Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Twelve Days of Christmas

The best article I have ever read on the spiritual meaning of this popular Christmas carol is the one here by Dr. Jack Wheeler. Enjoy it—and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Pray for Egypt

Matthew 2:14: So he got up, took the child and His mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. (HCSB)

The Holy Family’s escape to Egypt was a drastic measure directed by God to save the Child Jesus from Herod’s murderous wrath. But such escapes to Egypt were not uncommon among the Jews of that time, according to William Barclay. Many Jews, for a variety of reasons, were forced to flee Judea, with Egypt being the most logical refuge. So when the Holy Family arrived, a sizable Jewish community was there for them to join. Most important, this fulfilled Old Testament prophecy, “… out of Egypt I called my son.” (v. 15 and Hosea 11:1, ESV)

With such an important part Egypt played in protecting the Messiah (and with that land’s important role in church history), these verses should spur us to pray for the nation of Egypt, that revival would come to that land, and for God’s protection over our brothers and sisters in the persecuted Coptic Church (and other Christians in the nation). Just the disturbing pictures coming out this week of the government’s brutality against protesters, and the blind eye the soon-to-be-Sharia dictatorship is turning to the oppression of Coptic Christians by radical Islamists, should be more than enough cause for us to intercede for the land that watched over our Lord Jesus in his early years as a child.

Christopher Hitchens in heaven?

The headline above make shock a lot of readers familiar with Christopher Hitchen’s atheism, his polemic book God is Not Great and his unabashed hatred for, among others, Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Dr. Russell Moore of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has an excellent article here about God’s amazing grace that reaches even to death’s door. To be sure, deathbed conversions are rare (in my own ministry, it happened only once that I know of, when I led a man in a nursing home to Jesus several days before he died).

Nonetheless, Moore draws on the most famous deathbed conversion, the thief on the cross, speculating how many believers in that man’s family may have concluded he was in hell—not hearing his cry of repentance, or Jesus’ assurance that he would be with our Lord in paradise that day!

A Methodist minister friend once told me that we’ll be surprised by those who make it to heaven, and those who don’t. That seemed to echo the sentiment of Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, the “Voice of the Martyrs,” who said in an article about Russian Communism founder Vladimir Lenin reportedly being saved on his deathbed, “Heaven holds many surprises.” Christopher Hitchens could well be one of those surprises.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Interesting links: Tebow, church-going atheists

FOX Sportswriter Jason Whitlock gives his take here on Tim Tebow's sucess at Denver (his 6-1 record as a starter has put them in first in the AFC West as of this writing), attributing it to his two-parent upbringing (as opposed to several other superstar QBs who have fizzled).

Atheists actually taking their children to church? This article here from The Blaze, to me, is very encouraging--and offers churches a real opportunity to reach these families.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Mission Field!

On the Occupy Wall Street protests: Reading the glowing mainstream media reports of the protests, and the denunciations of them by conservative commentators, there’s only one thought that came to my mind:

What a mission field!

You read that right. Where else are you going to find a large group of people searching for some kind of a cause? Followers of Jesus have a real chance to reach out to them with the truth of the gospel. At the very least, we should be praying for them, asking God to watch over them and give us ways we could show His love to them.

I’ve been reading Jesus’ account of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. What was the key difference between the spiritual priest and Levite, and the outcast Samaritan? It’s what they REALLY saw: the first two saw an inconvenience, maybe even a threat (maybe a trap by thieves, a common menace to travelers at that time). The Samaritan saw a soul who needed help. Let us pray for, and find ways, we can be the Samaritans to those Occupy Wall Street protesters, so that they can find eternal life through faith in Jesus!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

India, "choice" and wife-sharing

"For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind..." (Hosea 8:7, Updated King James Version)

Here's one fact abortion activists won't be harping on anytime soon: a practice that is spreading in India called "wife-sharing," where a group of brothers share one wife. Yes, you read that right--and this can be laid at the feet of Indians aborting unborn female children or killing newborn females. As a result, the male-female ratio in India is close to 10-8--leading to this, and other kinds of atrocities. Read the story here.

