30 June 2011

Thursday's Spurgeon

From All of Grace:
Repentance must go with remission, and you will see that it is so if you think a little upon the matter. It cannot be that pardon of sin should be given to an impenitent sinner; this were to confirm him in his evil ways, and to teach him to think little of evil. If the Lord were to say, "You love sin, and live in it, and you are going on from bad to worse, but, all the same, I forgive you," this were to proclaim a horrible license for iniquity. The foundations of social order would be removed, and moral anarchy would follow. I cannot tell what innumerable mischiefs would certainly occur if you could divide repentance and forgiveness, and pass by the sin while the sinner remained as fond of it as ever. In the very nature of things, if we believe in the holiness of God, it must be so, that if we continue in our sin, and will not repent of it, we cannot be forgiven, but must reap the consequence of our obstinacy. According to the infinite goodness of God, we are promised that if we will forsake our sins, confessing them, and will, by faith, accept the grace which is provided in Christ Jesus, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But, so long as God lives, there can be no promise of mercy to those who continue in their evil ways, and refuse to acknowledge their wrongdoing. Surely no rebel can expect the King to pardon his treason while he remains in open revolt. No one can be so foolish as to imagine that the Judge of all the earth will put away our sins if we refuse to put them away ourselves.

28 June 2011

Do You Pray?

Dear reader, do you pray? It is one thing for a person to say their prayer, but it is altogether another thing to pray. Do you know what it means to commune with God? To abase all of self before the foot of the Throne of grace? Oh, we speak much of “men of prayer” but we see little of “men made by prayer”! If you do not pray, dear reader, I plead with you to see if you really are in the faith! A Christian that does not pray is not Christian at all! Take heed, reader, lest you be deceived!

I have a question to offer you. It is contained in three words, DO YOU PRAY?

The question is one that none but you can answer. Whether you attend public worship or not, your minister knows. Whether you have family prayers or not your relations know. But whether you pray in private or not, is a matter between yourself and God.

I beseech you in all affections to attend to the subject I bring before you. Do not say that my question is too close. If your heart is right in the sight of God, there is nothing in it to make you afraid.

Do not turn off my question by replying that you say your prayers. It is one thing to say your prayers and another to pray. Do not tell me that my question is unnecessary. Listen to me for a few minutes, and I will show you good reason for asking it.

I. I ask whether you pray, because prayer is absolutely needful to a person’s salvation.

I say, absolutely needful, and I say so advisedly. I am not speaking now of infants or idiots. I am not setting the state of the heathen. I know where little is given, there little will be required. I speak especially of those who call themselves Christians, in a land like our own. And of such I say, no man or woman can expect to be saved who does not pray.

I hold to salvation by grace as strongly as anyone. I would gladly offer a free and full pardon to the greatest sinner that ever lived. I would not hesitate to stand by their dying bed, and say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ even now, and you shall be saved.” But that a person can have salvation without asking for it, I cannot see in the Bible. That a person will receive pardon of their sins, who will not so much as lift up their heart inwardly, and say, “Lord Jesus, give it to me,” this I cannot find. I can find that nobody will be saved by their prayers, but I cannot find that without prayer anybody will be saved.

It is not absolutely needful to salvation that a person should read the Bible. A person may have no learning, or be blind, and yet have Christ in their heart. It is not absolutely needful that a person should hear public preaching of the gospel. They may live where the gospel is not preached, or they may be bedridden, or deaf. But the same thing cannot be said about prayer. It is absolutely needful to salvation that a person should pray.

There is no royal road either to health or learning. Prime ministers and kings, poor men and peasants, all alike attend to the needs of their own bodies and their own minds. No person can eat, drink, or sleep, by proxy. No person can get the alphabet learned for them by another. All these are things which everybody must do for themselves, or they will not be done at all.

Just as it is with the mind and body, so it is with the soul. There are certain things absolutely needful to the soul’s health and well-being. Each must attend to these things for themselves. Each must repent for them self. Each must apply to Christ for them self. And for them self each must speak to God and pray. You must do it for yourself, for by nobody else it can be done.

To be prayerless is to be without God, without Christ, without grace, without hope, and without heaven. It is to be in the road to hell. Now can you wonder that I ask the question, DO YOU PRAY?
- J.C. Ryle, A Call to Prayer

HT: New Demonstration

26 June 2011

Sunday Morning Praise

It is Well With My Soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.


My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!


For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.


But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!


And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.


If you've never read the history of this hymn, click here.

24 June 2011

This 'n' That

Work conflicts kept me "out of the loop" at the beginning of the week, but I still managed to come across some interesting news. Here's your week in review (kind of):

The Resolved Conference will be streaming live this weekend. Sure, it's for "students," but with men like Rick Holland, John MacArthur, and Steve Lawson preaching, I think all of us can learn a few things!

If you ever hit a lull in a conversation, just bring up the TSA. They always seem to give us something to talk about. Turns out their molestations "pat-downs" are no longer limited just to airports. And you know that evil, dangerous nail file that they confiscated from you? Well, it's probably being sold at a government surplus store, which is where many of the items TSA steals from passengers are winding up. Maybe I can finally get back those small, blunt manicuring scissors they stole from me in 2002. Yes, I admit it, I still hold a grudge.

Have you heard about Cisco's discrimination against Frank Turek? The Christian writer and apologist, who also served as a consultant and presenter for Cisco, was fired simply because someone "Googled" his name and discovered that Turek is opposed to gay marriage. The topic was never discussed in the business setting and yet Turek was fired the same day that the report was made to HR. Get the background here, as well as follow-up articles here and here. Persecution is coming. Are you ready? Are you willing?

Over at the Sola Sisters blog, Christine Pack has written a two-part post and update about Bob DeWaay. I hope you're continuing to pray for DeWaay and his family. I still consider his articles to be a wonderful and reliable resource and would continue to recommend them to anyone. Here is Part 1 of Christine's article and Part 2.

Answers in Genesis has two free downloads available on their website. I haven't had a chance to listen to them yet, but I can say with a lot of certainty that they're probably great. Download "Already Gone" here, and "Six Days and the Eisegesis Problem" here. And thanks to Purpose Drivel for the heads up.

