Monthly Archives: May 2008

It Is Time To Pray for One Who Needs Prayer

As I’m sure most people have heard, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) has been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. I first heard the news on Fox News. If you are not aware of the details, you can read an article here.

Now, so there is no confusion, let me state this succinctly and unequivocally: I am not a fan of Ted Kennedy. I do not agree with his politics, I do not approve of the way his family made its fortune, I do not agree with his political tactics, and I do not like him. I believe there is an attitude of entitlement and the-rules-don’t-apply-to-me mentality exuded by the Senator. To see an accounting of his life, look here.

My personal feelings, however, are not the issue. Scripture, as always, is the issue.

In I Timothy 2, the Apostle Paul writes:

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Paul is telling us we have to pray for our leaders. Praying for our leaders is not optional and we are not to pray only for the leaders we agree with or our “favorite” leaders.

But, here’s the hard thing–think of the broader context of when Paul was writing. Who were the “kings” and “those in high positions” Paul was writing about?

  • Pagan Roman Emperors who persecuted and killed Christians.
  • Pagan local “kings” who were, most likely, hostile to Christianity

How are we supposed to pray for these people? We are supposed to intercede for them; we are supposed to ask God for things for them; and we are supposed to thank God for them.

I know there are some cold-hearted conservatives who are singing songs similar to “Hi ho the witch is dead.” And, no doubt, the celebrations will continue long after the Senator’s eulogy is given and his headstone erected. It is a sin for a Christian to do this and, as Christians, we must not be this way!

In the first place, if it were not for God’s unimaginable and unfathomable grace, we might find ourselves in the very same situation as Senator Kennedy. None of us is perfect and we all deserve to die gruesome horrible deaths because of our sinfulness. It is only because of God’s grace that we, even we redeemed, regenerate Christians, are not already dead.

Secondly, Senator Kennedy is a person made in the Image of God. As such, whether we like him or not, we must pray for him. He is an image bearer and deserves to be treated and prayed for as such.

Third, Christians are supposed to embody the “Golden Rule” which says, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets…” (Matthew 7:12). I’m fairly certain that any Christian with this type of medical ailment and the not-so-optimistic prognosis would want people praying for them, not singing joyously of our demise.

Finally, as we see in Scripture, we must be people that pray for our leaders, whether we like them or not. Paul likely prayed for the very Emperor who signed his execution order. We must do the same thing. Notice one of Paul’s concerns in praying for the Kings of his day was salvation. It is almost as if Paul is saying, “Pray for the Roman Emperor for even through your prayers, the Emperor might come to Christ.”

Knowing about Senator Kennedy’s life and history, it is difficult to see the fruit of a regenerate life–but only God knows his spiritual condition. As Christians, we must pray that Senator Kennedy will be brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and show the fruit of a life lived in repentance and faith. As Christians, we also must pray for his physical health and well-being and for his healing.

Don’t let your praying stop with Senator Kennedy–pray for all elected officials, both national and local, even if they are not your favorite people and even if you don’t agree with their political views.

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Lookin’ For [Joy] In All The Wrong Places

Lookin’ for Love in All the Wrong Places was a popular country song back in the 1980’s (yes, when I was in grade-school, I was an avid country music fanatic and I’ve got the Alabama albums to prove it!). This song still strikes a nerve in me today because people still do this! People seek what they think of as love in so many wrong and God-less places. For un-regenerate, worldly people to act this way should not be surprising. However, Christians do the same thing, and that is surprising (to some extent) and it is also very sad. What is even more sad, perhaps, is that today, some Christians seem to spend their entire lives looking for Joy in all the wrong places.

Whether it is the recapturing the joys of when we are first saved or looking for a “hit” of joy, many Christians are simply seeking after the wrong thing…or, at least, they are seeking it in all the wrong places.

Addicted to Feelings

Many new believers have unrealistic expectations about their faith. Namely, they expect the “feeling” of joy to last unabated. You remember when you came to Christ or had a fresh “mountain-top” experience, don’t you? We’ve all had those joyous experiences that made us feel like spiritual super-men (or women). The feeling is quite a rush–so much so we feel as if we could walk from New York to England or cast Satan into the pit ourselves. This feeling of joy can become quite addictive, and it is quite dangerous–it can become our idol.

Unrealistic Expectations

It is unrealistic to expect this particular feeling to last. When you look through the Bible you see almost every major person, from Moses to Peter to Paul and even Jesus Himself dealing with what I will call “dark” times. Being in a dark time does not imply being in sin (although that is possible), but dark times refers to times when you feel God is distant.

Did you notice I used the word “feel?” Feelings are the problem–feelings can deceive you and you can become addicted.

In Search Of Experience

In one of my favorite movies, Star Wars, Obi-wan Kenobi tells young Luke Skywalker: “Your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them…stretch out with your feelings.” Unfortunately many Christians today live life this way–they look for that which will help in the boosting of their feelings.

