Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Spiritual and Moral Bankruptcy

It is absolutely inconceivable that four of the nation's mainstream denominations continue to be major supporters of abortion. Calling abortion a "God given right," they are lobbying to make sure abortions are covered in any health care bill. According to an article in Baptist Press, "The Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church's General Board of Church and Society are all members of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a pro-abortion rights organization that took part in a Dec. 2 "Stop Stupak" rally in Washington D.C., urging the Senate not to include the pro-life Stupak amendment in its version of the health care bill."

The slaughtering of a baby is repugnant beyond words. For churches who claim to represent Christ to endorse and support this sin is abominable. It demonstrates the degree to which the conscience can become numb to any amount of wickedness. Paul warned of religious men who live in immorality, "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof" (2 Timothy 3:5). These people don't even have a form of Godliness. What hope does a nation have when not only has it fallen into absolute moral decay, the church has climbed into the cesspool with it.

We need to continue to pray for a great awakening in our generation. And we also need to remember that while apostate churches often gain the headlines the true church is alive and well and prospering. God always has His faithful remnant. May we press on in confidence and may our voice be clear concerning the honor and glory of God.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Should Christians Get Tattoos?

A question often asked is, is it permissible for a Christian to get a tattoo? This is a pertinent question today, especially with the rise in the popularity of tattoos in the western culture. According to a 2008 Harris poll 14% of all adults in the United states have a tattoo. The number rises significantly among young adults where 32% of those in the 25-29 age group have a tattoo. Of course, Christians are not as concerned about the trends and views of culture as about God's will for their life.

Is there a direct statement in Scripture on the subject? Not really. Some quote Leviticus 19:28: "Ye shall not make cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any mark upon you: I am the LORD." The problem with using this verse is a failure to recognize that the ceremonial laws have been fulfilled in Christ. Most people who choose to use this verse to defend their position against tattoos break many of the other prohibitions in the same chapter. For example, Verse 19 forbids wearing clothes made from thread from diverse materials. That means you can't wear cotton/polyester blends. Verse 19 also prohibits the planting of hybrid crops of which almost all of our food comes today. Verse 28, however, does speak against behaving as the idolatrous pagans which might be applied to tattoos.

So then tattoos are OK? Not so fast. There are other principles that should govern our behavior and the exercise of our liberty. Let me give a few:

1. As Christians we should do everything with the purpose of glorifying God. "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). We should always ask ourselves, "Why am I doing this?" The motive for tattoos is usually to draw attention to self. It is the glorification of self - the desire to be cool in the eyes of others. Remember, your body is not your own. It belongs to Christ. How would He have you to treat it? Will Christ be exalted in you?

2. Is it profitable to you spiritually? "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All thins are lawful, but not all things edify" (1 Corinthians 10:23 NASB). Will getting a tattoo help you as you seek to be more and more like Christ?

3. What effect will it have upon others? Will it be helpful as you seek to help weaker Christians grow to maturity. Will it be helpful as you seek to reach lost people for Christ? Your tattoo may not offend some but most people will see you as worldly. Are you willing to deny yourself that you might reach others with the Gospel? A tattoo will close far more doors than it will open. "Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you" (2 Corinthians 6:17).

4. Look around you at mature believers who demonstrate holiness and spiritual wisdom. Are these the people who are interested in getting tattoos? This should tell you something. Seek to emulate those who are holy. What is your identity? Who are you trying to imitate? We must seek to be more and more like Christ.

We are called to be holy and separate. We are called to bear the image of Christ. There are far more important things in this life than getting a tattoo.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Desperate Need for Leadership

This month the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at the White House issued its annual review of budget projections. The Obama administration now says the budget deficits will add $9.05 trillion to the national debt over the next ten years, and some say this number is far too conservative. It could actually exceed $14 trillion. By 2019, the government will be spending nearly $800 billion annually just to pay the interest on the debt; about $33,000 per household. And now they are actually talking about adding to this exponentially by nationalizing health care. Unbelievable!

Few people have any idea how much a trillion is. It is a huge number. For example, a million seconds is about 11.5 days. That's not too many. A billion seconds is 32 years. Now that's a big number. Three billion seconds is longer than most of us will live. But what about a trillion seconds? A trillion seconds is 32,000 years! A stack of 9 trillion dollar bills would cover the distance from the earth to the moon more than two times!

