27 July 2009

"I'm Not a Practicing Christian"

Here is yet another wonderful commentary by Ron Graham. How can anyone say they are "not a practicing Christian" and yet still believe they will inherit the eternal promises of God? If you are not "practicing" then I would argue that you are not being obedient and shouldn't true believers strive to live in obedience to the Word of God? Jesus Himself told us, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21) Sounds to me like there will be an awful lot of people unpleasantly surprised on Judgment Day.

17 July 2009

Crown Him with Many Crowns

I love this hymn. No contemporary "praise song" compares to the old hymns. This one has been stuck in my head for weeks now; I find myself humming or singing it at random times throughout the day, and it is a glorious constant reminder of the sovereign majesty of our Savior, Lord Jesus. Enjoy!

08 July 2009

Culturally Cool, but is that Enough?

A conversation between friends:

Me: "Hey, friend! Why don't you come to church with me this Wednesday night? They're starting a new teaching series."


Friend: "Hmm, I don't know. You know I don't get into that whole church-thing. What kind of series are they doing?"


Me: "Well, it's called The Real Facebook."


Friend: "What does Facebook have to do with God?"


Me: "Umm....well....uh....."


Okay, don't worry. This conversation didn't actually happen. But it could have. Why? Because the women's ministry at a local church has begun a short teaching series entitled "The Real Facebook." I kid you not:

The topics are as follows:
Week 1 - What's on your Face? "Christ-like Countenance"
Week 2 - Will you be my Friend? "Fulfilling Friendships"
Week 3 - What's in the Book? "Transforming Truth"


Now, without actually attending this, I'm not going to make a call as to whether or not the Bible and the Gospel and Christ crucified will actually be taught. Knowing this church, I'm apt to say that it will be (although admittedly, I wish the "Transforming Truth" session would be first, as I'm assuming that's addressing the truth of the Gospel.) My bigger frustration lies in the theme. Facebook. FACEBOOK. Facebook? Why do churches today insist on being socially relevant? Why are our church leaders under the impression that the only way we can speak and teach the Gospel anymore is to wrap it in a contemporary package (making sure to remove all the offensive stuff, too, before you wrap it up!)? Truth is truth no matter whether you post it on a Facebook wall, tweet it to someone on Twitter, or *gasp* just speak it plainly and clearly from one sinner to another.

Even if this advertisement for The Real Facebook never goes beyond the Sunday church bulletin and the church website, the bottom line is that this church doesn't believe that simply presenting the clear, plain, un-technological gospel will be exciting enough to bring people into their church on Wednesday night! The facts as I see them? My unbelieving friends would think I was crazy if I invited them to something called The Real Facebook--I can guarantee that the title would not entice them in the least. Goodness, it doesn't even entice me and I'm a believer! What would be interesting to me? How about a session entitled: "King Nebuchadnezzar: God really can save anyone!" Or, "Heaven and Hell: You know where you're going, but what about your best friend?"

Okay, I admit, those aren't exactly catchy titles. Hey, I'm working late here so cut me some slack! The point is, if you give me some actual Bible then I'm going to want to come to your teaching series, and I'm going to want to bring my friends, saved and unsaved. No one is going to come to a saving faith and relationship with Christ by some cheesy modern theme. They will come to Christ when they are shown that, without Him, they are a dejected, hopeless, evil, wretched, pitiful, hell-bound sinner. They will come to Christ when they realize they can do nothing to save themselves and that only Christ can offer that saving grace and forgiveness. They will come to Christ when they realize the enormous debt they owe and that Jesus has already paid it in full. They will come to Christ when they realize that the slate really can be wiped clean and they really can begin a new life without all the junk of the old one. That's what brings people to faith in Christ. Not Facebook, not Twitter, not rock bands, not movies. Those things only draw us further away from Him. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that Facebook, this "tool" that the church is using to draw people in, has in fact caused thousands of God-fearing young Christians to begin to drift away from Him. It has caused them to sacrifice their prayer or Bible study time in favor for writing funny wall posts and commenting on their friends' latest picture album. And don't be mistaken, I certainly can put myself in that category from time to time, so I'm not simply pointing my finger at everybody else. Even the "harmless" things on the internet are effortlessly used by Satan to draw us away from our fellowship with our Lord. And so why should our churches celebrate those things, even if it's a mere advertising ploy? God doesn't need our help to make His message relevant, but if we're too busy designing cool graphics, then His message may never actually be delivered in the end.

Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

The following was written by Charles Spurgeon. It's hard to believe that he died over a hundred years ago, as this sounds as though he was sitting in one of countless American church services just this past weekend!

FEEDING SHEEP OR AMUSING GOATS?
By C.H. Spurgeon

An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most short-sighted can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years it has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. From speaking out as the Puritans did, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.

My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church. If it is a Christian work why did not Christ speak of it? "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." That is clear enough. So it would have been if he had added, "and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel." No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to him . . . .

Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all his apostles. What was the attitude of the Church to the world? "Ye are the salt," not the sugar candy -- something the world will spit out, not swallow . . . . I do not hear [Jesus] say, "Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it.
Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow!" Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them. In vain will the Epistles be searched to find any trace of the gospel of amusement . . . .

Lastly, the mission of amusement fails to effect the end desired. It works havoc among young converts. Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the Church met them half-way, speak and testify. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment had been God's link in the chain of their conversion, stand up! There are none to answer. The mission of amusement produces no converts. The need of the hour for today's ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root. The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.

06 July 2009

Mustard Seeds and Mega-Churches

The following was written by Ron Graham:

Mustard Seeds and Mega-Churches

“Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” Luke 13:18-21

It’s important to see that Jesus, speaking of what the Kingdom of God is like, follows up the large tree and birds of the air parable above with a lesson on leaven. First of all mustard seeds don’t morph into huge trees, they only grow as small bushes. In this parable Jesus is exaggerating the growth of the mustard seed to instill in the reader a reality of massive proportions.

Many see this parable as an explanation of the ever expanding influence of the Church around the world. Some actually preach that the Church will be the all encompassing world influence before the end. But in these same verses Jesus tells us the birds of the air are nested in its branches. In Jesus’ parables, the birds of the air consistently refer to an evil presence, and this evil presence has made their homes in the branches of this huge tree. Certainly we see Jesus referring to something much more sinister in this parable. After all, He commanded us to spread the Gospel around the world, and in that respect His Gospel has been and is being expanded worldwide. What do all the birds of the air and the leaven have to do with the Kingdom of God? Is there something evil lurking in the Church?

Considering the concept of leaven, which is a reference to sin, Jesus has just given us a glimpse of what He saw happening as the enormity of His church became manifest. The birds of the air and the leaven refer to the corruption of His Church. False religions have been around and flourishing since the tower of Babel. As the Church became established it has been bombarded with false teachings to lure people away from the truth.The birds of the air are infiltrators adding infusions of false teachings to the body of Christ’s Church. Our Lord is providing us with a picture of something very disturbing coming upon the body, His very Church, in the last days.

It began with just a small amount of untruth. An insignificant amount of leaven added to the dough and after a while it encompasses the entire mix. Sound doctrine becomes flawed as tiny bits of erroneous teachings begin to spread through the Church. Eventually major doctrinal flaws develop. Consequently these flaws begin to become established as truth, all co-habituating in the Church.

The woman has three measures of meal which was a normal grain offering to God in those days. She hides leaven within the grain offering, thereby corrupting the whole offering.

Leaders and others in the Church who have been taught through corrupt sources, such as their liberal professors in seminaries, that the Bible is in error try almost with abandon to ingratiate themselves to their flocks so they may teach as experts on the fallacies of the Bible. They will use allegory or twist words, even go as far as to say the Bible has never really been the inerrant word of God. In this way these false teachers can substitute their message for the truth. Their message will be one of deceit, completely untrustworthy, but it will sound as though it were doctrinal, even biblical. Jesus saw His Church growing into a massive gathering of believers, but becoming corrupted from within. As sad as this reality seems, Jesus tells us it will happen and it is.

Many heresies permeate our Churches today and it’s hard to completely identify them and expose them before they’ve actually gained a strong foothold and accomplished their evil goal. It’s Satan’s agenda to corrupt from within and to lead astray whole congregations. Many falsehoods have crept in unawares and like leaven have now corrupted to a point that many of these once sound doctrinal congregations may be un-salvageable.

You’ve all heard the old adage “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. Satan has joined the Church. Why? It’s much easier for Satan and his minions of evil to instill their corrupt ideas into an established community of believers who won’t study their Bibles. Especially since many now believe the Bible to be erroneous. All Christian cults began with a smidgen of truth. They continue because they’ve convinced masses of people they’re right and the Bible is wrong.