This is one reason I think there is growth in the so-called charismatic denominations. Many charismatics consider the experience of speaking in tongues as the mark of the Holy Spirit (now, that is quite un-biblical and a topic for another time). For these charismatics, faith is confirmed experientially and emotionally, not rationally or scripturally. A large amount of credence is given to the subjective personal experience with the Holy Spirit as seen in tongue-speaking or some other “visible” gift of the Spirit. Sadly, what is lost in the feeling-driven culture is the objective truth of scripture. It is as if the objective Bible is interpreted through subjective experience. This paradigm is backwards because joy is measured by experience.

So, the result of the backward paradigm is that people search for experience after experience as a drug-addict searches for his or her next “high.” No emphasis is placed on the truth of scripture and all emphasis is on what you experience. So, the result joy-addicted druggies looking for their next fix.

What makes this problem worse is the experience-driven culture we live in. The next time you have a chance to really listen to a conversation, see how many times the conversation is actually a superficial conversation filled with nothing more than experience-swapping. Experience one-ups-man-ship is the mark of a superficial conversation between people only interested in themselves, not the other person.

On the other hand, some people choose to live vicariously (yet superficially) through other people’s experience (just look at the popularity of the celebrity-news shows and the paparazzi).

Experience-seeking Christians tend to to act in a way that suggests they believe “The Bible can deceive you, don’t trust it…stretch out with your feelings.” Experience drives our world but placing your faith in experience is fatal to your Christian life because it robs you of true joy.

Putting your Eggs in the Right Basket

Rather than put your faith in the fleeting “joy” of subjective, personal experience, place your faith in the truth of Scripture.

(1) Evaluate your experience through the truth of Scripture; Do not evaluate the truth of Scripture through your experience.

Many of us fight this. We have dark times. I’ve heard of someone thinking that God didn’t love them anymore because they had not had that emotional “feeling” that God loved them in quite some time.

For a true Christian, a feeling is not the proof of God’s love. A crucified and risen Savior is. If you read your experience through the light of Scripture you can easily come to the conclusion that God loves you precisely because He died for you. His death was a demonstration of His love for His people (see Romans 5:8). Since He publicly demonstrated His love for His elect, there is no need to doubt His love, even in the darkest of dark times.

Look at Job. God caused amazing pain in Job’s life. Did God not love Job? Of course God loved Job and that is demonstrated in the last few chapters of the book (ch 38-end) when God gives Job an unparalleled vision of Himself, His Majesty, and His power. In the darkest of times for Job, God was at work to reveal Himself. In our darkest of times, God is still there and is working to make us what we should be. Actually, the dark times, we can assume, are the times God is demonstrating His love the most. If He didn’t love us he wouldn’t discipline us in cases where we bring the darkness on ourselves through sin (See Hebrews 12:6) and He wouldn’t care to make us more Christlike–even through suffering.

(2) Work diligently to know the scriptures so that you can “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

We usually leave one of these things out, don’t we? Or, we place too much emphasis on one part…like “Heart.” Humans are emotional beings and those emotions are not necessarily bad. However, emotions can control us. Here is an example (and it isn’t a perfect one). Many children think that monsters live under their beds. Why? Because the world, for the most part, is still very new to them and they have not learned to fully separate reality from fantasy. Consequently, a child can have fantasies that a monster lives under the bed and this can scare the tar out of them.

As the child grows, however, the separation between fact and fiction grows and the child learns, objectively, that monsters do not live under the bed. So, while their emotions may still get a jolt at hearing a noise under the bed, the brain tells the emotions that there are no monsters under the bed and the emotions are quieted.

In the same way, Christians must so educate their minds with the truths of Scripture that we can evaluate everything through the lens of Scripture. So, when we are having an emotional response, we can evaluate that response, according to Scripture, to see if that response is, in fact, legitimate. If it isn’t the brain can step-in and control the emotions. Also, if you witness something that should cause an emotional response and, for some reason, doesn’t, you can evaluate the situation, again–according to Scripture, and respond with the proper emotional response.

So we can seek to always have a proper and biblically balanced response, the brain must control the emotions; the emotions must not control the brain.

(3) Seek your joy in God Himself, not the things He offers.

This is a tough one for us. John Piper nailed me with this one. It is easy to get lost in longing after the things that God provides–Eternal Life, freedom from sin, etc.–and loose sight of the Giver of the gift. Ask yourself this question, “If I get to heaven and Jesus isn’t there, would it still be heaven?” If you think heaven will be heaven without Christ, you are sorely mistaken. Heaven will still be heaven with Christ and nothing else. He is the ultimate Gift and, therefore, He must be our ultimate treasure. The things He gives to us are just icing on the cake.

Unfortunately, many of the so-called “health and wealth” preachers of today who want you to have your best life now preach and teach in such a way that makes people think that God exists to give us big-ticket items like 5,000 square-foot houses, expensive BMW’s, large plasma-screen TVs, and real-fast power boats. Nothing could be further from the truth. God exists for His own glory, not our creature-comforts.

(4) Seek your Joy in God Himself through the truth of the Scripture.