How can we possibly pay off such a debt? There are only two possible ways for the federal government to raise money. They can simply print more - just like Monopoly. Of course this option weakens the dollar and causes inflation. No one wants to see a return to the double digit inflation of the Carter administration. The other possibility is to raise taxes. No one wants this either. Isn't there a door number three to get us out of this mess? Actually, yes. STOP SPENDING!

What would we think about a man that through an insatiable appetite for spending puts his family in ever increasing debt, yet continues to spend? What would we think if his debt became so large that it became a impossible burden for not only his children but also his grandchildren and his great grandchildren, yet he continues to spend? Would we not call such a man both irresponsible and wicked? Our leaders are spending us into a debt that will be a crushing burden for generations.

Oh, how we need to pray that God would bless us with some leaders that possess the wisdom, boldness and maturity to get us out of this dilemma. Oh how we need Godly leaders. "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked rule, the people mourn" (Proverbs 29:2).

And pray that God might turn our nation from its continued rebellion against His rule. We truly have the leaders we deserve. We need His mercy.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Principle versus Policy

As I watch the continuing debate over the nationalization of health care my emotions are stirred to the max. I have strong feelings on the issue. Surely such a passionate position must have Biblical support. Surely God must be on my side on this issue. Surely God must be opposed to the nationalization of health care. The truth is much of the debate is not a matter of Biblical truth; it is a matter of policy. In other words, all of us can see that our health care system is in serious trouble. The possible solutions, however are many and varied. The cost of medical care has reached enormous proportions. For it to continue its present course will eventually make medical care unaffordable. Part of the problem lies in a system where the free market has been usurped by a system where insurance companies pay our bills. The consumer is completely removed from the actual costs. The consumer simply allows his insurance to pay the bill. This has led to unreasonable costs. No consumer would be willing to pay five dollars for a band-aid, unless of course someone else pays the bill. The other problem lies in the unreasonable costs doctors have to pay to protect themselves from litigation. Our legal system is also in need of overhaul. These statements, however, fall into the category of policy rather than principle. We can zealously oppose increasing our national debt as a matter of principle. It is sinful to allow our actions today to place a burden on future generations. We cannot, however, place matters of health care policy on the same moral level.

I'm using the health care debate as an example of the difference between principle and policy. Our inability to discern between the two can cause many problems for our church. We all have strong positions on many different issues. We must be able to separate the difference between principle and policy. Let me give some other examples. All of us agree that children must be properly disciplined. This is a Biblical teaching; a matter of principle. How each family implements this teaching is a matter of policy. When we try to bind others to our particular position of policy we risk causing needless division and strife. Another example: All of us agree that children are a blessing from God. They should be received with thanksgiving. This is a Biblical teaching; a matter of principle. One family may decide that this means a family must have unrestricted births in order to properly reflect this principle. Another family may decide that given the Biblical mandate to train each child, having 3-4 children is a more reasonable approach. One side may accuse the other of usurping God's Providential control over their fertility. The other side may say having unrestricted children is irresponsible; like refusing medial care because we trust in God's Providence. The truth is, both sides are correct. Both are recognizing children as a blessing from God and both are understanding the high responsibility of parenthood. They are in disagreement over policy, not principle. Neither position is necessarily sin. One more example: All of us agree that parents have the duty of educating their children as a matter of principle; a matter of Biblical truth. Some assume that homeschooling is the only proper means of fulfilling this Biblical mandate. What do we do, however, with a single mom who has to work to feed her family? She can't homeschool and can't afford private school. Is she in sin to send her children to public school? Is it not possible for her to be involved in their education; visiting the school regularly, regular contact with the teacher, oversight over their study, etc. Both parents can believe the same Biblical teaching (principle) while working out the details (policy) in a different manner. There is a difference between principle and policy.

