26 June 2013

25 June 2013

Jesus and Superman: A Failed Comparison

By now it is no secret that the latest Superman movie, Man of Steel is being promoted from the pulpit. An article published last week by the Associated Press reports on this latest church-going gimmick:
Seems Warner Bros. has taken movie marketing to a whole new level — even higher than a bird or a plane. 
The studio enlisted Christian-focused firm Grace Hill Media to promote "Man of Steel" to faith-based groups by inviting them to early screenings and creating trailers that highlight the film's religious themes. They also enlisted Craig Detweiler, a Pepperdine University professor and author of "Into the Dark: Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century," to create a Superman-centric sermon outline for pastors titled "Jesus: The Original Superhero." (Source)
The above-mentioned sermon outline is available for download, along with many other materials, at the Man of Steel ministry resources page. More than a mere outline, this document provides nearly a full, albeit short, sermon for those pastors who simply are too busy to formulate thoughts of their own. The introduction to this sermon reads in part:
Superman’s mythical origins are rooted in the timeless reality of a spiritual superhero who also lived a modest life until extraordinary times required a supernatural response. Jesus was sent by his Father to bear our burdens, to right our wrongs, to rise above our troubling circumstances. How might the story of Superman awaken our passion for the greatest hero who ever lived and died and rose again? Let’s consider how Superman’s humble origins, his high calling, and his transforming sacrifice point us towards Jesus, the original superhero. (Source)
First, it is important to highlight what Stand Up for the Truth (SUFTT) notes in its article, "Can't We Just Preach from God's Word?"
First of all, when you understand the Bible against the story of Superman, the movie more accurately reflects Mormon rather than Christian theology. Superman is a created being sent to earth to save the planet. Mormonism teaches that Jesus was a created angel sent by God to save the world. Jesus Christ was not created—he is the Alpha and the Omega. All things were created by, through and for Him. He is God, period—not a created being. (Source)
Already, then, the comparison between Jesus Christ and this comic book action figure must be disregarded. Sadly, few Americans are even aware of the differences between Mormonism and Christianity, and thus will remain ignorant of what SUFTT has pointed out.

It is incredibly grievous to read the words in Professor Detweiler's sermon outline above, "How might the story of Superman awaken our passion for the greatest hero who ever lived and died and rose again?" How might Superman awaken a man's passion to live and to serve Christ? What Christian would ask such a question?

Guest Post: Shaking Your Fist in the Face of God

Summer can be a busy time for all of us (even bloggers), so I have enlisted some guest bloggers whose work will be posted here occasionally throughout the summer months.

Today's guest post is written by Pastor Patrick Slyman of Pigeon Cove Chapel in Rockport, MA. Pastor Slyman graduated from The Master's Seminary and was installed as Senior Pastor of Pigeon Cove Chapel in 2006. His sermons can be heard online hereI'm excited and grateful that Pastor Slyman has agreed to be a guest blogger at Do Not Be Surprised. I hope my readers enjoy his thoughts and teaching.

Pastor Slyman has submitted the following to The Gloucester Times, and has graciously granted us permission to print his thoughts here as well. He writes in response to an incident that occurred earlier this month when the mayor of Gloucester raised the rainbow flag to fly under the American flag in the city square. More information can be found in the Gloucester Times article "Talk of the Times: Rainbow flag enhances city's 'welcoming' gateway."

24 June 2013

Lawson and Luther on the Preacher's Study of Scripture

As Luther was committed to studying the Scriptures, so must all be who preach God’s Word. Each one who steps into the pulpit must be in humble submission to the lordship of Christ. In this lowly posture, he must engage in much Scripture reading, practice a literal interpretation, and make use of the original languages in the study of the text. Further, he must be in complete dependence on the Spirit of God to illumine his understanding of Scripture. Each one of these components is essential for grasping the true meaning of God’s Word.

It is the God-given duty of each preacher to proclaim what he has come to understand in his study. Luther wrote, “He communicates to others whatever good God has given him and in this way helps to explain the Scriptures.” Each man that stands before an open Bible in public must first meet with God in secret as he pores over the biblical text. When he faces his congregation, he declares what he has privately discovered in the Scriptures.

Luther testified of God’s Word, “It is a well of such a kind that the more one draws and drinks from it, the more one thirsts for it.” This shows that Luther was such a prolific preacher because he was such a prolific student of sacred Scripture. Only as the preacher is saturated with biblical truth can he effectively minister the Word to others. In other words, he must preach the Scriptures out of the abundance of his own heart. Like Luther, the more he learns, the more he will desire to learn.

