Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Cross Driven Life

[Editor's Note: My wife and I attended the same Bible study with Hayden and his lovely wife Heather while they were at Grace Church as Hayden went to seminary. He emailed me recently to let me know about some articles he has written and I thought I would share them with my readers].

Where is the Cross in Your Life?

by Hayden Norris

The cross is a well known symbol worldwide, in and outside of the church, as a reminder of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It appears on key chains, necklaces, Bible covers, bracelets, earrings, and is even prominently displayed in some cities across the nation (much to the chagrin of the ACLU). But is that all the cross is? Is it just a symbol, or is there a much deeper message to the cross?

To the Christian it must have a greater meaning! So what should we think about when we see the cross? Undoubtedly, the cross should remind us of redemption, and forgiveness. It represents the Gospel, the good news, of sinners being reconciled to the Father. You and I are sinners (Rom. 3:10-23; Jam. 2:10) and deserve death for our rebellion (Rom. 6:23; Jam. 1:15). Yet we can have fellowship with God who created everything and is completely holy (Gen. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:15,16; Matt. 5:48), through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 5:21). This reality ought to bring us celebration daily.

Too often celebration ends soon after a sinner repents and embraces the Gospel. After that, the cross is often treated like a book that is placed upon a shelf and dusted off only when we witness to an unsaved friend or family member. That should not be! In his excellent book The Cross Centered Life, CJ Mahaney states:

If there is anything in life we should be passionate about, it’s the gospel. And I don’t mean passionate only about sharing it with others. I mean passionate about thinking about it, dwelling on it, rejoicing in it, allowing it to color the way we look at the world. Only one thing can be of first importance to each of us. And only the gospel ought to be.

Paul, the apostle, says in 1 Corinthians 15:3, For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. Notice the fact that Christ died for our sins is "of first importance." Is that how you live your life? Is it of first importance to you that Christ died for your sins?

The Gospel is a message that we, as Christians, must rehearse to ourselves daily. Jerry Bridges brings this point home in his article Gospel Driven Sanctification:

To use an expression…, we must ‘preach the gospel to ourselves every day.’ For me that means I keep going back to Scriptures such as Isaiah 53:6, Galatians 2:20, and Romans 8:1. It means I frequently repeat the words from an old hymn, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness."

Milton Vincent in his wonderful booklet entitled A Gospel Primer for Christians echoes this when he says:

The gospel is so foolish (according to my natural wisdom- 1 Cor. 1:21, 23), so scandalous (according to my conscience- 1 Cor. 1:23), and so incredible (according to my timid heart- 1 John 3:19, 20), that it is a daily battle to believe the full scope of it as I should. There is simply no other way to compete with the forebodings of my conscience, the condemnings of my heart, and the lies of the world and the Devil (2 Cor. 4:4) than to overwhelm such things with daily rehearsings of the gospel.

The question inevitably arises, “How do I do this?” or “What about the Gospel should I rehearse?” The Scriptures have much to say in answering these queries.

First of all, if you have believed the Gospel, there are certain things that are true about you. Let’s call these Gospel truths. Just a cursory glance through Romans 5-8 tells us that:

1) We are now justified because of the cross (5:1)
2) Included in that justification is the fact that we are at peace with God (5:1)
3) We are no longer condemned by God (8:1)
4) We also have spiritual riches through the cross (8:32-37) which include security (vv. 38-39) in our relationship with God.

All these promises come just from scanning through Romans 5-8! Wow! The Scriptures are full of truths about the believer in Christ, and if we would just look we would find ample truths to rehearse daily.

Secondly, not only is the Scripture full of Gospel truths, but it is a call to action. There are actions that flow out of our embracing of the Gospel. The Gospel must affect how we live daily. Are you having a hard time forgiving? Read Ephesians 4:32: Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. The reason, the impetus behind your ability to forgive, is the forgiveness of Christ on the cross. Are you having a hard time with sexual immorality in your life? Read 1 Corinthians 6:20: For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

I am not suggesting that the Scripture is a “magic bullet” that upon reading it all sins will just magically disappear; that would be “Pollyannaish”. But I am saying that the Gospel ought to affect the life of every believer not only at the moment of salvation, but throughout all of life. It must be the charge that powers all of our struggles with sin!

Ultimately, when we become detached from the message of the Gospel we become cold-hearted. When the message of salvation in Jesus Christ through His shed blood upon the cross does not stir your heart, all sorts of problems exist. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (the great “Prince of Preachers”) had this wonderful reminder about the cross:

Are you content to follow Jesus from a distance? Oh let me affectionately warn you for it is a grievous thing when we can live contentedly without the present enjoyment of the Savior’s face. Let us work to feel what an evil thing this is. Little love to our own dying Savior, little joy in our precious Jesus, little fellowship with the beloved. Hold a true lent in your soul while you sorrow over your hardness of heart but don’t stop at sorrow. Remember where you first received salvation and go at once, go at once, go at once to the cross. There and there only can you get your Spirit aroused. No matter how hard, how insensible, how dead we may have become let’s go to the cross…. The more we dwell where the cries of Calvary can be heard, the nobler our lives have become. Nothing puts life into men like a dying Savior.

What a reminder for each of us as we pursue the path our Savior would have us travel. As we walk in our daily lives we must not forget to ‘rehearse the Gospel’ to ourselves daily, otherwise we will relegate the cross to a mere symbol in our lives. May you and I start off each day “dwelling where the cries of Calvary can be heard”. May we all ask ourselves, “Where is the cross in my life, front and center, or far off in the distance?”

Hayden Norris is an associate pastor at Mt. Morris Community Church in Mt. Morris, Michigan. His email is, hayden@mmccchurch.org

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bro. Cloud's Mailbox

TO: David Cloud
SUBJECT: Godly Music

Bro. Cloud,

I just want to thank you so much for your ministry, especially your website. As a Christian person who has just returned from being a backslidder, it certainly is a blessing. I walked an aisle and prayed a sinner's prayer when I was 13 years old, but lived the life of a carnal Christian until just recently and the Lord has used you to help me keep straight.

