31 October 2014

This 'n' That

"She's a Christian, I think. She was wearing a cross and she talked about homeschooling."

Sigh. Is this what we've come to here in America? Equating Christians with cross necklaces and homeschooling? Does she also watch FoxNews and is she a Republican? Because that satisfies all the requirements for being a Christian in the good ol' US of A, right?

Guess who else wears a cross necklace?
Someone actually did share the above observation with me not too long ago. It was one of those face palm moments, where you spend more time asking God to help you bridle your sarcastic tongue than you do attempting to refute the person's horrifically weak theology.

The sad reality is, though, that this is the mindset of many, many professing Christians today. Does someone say they are a Christian and wear a cross necklace? Then they must be a Christian! And if it's a man, well, does he have a groovy tattoo in Greek, something like δουλος, maybe? Christian!

For the record, I don't mean this to insult those true Christians who wear cross necklaces (I do) or have Greek tattoos (I do not), or those who homeschool (many of my friends do), watch FoxNews, or are Republican. My point is that the concept of a life lived for Christ—the concept of bearing fruit that displays a life of holiness and an ongoing pursuit of righteousness—those things are lost on the visible church today. We've replaced true Christian living with moralism and political and social conservatism. Many of today's professing Christians wouldn't recognize the Christian life as taught in the Scriptures, and if they did, many would likely reject it outright as unacceptable and unfitting for their life of worldly whims.

So are your attempts at evangelism met with resistance? Are they met with scorn by someone who responds by saying, "Well, I'm already a Christian," but whose life demonstrates otherwise? Take heart, Christian. Our Lord told us this would be so (John 16:18–21). But this should not deter us. This should not keep us from proclaiming Christ crucified, and Christ resurrected. Keep on proclaiming that glorious truth, friend, and when you're ready for a break, pause briefly to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

Relevant Repost: A Brief Reformation Day History

*This article largely is adapted from Steve Lawson's book, Pillars of Grace: A Long Line of Godly Men, Volume Two, Chapter 20, "Fortress for Truth."

Introduction

By the sixteenth century, God had uniquely positioned and prepared the Western world for what would come to be known as the Protestant Reformation. Closing out the Middle Ages and ushering in the beginning of modernity, the Reformation has been called the greatest event in history, next to the introduction of Christianity.1 Not only was the church, which at this time was the Roman Catholic Church, in dire need of reform, but at this point in history, even the secular world sat poised for a new beginning.

Exploration was expanding, trade was increasing and the middle class was gaining ground. Educational opportunities were increasing and, by God’s great grace, Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press allowed for a far greater dissemination of ideas. The Renaissance was at its peak and, in the midst of all this, God chose to raise up several well educated, godly, strong-willed, Christ-centered and Scripture-focused men.

Among these men was an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther. On October 31, 1517, Luther nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany his 95 Theses against the Roman Catholic practice of selling indulgences. With this swing of a mallet, Martin Luther launched the Reformation.2

24 October 2014

This 'n' That

There are some things that you notice, but don't really think about. Like praise banners. What are praise banners? Praise banners are—I have recently learned—those big, festive, seasonal flags that some churches hang from the ceiling. Here, maybe this will help:


Yeah, I didn't know they were called praise banners either. But they are. And, better still, there exists out there an entire catalog of praise banners. Hey, would I lie about something this important?


But they don't just sell praise banners. From this catalog, your pastor can also order himself a new robe-vestment-thingy (I think that's the technical name. I haven't been Presbyterian since I was in junior high, so I can't quite recall.) You can also order stands on which to hang your praise banner. Or—and this is exciting—you can order two-sided lightpole banners!

Okay, okay, in truth, I have no animosity toward the praise banner. But it did strike me as funny that an entire catalog full of praise banners even exists. It's even more amusing that the catalog was addressed to my family name "or Banner Coordinator." Seriously? Do you think there's a church out there with someone on staff who is known as the "banner coordinator?" Do you order business cards for that?

Ah, well, tis the season for church banners, I guess. Now I just need a catalog where I can order one of those ribbon things that you're supposed to fling around while you dance and prance around the sanctuary as part of the praise dance team. But that's a topic for another day. So while I flip through this thing and pick out some particularly ostentatious banners to suggest that we hang from the ceiling of my church, why don't you take a few minutes out of your Friday and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

19 October 2014

Hillsong 'Clarifies' Stance on Homosexuality

Following his comments reported here, Brian Houston of Hillsong Church has attempted to clarify Hillsong's stance on homosexuality. The official statement reads as follows:
I encourage people not to assume a media headline accurately represents what I said at a recent press conference.

Nowhere in my answer did I diminish biblical truth or suggest that I or Hillsong Church supported gay marriage. I challenge people to read what I actually said, rather than what was reported that I said. My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.