Just don't expect an outcry from feminists or abortion activists anytime soon.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9-11 and the shadow of the Almighty

Revelation 9:11: They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon [destruction], and in Greek he is called Apollyon [destroyer]. (ESV)

Psalm 91:1: He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. (KJV)

Shortly after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, I heard a message by a visiting minister at our church, who contrasted these two verses at the end of his sermon. The minister said America saw the first “9-11” verse, that is, the destruction brought about by the Satan-inspired terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon, killing about 3,000 people. The second “9-11” verse is America’s hope, that this country will commit itself to abide under the protective shadow of El Shaddai.

We need to pray for America to fully return to God’s shadow again. But then I have my doubts. The article I read here, which states that 80 percent of Christian youth have had sex before marriage, was very discouraging to me. Will even the Christians in America ever wake up and truly trust again in the shadow of the Almighty?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Harold Camping's false prophecy: the deadly toll

With Harold Camping’s previous false prophecies about the end times, those calling themselves Christians should have known better than to fall for his May 21 Rapture prediction (and should SURELY by now see through his latest explanation for this failed prediction and his new October 21 false prophecy; read his original words here). And yet because they didn’t heed this warning from scripture, many in this country lost fortunes and relationships; Bible-believing churches—including many that opening condemned Camping’s false prophecy—were widely ridiculed; and the youth, even among believers, but especially among Camping’s Family Radio cult, have all the less reason to believe the Bible, which Camping falsely claims he relied on, but contradicted by making his prediction to start with (by the way, with his faithful followers selling all their possessions to "get the message out," while Camping stayed nice and cozy in HIS home).

I only wish this were extent of Camping’s damage. But a reading of a recent article in the orthodox Catholic publication New Oxford Review gives a more grim picture: violence attributed to the prediction, including a California mother who tried to kill her two daughters and herself, and a Russian teenager who committed suicide by hanging, because they didn’t want to be left behind in the Tribulation; and a Florida man who, when the time approached for the prediction to be "fulfilled," in a frenzy jumped to his death so he could "get to God."

Then there are the deaths of possibly hundreds of Hmong Christians in Vietnam, who gathered to celebrate the "approaching Rapture" on a mountain—which was to end of their persecution under the Communists—only to be massacred by government troops as the prediction failed (read the original story at WorldNetDaily here). Two of their pastors were beheaded, and others in the group of 7,000 were arrested; the ministry that reported the massacre said these believers, unlike those in the West, were poor, ignorant and heavily persecuted, making them more susceptible to relying on Camping’s rants via short-wave radio.

It’s very easy for Christians to laugh along with the mainstream media about this false prophecy, and dismiss it. But this sad lesson should challenge us to proclaim TRUE biblical prophecy, which heads off such deluded teachings as Camping’s “prophecies” (see my previous blog), and keeps us centered in the truth of Jesus and His Word.

When a prophet speaks in the Lord’s name, and the message does not come true or is not fulfilled, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him. (Deut. 18:22, HCSB)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Preaching Prophecy: 10 Good Reasons

I remember several years ago when I was pastoring church, how I committed to teaching a midweek series on end times prophecy. A visitor came in with a church member (and a large spiritual chip on his shoulder), and during the teaching (in which I answered questions from the congregation) intoned that studying end time prophecy could "distract" from the "more important" teachings of the Bible. My answer--which was really more for the church member than the visitor--was that: A) Anyone who has been to the church on a regular basis knows it is not the ONLY thing I was teaching, and, B) Jesus Himself talked quite a bit about prophecy, so it must be important for us to know.

An article I read from ChurchLeaders.com gives 10 excellent reasons why we should preach about biblical prophecy (this is one of those articles I wish I had several years ago). You can read this great article here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pollyanna of the week

This breathless headline from MSN web site, under "Do-or-die time for the US economy":

"While economic data has been disappointing, our fate is not sealed. Check out why there's reason to believe."

Remember reading anything like that at MSN when George W. Bush was president?