I really appreciate how you expose apostasy in the Church. One of the areas where you really helped me see apostate thinking even in my own Christian walk is with music. I used to think that CCM was godly, but you have shown me with your thorough citation of personal quotes from the mouths of CCM artists that they are worldly at heart because many of them say secular musicians have influenced their Christian music. Particularly eye-opening is how you may find quotes that are 20, maybe 30 years old, from such CCM performers as Larry Norman,2nd Chapter of Acts, and Dallas Holmes.

I was shocked to learn how this kind of apostasy has been around for so long even with that "calvinist" convert, Steve Camp. And I never knew that Steven Curtis Chapman recorded some of his songs at Abby Studios, the very studios where the Beatles recorded their music back in the 60s and 70s. I know he wasn't singing secular songs, but just being in those studios is allowing yourself to be associated with evil.

Well, you have taught me that fresh water cannot come out of salt water, so I burned all my CCM tapes and CDs.

I still liked music, so I replaced all my CCM with classical and Southern Gospel, but applying the principles of separation that I have learned from you, I had to burn all my classical and Southern Gospel tapes and CDs as well. That is because many of those composers like Vivaldi and Mozart were Roman Catholics, and that Bach fellow was Lutheran, and we both know how apostate those Lutheran folks are. And many of those Southern Gospel groups like the McGruders are Pentecostal or a part of that apostate Southern Baptist denomination.

So, for a long while I couldn't find any godly music to listen to, but recently the Lord has introduced me to the Glory Bugles. This is the God honoring music I have been looking for. Not only is their music style spiritual, but their lyrics are convicting. For instance, their song "Have you heard from Peter's rooster?" confronts personal compromise and secret, unconfessed sins. Then, another one of their songs "If your hair's too long (there's sin in your heart)" is direct and to the point I am sure you will agree. They also have songs about the only true Bible translation, the King James.

I thought I would pass along the Glory Bugles to you as well, Bro. Cloud. Maybe you could write one of your daily articles supporting them and telling everyone about really God fearing music?

Again, thanks for your website. It is so encouraging there are preachers out there, like yourself, who stand against the end-times apostasy and for the old Baptist paths.

In his grip,

Ronnie Bass


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Well Good for Him

Monkey Man to Marry this Year.

They say there is somebody out there for everyone.

Of course, he says his schedule could put a damper on his wedding plans,

"I am like King Kong and would do everything for the woman I love. If my schedule is not too full this year, I plan to get married with her at the end of the year."

I am curious. Do we have any American Monkey Men? I mean, why do people holding world record breaking hair growth always seem to be from remote villages in far away countries? Surely there are some proud Texans out there who can sustain some world record breaking back hair? Possibly someone from Alabama? New Hampshire? Just wondering.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Slaves of Christ

My pastor recently gave a tremendous sermon exploring the Greek word doulos and its description in the NT of how we are slaves of Christ.

Nearly every English translation of the NT- including the "infallible" KJV - mistakenly translates doulos "servant," as in a house servant like a butler. However, the word specifically means slave - one who is owned by and subservient to a master. Translating doulos as "servant" supposedly minimizes the stigma of slavery that once plague our western society, but it isn't honest exegesis and does not handle accurately the definition of the word.

The mishandling of the translation of this word has serious theological ramifications when we consider the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and our spiritual union with Him.

For example, it is important when considering the extent of Christ's atonement: It will only be for those people He specifically redeems with His blood and has chosen to make His slaves.

Additionally, He has the authority to command the loyalty of those people he bought with His blood. In other words, Jesus is their Lord and Master. The idea of Christ being our Lord and we His slaves is a significant point when we consider the so-called "Lordship/non-Lordship salvation" controversy and it wrecks havoc upon the IFBs who argue vainly for "non-Lordship." By the very fact we are called slaves of Christ through out the NT indicates Christ is Lord over His people and their individual spiritual lives, period. There is none of this second level Christianity where a person prays a prayer and simply believes and is saved, and then sometime later in his spiritual journey with Jesus enters into a deeper relationship with Christ by making Him Lord. There is no such thing as "non-Lordship salvation." Being identified as a Slave of Christ means He is your Lord. There can be no middle ground.

Again, the transcript is here: Slaves of Christ and is worth the time reading. If you can get a hold of the sermon, I would certainly encourage it. My hope is that GTY will make the message available as a monthly free offer to our supporters.

Also, the book I believe John references is by Murray J. Harris entitled, Slaves of Christ: A NT metaphor for total devotion to Jesus Christ.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Two More Series Added

My webmaster at Fred's Bible Talk added two more audio series I gave earlier this year to my Grace to You volunteers.

Answering Gay "Christian" Apologists deals with the apologetics of so-called evangelical gay "Christians" who distort the biblical texts in order to make the claim God affirms homosexuality in His Word. Those who subscribe to my podcast updates (which are rare, I know) may have received a couple of messages from this series already. Here's the full series in his entirety and in order.

Apologetics Evangelism 101 is a series outlining basic apologetic methodology. My blog series on the same subject is an expansion on my notes that I used to present this material. The last message, Readying Ourselves to Engage the World Part 2, is yet to be uploaded. We have to locate it on our vast sermon array. (UPDATE: It's uploaded and ready to go).

Comments and criticisms (constructive preferred) are welcome. Email me or leave them here.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ben Stein's Blog

Ben Stein, the monotone science teacher from the Wonder Years TV series, and I think he wrote speeches for Nixon and Ford on the side, has a blog plugging a new documentary he is involved with called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

It appears the film will explore the censorship non-Darwinian ID proponents experience in the so-called "scientific community." Of course, if Mr. Stein really wanted to explore academic censorship, he would talk about how creationists are the most censored, even by IDers.

At any rate, by the description he provides in his introductory post, the film looks to be promising. The "academic" censorship he describes is already on display among the 500 plus comments by the secular, evolutionary fundamental extremists who are outraged he is even taking the subject on. There are lots of folks making plenty of faith based, dogmatic, and unfalsifiable assertions in their comments in defense of evolution. They are actually fun to read if you got a moment to spare.