I was asked a question on how the church can stay relevant in the context of gay marriage being legal in the two states of the USA where we have campuses. My answer was simply an admission of reality – no more and no less. I explained that this struggle for relevance was vexing as we did not want to become ostracized by a world that needs Christ.

I made the point that public statements condemning people will place a barrier between the church and the world (and I note that Jesus came to save and not to condemn), which is why at Hillsong, we don’t want to reduce the real issues in people’s lives to a sound bite.

This – like many other issues, is a conversation the church needs to have and we are all on a journey as we grapple with the question of merging biblical truth with a changing world.

(Source)

Sunday Morning Praise

Still, My Soul Be Still

18 October 2014

Hillsong's 'Journey' Down the Broad Path

Hillsong Church boasts 12 campuses
worldwide.
Sin is not relative. Sin is sin. Whether today's wishy-washy, postmodern, love-the-one-you're-with culture approves or not, there simply is no gray area when it comes to disobeying and opposing God Almighty and His clear, revealed Word.

Yet, when society stands and whines about the Word, the Christian is not surprised. When unregenerate people want sin to be sin only when it is convenient (i.e., when another's  sin has adversely affected them), it simply is not something worth getting overly upset about. After all, one ought to expect the world to act like the world.. But what about when a so-called, self-proclaimed 'church' refuses to stand firm and unwavering upon the Word of God and what the Lord says about sin?

Jonathan Merritt of Religion News Service reports the following in his article 'Hillsong's Brian Houston says church won't take public position on LGBT issue':
At a press conference for the Hillsong Conference in New York City today, Michael Paulson of The New York Times asked Houston to clarify their church’s position on same sex marriage. But Houston would not offer a definitive answer, instead saying that it was “an ongoing conversation” among church leaders and they were “on the journey with it.”

Houston says that he considers three things when evaluating the topic: “There’s the world we live in, there’s the weight we live with, and there’s the word we live by.” 
(Source)
The priorities of Brian Houston and Hillsong are made abundantly clear in that last sentence. The world trumps the Word.

17 October 2014

This 'n' That

photo credit: VividImageInc via photopin cc
It has been a week of Mondays. Not just one, but five. I knew this week was coming but, ever the optimist (in spite of what people say), I was hopeful that this week would not be as frazzling (is that even a word?) and stressful as it has been. My optimism didn't pan out, but my trial did. And that is why God is so good.

It occurred to me early this week what a blessing it was to have a scheduled trial. If you can't prepare yourself and gird yourself for a foreseen, temporary, trying time, then you surely will fear the unexpected trials when they arrive. I also could not help but chuckle at the timing of this particular week, as it comes on the heels of beginning a new Bible study through the book of James.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (Jas 1:2–4)
Joy? Joy in the midst of pressing deadlines and drop-dead decisions? Yes. Because in the midst of our trials, whether they are short-term or long-term, filled with sadness or stress, driven from within or without, the true Christian must recognize—and celebrate—that those trials are designed to drive him or her back to God and back to Christ for wisdom and strength.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. (Prov 3:5)
In addition to this, God is good to give us grace and growth through our trials. And so I found myself in my busiest moments this week thanking God for the growth and knowledge and necessary stretching that I was experiencing. Did I still (sinfully) want to complain? A little. But I nevertheless am thankful for this week of testing. Although, I also am admittedly equally thankful that the week is now almost over and I can breathe a bit before the next scheduled trial. So while I'm taking that breath, why don't you sit back and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

16 October 2014

Craving the Word? Get Fed.

photo credit: bee-side(s) via photopin cc
Who among us does not enjoy a wholly satisfying, delicious meal? While Thanksgiving may lend itself to gorging and gluttony (and subsequent repentance), there is no denying that a healthy, filling meal is not only a thing to be enjoyed, it is a basic necessity for daily living.

Unless enslaved to a particular sin, man will not deliberately starve himself. Fasting for spiritual reasons aside, man will not intentionally deny himself food. He cannot survive without this sustenance. It is a basic fact of life.

When a man is regenerated by the Spirit of God and brought to repentance and faith in Christ, his new nature and new life—indeed, the new man that he has become—requires another type of daily sustenance—the truths of God's Word.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’” (Matt 4:1–4)
The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:9–11)
For the man or woman who has been saved by God, obtaining and consuming this spiritual food will be a delight, not a chore. It is a delicacy far surpassing the richest, most sumptuous dessert, and is far more filling than the most tender, juicy steak. Upon regeneration, feasting upon the Word of God is something that the Christian craves.
Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. (1 Pet 2:1–3)
Those who are blessed to attend a church that faithfully teaches the Bible know what a joy and blessing it is to be served a veritable feast of God's Word each week. But what of Monday through Saturday? Personal Bible reading and study is a blessed necessity, to be sure, but what of those who desire to study more and to study deeper, but perhaps do not know where to start? Or what of those who would love to attend Bible school, but time, money, or opportunity preclude them from doing so? What of those who desire to be fed?