Grace to You has 20% off most of their items. Sale ends June 26, so hurry!

As you may have heard, 89 year-old false prophet Harold Camping suffered a stroke on June 9. Now, one month after his failed rapture prediction, he sits in a nursing home undergoing rehabilitation. I'm not of the crowd that thinks this stroke was God's judgment on Harold Camping, and I would advise running from any person who definitively asserts such a thing. Perhaps God will use this to get his attention, but let's face it, the guy is 89. Minor strokes happen. We ought to continue to pray for Camping's repentance.

Speaking of Harold Camping, Family Radio is really digging in their heels to affirm that they weren't entirely wrong about May 21. I hope that you're saved because, according to them, it's too late now.

To quote the words of the blog post I am about to link to, "This annoying little book is not going away." Since undiscerning "Christians" continue to shove their money into the pockets of Todd Burpo and his celestial son, The Cripplegate has written another unfortunately necessary article about the ridiculous nature of the book Heaven is For Real. And I couldn't have titled his article better myself: "Heaven is for Real...Well Duh."

Did you hear about the woman in Texas who was found guilty, fined, given 5 years probation, and had her children removed from her custody because she spanked her child? The discipline resulted in no bruising, bleeding or injuries, but this woman has still ultimately been labeled a child abuser. In this article, Denny Burk briefly examines the biblical basis for spanking our children.

If you live in Chicago, you may want to consider taking a vacation next May.

Communist China in Idaho? Well, China certainly owns enough of the US to follow through with their desire and plan to build self-sustaining cities within the United States. Looks like the first will be located just south of Boise. 

Alistair Begg talks about the dangers of external religion:

23 June 2011

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is excerpted from a sermon entitled The Glorious Gospel, preached March 21, 1858.
Every man in this place must not infer that Christ came to save him. Those whom Christ came to save were sinners; but Christ will not save all sinners. There are some sinners who undoubtedly will be lost, because they reject Christ. They despise him; they will not repent; they choose their own self-righteousness; they do not turn to Christ, they will have none of his ways and none of his love. For such sinners, there is no promise of mercy, for there remains no other way of salvation. Despise Christ, and you despise your own mercy. Turn away from him, and you have proved that in his blood there is no efficacy for you. Despise him, and die doing so, die without giving your soul into his hands, and you have given a most awful proof that though the blood of Christ was mighty, yet never was it applied to you, never was it sprinkled on your hearts to the taking away of your sins. If, then, I want to know did Christ so die for me that I may now believe in him, and feel myself to be a saved man, I must answer this question;—Do I feel to-day that I am a sinner? Not, do I say so, as a compliment, but do I feel it? In my inmost soul is that a truth printed in great capitals of burning fire—I am a sinner? Then, if it be so, Christ died for me. I am included in his special purpose. The covenant of grace includes my name in the ancient roll of eternal election. there my person is recorded, and I shall, without a doubt, be saved, if now, feeling myself to be a sinner, I cast myself upon that simple truth, believing it and trusting in it to be my sheet anchor in every time of trouble Come, man and brother, are you not prepared to trust in him. Are not many of you able to say that you feel yourself sinners? Oh, I beseech you, whoever you are, believe this great truth which is worthy of all acceptation—Christ Jesus came to save you, I know your doubts, I know your fears, for I have suffered them myself; and the only way whereby I can keep my hopes alive is just this:—I am brought every day to the cross; I believe that to my dying hour I shall never have any hope but this—
"Nothing in my hands I bring;
Simply to thy cross I cling."

And my only reason at this hour for believing Jesus Christ is my Redeemer is just this:—I know that I am a sinner: this I feel, and over this I mourn; and though I mourn it much, when Satan tells me that I cannot be the Lord's, I draw from my very mourning the comfortable inference, that inasmuch as he has made me feel I am lost, he would not have done this if he had not intended to save me; and inasmuch as he has given me to see that I belong to that great class of characters whom he came to save, I infer from that, beyond a doubt, that he will save me. Oh, can you do the same, ye sin stricken, weary, sad, and disappointed souls, to whom the world has become an empty thing? Ye weary spirits who have gone your round of pleasure, now exhausted with satiety, or even with disease, are longing to be rid of it—oh, ye spirits that are looking for something better than this mad world can ever give you here, I preach to you the blessed Gospel of the blessed God:—Jesus Christ the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified; dead and buried, and raised again the third day to save you—even you, for he came into the world to save sinners.

19 June 2011

"Noah was the First Environmentalist." Um...Really?

"Noah was the first environmentalist." Now there's a sentence I never thought I'd type. Thankfully, this isn't my erroneous statement, but that of Hollywood director Darren Aronofsky. Christian Today reports:
Director Darren Aronofsky is hoping to make a new movie on the Great Flood in the Old Testament. He is reportedly in talks with British actor Christian Bale to take on the role of Noah for the $130m flick. Aronofsky and Bale already have experience of working together. Aronofsky directed some scenes in The Fighter, which earned Bale an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The Black Swan director is keen to make the film and doesn’t see why any movie studio wouldn’t want to back it.  “I think it’s really timely because it’s about environmental apocalypse which is the biggest theme for me right now for what’s going on on this planet,” he told Slash Film.  “So I think it’s got these big, big themes that connect with us. “Noah was the first environmentalist. He’s a really interesting character.  “Hopefully they’ll let me make it.” (Online Source, emphasis mine)
For all the times that I've read the narrative of Noah and the flood in Genesis 6-9, never once has the thought crossed my mind that it had anything at all to do with environmentalism. I am really glad that Aronofsky cleared that up for me. What saddens me even more than this terrific twisting of Scripture is the undoubted fact that, if this movie is made, Christians will flock to it in droves because it's a "Bible story." Have you ever compared these supposedly Bible-based movies to the actual Word of God? Take "The 10 Commandments" for example. I admit, I watch that movie every year, but when you read the narrative of Moses' life as told by, well, Moses, Cecil B. DeMille took far too much liberty with that one! Really, was the story of Moses and the Exodus not fascinating enough? And should Aronofsky get his way, his words above already indicate that this movie would be littered with blasphemy and misrepresentations of God and His Word. Yet, as I said, I can say with certainty that Christians will celebrate it and waste their God-given money on it at the box office.