As a general statement, reformed churches tend to be smaller in size. Sometimes this is true because Biblical truth is often unpopular. Unfortunately, it is also sometimes true because reformed churches can become very dogmatic on various issues excluding people who don't hold to their positions. Often it is a matter of failing to discern the difference between principle and policy. I recently read an article in World Magazine that described Capitol Hill Baptist Church as "a church that sits blocks from the political heartbeat of the country with members working for both parties." When I first read it I was surprised. Imagine serving in a church alongside a Democrat; not only a Democrat but one who actually works for his party! As I looked at the complexion of our own church I immediately concluded this would never work. We have positions that are too strong. But many of these positions are matters of policy. Need we be divisive on these issues? I visited Capital Hill Baptist Church (Mark Dever's church) last summer. They are reformed, but they are a large congregation. They were packed on the Sunday I visited. Their worship was Biblical and God honoring. The sermon was expository and edifying. Imagine, I may have been sitting with Democrats! Associate Pastor Michael Lawrence stated in the World Magazine article, "Our church has tried to draw a line on issues of principle without getting involved in the debates on policy." May God grant our church the wisdom and grace to discern the the difference.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

What is a Healthy Church Member

A few years back Mark Dever wrote a book titled, The 9Marks of a Healthy Church. In his book he lists nine marks that should be present in a healthy church. His nine marks were: Expositional Preaching, Biblical Theology, The Gospel, A Biblical Understanding of Conversion, A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism, A Biblical Understanding of Church Membership, Biblical Church Discipline, A Concern for Discipleship and Growth, and Biblical Church Membership. These 9 Marks provide the foundation of a strong and healthy church.

Thabiti Anyabwile has written a followup book, What is a Healthy Church Member?" In his book he lists ten marks of a healthy church member. This is an important followup to Dever's earlier book. No church can be truly healthy without a healthy membership. According to Anyabwile a healthy church member is: An Expositional Listener, a Biblical Theologian, Gospel Saturated, Genuinely Converted, a Biblical Evangelist, a Committed Member, Seeks Discipline, a Growing Disciple, a Humble Follower, and a Prayer Warrior.

In our generation this book is a refreshing breath of fresh air. Anyabwile expresses the importance of the local church in the welfare of every Christian. The great weakness of Christianity today is the lack of emphasis on the importance of the local church. An unhealthy spirit of individualism is plaguing the church today. People hop from church to church according to their personal preferences. Some have abandoned the local church altogether choosing rather to gather in small home groups. Anyabwile writes of Joshua Harris's past attitude concerning the church: "He considered the church secondary, outmoded, inefficient, and a hindrance. It wasn't that he didn't love God or God's people. He just didn't think that belonging to a particular church was important, and might even be a hindrance." Part of the problem lies with the weakness of ecclesiastical understanding in many churches today. Many don't even maintain a membership. There is little accountability and discipline has become nearly extinct. Anyabwile stresses the necessity of church membership in the life of every believer.

Every believer has the duty to unite with a particular local church. Church membership is a covenant relationship among believers. Each of us have the duty to watch over one another and give ourselves to promoting the health of the church. Healthy church members seek to be expositional listeners who seek to hear what God's Word says so they can apply it to their lives. They seek to become Biblical theologians in order to protect themselves and the church from false doctrine. They are concerned about their own personal spiritual growth and that of other believers. They make sure they have a proper understanding of the Gospel and give themselves to bringing this Gospel to the lost. They support the leadership of the church praying for them as well as for each other.

I recommend this book as a reminder of the importance of the local church and our place in the church. It is an easy read of less than 120 pages that will prove beneficial as we seek to build Christ's church.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Hero Worship

As I watch the spectacle following the death of Michael Jackson I'm once again amazed at the human propensity to idolize other human beings. Jackson's memorial service is supposed to be one of the highest attended funerals of all time. And to what do we attribute such praise? His life can only be characterized as weird. Granted, he was talented as a performer but look at his life! Accusations of child molestations, a recluse who built his home around a theme park, a man who had so many plastic surgeries he hardly looked human. In spite of it all millions are falling down in homage to this man.

This has been consistent throughout history but seems to be even more pronounced in recent history. When Hitler was first rising to power multitudes followed him as a god. When the Beatles made their way across the ocean into our country young girls cried and lost consciousness as they listened to them perform. People follow their favorite movie stars. Even the name movie "star" points to a bright light worthy of garnering great attention. During last year's election and continuing today Barack Obama is surrounded by this hero worship. The media has even referred to him at times as the messiah.

Christians are not immune to this propensity. Paul addressed this problem in his letter to the Church of Corinth - "For while one saith, I'm of Paul; and another, I'm of Apollos; are ye not carnal" (1 Cor. 3:4)? We live in a wonderful time when expository preaching is becoming the food many young Christians are feasting upon. Multitudes are attending reformed conferences. While most are attending because of a love for sound doctrine there are some who are following their cult heros - I'm of Sproul, I'm of Piper, I'm of MacArthur."