(HT Gene Bridges)

OH, before I posted, I should have reminded folks of a speech Michael Crichton gave a few years ago highlighting how environmentalism mixes science and politics. He goes into some detail about the stifling censorship of those dissenting voices speaking out against the global warming crazies. Aliens Cause Global Warming.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Voyager Turns 30

No, not the Star Trek series with the Borg sweetie pie. I mean the two little intrepid spacecraft, Voyager I and Voyager II, launched August 20th and September 5th, 1977. Though the first Star Trek movie did use the idea of "Voyager" as an alien ship threatening to destroy earth. Apparently, some "living machines" found "Voyager 6" and the name "Voyager" on its side was covered in space dust so that it read "Vger," and the robots built a gigantic spaceship around it as a shrine and were returning to earth to join "Vger" to its "creator."


I was just 9 years old, and not quite a space geek yet, but following the course of these two spacecraft to Jupiter and Saturn, and eventually Uranus and Neptune, ignited my interest in astronomy. My grandmother would purchase me a year's subscription to National Geographic every Christmas as a gift until her death, and when the 1979 issue arrived with full page spreads of the images of Jupiter, I devoured the magazine and looked at it over and over again. I did the same a year or so later when the issue highlighting the images taken of Saturn. In the 80's the spacecraft photographed the first close up images of Uranus and Neptune, with Neptune's photos being the most dazzling.

Then, on Valentine's Day of 1990, Voyager I took a picture looking back at our solar system from its very edge. Found in the photo was a faint image of Earth being bathed in a beam of sun light. Atheist astronomer, Carl Sagan, called it the Pale Blue Dot and used the image as an illustration for a book describing our insignificance as humanity in a vast universe. I on the other hand see our uniqueness as a special creation of God.

The Planetary Society website has an article celebrating the thirty years of operation of these two Voyagers. Even after 30 years, they are both transmitting signals to Earth. I think that is just too cool. Make sure to follow some of the links detailing their specific missions.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Humor for the Day

One of my secret delights is reading the Onion website. I do it with extreme discernment mind you, because some of the parody articles can be crassly crude.

However, the video news item about the world's oldest neurosurgeon turning 100 cracked me up so much I had to share.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Beer + Bears = Bad (and another cautionary tale)

Note my emphasis

BELGRADE, Serbia (Reuters) -- A 23-year old Serb was found dead and half-eaten in the bear cage of Belgrade Zoo at the weekend during the annual beer festival.

The man was found naked, with his clothes lying intact inside the cage. Two adult bears, Masha and Misha, had dragged the body to their feeding corner and reacted angrily when keepers tried to recover it.

"There's a good chance he was drunk or drugged. Only an idiot would jump into the bear cage," zoo director Vuk Bojovic told Reuters.

Local media reported that police found several mobile phones inside the cage, as well as bricks, stones and beer cans. (source)

I'm not a tee-totaler, but it certainly makes a person re-think those proverbs about wine being a mocker and strong drink raging and all.

Then one final example from the archives. This happened around where I grew up in Missouri. Again, note my emphasis ...

Fish Swallower Chokes To Death

Associated Press Thursday, May 17, 2001
Breaking News Sections

VIBURNUM, Mo. (AP) -- A man who apparently had spent the day drinking with friends choked to death trying to swallow a live, 5-inch fish.

Todd Poller's friends reported hearing the 45-year-old yell: "Hey, watch this," before he grabbed a perch from the water and dropped it headfirst into his mouth. Iron County Sheriff Alan Mathes said Poller choked and gasped as his friends tried to dislodge the fish. He was pronounced dead when emergency crews arrived.

An autopsy found Poller died from asphyxiation from having the fish lodged in his throat. Aside from choking, Poller suffered lacerations to the inside of his throat from the fish's fins.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

MacArthur on Larry King Live

You probably missed it. I missed it. The announcement didn't get to me until the day after, but my pastor, John MacArthur, was on Larry King Live last night. I was sorely bummed I didn't get the news until the next day. Here's the transcript of the program.

The show conversation centered around a documentary called God's Warriors: Fighters for Faith produced by a gal named Christiane Amanpour who is the CNN chief international correspondent. The documentary discusses fundamentalism as it crosses three religions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. I understand that Amanpour is suppose to be fair with her work, though I went away from her comments thinking she approached the subject of fundamentalism with a curiosity that views fundamentalists, especially Christian fundamentalists, as a newly discovered stone age village of pig spearers. The documentary airs this week on CNN with the Christian segment airing on Thursday (8/23). I believe John is suppose to be on it as well.

Anyhow, Larry interviewed Amanpour for the first 20 minutes or so of the show, and then introduced a panel of guest which included John, Rabbi Marvin Heir (representing Judaism), Maher Hathout (representing Islam, even though he is somewhat liberal), Barry Lynn (representing apostate Christianity), and Paris Hilton. No just, kidding.

I was somewhat surprised Deeppockets Chopra wasn't asked to join, but I guess he was skipped over because the documentary didn't explore huckster charlatan Hindu fundamentalism.

Moving along...

Glancing over the transcript, the interchange between the guests looks interesting. Barry Lynn, who really is a dishonest hypocrite which will be explained in a moment, seemed to be John's biggest antagonist. He wanted to contradict everything John said. The best interchange between them happened somewhere in the middle when Barry, in response to a question John asked from Larry says,

LYNN: See, I would disagree with that. That is a literal belief. Many of us do not have a literal belief in the words of the -- not God written and produced but man written and produced Holy Bible for Christians.

MACARTHUR: Well, there's the huge divergence right there.

LYNN: That's a huge difference. It is a huge divergence, but it's one of the things that makes the Christian community and many of the other communities we're talking about here very diverse and very different.

MACARTHUR: Barry, if you don't believe the words of the Bible, then you can't be legitimately called a Christian because that's all the Christianity there is is what is revealed in the word of God, not the Christianity you can invent outside of the meaning of Scripture.

LYNN: See, but here we go again because some of us would look at -- we're not having a Bible study tonight, but some of us could look ...

MACARTHUR: I wish we were.