Through his remarks, Aronofsky has trivialized an historical account of God's sovereign power and His righteous judgment of sin. Far from being an "environmental apocalypse" resulting from man's mistreatment of "the Mother," Scripture is clear that God destroyed the earth by water as a means of judgment on the evil and wickedness of men. But then, for all the "green" liberals out there, failing to recycle is considered the most heinous sin, so I suppose they could somehow inject their warped hermeneutic into the story.
Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. (Genesis 6:11-13)
It would be fascinating to hear Aronofsky elaborate on his statement that "Noah was the first environmentalist." Not even in the most creative recesses of my brain can I squeeze that conclusion out of the text! God made the earth and everything in it (Genesis 1). God determined to destroy it by water because of man's wickedness (Genesis 6:17). God found Noah to be righteous and commanded him to build an ark (Genesis 6:14). God gave Noah explicit blueprints for the ark (Genesis 6:14-16). God told Noah when to enter the ark (Genesis 7:1). God brought the rain from heaven for 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:11-12). God "remembered Noah" and caused the great waters to subside (Genesis 8:1). God made a covenant with Noah  and "all flesh that is on the earth" that "the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh (Genesis 9:14-17)." What did Noah do? He obeyed God. Hm.

Happy Birthday to Two Preaching Greats

Today happens to be the birthday of two men who have been used mightily by God. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, born this day in 1834, was and still is known as the "Prince of Preachers." John MacArthur was also born on June 19, in 1939, and continues to be one of the greatest preachers to fill a pulpit today. Personally, I am so thankful for his bold proclamation of the truth and obvious desire to glorify God. The unwavering dedication of both of these men to God's Word has been an incredible blessing in my life and in the lives of so many. Happy Birthday!

Here is a short clip of the testimony of John MacArthur:

John MacArthur's Testimony from Grace Community Church on Vimeo.

Sunday Morning Praise

17 June 2011

This 'n' That

Some of these stories broke just after last week's post, so you may have already heard about them. Nevertheless, for those who haven't, here's your week in review (kind of):

Ever the beacons of security, the TSA once again demonstrates their incredible ineptitude by pulling aside and patting down a 29-year old mentally disabled man. They even confiscated his favorite plastic toy hammer, but don't worry, his mother had another one in her suitcase that had already passed through the x-ray machine without any problems. Honestly, when will the TSA actually start protecting us from terrorists?

It seems the TSA aren't the only ones mistreating the mentally disabled. Purpose-driven goat-herder "pastor" Steven Furtick and Elevation Church made headlines when they removed a boy with cerebral palsy from the Easter Sunday service. Apparently the 12-year old's version of "Amen" after the prayer was too distracting for the ripped jeans renegade pastor. Once again, Furtick demonstrates that he lacks the necessary qualities for being a shepherd of God's flock. Kind of makes you wonder why some supposedly conservative pastors continue to support and endorse this man, doesn't it?

Iain Murray has written his latest biography about pastor John MacArthur, which is particularly timely considering MacArthur reached a milestone in his ministry on the evening of Sunday, June 5, when he finally finished preaching (after 43 years) word-by-word and verse-by-verse through the New Testament. This post at the Grace to You blog offers a little insight into the book. And don't worry, while Pastor MacArthur is currently on a brief sabbatical for the summer, he'll be back in the pulpit in just a few short weeks!

Speaking of John MacArthur's monumental achievement, this article takes a look at what a lot of us may be thinking, "If I were John MacArthur..." what would I do next?

One former IHOP member speaks out and shares why she believes that IHOP is a cult (I agree, it is a cult).

The SBC "cannot commend" the 2011 NIV, and has recommended that LifeWay stores not carry this newest translation. You'll hear no argument from me! Now if only they would do this with Beth Moore and other aberrant books in those stores!

Former NFL player David Tyree has ruffled a few feathers with his recent pro-marriage comments (you know, the biblical definition of marriage). I find the decidedly leftist slant of this particular article amusing. I have no knowledge of Tyree's faith background, but I heartily agree with some of his comments on this subject:
"How can marriage be marriage for thousands of years and now all the sudden because a minority, an influential minority, has a push or agenda ... and totally reshapes something that was not founded in our country," Tyree continued.
Television host Jack Van Impe has pulled his show from Trinity Broadcasting Network. Apparently TBN didn't like Van Impe "naming names" such as Rick Warren and Robert Schuller as false teachers. While I certainly do not endorse Van Impe, I was pleased to hear of his decision.

16 June 2011

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is excerpted from a sermon entitled The Secret Food and the Public Name:
Beware of picking and choosing in God’s word. It is a very dangerous symptom when there is any portion of Scripture that we are afraid to read. If there is one single chapter in the Book that I do not like, it must be because I feel it accuses and condemns me, and my duty ought to be to face that chapter at once and answer its accusation, and endeavor as far as possible to purify myself by God’s help from that which the passage of Scripture condemns. Brethren, read that passage most which stings you most.

HT: The Daily Spurgeon

15 June 2011

Is Repentance Necessary for Salvation?

Some "Christian" discussions can become rather wearisome. One of these pertains to the role of repentance in the salvation process. My observation is that this stems largely from a misunderstanding of what has been deemed "Lordship Salvation." There are those who claim and teach that Lordship Salvation demands that a person change himself, get himself cleaned up, repent of his sin, and then God will save him. If this was what the doctrine professed, then I would most certainly agree that it is one to be railed against. However, this is decidedly not what Lordship Salvation teaches and so, like many other "controversies" that arise within the Christian community, I personally see this as a result of well-intentioned men arguing against an extreme position, and building their arguments upon a faulty foundation.

I'm not going to take the time here to expound on the "Lordship Controversy." I'm not even sure I could do so adequately, so I'll trust my readers to do their own careful reading on the subject. Linked below are some good articles on the topic, or on related topics. What I want to share here, however, is something that I stumbled across on the 9Marks website. Since the core of this controversy really is the role of repentance in one's salvation, I thought this article summed up the issue rather well.

Is repentance necessary for salvation?