Coming to a town near you? British youth riots and why "good without God" isn't good

I’ve heard countless times how the church in America was one generation from extinction; how, in my denomination, 90 percent of children walk away from the faith by the time they leave college. I’ve wondered about these statements in light of the riots in Britain. Articles I’ve read have pointed out the lack of a moral foundation among British youths, how the attempt to be good without God has come crashing down. Are the same things coming here, with American youth also lacking the moral compass of God’s Word?

The church in Britain should have seen this coming decades ago. Back in 1966, John Lennon was raked over the coals in the U.S., after being quoted as saying in a British paper that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. Ironically, in the context of the British youth at the time, he was right: the Beatles WERE more influential among youth than Jesus (and the blame for that can be laid at the door of the church). It’s even more true today among youth here: many teens who couldn’t name a book in the Bible can probably sing every lyric of a Lady Gaga song. And music isn’t the only influence over youth: even TV shows on "children’s" networks can greatly influence their thinking more than we realize.

This should give Christians an urgency to teach our children the Ten Commandments, as well as the other foundations of the Christian faith. We can’t just leave it to the church, and many years ago, it WASN’T. Sunday School was first developed in England in the 1800s for poor children whose parents weren’t teaching them the Bible. No self-respecting Christian parent would DARE send their children there, for it was an admission that they weren’t instructing their children in the Bible at home. Over time, however, fathers got lazy about teaching the Bible at home--when the Bible seems to put the instruction of children in the faith squarely on the parents (Deuteronomy 6:7; Ephesians 6:4).

We can’t expect our children to respect us as parents if we don’t take the time to pray with them and instruct them on God’s Word. Help us Jesus never to shirk from this great responsibility! I pray more Christian parents take the time to teach their children God’s Word, so that our youth can once again have a moral compass.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Debt crisis, pro wrestling and space invaders

On the continuing crisis:

*Witnessing the "debate" between the Obama White House and the Republican "leadership" was quite like watching a pro wrestling match--especially the part where you just KNOW that ref was going to be distracted at the wrong time, so the bad guy can hit the good guy over the head with a chair. Everyone just KNEW the GOP blue bloods would throw the game, but allowing the ceiling increase to head off a phony impending "disaster" in exchange for some "super-commission" was pretty creative, I must admit. Guess the stock market investors weren't fooled by the "master stroke of genius," and we have a great credit downgrade to show off now.

*Then there was the otherworldly solution of NYT Nobel economic genius Paul Krugman, who actually said just like World War II saved the economy in the 1940s, a space invasion could do the same for us today (yes, he REALLY said it; check this link at Rush Limbaugh's web site. For you lefties who don't like Rush, here's a CNN link directly to the story).

Put aside for a moment the Left's usual hypocrisy with the WW2 example (remember the protests against George W. Bush's "blood for oil"?) The REAL kicker appeared the same day at the MSN web site, when a link to the Discovery Channel loudly wondered, "Well, what WOULD happen if there was an invasion from outer space?" I've recently been putting the mainstream media and its pro-Obama fantasizing in the same category as the supermarket tabloids--but THIS "nodding while writing notes" reaction from the MSM makes the Weekly World News look like what the NYT USED to be.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Where there is no vision ...

Proverbs 29:18: Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (KJV)

Where there is no prophecy the people cast off restraint…(RSV) When prophecy shall fail, the people shall be scattered abroad…(Douay) When there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint… (NET Bible) There shall be no interpreter to a sinful nation…(CAB/Sept.) Without a prophetic vision a people become unruly…(Leeser) Without revelation people run wild…(HCSB)

All of these various translations of this Proverb bring out what happens when a people—individuals, a nation, a church or even a church movement—loses its prophetic vision. The casting off of restraint, or being unruly or wild—which leads to destruction—is the result of not following the prophetic vision God reveals to us through His Word, and which He confirms through prayer and walking in obedience to His will.

We can see this in our nation today, where God’s prophetic revelation is disregarded, resulting in rampant immorality and upside down values that permeate the entire society and government. And we wonder aloud how an alleged mother can kill her 2-year-old daughter and get away with it (with the evidence clearly showing the “mother” committed murder, the jury let her go largely because they couldn’t figure out her motive. Was that REALLY needed to convict her? Murderers have been convicted before when they DIDN’T have a motive).