The truth is no man is worthy of praise. We are nothing more than clay in the Potter's hand. The greatest of men are only what God has made them. He alone must receive the praise. God will not share His worship; He will not share His glory. The First Commandment must sound loud and clear in our ears, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." When Herod delivered his oratory address in Acts 22 the people exclaimed, "The voice of a god and not of a man!" What follows should cause us to tremble. "And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten with worms and died."

May we guard our hearts against worshiping men.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

2009 Vacation Bible School


We finished our annual VBS last week. VBS means different things to different people. For the adults it is the conclusion of much labor and preparation. I'm grateful for so many in our church who give themselves sacrificially in the labor of Christ. Most of our adults maintain the simple attitude of, "How can I be used." For the children, it's just plain fun. They enjoy the snacks and crafts and the atmosphere of the event.

Of course, VBS is far more than just another recreational event. It provides the church with the opportunity to apply the Gospel of Christ to these young souls. It gives us a tool for inviting children from outside our church in order to spend time with them and press the demands of Christ upon their hearts. As a church, we must continually look for opportunities to speak the Gospel to the lost. It also provides yet one more opportunity for our own children to consider their own souls. One might argue, don't they hear it enough at home? It is indeed a blessing to be brought up in a Christian home with parents that weep over their children and teach them the doctrines of Christ, but we must not deny other opportunities where they can hear it again. Nothing is more important than their soul.

I'm grateful for the opportunity we had to bring the Gospel to these children. May God take His Word and effectually apply it to their hearts.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Downgrade

I recently read an article describing the continuing decline of interest in Christianity in the United States. Seventy-five percent of Americans claim to be Christians but their profession has little impact upon their lives. Most have no interest in Biblical doctrine and as a consequence have little knowledge of Biblical doctrine. Few ever pray. Few ever attend worship on a given Sunday and many of those who do will not tolerate a steady diet of Biblical preaching. The Apostle Paul warned of days like these: "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. " For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:2-3).

So how have many churches responded to these tough conditions? Sadly, instead of following the Biblical command to remain true to Biblical preaching, they’ve succumbed to the demands of the masses; they’ve gone into the business of tickling ears. According to Tony Woodlief in World Magazine, “The Christian church grew when its leaders stressed biblical study and fervent prayer, each of which was considered, in the early church, a means of knowing God. The modern feel-good church, meanwhile, de-emphasizes both in favor of ‘messages’ that are ‘relevant’ to my life” (World Magazine, April 25, 2009). At a meeting with a local group of pastors we were told about how wonderful it is to be “innovative” in our preaching. It was shared that one pastor brought a Mini-Cooper into the church. He’ll be teaching a class for pastors so that others might share in his innovation. Do we really need to be "innovative" in preaching?

Some might immediately tell of the antics of Isaiah or Ezekiel to justify today’s innovation. But the actions of these prophets were governed by direct revelation from God. Are Mini-Coopers being brought into the church by direct revelation? Others might call to mind the parables of Jesus as evidence of innovative methodology to help in the understanding of the message. We can hardly compare our Lord's parables with today’s wild “innovations,” not to mention, we are told the parables were designed to hide the message, not to aid in understanding. The bottom line is we are nowhere commanded to be clever in our use of the Word of God. We don’t need to be. We only need to be faithful in the exposition of the Word. Paul said, “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2 ESV).

It is true that we live in difficult days. The temptation is to succumb to the modern innovations. After all, many of these churches are experiencing growth. Woodlief added, "Eliminate the theologies of Word and prayer, and all you have left is a competition to see who can provide the best circus" (ibid). May God grant us to be true to Christ and His Word, no matter what.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Invitation System

I heard today that a local Baptist group will be offering an "invitation workshop" in order to instruct pastors on how to be more effective in handling the invitation, which many see as the most important part of the worship service. They say everything else in the service should be arranged towards this great climactic end when sinners are invited to Christ. If you mess this up people will lose their opportunity to get saved.