  • The claim: Some people say that you can believe in Jesus as “Savior” but not as “Lord.” That is, you can believe in him but never repent of your sin. You can believe in him and be saved even if your life goes on just as it was before you became a Christian. Or so the claim goes.
  • A further claim: Some people even claim that if we say repentance is necessary for salvation we’re adding works to the gospel. They claim that if repentance is required then we’re no longer saved by God’s grace alone, but by what we do as well.
  • Scripture’s reply: But what does the Scripture say?
  • Jesus says, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32)
  • Jesus told his disciples to proclaim “repentance and forgiveness of sins” in his name to all the nations (Luke 24:47).
  • When the apostles preached in Acts, they called people to repent of their sins in order to be forgiven (See Acts 2:383:198:3217:3020:2126:20).
  • The apostle Paul makes it clear that those whose lives are characterized by sin “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10; see also Rom. 8:12-13Gal. 5:21Eph. 5:5).
  • Scripture’s lesson: According to the unanimous testimony of Scripture, repentance is absolutely necessary in order to be saved. Only those who turn from their sin, trust in Christ, and live lives that are characterized by righteousness will be saved on the last day.
  • Further reflection: But then is repentance a “work” we must perform in order to earn our salvation? Not at all! Repentance and faith are really two sides of the same coin. Repentance is turning from sin. Faith is turning to, trusting in, and relying on Christ. Repentance is not a “work” anymore than faith is: we simply renounce our sin and rely on Christ.
Another important point that isn't mentioned here is that repentance, like faith, is a gift from God (see Acts 11:18 and 2 Timothy 2:25). How, then, can it be a work that we are doing to gain salvation? As I mentioned, I truly believe that those who argue against repentance as part of the salvation process do so from a misunderstanding of the position, and this article simply and clearly lays out the truth of the issue.

There is terrific danger in removing repentance from our Gospel presentations. Observation reveals that without a godly grief and turning from one's sin, the mass "conversions" that we see on Sunday mornings or at these huge stadium-filled rallies are nothing but a mere "moment of decision." They do not result in saving faith. This is the easy-believism that has wreaked havoc in our churches, leading to packed pews for the Sunday morning show, but very few churchgoers who are actually saved. It's the removal of repentance from the Gospel message that leads to a false assurance of salvation for so many. Did you pray the prayer? Walk the aisle? Get all tingly and start to cry when the music played? Well, then you must be saved. NO! If someone hasn't been smacked in the face with the gravity of their sin, but simply "accepts Jesus" or "asks Jesus into his heart," the chances are good that they will still be living like a heathen a week, a month, and years after their feel-good moment. It doesn't do any good to cry your way down an aisle if there's no visible fruit of your supposed salvation. Removing the call to repentance leads to false converts who think they can just add Jesus to the way they are currently living.

We are saved by GRACE ALONE, through FAITH ALONE, in JESUS CHRIST ALONE. But as the above article stated, "repentance and faith are really two sides of the same coin." Both are granted by God to the sinner who receives salvation. And if repentance isn't supposed to be part of our presentation of the Gospel, then I guess Jesus had it all wrong.
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:45-47)
An Introduction to Lordship Salvation
What is the Gospel?
What is Biblical Repentance?
What is Repentance and How Does it Relate to Salvation?
Robbing God of His Glory in a Moment 

14 June 2011

The Patron Saint of Lost Articles is...Lost

This is some of the best irony that I've seen in a long time. I have to thank my brother for sending me this article first thing this morning. I don't think I've ever laughed so much at 6:30 AM.

Fox News reports:

Nearly 800-Year-Old Religious Relic Stolen From Calif. Church

LOS ANGELES -- A 780-year-old religious relic of St. Anthony of Padua has been stolen, and parishioners at a Southern California Catholic church are praying to the patron saint of lost causes and missing objects for its speedy return.
The relic was stolen from inside a cabinet beside the altar at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Long Beach on Monday, the feast day of the church's namesake.
The Rev. Jose Magana said he decided to bring out the relic this year, on the 780th anniversary of the death of St. Anthony, because many of his parishioners have lost hope in the rough economy.
Magana said the relic is invaluable and deeply symbolic to his parish.
"It's our history, so it's irreplaceable," Magana said. "It belongs to the church, not just the church here in Long Beach, but the entire Catholic church."
The church opened at 6 a.m., and when Magana turned to the relic during the 9 a.m. Mass, it had disappeared. Magana could hear his parishioners gasp when they realized it was gone, but he continued with the service and called police immediately afterward.
While church members are upset that someone would steal a holy object, their faith is still strong.
"They said, `Father, he's the patron saint of lost causes, so he'll come home,"' Magana said. (emphasis mine)
"People here are pretty upset but they're praying. They're praying to St. Anthony for the return of his own object."

Read more here.
So...notice the bolded sentence. Saint Anthony of Padua is the "patron saint of lost causes," or as Catholic.org puts it, "the finder of lost articles," and his relic is lost. Honestly, you couldn't make this stuff up!

Since I am largely unfamiliar with the details of the various Catholic "saints," I decided to do a little extra research on Saint Anthony of Padua. It turns out that this most "loved and admired saint" was also known as the "hammer of the Heretics." Purportedly, "His great protection against their lies and deceits in the matter of Christian doctrine was to utter, simply and innocently, the Holy Name of Mary (online source)." Interesting that it was Mary's name, not Christ's, that supposedly closed the mouths of anti-Catholic "heretics." I wonder why Anthony simply did not appeal to Scripture instead? Was not that the tactic of Jesus Himself when tempted by the devil? Is not the Word of God a "sharp, two-edged sword?" Yet nowhere does Scripture instruct us to utter the name of the person Mary as a means of confronting false doctrine.

While this story of the lost relic is admittedly funny, it also brings sadness. The mere fact that relics are still worshiped and venerated today is abominable. And the fact that this supposed "saint" desired more to "profess the Catholic Faith with his mind and his heart, at every moment (online source)" rather than the true Word of God is cause for grieving. Catholics today are still idolizing this mere man. They are even praying to him that his relic may be returned! Truly the Catholic Church is one of our greatest mission fields. Let us be in prayer for them and be willing to speak with boldness in confrontation of their false, damning gospel.