But the church world can suffer its own brand of no “prophetic vision,” and not just in the area of “ministry expansion.” If a church’s prophetic vision doesn’t go beyond its four walls; if prophecies given are aimed at only addressing the church members (which runs counter to 1 Corinthians 14:24-25), or are not provoking the church to shine its light in the community; then yes, that community will be without restraint, and its people who are unsaved eventually perish, with the church’s witness absent. And like the Laodicean church of Revelation 3, the culture will have affected the church, instead of the other way around. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, the church will no longer be the thermostat that transforms the culture’s temperature, but will be a mere thermometer that reflects the culture and maintains its norms, including its unregenerate ones.

Help us Jesus—in our lives and in our churches—to once again receive and follow your prophetic vision, so that our whole communities will experience your blessings! “…[B]lessed is he who keeps the law.” (ESV)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Winning souls and wisdom

Proverbs 11:30: The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise. (KJV)

The wisest thing a believer can ever do is lead a soul to salvation through faith in Jesus. Besides the eternal life that one soul receives, how many other lives can be impacted for God’s kingdom through that one person; we can never know this side of heaven. Conversely, the Septuagint translation of this part of the verse reads, “the souls of transgressors are cut off before their time” (CAB, Brenton), showing the urgency, as well as the wisdom, in winning souls for Jesus.
“Those that would win souls have need of wisdom to know how to deal with them; and those that do win souls show that they are wise,” observes Matthew Henry. But in doing this, believers will also draw from the wisdom of God for other areas of our walk with Him, including dealing with our own challenges and in giving biblically-based guidance to others. When we draw on the Spirit of Wisdom (Isaiah 11:2) by winning souls for God’s kingdom, that wisdom cannot help but spill over into other areas of our hearts and minds.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Best "the end of the world is coming Saturday" quote

"She’ll say, 'You need to clean up your room,'" Grace said. "And I’ll say, 'Mom, it doesn’t matter, if the world’s going to end!'"--Grace Haddad Carson, teenage daughter of parents who believe Harold Campings' false prophecy about May 21 being the end of the world, from a story in The New York Times. Now THAT'S a sharp kid!

To the parents, Abby and Robert Haddad Carson: Look, you have three beautiful teenage children who love and cherish you. They're sticking by your side through all this. So will you PLEASE read my previous post, re-examine what Jesus says in Mark 13:32 and Acts 1:7, and PLEASE stop following Harold Campings' false teachings and prophecies? You are all in my prayers.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The end is coming May 21!!! ... and the danger of making such predictions

Mark 13:32: But as for that day or hour no one knows it—neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son—except the Father. (NET Bible)

A friend reminded me this week that yes, the world is going to come to an end this coming Saturday (with this friend's eyes firmly rolled to the back of the head). A faction of Christians are going around the country proclaiming this "truth," which they said was only "recently" revealed by God in the Bible (you can read about them here). I’m sure they’ll get their share of "Good morning, we’re still here" messages on Sunday, and plenty of believers are correctly pointing to verses such as this one, to show them their error.

So what to make of this prediction in light of the above verse? For one, it’s made by a man (founder of a radio network) who does not identify himself with any church. Yet another person, who has chosen to cut himself off from all those "religious" people in the Body of Christ, claims that God has given him "direct revelation"—and that we should ignore any other teachings on the scriptures and the voices of past believers, to get the "real truth" from him. Of course, this leads to all sorts of dangerous directions; some cults have been formed this way.

And it illustrates the error of this "prophet" in disobeying Hebrews 10:24-26: “And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near. For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us …” (NET Bible) The latter part of this passage is jarring to me: that to deliberately avoid Christian fellowship is not just a "bad choice," but willful disobedience of God--a sin. John Calvin rightly observed that for God to be your Father, the church must be your mother, and to cut oneself off from the church was "always fatal." In Christian fellowship there is accountability and safety in the "multitude of counselors" (Proverbs 11:14) as the Word of God is handled correctly by pastors and teachers, and those being taught (2 Timothy 2:15; Ephesians 4:11-16).