Is this true? Is the invitation the most important part of the worship service? Let me offer a couple thoughts. First, we must understand that preaching itself is an invitation. Paul commanded Timothy to "Preach the Word; be instant in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Timothy 4:2). In preaching God's demands are pressed upon the hearts of men. The entire sermon is an invitation. Second, as we preach the Holy Spirit makes His Word effectual unto salvation. He alone can convict the sinner of his condemnation. He alone can grant faith and repentance. He alone can change a sinner's heart. The Holy Spirit opens the sinner's ears to hear. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). The invitation system is a reflection of our weak theology. Do we really believe that the absence of an adequate invitation will hinder the ability of the Holy Spirit to save? Can the one who commanded light to shine out of darkness be hindered by the absence of a proper invitation (2 Corinthians 4:6)? Is the Word of God so weak and impotent that it will not have the proper effect upon sinners unless we have a proper invitation at the close of our worship service while singing "Just as I Am" with every eye closed and every head bowed?

When I was in seminary I sat in a class and listened while the professor expounded on the virtues of the invitation. I raised my hand and asked if I could inquire how many in the room had been saved during the invitation. Not a single person in the class of over 50 students indicated that an invitation had led to their conversion. Instead of hailing the virtues of the invitation we should be warning of its dangers. The invitation reeks of man-centered evangelism. Far too many people equate Christian conversion with some human act - "making a decision," "walking an aisle," "praying a prayer." Far too many base their assurance upon this act of coming forward durning the invitation rather than upon the Biblical evidence of Christian conversion. People are walking down the aisle and then walking out the door unchanged.

When a person becomes convinced of his sin and sees the excellence of the cross and the infinite worth of Christ no power in this universe will be able to keep him from coming to Christ. Neither prison bars nor martyr's flames will hinder his confession of Christ. If we truly believe that the lack of a proper invitation is keeping people from Christ oh God help us! How far have we strayed from the Biblical model. When Peter preached to the crowd in Acts 2 he didn't need to give an invitation. They interrupted him, "Men and brethren, what shall we do" (Acts 2:37)?

We don't need better invitations. We need faithful pastors who will preach the Word with conviction and with the confidence that God's Word is still sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). We need pastors who will do the hard work of prayerfully examining those stirred by the Word. We must end the sinful practice of equating salvation with walking down the aisle. We must see the connection between the high number of unregenerate church members in our churches today and our unbiblical methodolgy.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The 2009 ARBCA General Assembly has been edifying as usual. Messengers from just over 70 churches met together in unity and harmony that reflects Christianity as it should be. It is a blessing to be a part of this association of churches.

The theme of this year's assembly is "Communion with Our Triune God." On Tuesday night Fred Pugh preached on "Communion with God the Father." God delights to be with us. It is a communion that will never fail. "He will rejoice over thee with joy" (Zeph 3:17). On Wednesday night Raymond Perron spoke on "Communion with God the Son." He spoke of our relationship with Christ in terms of the musical expression, "sympathetic resonance." It describes the phenomenon where a string vibrating at a certain octave will cause another string to resonate at the same octave. We are so united to Jesus that He identifies fully with our condition. What we are going through resonates with Him. "In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40). On Thursday night Arden Hodgins preached on "Communion with God the Holy Spirit." There is a difference between "union" and "communion." Our union with the Holy Spirit is an act of sovereign grace. It is unending and unfluctuating. Our communion does fluctuate. He will withdraw His influences. Our appetites for Christ and the things will be decreased. One reason we give so little regard to the Holy Spirit is we are oblivious to Him - His person, His dignity, His character, His work, and His love. God's gracious communion with us as our triune God is our greatest blessing.

Our Association is continuing to grow each year. Eight churches were added this year. May God continue to bless these confessional churches as we labor together for the advancement of His Kingdom.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Search for Proper Church Music


The subject of music in the church has often been one of dispute that has sometimes degenerated into open war. Unfortunately, the modern so called "worship war" has largely focused on the matter of personal taste. The modern church must come to the conclusion that our personal desires in worship are absolutely irrelevant. What must drive us is a quest to determine what God desires. God has always determined how He is to be worshiped. He must be the focus.

The subject of worship music must be examined carefully. Paul described our music as "Speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19). Clearly the primary emphasis is upon the content ("speaking to yourselves"). Paul writes in Colossians 3:16: "Let the Word of God dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. . ." The music style must be such that it does not distract from the content. The great emphasis on the music style today often demonstrates the diminishing of the importance of the content. The so called praise music of today is often more about us -- what God does for us; how God benefits us. Is it music that stirs us? It is often quite narcissistic.