For resources and help witnessing to Catholics, please visit Mike Gendron's wonderful website, Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries.

12 June 2011

Pithy Puritan Quotes of the Day

"Repentance is a change of the mind, and regeneration is a change of the man." - Thomas Adams
"If God's today be too soon for thy repentance, they tomorrow may be too late for His acceptance." - William Secker

Sunday Morning Praise

This song has been playing in my head all morning, so I thought I would pass it along.

10 June 2011

Jesus Calling

I have multiple readers who have been waiting for me to post my thoughts on the devotional book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. I regret that it's taken me so long to tackle this. At the risk of sounding dismissive, I believe part of my procrastination was due to the fact that this book gives me the creeps. There's no graceful way to say it, really. What is perhaps most disturbing, however, is the same problem that is seen abounding in churches and ministries today, and that is truth mixed with error. In this small book, Young takes biblical principles and Christian ideas and kneads them together with her New Age outlook. Of course, she admits nothing like this and is instead professing to be a Christian, but as we've examined in the past, a true Christian would not claim that she has spoken with God, and that is essentially what this book is doing.

This book apparently became an overnight sensation in the Christian community, although I admit it was unbeknownst to me until a reader emailed asking for my thoughts (thank you for alerting me, by the way). Pastor Ken Silva commented on this book a year ago, so I was really "out of the loop" on this one! I likely was sheltered from this book for so long due to my aversion for "Christian" book stores that tend to have more mysticism on their shelves than solid theology. Nevertheless, I am now the disturbed owner of a copy of this devotional book and, upon the completion of this review, I am debating whether or not to burn it. One way or another, I cannot wait to get it out of my house.

The description of this book on Amazon reads as follows:
Jesus Calling is a devotional filled with uniquely inspired treasures from heaven for every day of the year.  After many years of writing in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever she believed He was saying to her.  It was awkward at first, but gradually her journaling changed from monologue to dialogue.  She knew her writings were not inspired as Scripture is, but journaling helped her grow closer to God.  Others were blessed as she shared her writings, until people all over the world were using her messages.  They are written from Jesus' point of view, thus the title Jesus Calling.  It is Sarah's fervent prayer that our Savior may bless readers with His presence and His peace in ever deeper measure. (Online Source, emphasis mine)
Right away we know that the author of the book believes that these devotions are personalized messages that Jesus and/or God spoke directly to her. Sounds a little like the New Age practices of channeling or automatic writing, doesn't it? This short description alone should be enough to turn away a discerning Christian, but let's dive into the book anyway.

Admittedly, I have not read all 365 devotions in this book. As I said, reading this book makes me feel creepy, and I think you'll see why in a few moments. I did read through the introduction and through multiple entries, though...more than enough to confidently advise against anyone wasting their money on this book. First, I want to draw your attention to the author's emphasis on feeling and experience. That's the entire premise of the book, really, beginning with the opening sentence of the introduction on page vi of the hardcover edition (emphasis mine):
"I first experienced the Presence of God..."
I want you to note the capitalization and the proper noun above. Throughout the book, Young capitalizes some bizarre nouns to be representative of God, and her choices in this only add to the feeling of New Age-ism throughout the work. Page vii describes her supposed conversion story. From this point on in my post, all emphases will be mine unless otherwise noted:
"One night I found myself leaving the warmth of our cozy chalet to walk alone in the snowy mountains. I went into a deeply wooded area, feeling vulnerable and awed by cold, moonlit beauty. The air was crisp and dry, piercing to inhale. Suddenly I felt as if a warm mist enveloped me. I became aware of a lovely Presence, and my involuntary response was to whisper, "Sweet Jesus." This utterance was totally uncharacteristic of me, and I was shocked to hear myself speaking so tenderly to Jesus. As I pondered this brief communication, I realized it was the response of a converted heart; at that moment I knew I belonged to Him."
Several things jump out at me here. First of all, I did not know that Jesus was a warm mist. Interesting. Notice that she felt it. Then, after muttering a blasphemous phrase that is common among unregenerates, she decided that she was converted. There is no talk of an acknowledgment of sin, nothing of repentance, nothing of a crucified and risen Savior...nothing indicative of a biblical conversion.

She continues to talk about her subsequent experiences with the "Presence of Jesus," but then admits that, in time, she failed to continue to "vividly experience the Presence of Jesus." It was this lack of warm mists, I suppose, that led her to begin "seeking God's Presence in earnest." Why Sarah Young didn't just open the Bible and read the Holy Word of God, I do not know, but if she had, I can guarantee that she would have had a true encounter with the Living God!

On page x of the introduction, Young describes how she practiced visualization when her family began to encounter spiritual warfare:
"One morning as I prayed, I visualized God protecting each of us. I pictured first our daughter, then our son, and then Steve encircled by God's protective Presence, which looked like a golden light. When I prayed for myself, I was suddenly enveloped in brilliant light and profound peace. I lost all sense of time as I experienced God's Presence in this powerful way."
Visualization is not a Christian practice. On the contrary, it is a practice of the occult. Nowhere does Scripture teach the Christian to pray through visualization, especially of "God's presence." But Young's story gets more disturbing:
"During that same year I began reading 'God Calling,' a devotional book written by two anonymous 'listeners.' These women practiced waiting quietly in God's Presence, pencils and paper in hand, recording the messages they received from Him (page xi)." 
The unbiblical practice of meditation and contemplative prayer has been discussed at length on this blog, so I won't digress into that discussion here. It is imperative to note, however, that Sarah Young admits to being influenced by women who entered altered states of consciousness in order to "hear" from God. This is dangerous and deceptive; I can say with the highest confidence that the messages these women received was not from God.

Inspired by this book, Young admits that, "I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more (page xii)." God's Word wasn't enough for her. Perhaps it didn't generate a warm enough mist or a welcoming enough feeling, especially as it tends to convict the reader of sin. So Young began to journal. And as she journaled, she developed from writing "monologue to dialogue." God, she claims, was communicating with her directly and personally. She claims that she continues to "receive personal messages from God (xii)" as she sits quietly in God's Presence. These conversations with the Almighty have "increased [Young's] intimacy with Him more than any other spiritual discipline (xiii)," which is why she has graciously chosen to publish these conversations for all the world to read. Yes, the book Jesus Calling is allegedly one woman's messages received directly from Jesus Christ.