As it was for Luther, so it must be for each preacher. He must have a relentless drive to plunge deeper into the Word. Then, he must hold forth the precious jewels that he has discovered in the biblical text. It should be his joy to showcase before the watching eyes of his congregation the gems of God’s sovereign grace.

– Steven J. Lawson, The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther, (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2013), 58–59.

Further Reading
A True Christian Loves the Word of God
Guest Post: Bible Study in a Morgue?
A Better Sacrifice, an Eternal Redemption

21 June 2013

This 'n' That

Okay, it's true confession time: I have a summer guilty pleasure. No, it's not Dairy Queen Dilly Bars (although that does sound good). It's. . . art fairs. Yes, art fairs, those weekend events where people rent a tent on the street and proudly display their homemade "art" for others to peruse and purchase. It's not like I go to one of these every weekend, mind you. It's just a thing that my mother and I enjoy doing together in the summer months. And while it's rare that we actually buy anything, we can probably be heard complaining about the annoying people who insisted on bringing along their dogs.

If you've ever been to an art fair, you know that merchandise can span the whole spectrum. From fine jewelry, to "lawn ornaments" made out of pipes, to actual good (i.e., demonstrating talent) artwork, to tie-dyed T-shirts, every art fair pretty much has it all. It's like the ultimate inclusive event because there really is something for everybody. But every art fair also has an "It" item. Something that is the "must have" of the weekend, and that almost everybody can be seen loading into their car at the end of the day.

A few weeks ago, as we walked through one of the largest art fairs in the area, I was stunned by this year's "It" item:

Yep, this was it. I mean, "It." It's a birdhouse. I think. Now, I'm not making fun of this birdhouse, so if you have one, don't take offense. It was just hilarious that, everywhere we looked, one of these things was being carried through the crowd.

It really was quite amusing, but perhaps you had to be there. And in case you're wondering, no, I did not purchase a birdhouse for myself or for my mother. I have enough bird curses on me already. I suppose at this juncture I ought to offer a deep, theological thought to go along with this story. Since I don't have one, I'll just leave you with this: don't go along with the crowd. If you do, you may end up with a really big birdhouse.

I know you're itching to get onto Google and find out when the next nearby art fair is happening so you can get one of these for yourself, but before you do that, take a few minutes to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

20 June 2013

Following Apology to Gay Community, Exodus International Announces It Will Close Its Doors

*The following originally appeared here at Christian Research Network. The reader may also wish to review the article, "Exodus International President to Homosexual Community: 'I Am Sorry.'"

Alan Chambers
Exodus International, "the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality," announced late Wednesday, 19 June, that it is closing its doors. The announcement came just hours after the group's president, Alan Chambers, issued a formal apology to members of the LGBTQ community who "have been hurt by Exodus International through an experience or by a message."

The formal press release states that, "The Board of Directors reached a decision after a year of dialogue and prayer about the organization’s place in a changing culture." It continues with this quote from Chambers:
From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we’re all prodigal sons and daughters. Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom. God is calling us to be the Father – to welcome everyone, to love unhindered. (Source)

NoCo90: "I Wasn't Led"

If you have an idea or suggestion for an episode of NoCo90, contact No Compromise Radio at their newly updated website, on their Facebook page, or via email at: info [@] nocompromiseradio.com.

Additional Resources
NoCo90: Antichrists, Rick Warren and the Pope
NoCo90: The Myth of Free Will
A 'No Compromise' Conversation

19 June 2013

Happy Birthday to Two Faithful Preachers

Today, two prominent preachers in the history of the Church celebrate their earthly birthdays. One of them has long gone to glory with his Savior, while the other continues his call and commission to preach the Word (2 Tim 4:2).

18 June 2013

A True Christian Loves the Word of God

Every living thing which God creates requires food. The life that God imparts needs sustaining and nourishing. It is so with animal and vegetable life—with birds, beasts, fishes, reptiles, insects, and plants. It is equally so with spiritual life. When the Holy Ghost raises a man from the death of sin, and makes him a new creature in Christ Jesus, the new principle in that man's heart requires food, and the only food which will sustain it is the Word of God.

There never was a man or woman truly converted, from one end of the world to the other, who did not love the revealed will of God. Just as a child born into the world desires naturally the milk provided for its nourishment, so does a soul "born again" desire the sincere milk of the Word (1 Pet 1:23; 2:2). This is a common mark of all the children of God—they "delight in the law of the Lord" (Ps 1:2).