LYNN: Well, maybe we should. The ongoing revelation of God to man. Why do people pray? Why do we pray if we assume that everything's known and known if we just read the Scriptures one more time? Many of us, particularly in more liberal Protestant denominations believe that God is still speaking and that that's an important theological point. Some people believe there is no God to speak and never did speak. (blue emphasis mine)

John's comments to Lynn that you can't legitimately be called a Christian unless you believe in the Word of God are stellar, and in my opinion, his best comment of the evening.

However, zero in on the last comments by Lynn where he says "The ongoing revelation of God to man." Lynn believes in the neo-orthodox view of on going revelation from God. That man can receive revelation from God when he prays or has some sort of personal experience that makes him feel good. This belief got Lynn in trouble when he agreed to debate James White on the issue of whether homosexuality is compatible with biblical Christianity.

Lynn, I am guessing, thought he was going to debate some ignorant country bumpkin bigot preacher and instead found himself stumbling into a big vat of whoop em'. He raised the "on going revelation from God" argument in his opening statement, and during the cross examination, James pounded him to no end on how we can know anything for certain if we can't trust the Bible as a sufficient rule of faith and all we have is our own personal experience with the "on going revelation of God." Who's to say whose revelation is right or wrong? Boiled down, with personal revelation driving each individual as Lynn believes, he really has no standard by which to say fundamentalists are wrong for imposing their views in the realm of politics. They could simply argue their motivation for their politics is an "on going revelation" from God.

All of that to say, once Lynn got his hiney handed to him after that debate with James, he threatened to sue Alpha and Omega Ministries if they released the audio or video of the debate. So every time I hear or see this phony, self-proclaimed free-speech advocate blow-hard who routinely rails against the intolerance of Christians, I just shake my head at what a hypocritical joke he really is.

Anyways, if you can catch the Thursday showing of that documentary, it may be an interesting watch.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

When To Leave a Church

I have been addressing questions about church membership, particularly the key questions pertaining to joining and leaving a church.

In the last post, I offered my thoughts concerning the reasons why a Christian should NOT leave a church. I would like to say I appreciate the comments some readers left. A couple of pastors provided some good insight from their perspective.

With this post I wish to offer my thoughts regarding the reasons why a Christian should leave a church. I would like to divide my reasons into a couple of categories. First is what I believe are definite reasons for leaving a church, and then second, possible reasons for leaving a church.

I will begin with the definite reasons.

The Word of God is not held high. By that I mean the Bible is not the focus of how the church functions, why the church exists, or what the church considers important to the development of the people. The leadership doesn't consider doctrine essential, nor evangelism important, or general discipleship crucial for the spiritual health of the members. If the church has a mediocre view of scripture, then it is inevitable that the people will have a mediocre view of God, which in turn will leave the people open to being led astray by false doctrine, or not being led by any doctrine at all.

Churches demonstrating this level of rejection toward the authority of scripture tend to be liberal. The main denomination more than likely denies the inspiration of scripture and the leadership encourages political correct ideology like the ordination of homosexuals to key church positions. However, churches that claim to be conservative are in danger of promoting a low view of scripture when they shift from an emphasis on teaching, biblical discipleship, and gospel evangelism, to allow entertainment style programs to be the focus of the church's ministry.

The leadership tolerates false teaching in the church. This is a church that allows individuals who believe contrary to sound, biblical doctrine to have influence over the people.

Let me give a practical illustration of what I mean. I once knew of a church were there was a single, older woman who didn't believe the people in the church were "spiritual" enough, so she set up unofficial "Bible" studies in which she invited selected, like-minded people who felt the same way she did about the church's "spirituality."

I was invited to attend a few of these gatherings, and even as a young believer, I quickly discerned these so-called "Bible" studies were hardly true Bible studies, but merely a gathering of disgruntled church members who allowed themselves to come under the influence of this woman. The "studies," if we can even call them that, were attempts by this lady to promote her radical health and wealth, charismatic teaching, with a heavy emphasis upon the false doctrine of sinless perfectionism.

The sad thing is that the pastors of this church kind of knew she was conducting these meetings outside of church, but they never really did anything to confront her or the people being led astray. The lady managed to sow discord among the members in this church and made the people who were disgruntled even more disgruntled. When the pastors finally got around to addressing her heresy, she had turned the hearts of many of the people away from that church. Several folks separated themselves from the main body of believers and began driving 2 hours on Sunday mornings to attend an extreme charismatic church in another city.

Let me tell you, any church that allows a person or persons to spout unbiblical doctrine, or promote the false teachings of some bizarre teacher, and is allowed to get away with it by the church leadership with out being confronted and corrected, is a church that is asking for some serious trouble. The leadership is basically allowing instability to exist among the members. People cannot have confidence in the pastors or deacons when this happens.

The leadership tolerates sin in the church. If there are members involved with scandalous sin, and I mean sin on the level of a husband having an affair, or a wife divorcing her husband on no biblical grounds, or a person involved with behavior the Bible clearly indicates is sinful; and the leadership of the church refuses to deal with the sin and allow the persons involved to remain in their state without being called to repentance, then it is time to start looking for another church.

Probably the one practical church issue people ask me of my opinion deals with serious sin in a church and the pastor and leadership making no effort, or maybe a half-hearted effort, to confront and discipline the parties involved with the sin.

I had an acquaintance tell me of a situation where a woman left her husband, but she kept coming to church on Sunday mornings; she merely moved to the back row of pews. I had another person tell me of how a prominent business man attended their church who had an affair and left his wife. Once he was remarried to the "new" woman, they both began attending the church where the ex-wife was still present. None of the pastors did any thing to confront the situation, and the ex-wife, who was truly the innocent party in the situation, eventually moved on to another church to be away from the heart-ache.

These examples all involve sexual immorality, but tolerating sin could come in the form of allowing a trouble maker to spread gossip in the church or teens in the youth group to remain unconfronted about their weekend keg parties.

Now, those are three definite reasons when a person should leave a church, but what about some possible reasons to leave a church? I have three to consider.