This also shows the danger of missing the essence of Jesus’ statement in Mark 13:32. Jesus plainly states that He, the Son, does not know the hour of His return. Some commentators say that Jesus, in His humanity, did not know, while He did know in His divine nature as God. However this aspect of the verse is interpreted, William Barclay correctly points out, "There can be no greater warning and rebuke to those who work out dates and timetables as to when he will come again. Surely it is nothing less than blasphemy for us to enquire into that of which our Lord consented to be ignorant."

So when we see and hear such "predictions," we should be moved to pray for those making them, that God would open their eyes. If they are prone to be "lone prophets" separating themselves from the church, we need to pray they would see their need for Christian fellowship. And we should earnestly pray that they would heed Jesus’ words here and in Acts 1:7: "You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority …" (NET Bible) Only when they hear Jesus’ voice through His Word, will they get their focus back on Him (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Obama's "Christian" voice silent on Muslim persecution of Coptic Church

You would think that the "Christian" and Matthew 25 Network-supported President Obama would speak out against the recent violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt by Muslims, stoked by the Muslim Brotherhood. But mum's the word from our president and his "progressive Christian" friends. Keith Koffler at White House Dossier has the story here.

Soros and mainstream media: the puppet strings exposed

Check out this link on ultra-liberal billionaire George Soros' multiple connections to the mainstream media--and keep it in mind next time you here about those "evil" conservative commentators and their "monopoly" on talk radio and Fox News.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Devotional on current events: David Wilkerson

I wrote this devotional after hearing about the homegoing of David Wilkerson:


Luke 17:10: So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. (KJV)

We need to especially remember this verse, when Jesus asks the extraordinary of us—and through the impossibilities and dangers, comes through with miracles. I wonder if this was the verse that kept David Wilkerson humble before God, in serving millions around the world through Teen Challenge and Times Square Church. God called him from a quiet community in Pennsylvania to minister to street gangs in New York City. And with all the impossible situations he faced, God responded to his faith, setting gang members free from all kinds of addictions and birthing an anointed worldwide ministry. Through all that God brought him and his family through, it was all too evident that he maintained the attitude of the unprofitable servant, who just wanted to do what God had commanded him.

“Theirs not to make reply/Theirs not to reason why/Theirs but to do and die,” wrote Tennyson in The Charge of the Light Brigade. Let us have such a faith—and an attitude that, whatever God does through us, we are simply content to give Him the glory. Rev. David Wilkerson, RIP.

Some devotional thoughts on current events

I've been writing a devotional where I comment on a Bible verse for each day. I do this the very first thing to start the day, before anything else. I thought that with all that's going on in our country, several recent posts seemed especially relevant:

Ezekiel 33:11: Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked … (KJV)

The demise of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, which had occurred in a fire fight with US Navy SEALs the day before, sparked celebrations around the world (and consternation among Islamic countries). The page-size headline on the New York Daily News over a picture of bin Laden even read, “ROT IN HELL!”

To be sure, bin Laden needed to pay for masterminding the murder of 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001. The US forces who killed him, and President Obama who gave the order for the strike, acted honorably in defense of our country. But one dimension caused me to take pause: bin Laden is one more soul who has been consigned to eternity in hell. In light of the verse above, we are forced to consider whether God is “celebrating” bin Laden’s death—and what our reaction should be as followers of Jesus.

According to scripture (and putting aside the pretzel logic of a certain “emerging church” leader in a recent book), hell is such a terrible place, it forced a sinner who was there to ask Abraham to send warning to his brothers, so they would NOT share in his misery (Luke 16:27-28). Is the fact that anyone is sent there worth celebrating? And as one campus evangelist asks lukewarm college Christians, do we really live and share our faith as if hell actually exists?