Well, those who want to be fed need to get fed. Not coincidentally, a new endeavor has been launched with precisely that name and purpose: GetFed Online.

Mark Driscoll Resigns from Mars Hill, Told He Is Not Disqualified From Pastoral Ministry

In late August, Mark Driscoll announced that he was taking a 6-week leave of absence from his pastoral ministry while the elders of his church reviewed charges that had been against him. Now, an announcement posted on the Mars Hill Church website reports that Driscoll has resigned from his position as pastor of Mars Hill:
On Tuesday, October 14, Pastor Mark Driscoll submitted his resignation as an elder and lead pastor of Mars Hill Church. The Board of Overseers has accepted that resignation and is moving forward with planning for pastoral transition, recognizing the challenge of such a task in a church that has only known one pastor since its founding. We ask for prayer for the journey ahead.

As is well known, inside and outside of Mars Hill, Pastor Mark has been on a leave of absence for nearly two months while a group of elders investigated a series of formal charges brought against him. This investigation had only recently been concluded, following some 1,000 hours of research, interviewing more than 50 people and preparing 200 pages of information. This process was conducted in accordance with our church Bylaws and with Pastor Mark’s support and cooperation.

While a group of seven elders plus one member of the Board of Overseers was charged with conducting this investigation, the full Board of Overseers is charged with reaching any conclusions and issuing any findings. In that capacity, we believe it appropriate to publicly mention the following:
  1. We concluded that Pastor Mark has, at times, been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner. While we believe Mark needs to continue to address these areas in his life, we do not believe him to be disqualified from pastoral ministry.
  2. Pastor Mark has never been charged with any immorality, illegality or heresy. Most of the charges involved attitudes and behaviors reflected by a domineering style of leadership.
  3. We found some of the accusations against Pastor Mark to be altogether unfair or untrue.
  4. Other charges had been previously been addressed by Pastor Mark, privately and publicly. Indeed, he had publicly confessed and apologized for a number of the charges against him, some of which occurred as long as 14 years ago.
  5. We commend Mark for acting upon the vision God gave him to start Mars Hill Church and for his ministry of faithfully teaching the Word of God for the past 18 years. We commit to pray for him, for Grace, and for their children as they transition from ministry at Mars Hill Church.
We would ask for patience as we now make plans for the first transition of pastoral leadership in the history of Mars Hill Church. We have asked Pastor Dave Bruskas to serve as the primary teaching pastor while we work on long-term plans and decisions. Our elders and board members will work closely with the church staff to support the ongoing operations of Mars Hill in the days and months ahead.

Finally, Mark Driscoll was not asked to resign; indeed, we were surprised to receive his resignation letter. While he can speak to his decision as he chooses, we would point to just two things from his letter. He noted that he had concluded “it would be best for the health of our family, and for the Mars Hill family, that we step aside from further ministry at the church.” Secondly, he specifically wanted to convey “to the wonderful members of the Mars Hill family, how deeply my family and I love them, thank them, and point them to their Senior Pastor, Jesus Christ, who has always been only good to us.”

Mars Hill Board of Overseers

Michael Van Skaik

Larry Osborne

Jon Phelps

Matt Rogers

13 October 2014

Devilish Rebukes

Nestled in the back of our Bibles just before the final book of Scripture lies the book of Jude, a fascinating, important theological treasure. In this letter, the half-brother of our Lord exhorts his readers to 'contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints' (v. 3). Already, the early church was under attack from false teachers. Wolves had crept inside the fold—'ungodly persons' who sought to pervert the grace of God 'into licentiousness and [to] deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ' (v. 4).
Mt. Nebo

Within these 25 verses of wisdom lies an interesting account that appears nowhere else in Scripture. It is found in verses 8 and 9 and reads:
Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!' (Jude 8, 9)
Some find these verses to present an interpretive challenge, as works of some of the early church fathers (Justin Martyr, Origen, etc.) seem to indicate that further detail of this account is found in the pseudepigraphal work, The Assumption of Moses. Yet, even if Jude did quote or allude to this document, the mere fact that this brief account is contained in the Scriptures attests to its validity, for Scripture is breathed out by God Himself (2 Tim 3:16). What is fascinating, however, is the truth that is conveyed in these two verses.

No Compromise Radio: Does God Believe For You?



Additional Resources
Shattering the Idol of 'Free Will'
Because It Pleased Him to Choose
What If 'My God' Is Bigger Than 'Your God'?

10 October 2014

This 'n' That

Well, I had initially intended to share with you my latest experience watching Joel Osteen. But ultimately, that can be summed up in two words: face palm. Actually, 'face wall' might be more appropriate. Honestly, where is a cinder block when I need it?