If a church tolerates factious teaching. By factious teaching I don't mean heretical teaching that denies essential biblical doctrine like the Deity of Christ or the authority of scripture. What I have in mind is teaching that is not necessarily erroneous, but may produce sharply divided opinions among Christians that could potentially create needless division among members of a church.

For instance: My college church had a large group of folks who were big fans of Bill Gothard and his youth conflict material. They attended his conference and promoted his material at our church. I never cared for the guy because I thought many of his principles were not supported biblically. His so-called "principles" were really a reflection of his personal preferences as to how he thought an issue should be dealt with.

There were a handful of Gothard fans at our church who embraced his material as being near infallible and taught a necessary, unyielding allegiance to following it to the very letter. Anyone, like myself, who questioned the soundness of Gothard's material at certain points was looked upon with derision by these "fans." People like me were thought of as being a spiritual dullard. The group was small, but vocal, and could stir up strife at times among the other members.

Thankfully, they were not too divisive, because they could be generally ignored, but I have heard tell of many other churches who had similar folks aligned to a particular teacher or program that caused the whole church non-ending grief. Certainly, there may be Christians who will have high opinions concerning a particular teacher who is orthodox, yet have some quirky notions with his teaching. However, if those Christians are taking what they are learning and creating a biblical imbalance concerning a certain point of theology that it causes a serious breach among the members of a church and the leadership doesn't address it, that could be a possible warning sign to think about leaving the church. A pastor should not let this kind of divisiveness go unanswered and its his duty to shepherd the various parties concerning the importance of unity regardless of preferential opinion over some point of theological application.

A change of convictions regarding a theological issue. Just so I am clear: A change of conviction regarding a theological issue does not mean a slide into apostasy. I know among the emergent types and the neo-Unitarian youth, the idea of questioning, or even out right rejecting, the full Deity of Jesus Christ is considered a "change" of conviction. It is a change of conviction alright, but it is defined in the Bible as unbelief and the denial of the truth. The rejection of the eternality of hell or the embracing of open theism is not the "change" I have in mind here.

What I mean is along the lines of a Presbyterian coming to realize the truthfulness of believer's baptism over infant baptism. Or perhaps a person seeing the problems with amillennial hermeneutics as opposed to premillennialism. Or, a Southern Baptist who, after an exhaustive study of scripture, embraces the doctrines of Grace. These sorts of shifts in one's theology may cause difficulty serving in your church, especially if the former theological point plays a significant role in defining the doctrine of the church, like infant baptism does for Presbyterianism.

A personal change in one's theology doesn't mean you can no longer have fellowship with those folks who may believe differently, but it does mean it may become hard to represent what the church officially believes. It can be particularly challenging if you are a place of leadership. Think about it. If you attend a church that teaches the sign gifts of tongues and prophecy are still active today, and after thorough personal study, you no longer hold that conviction, you are potentially causing confusion and disrespect to your pastors when you come to 1 Corinthians 12-14 in your Sunday school class and present a lesson disagreeing with their understanding of the passage.

The leadership enforce draconian-style rules. These are churches where the pastors shepherd with a heavy-hand insisting the members implement lists of rules to help govern their spiritual growth. The list of rules, however, really amount to being the personal preferences and opinions of the pastors as to how THEY believe members should behave themselves in their personal lives.

They may insist the female members wear dresses all the time and never cut their hair or style it in any way. Members may be told not to have a television in their home, or never to attend secular sporting events. Parents may be told they must homeschool their children, and that they have to use a specific curriculum published by a specific Christian college when they do.

If the members do not follow the rules to the letter, then they are either shamed by the pastor and the other members until they do, or in extreme cases, are dismissed from the church as members.

Now, the word "draconian" can be subjective. What one Christian may think is spiritually stifling leadership, another may believe is helpful for him. But, Christians must beware of governing their lives with long lists of do-and-don't rules that go beyond what scripture teaches. And they certainly must be alert to submitting themselves to a spiritual leadership who shepherd only according to rules built around personal preferences.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Happy Dead King Day

I was tooling around in our Wal-Mart a little bit ago and came upon a display of unique Reese's Cups. Rather than being your usual chocolate and peanut butter that has joined together to make one of the world's greatest treats, these were banana and peanut butter cups. They were wrapped in golden foil and the cups were a light yellow with a peanut butter center. On the bag was a picture of Elvis Presley's big head. The package said something about bananas and peanut butter was Elvis's favorite snack, and these commemorative candies were for a limited time only.

Curiosity overwhelmed me, so I grabbed a bag.

I was left wondering why there was a special Elvis Presley bag of Reese's Cups, but then it dawned on me: 2007 is the 30th anniversary of Elvis's demise on the toilet bowl. Wow, the day just sort of snuck up on me.

Yep, August 16th, 1977, Elvis succumbed to the 40 or so pain medications he was taking and that were binding him up, and he had a massive heart attack.

I never really got into Elvis. We were more Kenny Rogers people.

My mother saw Elvis at a county fair when she was a teenager. It was before he was really big and performed on the Ed Sullivan Show.

The mother-in-law of another friend of mind tells us she danced with Elvis at a high school dance he and his band were playing. In between the live band numbers, when the kids were listening to slow dance records, none of the girls would dance with Elvis. They all thought he was weird. My friend's mother-in-law felt sorry for him and spent all evening offering to dance with him.

I had even another acquaintance who attended my church in college whose major claim to fame was that he was working in the ER in Memphis the night they brought Elvis to the hospital. My acquaintance helped to revive him, but to no avail. I remember him saying to us, "Yep, he was definitely dead. I don't know how he could possibly 'fake' being dead."

Graceland is apparently having a big shin-dig all this week celebrating the 30th anniversary of Elvis's death. Celebrating the anniversary of his death? Click the link. There is a video clip of Elvis's ALOHA from Hawaii concert where he is singing in one of his signature white bespangled jumpsuits. That was pretty cool.