Esther 4:14: “Don’t imagine that because you are part of the king’s household you will be the one Jew who will escape. If you keep quiet at this time, liberation and protection for the Jews will appear from another source, while you and your father’s household perish. It may very well be that you have achieved royal status for such a time as this!” (NET Bible)

It would have been easy for Queen Esther, raised from being a humble captive to a ruler over a pagan nation, to stay silent when Haman’s plan to wipe out the Jewish people—including her uncle Mordecai—were about to be carried out. For some reason, she appeared to be in some sort of disfavor with the king at this point, for she had not been allowed to approach his throne for 30 days. Whatever the circumstance, Mordecai reminded Esther of the Divine hand that had brought her this far—and that saving the Jews from an approaching slaughter could well be the reason she was placed at the king’s side as queen.

“For such a time as this”—what powerful words I need, to remind myself that God’s unseen hand is in control of all situations and circumstances, that He makes the divine appointments in my life in which I must show my faith by obedience to Him! Winston Churchill, in his World War II memoirs, said that he felt everything that had happened in his life—good and bad—had all prepared him for the moment when he would take the reins of the British Empire in its darkest hour, when it appeared conquest by Nazi German was imminent. We must also see that anything we have come through in our lives could well be preparing us to serve God in a special way. Even the simple, humble tasks could be special training for a ministry He is preparing for us, as Moses and David found out in shepherding sheep before being raised up to shepherd God’s chosen people. As the Karate Kid found out, the seemingly innocuous “paint brushing” and “floor waxing” tasks his instructor put him through made him a powerful fighter—and those simple “insignificant” tasks we do could well be sharpening us into being powerful tools in God’s hands!

It has always fascinated me that this book does not mention the Name of God even once—but how can one miss the Divine hand at work, is raising up Esther to save her people! Whether or not we see God’s hand visibly moving in our lives, we can nonetheless be assured that He is always at work in and around us, to prepare us “for such a time as this.”

MAY 12
Psalm 9:17: The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. (KJV)

The word here in the Hebrew that the KJV translates “hell” is actually “sheol,” which in Hebrew thought generally refers to the underworld of disembodied spirits. However, some Bible commentators believe there is an implied punishment in the context, which is more accurately reflected by the KJV translation.

I wonder about how our country has forgotten God—and what I as a Christian could do to reverse this. Part of the answer for the church lies in the next verse: “For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.” (ESV) Is the church making the needs of the poor and needy a MAJOR priority, as did the first century church?

This forgetting the needy is a result of a people who do not have God in their thoughts—including a good many in the church. “They will not live in his fear,” Adam Clarke observes. “There are both nations and individuals who, though they know God, forget him, that is, are unmindful of him, do not acknowledge him in their designs, ways and works. These are all to be thrust down into hell. Reader, art thou forgetful of thy Maker, and of Him who died for thee?”

BreakPoint columnist Regis Nicoll made the following observation about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer—the German pastor and theologian who opposed Hitler in defending the Jews and paid with his life—which offers a sobering thought for the church in America: “But perhaps the greatest lesson from Bonhoeffer is that the strength of a nation will not exceed that of its moral foundation. If the foundation is laid with the gold, silver, and costly stones of God’s Word, the superstructure will endure. But if it is laid with the wood, hay, and straw of the world’s principles and values, it will endure for a while but, eventually, collapse. Bonhoeffer reminds us that it is the Church’s duty to lay that foundation and build on it with 'living stones' whose rule of life is conformed to, and aligned with, the Cornerstone ... Bonhoeffer was a man who ‘understood the times,’ and took seriously the call of God upon him, even to the point of death. Despite his all-too-brief time on earth, Bonhoeffer is a towering example to Christians everywhere of incarnational faith, and of what it means to be the Church.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Question of the week: where have all the peace protesters gone?

Where HAVE all the "anti-war" protesters gone? Read this link by John Stossel, who asks this very pointed question (and gives some very pointed answers).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

More adventures in reading--Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

I just finished Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Metaxas paints a picture of the influences over Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s early life, and his progress from a stellar theologian (his first dissertation, written at age 21, was called a “theological miracle” by Karl Barth) to a true follower of Jesus who stayed faithful to his savior through his country’s trials under the Nazis, all the way to his martyrdom in April 1945 for his part in an attempt to assassinate Hitler.