Show me a person who despises Bible reading, or thinks little of Bible preaching, and I hold it to be a certain fact that he is not yet "born again." He may be zealous about forms and ceremonies. He may be diligent in attending sacraments and daily services. But if these things are more precious to him than the Bible, I cannot think he is a converted man. Tell me what the Bible is to a man, and I will generally tell you what he is. This is the pulse to try—this is the barometer to look at—if we would know the state of the heart. I have no notion of the Spirit dwelling in a man and not giving clear evidence of His presence. And I believe it to be a signal evidence of the Spirit's presence when the Word is really precious to a man's soul.

– J.C. Ryle, How Readest Thou?

Further Reading
Affirming Sola Scriptura
What God Says About His Word
Bible Study in a Morgue?

14 June 2013

This 'n' That

I did not enjoy "The Bible" miniseries for a multitude of reasons. One of those is its misuse and abuse of the concept and phrase, "God is with us." In that pitiful series, the idea of God's protection and presence with His people was turned into a catchphrase, and the true magnificence and blessing behind it never was explained, nor was Emmanuel, the ultimate picture of "God with us," extolled as He should have been. By the end of the first episode of "The Bible," I never again wanted to hear someone with a bad British accent shout, "God is with us!" Perhaps this is an illustration of how poor and false teaching can ruin some true and wonderful concepts for the genuine believer.

Helgi Halldórsson/Freddi via photopin cc
But let us not abandon biblical concepts simply because they have been distorted by those who do not revere God and His Word. In reality, God truly is with His own. He cares for those who are His, whether in times of trial or in times of joy. He goes before His children in every circumstance, and stands with them even when men do not. This week, I was especially struck by these verses in Paul's final letter to his son in the faith, Timothy:
At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. 
(2 Tim 4:16–17)
The Lord has promised never to leave nor forsake His children (Heb 13:5; Deut 31:6–8; Jos 1:5). He demonstrated this in Paul's life right up until the very end, and He will be faithful to those who are His today. We serve a Lord who fulfills His promises. Kind of makes you want to get on your knees in praise and thanks, doesn't it? Go ahead, we'll wait.

When you're done with that, take your laptop or your tablet outside, find a shady spot, sit back and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

NoCo90: Stop Sharing the Gospel

If you have an idea or suggestion for an episode of NoCo90, contact No Compromise Radio at their recently updated website, on their Facebook page, or via email at: info [@] nocompromiseradio.com

Additional Resources
NoCo90: Donate Buttons and Christian Begging
NoCo90: The Myth of Free Will
A 'No Compromise' Conversation

13 June 2013

Is God Mad at You? A Response to David Crank's Lies about Salvation

Who needs to be told in church that they're going to hell? We all pretty much know that.
These unfortunate and ignorant words were penned by pastor David Crank of Faith Church in St. Louis. Crank and his wife, pastrix Nicole Crank, are friends with such influential names as Steven Furtick and Joel Osteen. This ought to offer one an idea of the theology and methodology that can be found at Faith Church.

David Crank
The quote above is taken from Crank's 11 June 2013 blog post entitled, "Is God Mad at You?" In this post, Crank displays what is commonly taught about sin and salvation from many pulpits today. He writes:
Do you think God is pointing a finger at you accusing you? Do you think God can't relate to what you're going through?
I'm here to tell you that Jesus is a loving God who was not here to point a finger at us but to draw us to him and to identify with us.
Who needs to be told in church that they're going to hell? We all pretty much know that.
It is true, our God is a loving God. There is no greater demonstration of this than Christ's sacrifice for His own (John 15:13; 1 John 4:10). But He also is a righteous God, one who hates sin and calls men to repent. David Crank claims that Jesus did not come to "point a finger at us," but in reality, it is Jesus who demonstrated that men must be made aware of their sin before they can come to realize that they need a Savior. In fact, our Lord certainly seemed to be "pointing a finger" at the woman at the well:

11 June 2013

Climate Change as the Latest Gimmick to Lure Youth to Church

It is no secret that young people are leaving the visible church in droves. This reality ultimately refutes the notion that the church must be hip, relevant and "missional," ever-changing to accommodate the culture. After all, if that was the key, the number of young, professing evangelicals would not be dwindling.

photo: Big Grey Mare via photopin cc
Still, the discussion surrounding this conundrum rarely wanders in the direction it should. What is the key to keeping young people—or people of any age—in the church? Preach the Gospel. Preach the Word, the whole counsel of God. True, it may be controversial to speak of sin, repentance, and faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Few like to hear that there is nothing that they can do to save themselves from eternal wrath. But those who have been drawn, or are being drawn, by God the Father, will remain. They will long to hear more. They will hunger and thirst for truth and righteousness. Those who hate God, regardless of what they profess with their lips, will leave and never look back.
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:19)
Unfortunately, this answer never seems to be sufficient for today's evangelicals. Instead, Christians and churches are urged to find new and interesting ways to "engage" the youth. How sad it is that salvation and a gracious, righteous Savior is not enough!