By the way, I busted open my Elvis memorial banana-peanut butter cups. Though the first one had a flavor a person may say is "different," after I ate two or three, they started to taste nasty. I brought my near full bag to work and passed them out to my co-workers. Of course, everyone had the same curiosity I did when I first saw the bag and each person had to "try" one. They all seemed to have the same reaction I did. Thankfully, there were enough co-workers to finish them off.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bob Larson's Delusions of Grandeur

I've never followed Bob Larson. I can remember when I was back in college I read two of his popular level books. One was on cults and the occult, sort of a watered down version of Walter Martin's Kingdom of the Cults, and another on the dangers of rock and roll music.

These days, more folks know him by his so-called deliverance ministry. He claims to be a bone-fide exorcist who takes on the powers of darkness. On videos and television shows, and on radio programs, he regularly casts out demons from people and heals them of their possession. I have always had my doubts about him casting out demons from people calling him on a radio program. I mean, once the demon "clued in" that someone was trying to cast him out, wouldn't he just hang up? Why stick around to be forcibly removed from your human home and sent to the waste land?

Anyhow, a couple of weeks ago or so, Bob was asked to be on a CNN Headline News program to offer his thoughts on exorcisms. I think it may have been in response to recent reports of exorcisms gone bad, in which the demoniac was physically abused by the folks attempting to exorcise the devil.

Well, unbeknownst to many of us here at Grace to You, our pastor, John MacArthur, was also asked to join the exorcist conversation. However, rather than providing fantastic reports of satanic possession and the like, John apparently spent a good deal of the interview rightly rebuking Bob for his unbiblical views of the spirit world, the devil, and exorcisms. He allegedly compared Bob's "ministry" to that of the seven sons of Sceva mentioned in Acts 19 who were traveling exorcists.

[ By the way, I have searched around the net looking for a transcript of the program and I have been unable to locate one. I am not even sure which Headline News show it was, so if any one knows and has a link to a transcript, pass it along in the comments and I will link it here.]

Bob has taken offense to John's corrective rebuke and wrote up a panicked newsletter (dated August 17, 2007) to his supporters basically accusing John of being in league with the satanic hordes of hellfire in order to launch a full scale attack against Bob Larson's ministry.

Now, this may come as no surprise to you, but such satanic attacks, particularly from other brothers in the Lord, like John, can bring financial difficulty to a ministry like Bob's, at least that is what he claims. As soon as people hear John's misinformed slander, they stop giving. What do you think can possibly be done to repel this unexpected attack from a so-called brother in the Lord and secure Bob Larson's financial ability to continue his ministry of inner healing and casting out devils? Why, you must stand with Bro. Bob financially by purchasing a 30-dollar DVD that was especially prepared to answer John's objections.

Thirty dollars?! For one DVD?! Good grief! Each one of my sets of the Lord of the Rings Extended Edition was just 20, and I got four disks with 25 plus hours of bonus material. I didn't know satanic attacks were so expensive.

But, if you are able, please, please, give more. There's even a box on the form that allows you to give up to 300-dollars!

It sounds like Bro. Bob is drawing a line in the sand.

Whose side will you take?

Bob and God's?


The filthy, foul forces of hellfire and John MacArthur's?

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Jet Packing

If you happen to be an eccentric billionaire (remember: rich people are eccentric, regular folks are weird) and you need a quick way to get across your castle compound or to the top of your skyscraper penthouse; or maybe you need a way to survey your island where you are developing human-animal hybrids, this may be something for you.


Coulter on WOTM Radio

I appreciate Ann Coulter's material for the most part, but I do believe she can be unnecessarily harsh toward her opposition. Her personality is often times getting in the way of the ideas she is putting forth and I believe that shackles her ability to communicate intellectually.

Keep in mind that Ann claims to be an evangelical Christian. Of course "evangelical" has a lot of baggage tied to as a word describing her spirituality. I mean, she wears the short, form fitting, low cut dresses with a gold cross necklace; but she makes a profession of Christian faith.

During all the interviews I have heard with her in the secular media both on the radio and seen on television, rarely, if ever, have I witnessed Ann become cowed by a nasty interviewer, or be at a loss of words with responding to a hostile detractor.

However, if you would like to hear Ann become awkwardly flummoxed, listen to Todd Friel graciously press her to share her testimony and then ask her to pretend to witness to him. The interview provides a rare insight to her "theology" if we can call it that. Especially when Todd kept asking her to explain WHY Jesus is the only way to heaven.

I hope she will go away from this interview contemplating her relationship with the Lord. It certainly will improve her writing.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

When NOT to Leave a Church

I wish to continue my discussion I began the other day addressing the question of, When should a person leave a church?

It is a question I am asked every once in a while by emailers or acquaintances. I believe it is an important question to consider especially for a sober-minded Christian who loves the Lord and His people. A committed Christian will want to be a part of a thriving, God-honoring congregation, and if he is part of a church that is not thriving, nor God-honoring, the question of when to leave and attend elsewhere needs to be considered.

Equally important is considering the question: When NOT to leave a church? If a person is seriously thinking of leaving his church, he should make sure it is for the right reasons. I appreciate Hayden's comments under my first post on this subject. Commitment to a local church should be as significant as being married. You have made a personal commitment to an individual to remain faithful to him or her regardless of trials. Why shouldn't we have the same perspective as to our commitment to our local churches? This church may have made a significant spiritual investment in you and now you are wishing to leave your "home" and go elsewhere? Not without sound reason.

I will take up the question of when NOT to leave a church with this post, and discuss the question of leaving in the next. Again, my thoughts are by no means infallible, nor are they exhaustive. I will offer five points. I am sure they could be improved upon.

- You don't leave a church because of the music. In other words, if the music is old fashioned, or boring, or not contemporary enough, or too contemporary, and not old fashioned enough. My words here may rub some readers wrong because I know there are some passionate opinions about music and music styles in worship, but entertaining a preference disagreement with the music style is not good grounds to abandon a church. If the music compliments the service well and the songs are biblically sound and honor God, a person should look past the occasional singing of a contemporary version of And Can it Be? with drums and an electric guitar.

- You don't leave a church because you think the preaching is boring or doesn't meet your needs. The concept of boring preaching is subjective. Even the best preachers can be boring sometimes, but even that doesn't mean the pastor is a bad preacher. There is a big difference between boring and bad. Boring may have to do with ability, where as bad impacts ones doctrine and theology. Boring will receive constructive criticism.

