it’s not ideal but we don’t live in a perfect world.” He said he would not call them to repent (both the person and their fiancé are members of this pastor’s church). I called him a wicked false prophet. Now, that was probably not as diplomatic as I could have been and I’m not expecting a Christmas card from this “pastor” any time soon. However, the fact is that people who claim to speak for God and teach false doctrine will suffer judgment and should be held accountable for their unbiblical beliefs. There is a payday someday, and from God’s eternal perspective judgment is just around the corner.

Peter writes in the latter part of verse 3 concerning the final punishment of God on false teachers that sentence has been passed and their doom is sealed. First of all, he writes that “their judgment from long ago is not idle”. Notice first of all that God has rendered His decision and pronounced “judgment” on them. God has examined the evidence and pronounced them “Guilty”. He sees everything. He knows everything. There is no appealing his righteous decision—He has rendered His verdict.

Furthermore, this judgment has already taken place “long ago”. God knows who His sheep are and He knows from eternity past whom He will save and who He will pass over. There are people who are uncomfortable with the doctrine of election and the fact that God in His sovereignty chooses just like He chose in the case of Jacob and Esau but the fact is that God does whatever He pleases and does so while exercising all of His attributes—love, mercy, justice, goodness, holiness, etc. In other words, the issue of judgment upon these false prophets was settled long ago.

Their judgment is also “not idle”. Sometimes, in courts of law, a judge can pass a sentence that is later overturned. Of course, sometimes this is done for good reason but I’m sure there have been times where a guilty party escaped justice because a higher court overturned the verdict of a lower court. The verdict was rendered void. However, the judgment of God is “not idle” which translates the word “argos” (691) from which we get the name for one of the Noble gases, argon. Now the Noble gases are inert—they don’t combine with anything. You could say “They don’t work” and that is exactly the idea conveyed by “argos”—not working. God’s judgment will stand in contrast to a judgment that is “idle”.

While a pastor may proclaim something as good and right that God calls sinful and they may appear to get away with it for a time, we can be sure that God judges sin and will certainly judge false teachers. In a sense, He could almost be pictured as saying much as we would say when playing hide and seek as children—“Ready or not, here I come”. The question for all of us to ask is, are we ready?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Book Review: Christianity in Crisis-21st Century

There are people who claim to be Christians and preach the Gospel of Christ who are liars. I know that’s no surprise to anyone. The sad part is that there are Christians who are immature in their faith and don’t know the scriptures who are lead astray by these charlatans. In fact, I spoke to a man this evening that professes Christ but is shacked up with his fiancé’. When I asked him what his pastor thought, he said “He’s ok with it”. I was dumbfounded so I called the pastor and asked him and he confirmed that he didn’t think it was sinful and would not call them to repent. This sort of rejection of biblical truth by Christians creates a fertile ground for heresy to grow. Christians are deceived and led astray by false teachers today just as they have been for years. Hank Hanegraaff in his book Christianity in Crisis-21st Century gives a great overview of the sorts of theological heresies found in the Word of Faith movement and should be a must read for all Christians.

First of all, as Henegraaff points out, I would like to add that the book is not a refutation of the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement. I personally do not agree with those of that theological tradition but the theological heresy addressed by the book is the Word of Faith movement. In the book, Henegraaff details the errors of the movement. He begins by describing their recreation of God as being less than omnipotent and sovereign. In fact, God is subject to our demands and whims when we speak using “words of faith” much as a waiter in a restaurant saying “May I take your order, sir.” He outlines their theology of redemption that teaches Christ suffered in Hell as payment for sin in contrast to what the Bible teaches. Henegraaff goes on to explain their theological gymnastics regarding health and wealth for all believers. He provides ample scriptural exegesis to refute the false claims of the false teachers and clearly explains why believers should reject their goofy theology.

Also, Henegraaf profiles the men and women who peddle these destructive doctrines. He includes men as far back as “Papa” Haggin all the way through Todd “Kick you in the face” Bently. Seeing the men and women behind these demonic doctrines helps drive home the point to the reader that these people and those like them are to be avoided like the plague. He also goes on to trace the roots of the word of faith theology and explain the impact it had on the teachers who teach it.

In short, I highly recommend this book. If you know someone, as I do, who is caught up in this nonsense I would recommend reading it and passing it along. If you don’t know much about this brand of false teaching, I recommend this book as an excellent resource of information to educate yourself. We need to not only know the truth but be familiar with the lies of the enemy so that we effectively contend for the faith.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Reverse Tithe??

A church from near my hometown of Silverhill, Alabama did something interesting in their church service the other day, as reported by Fox 10 News.

Trey Taylor is in charge of creative worship at Bay Community Church in Malbis. This past Sunday he and other church leaders came up with a really creative idea. "We gave away $50,000," he said. The church handed each member in the 2,000 member congregation money. But the gesture came with a stipulation. "The instructions were simple, you can't give it back to the church and you can't spend it on you and your family," said Taylor. Some members got $20, others got as much as $100. "Every person that was here got an envelope." Taylor says when some members saw the white envelopes come around, they thought the pastor was going to ask for tithes and offerings, but boy were they wrong. "The reason behind it was simple. We wanted our people to turn around and bless somebody," Taylor said. Taylor says this might sound a little crazy. But he tells us the government has an Economic Stimulus Package, well this is the church's version of a Faith Stimulus Package. "An act of faith...absolutely, 100-percent." The church's leadership admit tithing is down amongst churches. But the pastoral team says now is the best time to help others.

Wow, that's different, huh?

Edit: Just FYI, I know the church mentioned in the article preaches a Word of Faith doctrine. I'm not saying that I agree with that doctrine. It's just nice to see church leadership encouraging their congregation to be generous and not worrying about enriching themselves. That's something we see too little of in churches in America, I think.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

II Timothy 3:14-Christian Discipleship

I had the honor of preaching at our church Sunday night for the Awana awards ceremony. I got the video of last year's sermon and posted it here in 5 parts last year. This year the video camera was broken so you don't have to suffer through looking at me as I only have audio. However, I'm using a free audio hosting service because I'm an accountant and accountants are notoriously cheap. I can't embed the audio here but you can download the sermon as an MP3 by clicking here. Scroll to the bottom of the page where it says "DOWNLOAD NOW"

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Faking the Rapture-Candid Camera Style

If you subscribe to email, you may have to click through to the blog to see this video. Kinda makes you want to take II Peter 1:10 a little more seriously, huh.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cessationism: An Ultimate Resource at Cal.vini.st

In the comments section of a recent post here, a friend of mine, Nathan W. Bingham, posted a link to a resource on his blog with information related to cessationisim. You can click here to check it out and I recommend that you do.