The book is enjoyable to read, and gives some not-well known facts about Bonhoeffer. His diary entries are especially interesting, especially those in which he reflects on whether he should leave the safety of America, to return to Germany in 1939 (after his friends went through great troubles to get him to the U.S.). One I found humorous was an entry on his take on a sermon by the great liberal preaching lion Fosdick (which, by the way, was based not on a Bible text, but on some poem): “Quite dreadful.”

And it is these shots at liberalism that has probably had a hand in Metaxas drawing fire from “expert” academics who whine about the book “creating” an “evangelical” Bonhoeffer, instead of the “liberal activist” Bonhoeffer we've been subjected to for half a century (When one blogger claimed he was troubled by the scholarly criticisms, I thought of the words of the late Chicago Mayor Richard Daley: “The experts, whadda they know?”).

(As a side note, an acquaintance who was “grieved” that I would dare quote “that heretic” Bonhoeffer sent me a link to a Fundamentalist web page, with all sorts of “proof” about Bonhoeffer’s “false teachings.” When I pointed out that an alleged Bonhoeffer statement against the Virgin Birth in The Cost of Discipleship, of which I have a copy, did not exist anywhere in that book, he replied that, golly gee, because he lives in South America, he doesn’t have access to his works. Intellectually, this is akin to “the dog ate my homework.” He then continued to blast Bonhoeffer as a heretic, in the face of the fact that this Fundamentalist “scholar” was WRONG, and in the absence of any first-hand proof about Bonhoeffer’s alleged heresies).

It’s certain Bonhoeffer was not an “American evangelical” brand of Christian; neither was he the proto-John Lennon being propped up by the likes of Frank Weickart and Victoria Barnett (who theologically, as we might say in Kentucky, may have a dog in this fight). Ultimately, did Bonhoeffer follow Jesus with all his heart? Absolutely—and Metaxas’ book gave me all the more reason to continue regarding him as one of my heroes of the Christian faith.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Adventures in Reading ... "Pagan Christianity" by Viola and Barna (more thoughts)

A note to Brothers Viola and Barna, on returning to a "first century organic church":

So when do we turn in our Bibles?

The New Testament tells us that Paul's letters were read aloud in the church meetings (for example, 1 Timothy 4:13). As you surely know, it was very difficult for individual believers in those times to possess any type of manuscripts (for starters, paper manufacturing would not be imported from China until centuries later). Even when paper and movable printing became available to print books, Bibles had to be chained to the front of English sanctuaries in the 1500s (even then, a problem arose when believers, overjoyed at having a Bible to read, would read them aloud during the church services!).

So if you REALLY want to go back to the "organic" church, you should only have ONE PERSON reading out of the ONE Bible available in those meetings.

A side note: underground churches around the world may only get a page or two at a time of God's precious Word to read. Guess they are not reading the NT "panoramically" enough?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Adventures in Reading ... "Pagan Christianity" by Viola and Barna

My initial thoughts about a book I recently read, Pagan Christianity? By Frank Viola and George Barna:

On the whole, I found the book well researched, about the origin of practices adopted by Christian churches from the “pagan” (non-New Testament) culture. During the reading, I found myself saying, “Okay, I knew that,” “Er, I sort of suspected that,” or “Yeeks!”

During most of the reading, I found the book challenging, And it raises questions about how much we rely on unquestioned traditions instead of pure New Testament teachings.

Then I got to the first of Viola’s “solutions”: Christians need to read the New Testament, and especially Paul’s letters, “panoramically,” instead of “proof-texting”. This is where Viola lost me.

In one major chapter, he showed how pagan academia infiltrated the churches, turning the Christian faith for millions from a living relationship with Jesus to a mere scholarly pursuit of knowledge.

So his solution to ending this and other “manmade” traditions, in pursuing an “organic” living church: get a “panoramic” reading of the NT, studying the NT books in chronological order and with understanding their background—by relying on that same “scholarship” that he claims has been wrecking Christianity!

Viola also gives a “black or white” view of studying scriptures, juxtaposing the panoramic approach against a variety of other methods he broad-brushes as “proof-texting.” You may be surprised that studying about one topic—carefully making sure that the verses or sections being studied are in their proper context—is proof-texting still, as bad as opening up a page of the Bible and blindly pointing to a verse.