Early church worship was patterned after the synagogue and the singing of the Psalms was the primary focus. The writing of Christian hymns began as early as the fourth century, largely to counteract the activity of heretics. With the Reformation there was a split with regard to worship music. Calvin, guided by the Regulative Principle, maintained that only the Psalms should be sung and also banned the use of musical instruments. Anything not found in the Bible was rejected. Luther, on the other hand, supported the singing of hymns. Wesley later introduced what are often called "Gospel Songs" as distinct from hymns. This style of music had a faster tempo and also contained a refrain or chorus.

Our church has largely embraced the "traditional hymnody" of the Christian church while mixing in a few of the "Gospel Songs." Traditional hymnody has a focus on the greatness of God. It is music "about" God, as opposed to contemporary worship music that is usually directed "to" God." It is content rich and doctrinally pure music. Traditional hymnody is not confined to a particular historical period. There are hymns being written today that direct our attention to God. These stand apart from most of the contemporary worship music of our day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dare to Offend

In Luke 14:1-14 we find Jesus attending a supper at the home of one of the chief Pharisees. It was attended by many guests from the upper stature of society. We've all been invited to such social gatherings. There is a general protocol which demands politeness. We want everyone to think well of us so we are usually on our best behavior. This also tends to be our general demeanor in life; we are careful not to be offensive. Unfortunately, this often keeps us silent with regards to speaking the Gospel or a point of Biblical truth. We remain silent lest we offend.

As we examine the life of Christ we find something much different. We was never offensive in terms of being mean spirited or rude. He was the model of sinless perfection. He was filled with love, mercy and kindness. Most people, however, see these characteristics of Christ but fail to see the other side. He never ever withheld truth out of fear of offending someone. At this dinner party, in a brief period of time, Jesus offended everyone present. He accused the leaders of having a higher regard for mere animals on the Sabbath than for people. He then criticized the guests for being so arrogant as to seek the seats of the highest honor, and then He offended the host, accusing him of inviting only wealthy guests who would then return the favor by inviting him to their feasts. Obviously, Jesus was not particularly concerned about what others thought of Him or whether or not He'd be invited back. His only concern was pleasing His Father and speaking His truth.

How does this apply to us? How many times have we withheld speaking the Gospel to a person or group because we feared what they might think of us? How often have we remained silent out of fear of offending? The truth is the Gospel is offensive. It deals with the hearts of men which are hopelessly corrupt. It presents us as wicked and condemned before a holy God. The natural man does not want to hear such things. He will often be offended by such words. The preaching of the cross will always be offensive to those who believe not. The Word of God is a two-edged sword that cuts to the very depth of our soul. When we speak the truth we will often offend. This doesn't mean that we should be offensive. We must not be pugnatious or ill mannered. We must speak with gentleness and meekness -- but we must speak! We must not remain silent. Jesus spoke these words: "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels" (Mark 8:38). May we go forth with zeal speaking boldly the Gospel of Christ. May we never be silent out of fear of offending.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Divine Foreknowledge

Preaching through the Book of Romans, I've recently been working through Romans 8:29. I've been stirred once again at how glorious the doctrine of Divine foreknowledge is. However, I'm not blind to the controversy this doctrine has raised. It is difficult for human beings to think of God as determining all things, particularly as it applies to election and predestination. Most evangelical Arminians believe that God has foreknowledge of future events, but in terms of election and predestination they insist that God foreknew who would believe the Gospel and then elected them to salvation based upon this foreknown faith.

This position will not hold up under scrutiny. First, the Bible makes it clear that no man left to himself would ever believe. Human beings are spiritually dead in need of a new heart. This demands a supernatural work of God. Left to themselves all men will continue in their sinful rebellion. No man left to himself will ever seek God (Romans 3:11) Second, Paul isn't speaking about future actions, he's taking about people. This is consistent with the context of this section of Chapter 8. Verse 28 is describing particular people; those called according to God's purpose. Verse 30 describes particular people; those God calls, justifies, and glorifies. Third, foreknowledge demands events that are fixed in time. If foreknowledge implies certainty then it carries the force of foreordination. This is consistent with God's testimony of Himself - Isaiah 46:10 - "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, my counsel will stand, and I will do all my pleasure."