- You don't leave a church because of petty, interpersonal disagreements with other members. Sadly, this happens a lot, however, if you happen to feel offended because the pastor dismisses your ideas about the youth night activities, or your wife's idea for songs for the Easter sunrise service, that is not grounds to leave your church.

- You don't leave a church when the old pastor leaves and the new one arrives. Inevitably, people will leave when a church transitions with a new pastor. Everyone just loved the old pastor, and in their minds, no one can ever replace him. But, I believe it honors the work of his former ministry when the people he pastored for so long are accepting toward the new pastor with grace, love, humility and submission.

- You don't leave a church if it is too small or doesn't have "big" ministries to kids, teens, or adults. Activities and programs can supplement the life of a church, but they shouldn't be the focus of why a person attends a church. Also, people have a tendency to perceive a small church as having something wrong with it. "If it were good, more people would come" or so goes the idea. But there may be nothing wrong at all with this small church and "smallness" has its advantages, such as a closer knit group of members and more opportunities for personal service.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Playing Church

Over the years I have had many friends and acquaintances ask my opinion as to when it is appropriate to leave a church. They will also ask me to lay out the criteria for finding a new church, and inevitably they ask if I could personally recommend one in their area.

I am guessing that because I attend a high-profile, well-known church, people confidently value my thoughts on the matter of church life. I get a bit nervous, however, when I am asked about recommending a church because in spite of the fact I attend a good church, in the grand scheme of things, I have a limited perspective of my inquirer's situation.

I live in California, not Oklahoma, for example, where the person asking may live. Additionally, the recommendations I usually come across are contacts from our yearly Shepherd's Conference, but a couple of nice pastors representing their home churches in Illinois don't necessarily provide an accurate reflection of the overall church dynamic where they pastor. A little bit of visiting and observing may be in order before a person can make a sound decision as to whether or not the church is a place where he or she will want to serve.

A good illustration of what I mean was a friend I knew about 7 years ago who wanted to move from the big city, expensive life here in L.A., to a more rural, slow, and certainly a much cheaper lifestyle expense-wise. So, after much research as to where to live, he sold his house in the San Fernando Valley and moved to southern Missouri. He was told by some friends of a church like-minded to the convictions he held and he began to regularly attend their services. However, over a brief period of time, he began to notice the fellowship he experienced was not the same and what he was told was expositional teaching wasn't really expositional at all.

I am sure there were personal quirks that unnecessarily got in the way of him enjoying his new church, but never the less, he fell out of sorts with the pastor and tried another church in the area. It didn't prove any better for him. But after a year of living in Missouri, and in God's providence, after a series of severe health problems my friend moved back to L.A. and in the course of time succumbed to his illness. My exhortations to him as he struggled to find a good church helped me to sharpen my view point about churches and church life.

What I want to do over the course of a handful of post is share my personal observations and thoughts so as to explore the questions of when a person should leave a church and what should he look for in a new one. My ideas are by no means infallible and certainly could be improved upon, and perhaps have been improved upon else where.

To begin, I think there are some key questions needing to be considered.

One of the first questions is, Will leaving your church solve your problem? I plan to go into more detail as to the wrong and right reasons to leave a church in the next post, but for the moment, I believe anyone contemplating the departure from the membership of a church needs to ponder this question as to why he is leaving and will it help his spiritual situation?

Will leaving your church place undo division upon important friendships? It could be that this church is where the person thinking about leaving was saved and spent many years growing in the Lord. To leave in a spirit of bitterness or self-righteousness (which can be the case with many individuals) shows disrespect and dishonor to those individuals who poured a lot into your life. Is the person giving up on his church home and friends for no good reason? Now, it could very well be there is sound justification for a division that will separate good friends. However, whatever that justification may be needs to be weighed carefully in light of our call to love one another.

Do you have another church to attend? I have spoken with many folks over the years who became unsatisfied with their church for one reason or the other and hastily left. When they began to look for another congregation to join, there weren't any that met the criteria of a "good" church. Granted, what constitutes a "good" or "bad" church is many times relative to the opinions of the people leaving. However, let us say for a moment they have legitimate concerns with their church. When they leave it, is there another one available to join? I have learned from many conversations with people that usually there isn't one. They merely trade one problematic church for another.

I have also seen this happen to people who move to a new location for a job. They leave an excellent church to get a higher paying job only to discover in their new location none exist. One of the major spiritual life lessons I learned was from a deacon in my current church who was offered a rather high paying promotion that would require he and his family to move. Before he even accepted the offer, he scouted out the new city where he would be living if he took the job and found that there were no like-minded churches where he and his family could serve. He turned downed the job just so he could stay at a church he knew was solid. That certainly cuts against the mind-set of our world today.

With these three basic questions simmering in our minds, the next post on this subject will take up the question of What are the WRONG reasons to leave a church?


Friday, August 03, 2007

More on the Islamic Creationist

The Christian Science Monitor -- which, by the way, is neither "Christian" nor "Science" -- has a longer article about the Islamic anti-evolutionist evangelist, Adnan Oktar, whom I mentioned in an article a couple of weeks ago.

Three thoughts struck me after reading it.

1) The article paints this "apologist" as something of an amateur hack, an image the media tends to portray of anyone who is a creationist of any sort. But, with the manner Oktar promotes himself, I am reminded of a Muslim version of Kent Hovind.

2) Despite his arguments against biological evolution, Oktar still embraces geological and cosmological evolution and the idea of millions of years. This is a typical position held be even Christians who choose to "compromise" with modern day "scientific" acceptance of a 4 billion year-old earth and a 15 billion year old universe. Oktar demonstrates the typical disconnect between biological evolution and geological evolution and seems to be utterly unaware of the fact that in evolutionary theory, biological evolution is dependent upon geological evolution.

By the way, Terry Mortenson has written an excellent article documenting evangelical age-of-the-earth compromises and why it is important to reject these compromises.