Please don’t get me wrong—we DO need to understand that the NT books in many Bibles are listed according to length, and understand the historical background of the times the NT was written.

What’s disturbing about Viola's view is this question it raises: is God THAT limited in speaking to His people (through the logos He inspired), that He could only REALLY speak to us through panoramic scripture reading? If that is the case, I can only tell Brother Viola, in the words of J.B. Phillips, “You God is too small.”

Friday, January 28, 2011

Central questions

It’s been QUITE A WHILE since I last wrote in this blog. Lots of things have been going on. Right now my family and I have relocated to central Kentucky. In pastoral terms, I’m what you would call “between churches,” as I had resigned the church I pastored in southern Illinois in August; it was a decision my wife and I had prayed about for more than a year. We were blessed to have men and women of God who gave us godly counsel in making the decision. And we appreciate those who continue to pray for us as we seek the next steps God has for us in ministry.

In making that decision, there is one burning question I continually faced, that I believe every Christian and every Bible-believing church needs to face: if your church closed down tomorrow, would anyone notice? And if anyone did notice, would they even care? And I don’t believe this even addresses the issue of numbers. Jesus used 12 men to turn the world upside down. And conversely, as another pastor friend once said, a church of 10,000 can have absolutely NO impact for God’s kingdom!

One of the last messages I preached at the church was based on Mark’s account of the rich young ruler. I can send you an MP3 recording of the message if you contact me by responding to this blog entry. But the gist of the message is this: the rich young ruler was doing EVERYTHING RIGHT in his approaching Jesus, asking the right question, and in the way he treated others! And yet, he eventually walked away in great sorrow due to his many possessions—the idol he was not willing to give up to follow Jesus! Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s comment on this passage struck me like a thunderbolt; he concluded that the ruler was at least honest enough to admit he couldn’t hack it. “The difference between ourselves and the rich young man is that he was not allowed to solace his regrets by saying: ‘Never mind what Jesus says, I can still hold on to my riches, but in a spirit of inner detachment. Despite my inadequacy I can take comfort in the thought that God has forgiven me my sins and can have fellowship with Christ in faith.’ But no, he went away sorrowful. Because he would not obey, he could not believe. In this the young man was quite honest. He went away from Jesus and indeed this honesty had more promise than any apparent communion with Jesus based on disobedience” (The Cost of Discipleship, pp. 79-80).

I’ll be getting back to commenting on events. But I believe that my questions above spell out the central issue the church of Jesus in America will have to face, especially in the coming days.

The upcoming events don’t look very rosy for this country. There will most likely be a tug of war over the debt between the White House and the newly-elected House of Representatives—while the national debt continues to pile high. The ever reliable mainstream media, with its puppet masters in the Democratic Party and among “moderate” Republicans, will continue to try to use ANY violence to shamelessly smear Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. There is the “climate of hate” jabber aimed at talk radio, in spite of the fact that the Arizona murderer who tried to kill Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford was apolitical, mentally unstable and NEVER listened to the “hate-inspiring” talk radio. But it was a-okay for a Democrat in Congress to slander Republicans as Nazis (that’s TRUTH TO POWER, don’t you know), and the coverage of a LEFTIST’S attempt to kill the Democratic governor of Missouri continues to go unnoticed (check Glenn Beck’s web site on that one for starters).

World leaders, including our #1 creditor China, are calling for the abandonment of the dollar as the world reserve currency. There are surely more economic hurricanes coming our way (including what’s brewing in Egypt—see Caroline Click’s web site for the chilling scenarios). And the same ole Sunday Christianity which has permeated this country will not be able to stand, and will have no answers for the countless souls would will be shaken to the core and looking for REAL truth in the coming days!

We need to seek God like never before, and examine ourselves on whether we will be a dynamic church that is willing to lift up Jesus no matter what, as the early Christians did—or continue to lumber on as a church that is “3,000 miles wide and three inches deep.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from Birmingham City Jail, made this statement about the churches that refused to support the civil rights movement--but I believe it's even more appropriate for the American church in general, and the challenges its faces in the coming days: "If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning ..."