There is another issue of common sense the Arminian has to address. If election is based upon God's foreknowledge of who will believe does it not also hold that God also foreknew who would reject the Gospel? Since foreknowledge implies fixed events doesn't this mean that God created these people knowing they would go to hell? If God created a man knowing he would go to hell why would He send Christ to die for him or send His Holy Spirit to draw him. Isn't it nonsensical to hold that God is trying to save a person He knows will be lost? Ultimately, a position which insists that God is trying to save all men must deny God's foreknowledge of events which will lead to heretical positions such as Open Theism.

The only position consistent with with Romans 8:28-30 is that God has a purpose to save His elect people. God in eternity looked upon the fallen race of humanity and chose (predestined) many unto salvation. Obviously God had to have foreknowledge of them; He could not chose whom He did not know. Those He foreknew and predestined, He also called and justified and will ultimately glorify.

God's foreordination is a glorious doctrine. He knew us from eternity. He looked upon us while we were defiled in our sin and He chose us unto salvation. He adoped us as His own. Even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). This doctrine of salvation gives God all the glory.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hollywood Agenda

Last November California voters passed Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. It was a hotly contested measure but in the end it was approved by a margin of 52-48 percent. One of the most vocal opponent groups came from Hollywood.

For years Hollywood has pushed their homosexual agenda. We've seen it clearly in both motion pictures and television. Nowhere have we seen their bias more clearly than in their opposition to Prop 8. George Lucas (writer and producer of Star Wars) gave $100,000 to Prop 8 opponents. Director, Steven Speilburg gave $50,500. Since the passage of Prop 8 their opposition has only escalated. Tom Hanks said, "There are a lot of people who feel that it is un-American, and I am one of them." Most recently, Sean Penn, accepting an Oscar for his role in "Milk," a movie that tells the story about the first openly homosexual person elected to office, ranted, "I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their great grandchildren's eyes if they continue that way of support."

Who will be ashamed as all men stand before Christ on that Great Day? Will it be those who have stood for holiness in spite of opposition or will it be those who openly despised God and His Word? It is a fearful thing to consider the harm Hollywood has done to our culture. They have done much to shape the steady decline of morality in our nation. Psalm 2 rings loud today: "Why do the heathn rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure."

Who will be ashamed on that Great Day?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Pursuit of Excellence


As I watch these athletes I'm absolutely blown away by their skill. In fact, I question if the video is even real or doctored. After all, they are talking about "Fantasy" football. But the point I want to make is the attention athletes give to their sport. How many hours of practice does it take to acquire excellence in their sport? These men (and women) give themselves to excellence in something they are passionate about. It makes me wonder, though. As Christians we claim to have a passion for Christ. How much do we invest ourselves in our pursuit of Christ? How much do we invest ourselves in the pursuit of holiness? How much do we invest ourselves in God's Word that we might be skillful in handling the word of truth?

I believe the Apostle Paul was a sports fan. He often used the games as illustrations. While bodily exercise has its place, Paul stressed the great value of excellence in spiritual pursuits. Read how he places the priority. "But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come" (1 Tim. 4:7-8). "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize. Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They do it to obtain a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable" (NAS 1Cor. 9:24-25).

The point is, developing expertise in any discipline demands great energy and effort. The greatest pursuit is the pursuit of Christ. Paul wrote, "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ" (Philippians 3:8). If we are truly passionate about Christ we must also be passionate in our pursuit of those things that will enhance our relationship with Him. We should be as skilled in self-control as athletes; their mastery over the body in order to have excellence in their sport, ours that we might live in holiness to the honor of Christ. We should be as skilled in handling the Word of God as these athletes are in handling the football. It demands great effort, but effort is joyous in those things you are passionate about.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Irrational Sin

Human beings in their fallen condition have a love relationship with their sin. Jesus said, "Men love darkness rather than light" (John 3:19). People continue their rebellious behavior in spite of the consequences, and there are consequences, both temporal and eternal. Philosophically, all sin is irrational; yet, we blindly continue our pathway to destruction unless God rescues us through the Gospel.

Sometimes, we see the irrational nature of sin displayed vividly. During the 2008 Olympics swimmer Michael Phelps won an incredible eight gold medals. At 23 years of age he had the world in his hand. Sponsors were lining up at his door offering lucrative contracts worth millions if he would endorse their products. It was an opportunity most people could only dream of. Last week a photo was released of Mr. Phelps smoking marijuana at a party. What! I couldn't believe it. What foolishness. I had to remind myself, however, that all sin is just as foolish, just as irrational, and we've all filled our cups full of such irrational behavior. And all sin carries its own consequences.