3) The author of the article seems to take great delight in pointing out that Americans have a lower acceptance of evolutionary dogma as folks in Turkey. The author writes,

When Science magazine conducted a survey of 34 countries last August, Turkey had the second-lowest acceptance rate of the theory of evolution (the United States had the lowest).

Re-translated: out of all those 34 countries, Americans are an embarrassing group of morons, even more so that those 3rd world yahoos in Turkey.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Billy Graham Talking Cow

Back in January of this year I blogged about the new Billy Graham Memorial Barn.

If a person visits the barn, what is really the official Billy Graham library, he or she is suppose to be greeted by a mechanical talking cow.

When I heard about the cow, I for some reason envisioned a jerky, robotic bovine that resembles a Chucky Cheese character. Well, today I was talking about the cow with a co-worker and we did a google search and found a video of it.

I was pleasantly surprised by how good the cow looked, as in how realistic it looked. I was a bit stunned to hear the cow speak, because it spoke with the voice of a deep southern black woman. It was as if they got Dellah Reese to voice the cow. I was even more stunned to hear the cow exclaim how Billy had cold hands when he came to milk her.

Anyhow, here's the video:

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Visiting Yosemite

My family and I were suppose to visit Arizona for a week to see some friends and visit the Grand Canyon, but an unforeseen automobile repair forced us to squash those plans. Instead, we made our way up to Yosemite National Park. I was glad, because Yosemite is just a four hour drive as opposed to a 6 to 7 hour drive I would have had to make going to Arizona.

Yosemite is east of Fresno, and once you get to Fresno and begin the drive on HWY 41 to the park, the scenery turns from flat farm land, to rolling hills, to eventually mountains and big trees.

My wife had secured for us a suite at a lodge about 6 miles from the north entrance to the park. There were a couple of bummers to deal with once we arrived. First was the crowd of people, which is to be expected I guess. People were swarming all over the place. We were surprised that many of the visitors were Europeans. There were lots of folks from France, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

Then second was the restaurant - the only one for miles - where not only do they gouge you with the price, but it was where the entire lodge choose to dine at the same time. Thankfully we arrived early enough to be seated immediately, but as the press of people kept arriving, the kitchen was slow in getting our food to us. Our meal didn't arrive until nearly an hour after we had ordered it, and by that time our children had melted down into insanity. My wife had to take they youngest outside to entertain him, and as we continued to wait, we decided to take our meal back to our room. Our waiter was annoyed with our decision to leave after he brought our food, but I figured removing our fidgeting kids would better serve the other patrons. The hostess lady who was sitting people was more than happy to accommodate us.

However, these were minor hurdles we encountered. The next day we journeyed into Yosemite and it was spectacular. Upon driving into the valley floor, you come face-to-face with El Capitan, a sheer mountain of granite shooting straight up for 3000 feet. The picture above hardly does any justice to the enormity of this mountain. It is one of the most sought after mountains for rock climbers around the world. If a person looks closely, you can see groups of climbers slowly scaling the face.

As we continued into the valley, we were all impressed with how well the roads were maintained and how easy it was for a person to drive around. When we arrived at a parking lot, we had access to a nice bus system that operated everywhere in the park for free. We paid for a tram tour that took us all through out the major portions of the park. The only draw back about the tour was the opened cars we had to ride in. When we weren't traveling through the forest, we were exposed to the sun. The youngest one is the most fair, and of course he fell asleep almost as soon as we sat down to go on the tour. So, most of my ride was attempting to adjust his body and head and hat to keep him as much out of the sun as I could. It is amazing how a sleeping 20 month old can gain 100 pounds.

We were told to be alert to the presence of bears. They are known to tear apart a mini-van to get to a lone Cheerio dropped in a child's car seat. Toward the end of our tour, our driver pointed out a bear walking through the woods away from a camping area. It was the first wild bear I had ever seen. The picture has that fuzzy Sasquatch look to it, but you certainly can make out a bear.

The next day we drove through Yosemite Valley and down to the south gate to see the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. I have seen a smaller group of Sequoias in the park south of Yosemite, but this is one of the largest groves of giant Sequoias anywhere on the earth. These trees are absolutely amazing. Some of them are thousands of years old. We were told how scientists are baffled by how they are so resilient and impervious to decay, even after they "die." For example, one dead Sequoia is called The Fallen Monarch. It fell hundreds of years ago, but the body of the tree remains intact to this day. There are black and white pictures of Union soldiers and prospectors standing on it and we drove by the tree as it was then, except for the paved road.

The trees contain a blood red sap. One tree has been cut through and as you stand inside the cut the blood colored sap oozes along the walls. Another interesting fact about these trees is how they have a need to experience fires. Fires are necessary for the health of the trees and are now intentionally set by the Forest Service.

My theory on these grand giants: They are antediluvian survivors of the flood whose seeds found root in this area and they have been growing ever since. Perhaps they are a unique remnant connecting us today to our pre-flood world.

The only draw back with our visit to the Sequoias was the tram ride we took to see the grove. It was one of the most uncomfortable rides I had ever taken. Not only were the plastic seats terrible to sit on, but the road we traveled was so rough we were bounced with horrible violence. My back is still hurting. During one of our stops, the fellow and his daughter sitting next to me chose to hike the mile or so back to the entrance rather than suffer any longer with this back killing tram. I was worn out with soreness when we got back because of having to steady myself and prevent my kids from being flipped out into the woods.

It was late in the afternoon when we finished seeing the Sequoias and I was ready to start heading back home. My desire at the time was to drive the 4 hours back to Santa Clarita that evening. However, after a long day running through the woods and driving through the mountains, we were tired. I was happy my mother offered to get us a room at a hotel in Fresno. I don't believe I have ever enjoyed so much staying at The Hampton Inn.

Just a word of exhortation. I certainly would encourage readers to consider visiting Yosemite. Especially if you live with in a day's driving distance. It is extremely family-friendly, and well maintained and organized by the National Park Service. In a way, I am sort of ashamed I have been living in California for as long as I have and have not made a trip there before this one. We certainly plan to go back, particularly in the springtime when the waterfalls are flowing at full capacity.

If you have the opportunity, check it out.