Because these short devotions come from Jesus Himself, they are written in the first person. Young includes scripture references at the end of each entry, but many are yanked out of context in order to address the felt need of the day. Nearly every entry I looked at spoke of the "Presence" or the "Light." A Christian well-versed in doctrine and the Bible may casually read some of these devotions and unknowingly pick out a biblical concept about God's love or promises, and walk away with that, thinking that the book is harmless and as Christian as it claims to be. This is why it is so important to examine things closely and in light of God's Word. Let me just touch on a couple of entries from this past week, which are quite representative of what I found throughout the book. Remember, this is written in the first person directly from Jesus:
June 7: "I am all around you, like a cocoon of Light. My Presence with you is a promise, independent of your awareness of Me. Many things can block this awareness, but the major culprit is worry. My chlidren tend to accept worry as an inescapable fact of life. However, worry is a form of unbelief; it is anathema to me.
Who is in charge of your life? If it is you, then you have good reason to worry. But if it is I, then worry is both unnecessary and counterproductive. When you start to feel anxious about something, relinquish the situation to Me. Back off a bit, redirecting your focus to Me. I will either take care of the problem Myself or show you how to handle it. In this world you will have problems, but you need not lose sight of Me." Luke 12:22-31; John 16:33
Okay, worry is a sin, that's true (of course, Young does not use that dreaded "s" word). But, Jesus is "like a cocoon of Light?" No thanks.
June 9: "Seek to live in My love, which covers a multitude of sins: both yours and others. Wear My Love like a cloak of Light, covering you from head to toe. Have no fear, for perfect Love decimates fear. Look at other people through lenses of Love; see them from My perspective. This is how you walk in the Light, and it pleases me.
I want My Body of believers to be radiant with the Light of My Presence. How I grieve when pockets of darkness increasingly dim the Love-Light. Return to Me, your First Love! Gaze at Me in the splendor of holiness, and My Love will once again envelop you in Light." 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 4:18; Revelation 2:4
Do you see a pattern developing? Love...Light....Love...Light...and so on. Not only has Young ripped all three of those verses out of context (especially Revelation 2:4, which was written to a church!), but what is this "cloak of Light" and what Bible verse talks about dimming the "Love-Light?" She claims that we "walk in the Light" by looking at other people "through lenses of Love." Really? I thought walking in the light referred to living a holy life, repenting of sin, you know, all that stuff that's in the Bible.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 1:7-2:6)
One final entry that I just turned to at random:
March 27: "Be still in My Presence, even though countless tasks clamor for your attention. Nothing is as important as spending time with Me. While you wait in My Presence, I do My best work within you: transforming you by the renewing of your mind. If you skimp on this time with Me, you may plunge headlong into the wrong activities, missing the richness of what I have planned for you.
Do not seek Me primarily for what I can give you. Remember that I, the Giver, am infinitely greater than any gift I might impart to you. Though I delight in blessing My children, I am deeply grieved when My blessings become idols in their hearts. Anything can be an idol if it distracts you from Me as your First Love. When I am the ultimate Desire of your heart, you are safe from the danger of idolatry. As you wait in My Presence, enjoy the greatest gift of all: Christ in you, the hope of Glory!" Romans 12:2; Revelation 2:4; Colossians 1:27
Okay, again we can find a true principle: be careful of creating an idol for yourself over and above Jesus Christ. However, let's look at the Scripture that Young has mangled here (with the exception of Revelation 2:4 since that's already been addressed).

In her March 27 entry, Young claims that Christians are changed while waiting in the "Presence" of God. But what does Paul say in Romans? What is the true context of this verse?
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
About this verse and the "renewal of the mind" of the Christian, John MacArthur notes, "That kind of transformation can occur only as the Holy Spirit changes our thinking through consistent study and meditation of Scripture. The renewed mind is one saturated and controlled by the word of God (ESV MacArthur Study Bible, page 1672)." So, a believer is transformed through the inward work of the Holy Spirit and through active study of God's Word...not sitting quietly in "His Presence."

Also of concern is Young's use of Colossians 1:27 as dangerously reminiscent of panentheism--God in everything. True, the Holy Spirit abides in believers as a guarantee of our future glory, but why doesn't she just say that?

Young's preference to refer to God and Jesus as the "Presence" and the "Light" cannot be supported by Scripture, but can be likened to New Age vocabulary. Her admission that these devotional messages are a result of practicing "listening" (i.e., channeling) should bring great concern to any Christian. Jesus is not delivering personalized messages to people today as they sit in silence until reaching an altered state of consciousness. Does God speak today? Oh yes, He speaks. Open your Bible and His Truth will spring forth from the pages! His Word is still as living and active today as the day (or days) it was written. It will comfort, convict, and bless you. In your sorrow, God's Word brings promise and hope and blessed reminders of His everlasting sovereignty. In your rebellion, it brings conviction, producing faith that leads to repentance. In your joy, it will lead you to offer all praise, glory, and honor to Him, the only One who is worthy! Why would you ever desire more than what His Word already has to offer?

Sarah Young did not hear from Jesus. Her book is one of occultic origins, with a bit of truth interwoven for good measure...and good deception. Jesus is indeed calling, but not from the silent meditations of Sarah Young, and definitely not from the pages of this devotional book.

09 June 2011

This 'n' That

Since neither are posted on a consistent basis, I've decided to combine Video Friday with This 'n' That, so some of the below links will be to videos that are, in my opinion, well worth your time. I pray everyone has had a fruitful week, and it is my hope to be back to posting some original articles in the coming days and weeks. For now, here's your week in review (kind of):

It's June, which means it's also the month that America celebrates debauchery and immorality, aka "LGBT Month." Retailer Old Navy has decided to sell T-shirts that honor this wickedness. I think I'll save my money for something that doesn't glorify sin.

Warren C. Smith has written a wonderful article (and taken some flak for it) entitled "A Vote for Romney is a Vote for the LDS Church." Planning on voting for the "lesser of the evils?" Don't compromise your Christian faith in the name of politics. Mormonism is not Christianity.