Already the consequences for Mr. Phelps are coming to light. Cereal manufacturer Kelloggs has dropped its endorsement deal with Phelps stating that his behavior is "inconsistent with the image of Kellogg." Phelps may recover from this scandal in time, but he still has to stand before God. His only hope, the hope of all men, is true repentance and a full resting upon the atonement of Christ.

Sadly, Michael Phelps is demonstrating the attitude most people have concerning their sin. They enjoy the pleasures of their sin and when exposed they make whatever excuses they deem necessary to acquit them. In response to his sin coming to light Phelps issued a statement, "I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I'm 23 years old and despite the successes I've had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again." While it is commendable he did not deny his behavior and offered an apology he did not accept full responsibility. True repentance is to have the heart of David, "I have sinned against the LORD." David did not try to offer excuses to justify his actions. There was nothing that could justify his sinful behavior. Notice carefully the words of Phelps. "I am 23 years old . . . I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way." In other words, he shouldn't really be held accountable because, after all, he is only 23 years old. Because he is young he doesn't feel he should be held to full accountability for his actions; that we should hold a 23 year old to a different standard. This isn't true repentance.

Sin is irrational. A failure to repent is pure lunacy.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Octuplets

Last week a story hit the news of a lady who gave birth to eight, yes eight babies. At the time the mother refused to give any information and the details were sketchy. Most people reacted, “How nice, eight babies.” Now we are getting “the rest of the story.” The mother now has 14 children, all conceived by in vitro fertilization. She is a single mother and received the sperm from a donor, which brings up the whole question of bio-ethics.


On one hand, in vitro fertilization might seem a wonderful medical breakthrough for a married couple where the mother is unable to conceive through the normal process. It allows a childless couple to enjoy the gift of parenthood. On the other hand, in a world of Godless ethics the whole process is wrong. When a couple chooses to go this route the normal procedure is to harvest a number of eggs, fertilize them with the father’s sperm, and freeze the embryos. The problem lies in what to do with the unused embryos – more properly referred to as “children.” To destroy them is abortion – more properly referred to as “murder.” And then, in a world of Godless ethics, what is to prevent a single mother from giving birth to 14 children without a husband or a lesbian couple from bringing a child into their sinful relationship.


These are important issues. In a Godless world many of these medical and biological breakthroughs have no gatekeepers. If you cast away the Bible as God’s rule of moral behavior there is no end to the perversion that the human mind might invent. Without this standard the ethical debate has no basis of truth. “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Oh God, save us from the folly of our own devices.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Inauguration

Here's an amazing photo of the inauguration. The resolution is incredible! Former president Bill Clinton looks particularly sober (Zoom in to President Obama's right next to George H.W. Bush).

Click for Inauguration Photo

Friday, January 30, 2009

What About Obama


January 20, 2009 marked the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th president of the United States of America. The media displayed the hoards of people cheering with great joy for their new leader. For most Americans, Obama is the hope of a new era of prosperity and happiness. For most evangelicals, however, his election brought great trepidation. After all, our new president has demonstrated support for gay marriage, stem cell research on fetal tissue, and partial birth abortion, as well as a fiscal policy of big government. So how should we view our new president and the prospect of the next four to eight years?

First of all, we must treat him with honor and respect. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. “For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1). He is our president. God has given him authority over us. His sinful behavior does not exempt us from God's command for us to honor him.

Second, we must pray for him often. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:1-2—”I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we might live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” We must resist the temptation to rejoice when he does poorly. It is of no benefit to us or our nation if our president doesn’t do well. How wonderful it would be if God saved him and give him a heart of Godliness. That being said, it is also permissible for us to pray that God would replace him if he doesn't rule with justice and righteousness.

Third, we must remember that our wellbeing is not ultimately controlled by who occupies the office of president. Most people are looking to the government to solve all of the problems of life and to provide their happiness, but not us. We know that God rules over all. He has determined the outcome of history. Obama’s heart is in His hand. Our joy and contentment is found in Christ, not in who holds the office of president. May we continue to stand for justice and truth and live for the glory of the One whose Kingdom is not of this world—regardless of who holds the office of president.