Satan, for the most part, was hitting a brick wall in his deceptive practices against the established Church until he joined it. Just like the leaven in the above verse, little by little these satanic lies spread among the saints. It’s not difficult to recognize those who have been deceived by his lies. Those who are deceived and leading congregations are the ones taking Satan’s lies to the next level. These are folks who are well trusted by the flock, and thus they are doing Satan’s biding and leading whole congregations down that slippery slope to destruction.

As we watch the growth of the mega-church we can see, in many cases,a shift away from being a Christ centered community of believers to a worldly outreach center. Just like the exaggerated results of a mustard seed in the above Scripture verse, we watch the growth of the mega-church with astonishment. Corruption is there as those with discernmentwatch the “birds of the air” – Satan’s minions of evil – landing in those branches spreading their evil influence throughout.

Why are so many weekend Christians attracted to these mega-churches? Could it be because they offer so much in the way of worldly pleasures? Coffee shops, book stores, bowling alleys, really, the list goes on and on. Is Christ the attraction or has He been relegated to a back room where no one really needs to be bothered by Him? Are these weekenders attending so they can return home with the knowledge they paid tribute to their god and his huge new pleasure dome?

Convicting messages from pastors are also on the way out these days, and feel good messages are in. Passive messages from pastors that will bring people back to fill pews week in and week out are the current rage. Whether or not these folks receive any edifying truths is certainly in question. Church growth at any cost now seems to be the norm. God loves us, no debate there, but neglecting core Christian issues is not preaching the whole truth.

If we need to supply people with creative nuances within our church buildings to draw them in, then we’ve traded the truth of the Gospel for a lie. We’re never told to entertain the masses to achieve high number results, we’re to preach and teach Christ and His doctrine. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the key teaching that will lead a soul to God. We are to pray the Holy Spirit’s conviction upon hearts of the lost people as they sit in those pews.

Jesus tells us that many will hear the message (receive an invitation to the feast) but will come up with many excuses as to why they can’t commit. In Churches where the Gospel message is made fluff and of no significance, many will never come to understand that becoming a born again believer in Christ is a life change and a full life commitment to the One who paid the price “in full” for our salvation and who now owns us.

Jesus tells us in Luke’s Gospel to count the cost before deciding to commit our lives to Him. “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Luke 14:28-30. If this message never gets preached, many will never come to a full understand of just what it means to “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26-27. Hate is a harsh word used here by our Lord. No, He’s not telling us to hate anyone. Jesus is telling us to be prepared for the cost of following Him. Many, even in our own familie,s will believe we hate them because we put Jesus first before anyone else. Is this a part of the teachings in those feel good, Church growth centered congregations?

Would it not be appropriate for us to teach and preach as Jesus taught using the same methods as He? Many pastors today could take a lesson from Jesus on how He built His ministry. What truths did He use to convict the hearts of those who listened to Him and followed Him all around Galilee? Can we not assume that, not just occasionally but constantly, we must proclaim the whole truth of God’s word, just as Jesus did? “For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6. Pastors should be speaking to the heart of every lost soul that sits before them.

Granted, Jesus performed many miracles and through the public viewing of most of those healings He established His ministry. But it was His words that actually brought the people to Him and left them in wonderment. We have those words written within the pages of our Bibles. He wants us to learn His words and to teach others those words. We aren’t to proclaim a new message to the masses. We stand on the truth of the Gospel. We believers are admonished to spread the message, His message which is the truth. That’s our job and it’s been our job for almost two-thousand years now. It’s never changing, it’s ever powerful, and it’s more than adequate for producing the miraculous.

Jesus Christ spoke the truth no matter to whom He spoke or what He encountered. Everywhere He went He had to confront obstacles such as doubt, hatred, even attempted murder, and He always used truth to establish His footing. He never relied on entertainment to pull in a crowd. As a matter of fact Jesus, for the most part, tried to distract those viewing the miracles He performed, even telling those who were involved to keep silent about them. Most who heard Him speak loved His words which were and still are the core of His ministry. Those same words should be the core of our ministries also.

As I watch in astonishment where the Church is heading today, I must ask the question: Isn’t it about time for some old time Gospel preaching? A little hellfire and brimstone Jonathan Edwards’s style couldn’t hurt in these times of political correctness where everything has been watered down through the delivery of milk to the parishioners instead of meat. Think about it.

God bless you all,

Ron Graham
twotug@embarqmail.com
All scripture is from the KJV

03 July 2009

Emergent Flowchart

An amusing, yet sadly accurate picture of the flow of ideas in the Emergent Church. Or at least, this is how those of us who *gasp* believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ see it.