Speaking of Mormonism, Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) has some great resources that further explain the nuances of this cult. For a complete list of their articles on the topic, click here. This article, entitled "What Does Mormonism Teach" is particularly helpful if you're listening to a Mormon talk and thinking, "Well, hey, they sound pretty Christian. They're talking about Jesus after all!" Um...it's not the same Jesus. The Jesus of Mormonism is a "spirit brother" of Satan, and was conceived between God and Mary.

Here's a sermon jam about the "Problem of Good Deeds" from Michael Durham. He may be lesser known than some, but wow, can he preach!

Last Friday, Chris Rosebrough of Fighting for the Faith and Phil Johnson of Pyromaniacs got together on Chris' radio show to discuss the John Piper/Rick Warren interview. You can listen to Part 1 of their discussion here (settle in with a cup of coffee first!). Part 2 has yet to take place.

Pastor R.W. Glenn has written a brief, but wonderful, blog post about the amazing place of "because" in the gospel of grace. Check out his article, From "In order to" to "Because."

Finally, if you have an hour of time, please watch this video (also posted below) of John MacArthur's recently preached sermon God Visits Calvary. You will be blessed.

Thursday's Spurgeon - Jesus Our Lord

The following is excerpted from a sermon entitled Jesus Our Lord, preached November 23, 1902.

We call him Lord with all the greater willingness and delight because he loved us, and gave himself for us. You remember the argument of the apostle Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, "Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." He who bought us with such a price claims us as his own; and none of us, I trust will dispute his claim. We rightly sing,—
"To him that loved the souls of men,
And washed us in his blood,
To royal honors raised our head,
And made us priests to God;"To him let every tongue be praise,
And every heart be love!
All grateful honors paid on earth,
And nobler songs above!"
We own him Lord because he has made us to be new creatures in him, and because, as our Shepherd, he has not only led us, and fed us, but because he has laid down his life for us who are the sheep of his flock. Now that he has done this for us, he must be our Lord, and he shall be our Lord. Every drop of his blood shall be a jewel in the crown, which he shall wear as he exercises his rightful sovereignty over us. Every scar in his blessed body shall be to us a token of his true royalty; and all that he has endured and suffered—even the wormwood and the gall—all this shall be but another token of the gracious Sovereignty to which we most cheerfully submit ourselves. Brethren and sisters in Christ, do you not feel that, because he died for us, we do all the more, and certainly none the less, call him "Jesus our Lord"?

05 June 2011

Sunday Morning Praise

Be still, my soul:
the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently
the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God
to order and provide;
In every change,
He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul:
thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways
leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul:
when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened
in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know
His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe
thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul:
the waves and winds
still know His voice
Who ruled them
while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul:
the hour is hastening on
When we shall be
forever with the Lord.
When disappointment,
grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot,
love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul:
when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed
we shall meet at last.

And here's one for the kids. Although, if you're like me, you'll be singing this one all day as well!

04 June 2011

Chain Emails, & What Exactly Is the Gospel? (from Sola Sisters)

I really appreciated this post by Christine Pack over at the Sola Sisters blog. Interestingly enough, I was just pondering writing a post myself about email "forwards," though not ones of the same nature as the one Christine discusses. More on that later. For now, ruminate on the thoughts below.

Chain Emails, and What Exactly Is the Gospel?

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." Romans 1:16

The following is a chain email that I received in my in-box yesterday morning. You know the kind: they're typically short letters with a feel good message, often there is some mention of God, and usually something dire is vaguely threatened if you "break the chain" by not resending the message to 14 of your closest friends. It is extremely rare that I ever forward any of these messages that show up from time to time in my email, but on the few occasions when I have deemed a message worthy enough to have forwarding privileges, the one thing I always do is remove all the silly threatening at the end. We can either be superstitious, or we can be people who trust in God's sovereignty, but we cannot be both.