So instead, I thought I'd toss this out there and see if any of you have a magical solution: earlier this week, my iPhone decided that I only needed to hear sound from it on its terms and at its chosen volume level. No sound at all for podcasts or music (which makes it really difficult for me to enjoy Journey like I'm used to. . . It's okay, only a few of you are going to understand that sarcastic side note). No volume bar or control. Maybe the alarm will go off, maybe it won't. It all depends on what my iPhone feels like doing.

Zack Morris never had these problems with his cell phone.
I'm convinced if I could only take it apart and clean inside it I could fix it. But I'm terrified to take it apart. The guy at Verizon (who clearly is only trained to sell phones, not fix them) says I need to update my iOS. Yeah, right. Like I'm going to subject my poor little phone—and myself—to iOS7 (can an iPhone 4s even handle iOS8?). So then he tells me that I can upgrade my phone. Well, duh. I've been eligible for an upgrade for over a year, dude. There's a reason I've not bitten that bullet. I like my phone. I have it all set up with its case and screen protector, not to mention all my apps and photos and settings. I want to see how long it will last. And…I don't particularly want an iPhone 6.

Let's face it, 6 is the number of incompletion. I'm positive those future iPhone 7s will be anointed and then there I'd be, stuck with a lame 6. Not to mention, all it would take is being in a room with 2 more of those bad boys and you'll probably start channeling the antichrist, right? I mean, the iPhone 6 has fingerprint ID security. Mark of the beast, anyone? It would be like asking to be left behind. Oh! By the way, my phone stopped working on the same day as the blood moon. Coincidence? John Hagee thinks not.

Okay, facetiousness aside, if anyone has any words of wisdom, feel free to share them. In the meantime, now that we are all in full-on Left Behind mode, why don't you take a few moments (before it's too late) to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

03 October 2014

This 'n' That

Kinda makes you wonder what's been lost
in there, doesn't it?
I found this picture online and thought, "Now that's some hair. I need to use that." The problem was, of course, how could I use this amusing picture?

I then worked up a few introductory paragraphs about an observation once made by a coworker that the busyness of my day could be determined by whether or not my hair was pulled back by 1:00 pm or so. So I wrote that brief account. And then I read it. And then I deleted it because, really, who cares?

So here we are. It's Friday morning. I'm running late for work. The wind is blowing outside and the drizzling rain is making me wish I could just curl up with a good book for the day. But alas, work is calling and so is This 'n' That. Words of wisdom are needed. How else will you make it through your weekend? I cannot fail you now.

It is times like this when I turn to my bookshelf, whether real or virtual, and to the words of men far wiser and more eloquent than I:
To suppose that the Lord Jesus has only half saved men, and that there is needed some work or feeling of their own to finish His work, is wicked. What is there of ours that could be added to His blood and righteousness? “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). Can these be patched on to the costly fabric of His divine righteousness? Rags and fine white linen! Our dross and His pure gold! It is an insult to the Saviour to dream of such a thing. We have sinned enough, without adding this to all our other offences.

Even if we had any righteousness in which we could boast; if our fig leaves were broader than usual, and were not so utterly fading, it would be wisdom to put them away, and accept that righteousness which must be far more pleasing to God than anything of our own. The Lord must see more that is acceptable in His Son than in the best of us. The best of us! The words seem satirical, though they were not so intended. What best is there about any of us? “There is none that doeth good; no, not one” (Rom 3:12). I who write these lines, would most freely confess that I have not a thread of goodness of my own. I could not make up so much as a rag, or a piece of a rag. I am utterly destitute. But if I had the fairest suit of good works which even pride can imagine, I would tear it up that I might put on nothing but the garments of salvation, which are freely given by the Lord Jesus, out of the heavenly wardrobe of His own merits....

The reason why we may hope for forgiveness of sin, and life eternal, by faith in the Lord Jesus, is that God has so appointed. He has pledged Himself in the gospel to save all who truly trust in the Lord Jesus, and He will never run back from His promise. He is so well pleased with His only- begotten Son, that He takes pleasure in all who lay hold upon Him as their one and only hope. The great God Himself has taken hold on him who has taken hold on His Son. He works salvation for all who look for that salvation to the once- slain Redeemer. For the honour of His Son, He will not suffer the man who trusts in Him to be ashamed. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (Joh 3:36); for the ever- living God has taken him unto Himself, and has given to him to be a partaker of His life. If Jesus only be your trust, you need not fear but what you shall effectually be saved, both now and in the day of His appearing.

Charles Spurgeon, Around the Wicket Gate
So there you go. Far better than anything I could have offered you today! So now why don't you let your hair down and enjoy your week in review (kind of):