Guest Post: Bible Study in a Morgue?

Summer can be a busy time for all of us (even bloggers), so I have enlisted some guest bloggers whose work will be posted here occasionally throughout the summer months.

Our first guest post is written by Hariton "Harry" Deligiannides. Harry serves as an elder at Bethlehem Bible Church in West Boylston, MA. As an elder at BBC, Harry has filled in and preached Sunday services when pastor Mike Abendroth is unavailable (Harry's sermons can be accessed here) and teaches Sunday school and evening services as needed. He also is in charge of membership for the church, teaches the College & Career study, disciples other men and teaches at the Institute for Biblical Studies.

I'm excited to welcome Harry as the very first guest blogger here at Do Not Be Surprised. I know we'll be blessed and encouraged by his words!

10 June 2013

Happiness Is Found in Contentment

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:6–10)
photo credit: KevinLallier via photopin cc
Let us be content with the portion God has given us of earthly things. God stands upon his sovereignty, and we must be content with God's allowance, though he gives others more. The good man pleaded: 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? . . . Do you begrudge my generosity?' (Matt. 20:13–15). If others have a better income and are more amply provided for, God is sovereign, and will give according to his pleasure. Nothing is deserved and therefore everything should be kindly taken with contentment. If a man is provided for by another's expense, we take it very ill if he murmurs and dislikes his diet. Certainly we are all maintained at free cost and should be content with what is put in our hands. God in wisdom knows what proportion is best for us. The shepherd and not the sheep chooses the pasture. Leave it to God to give what is suitable to your condition of life. God gives a portion as you are able to bear. Contentment itself is a gift of God and a great blessing. When our minds are suited to our condition, our earthly blessings are sweeter and more comfortable. Our happiness does not lie in abundance, but in contentment (Luke 12:15). All spiritual miseries may be attributed to either a war between a man and his conscience, or a war between his affections and his condition. There may be just as much love in a lesser portion as in a greater. There is the same affection to a younger child, though he does not have as large an allowance as his elder brother. The father loves him just as well. So a child of God may say, 'God loves me, though he has given another more than me.' Be content with what falls to your share in the gracious providence of God.

— Thomas Manton, as quoted in Voices from the Past, ed. Richard Rushing, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009).

Further Reading
Atheists to Start Hotline for Religious Doubters
What God Says About His Word
Witnessing to a Blank Stare

09 June 2013

Sunday Morning Praise

My Hope Is in the Lord

*From the description on YouTube:
This video was taken during the practice before the start of the 2009 
Shepherds Conference. 
The choir is made up of the current students of the Masters Seminary.

06 June 2013

NoCo90: Sinful Children? The World Has a Pill for That

If you have an idea or suggestion for an episode of NoCo90, contact No Compromise Radio at their newly updated website, on their Facebook page, or via email at: info [@] nocompromiseradio.com.

Additional Resources
NoCo90: Donate Buttons and Christian Begging
NoCo90: The Myth of Free Will
A 'No Compromise' Conversation

05 June 2013

A Better Sacrifice, an Eternal Redemption

"But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him."

(Hebrews 9:11–28)

Amen. Thank You, Lord.

Atheists to Start Hotline for Religious Doubters

*This article originally appeared here at Christian Research Network.

It is no secret that the population of America's "nones"—those who either do not believe in God or do not affiliate with any particular religion—is growing. In August 2012, Christian Research Network reported on The Clergy Project, “a confidential online community for active and former clergy who do not hold supernatural beliefs.”

At the time of that report, the group boasted over 300 members. Today the homepage announces 455 members, as the organization continues to exist to help men and women in the clergy “move beyond their faith” as they “freely discuss issues related to their transition from believer to unbeliever.”

Designed to be a "safe haven" for those who profess faith in God while harboring unbelief in their hearts, a similar motivation as that which drives The Clergy Project is finding other avenues of outlet. CNN reports on a soon-to-be-launched 1-800 hotline for religious doubters:
photo: splityarn via photopin cc
Who can people call when religious doubts arise, but they're afraid to talk to their faith leaders or families?

A group that helps people "recover" from religion says it's ready to pick up the phone.

Recovering from Religion, which has about 40 support groups in the U.S. and Britain, plans to launch a hotline that will offer doubters an anonymous place to ask difficult questions and find communities of like-minded nonbelievers.

The group plans to staff the help line 24 hours a day and is modeling it after services like suicide prevention hotlines.