Anyway. I received the following one just yesterday morning, and 
it has been verified on Snopes (for what that's worth) as a true story. My commentary will come at the end of the email.
A seminary professor was vacationing with his wife in Gatlinburg, TN. One morning, they were eating breakfast at a little restaurant, hoping to enjoy a quiet, family meal. While they were waiting for their food, they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting with the guests. The professor leaned over and whispered to his wife, 'I hope he doesn't come over here.' But sure enough, the man did come over to their table. 
'Where are you folks from?' he asked in a friendly voice. 
' Oklahoma,' they answered. 
'Great to have you here in Tennessee,' the stranger said, 'What do you do for a living?' 
'I teach at a seminary,' he replied. 
'Oh, so you teach preachers how to preach, do you? Well, I've got a really great story for you.' And with that, the gentleman pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with the couple. 
The professor groaned and thought to himself, 'Great......Just what I need.....another preacher story!' 
The man started, 'See that mountain over there? (pointing out the restaurant window). Not far from the base of that mountain, there was a boy born to an unwed mother. He had a hard time growing up, because every place he went, he was always asked the same question, 'Hey boy, Who's your daddy?' Whether he was at school, in the grocery store or drug store, people would ask the same question, 'Who's your daddy?' 
He would hide at recess and lunch time from other students. He would avoid going in to stores because that question hurt him so bad. 'When he was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to his church. He would always go in late and slip out early to avoid hearing the question, 'Who's your daddy?' 
But one day, the new preacher said the benediction so fast that he got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. 
Just about the time he got to the back door, the new preacher, not knowing anything about him, put his hand on his shoulder and asked him, 'Son, who's your daddy?' 
The whole church got deathly quiet. He could feel every eye in the church looking at him Now everyone would finally know the answer to the question, 'Who's your daddy?' 
'This new preacher, though, sensed the situation around him and using discernment that only the Holy Spirit could give, said the following to that scared little boy: 'Wait a minute! I know who you are! I see the family resemblance now, You are a child of God.' 
With that he patted the boy on his shoulder and said, 'Boy, you've got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.' 
'With that, the boy smiled for the first time in a long time and walked out the door a changed person. He was never the same again. Whenever anybody asked him, 'Who's your Daddy?' he'd just tell them, 'I'm a Child of God.'' 
The distinguished gentleman got up from the table and said, 'Isn't that a great story?'
The professor responded that it really was a great story! 
As the man turned to leave, he said, 'You know, if that new preacher hadn't told me that I was one of God's children, I probably never would have amounted to anything!' And he walked away....
The seminary professor and his wife were stunned. He called the waitress over and asked her, 'Do you know who that man was -- the one who just left that was sitting at our table?' 
The waitress grinned and said, 'Of course. Everybody here knows him. That's Ben Hooper. He's governor of Tennessee!'
Someone in your life today needs a reminder that they're one of God's children! 
'The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of God stands forever.' ~~Isaiah 
I received the above chain email from my mother, who is a fairly new Christian. But she is most definitely born again: she is a transformed person, she is growing in holiness, and she loves God and the truth that set her free with all heart. This is how I responded to her:
"Sweet story, but definitely not one to send to anyone who is lost......they already think they are God's children (the arrogance of the unregenerated heart!!)
There is nothing in this story of the gospel message as we know it from Scripture:
- Nothing of wretched and depraved man, who rebelled against his sovereign creator God and sinned by breaking God's moral laws,
- A high and holy God (with whom no sin can dwell),
- God's righteous wrath against sin,
- God's remedy for this situation: His Son, Jesus, the "God-man," who came to earth and lived the life that we could never live, and in so doing, earned the right to offer his life as an unblemished ransom for many. Only those who repent and place their faith in Jesus' death on the Cross can appropriate this "payment" made on their behalf.....only those have the right to be known as "children of God." All the rest are children of wrath.....they are under God's wrath.
The problem with sending such a story to people in our country/culture is this: 
- The lost already think (mistakenly, that is) that they know God, and have a relationship with him, and this story will do nothing to help them see their wretched depravity and need for a Savior; and 
- The saved - who might respond emotionally to this story - are letting their own minds unconsciously "fill in the gaps" that are missing in this supposed gospel presentation.
Perhaps the Governor of Tennessee, Ben Hooper, truly is a Christian, and wants to share Christ with others through this story. God bless him for that! But this message does not have enough of the critical components of the gospel message to be salvific."
Feel good messages that make people smile aren't necessarily a bad thing, but when they imply salvation without even giving a true gospel message, then they are dangerous.  Eternity is what is at stake here. It is important for us as Christians to remember that we have the one thing that the rest of the world does not: salvation. This is no small thing, and it is imperative that we think through what exactly the full gospel message is, so that we can share this message of hope, this Good News, in a lost and dying world that so desperately needs it.

02 June 2011

What Do You Look for in a Church?

Earlier this week over at The Watchman's Bagpipes, my friend Glenn Chatfield took some time to compare side-by-side the worship songs--both contemporary "praise" songs and older hymns--that had been sung this past Sunday in his church. For those of us who have spent the bulk of our churchgoing years saturated and, in my opinion, brainwashed, but mind-numbingly repetitive and weak "praise choruses," it is incredibly helpful to see the lyrics of these songs placed in a direct comparison with some of the older, doctrinal hymns.

Personally, I'm a hymn person myself. I won't argue that there are some hymns being written today that are beautiful in sound and also didactic in their lyrics (Stuart Townend comes to mind), but for the most part, "contemporary Christian music" is really the Church's pathetic attempt to be hip and relevant in the eyes of the world. Granted, as Glenn mentions in his article, older does not necessarily mean better (he uses the example of the hymn "In the Garden"). As John MacArthur notes, however, "Before the middle part of the 19th century or so, hymns were wonderful didactic tools, filled with Scripture and sound doctrine, a medium for teaching and admonishing one another, as we are commanded in Colossians 3:16. Most hymns were written not by teenagers with guitars, but by pastors and theologians: Charles Wesley, Augustus Toplady, Isaac Watts (Online Source)."

This discussion started me thinking. Nowadays, it's difficult to find a church that is dedicated in its musical worship time to teaching the Word of God. As I mentioned, for years we have been brainwashed to think that "worship" means singing and that this should be some sort of entertaining free concert every Sunday morning. In the midst of swaying in the aisle with your hands raised and your eyes closed, have you ever truly paused and pondered the words that you are proclaiming? Have you stopped to examine who you are really worshiping? I would encourage you to do so, because in so many churches today, the songs are exalting self rather than God.

There's another danger to this entertainment trend, however. In most churches, the service opens with a time of musical worship. And sadly, in many churches this is accompanied with loud guitars, highly-caffeinated drummers and, if you're "lucky" enough to attend a mega-church, you may also get to see some smoke, lights and lasers. This time before the sermon should be a time for us to prepare to learn about and worship our Lord in reverence. Yet we have come to expect a show. What happens, then, when you visit a church that isn't quite so entertaining in its musical selections?

What is your response when a church's worship team stands before you on Sunday morning and is faithful to exalt Christ, but isn't quite as fancy as you're used to? What if their singing is just a little bit off-key? What if they aren't putting on a show for you, with their own eyes closed and hands raised, enjoying their 30-minute spotlight on the stage? What if they are simply, faithfully and reverently singing the songs and playing the music and you aren't impressed? And what if this faithful, yet not entertaining (enough) music is followed by a carefully delivered, well-exegeted, Biblical sermon? Will you continue to attend this church? What is more important to you?

That last question is really what I'm getting at. Why do we go to church? We go to church to worship God. Period. The purpose of church is to glorify and exalt God through the teaching of the Scriptures to believers. So what if your worship team isn't going to win a Dove Award. Do they lift up Christ when they sing? Then they're doing fine. Is your pastor faithful to the Word of God? Then you are blessed. If you are someone who selects a church based upon their musical worship style, and the execution of that, then I urge you to perhaps re-examine your priorities. Are you willing to sacrifice being taught faithfully from the Bible every week, in favor of being entertained by the folks on stage with the microphones? Personally, I'd rather attend a church whose worship team consists of one tone-deaf guy with a guitar, but whose pastor stands before the congregation each Sunday and boldly and faithfully teaches through the Scripture, than to spend 30 minutes at a rock concert followed by a pastor twisting Scripture to serve his own purposes. But that's just me.

Jesus is Not My Boyfriend
Have You Praised Yourself Lately?
Romanticizing Jesus