If you want to know what God is really like, you must read and know the Scriptures. Only then will your concept of God be correct. Also, we are not to pick and choose what like about God–God, as revealed in the Bible, is an all-or-nothing God.

I once had a friend who professed to be a Christian but said she didn’t think God would send anyone to hell. From reading the Bible, it is clear that people do go to hell and it is God who sends them there. It is simply not biblical to separate God’s attributes and pit them against one another or to remove a clear teaching of Scripture because it happens to offend our wrong, subjective, and experientially-based sensibilities.


Finally, take special care not to seek emotional highs as an addict seeks a fix. This practice leads to cheap, superficial faith and cheap, superficial churches devoid of true joy.

Rather than seek quick hits of so-called joy in our fleeting experiences, allow my dad, who is heavily influenced by John MacArthur, to suggest the way we should view joy:

True biblical joy is the deep and abiding confidence that my God is sovereign and that regardless of whatever circumstance I find myself in, He will cause everything to work to my ultimate good and to His glory.

The world we live in is a sad world–a world of despair, depression, lack of fulfillment, and dissatifaction. Man defines happiness as an attitude of satisfaction and delight based upon present circumstances–he relates happiness to happenings or happenstance.

Joy is something that cannot be planned or programmed.

Biblical joy consists of the deep and abiding confidence that I live this earthly life under the protection of a loving and sovereign God. Because of God’s sovereign care, I can rest in absolute confidence that God will, regardless of circumstances or difficulty, work all things together for His glory and my good as I remain obedient to His calling.

Biblical Joy is very different from worldly happiness. Biblical joy is always related to God and belongs only to those in Christ. It is the permanent possession of every believer–not a whimsical delight that comes and goes as chance offers it opportunity.

Perhaps you can conceptualize this concept this way: Joy is the flag that flies on the castle of the heart when the King is in residence. Only Christians can know true and lasting joy. A Christian’s joy is a gift from God. Joy is produced in the Christian by the Holy Spirit as the word is received and obeyed. A Christian’s joy is mixed with trials and it is rooted in God’s sovereign providence and a hope set on future glory.

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The California Supreme Court and our Diet of Worms

In early 1521, a Catholic monk named Martin Luther stood in very deep trouble before the Catholic church. At the direction of the Emperor, Charles V, a council was convened at the town of Worms (pronounced “Vorms”) and Luther was called to answer for his crime of running afoul of the teaching of the Catholic church and Pope Leo X. When Luther’s writings were called into question and he was ordered to recant, he replied:

“Since your Imperial Majesty and Lordships demand a simple answer I will do so without horns or teeth as follows: Unless I am convicted by the testimony of Scripture or by evident reason – for I trust neither in popes nor in councils alone, since it is obvious that they have often erred and contradicted themselves – I am convicted by the Scripture which I have mentioned and my conscience is captive by the Word of God. Therefore I cannot and will not recant, since it is difficult, unprofitable and dangerous indeed to do anything against one’s conscience. God help me. Amen.” (source)

That day was an historic day because it helped to firmly cement the protestant reformation.

Today is an historic day too. Today the California Supreme court legalized marriage between gay and lesbian couples. I have not read the entirety of the 172-page decision (read it here), but the decision does have clear and destructive implications for our country and our calling as preachers of the gospel.

Eight years ago, in 2000, a majority of 61% of California voters voted to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. Today, that law was overturned. The language of the California Supreme Court is especially troubling. They wrote:

“In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation, and, more generally, that an individual’s sexual orientation — like a person’s race or gender — does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.” (source)

The troubling thing about this decision is that it equates homosexuality with race and gender. This firmly entrances sexual orientation in the same league as gender and race–constitutionally protected classes.

While watching The Fox News Channel, I heard their chief judicial analyst, Andrew Napolitano, say that this decision said that “marriage is a natural right, like thinking.” Napolitano also suggested that this was an absolute right so much so that if a pastor, on grounds of conscience or conviction, refused to marry a same-sex couple you could be charged and found guilty of discrimination against a constitutionally protected class of citizens.

This means that as a pastor who believes homosexuality to be a sin, you could be compelled to perform these gay marriages under penalty of civil lawsuit or criminal charges. I know, the scoffers are saying, “Certainly not!.” In response, I draw your attention to a recent lawsuit in New Mexico in which a photographer refused to take pictures of a same-sex civil union ceremony, because of religious conviction, and was sued for discrimination and lost! Read an article (here).

Let’s examine this. The photographer is a private citizen with a privately-owned business. Because of religious conviction, she refused to photograph a civil-union ceremony. As a private citizen with a privately-owned business she is entitled to enter into contract with anyone and she is entitled to not enter into contract with anyone. The state didn’t see it that way, however. The state tried to categorize her business (again, photography) as a public business to which anyone is entitled–like a public restaurant or a public store. So, she was ordered to pay $6,637 in damages (court costs and attorney’s fees, etc.).

So, if the photographer had said she couldn’t or wouldn’t photograph the ceremony because she had another engagement or was out of film or batteries for her camera, that would have been OK. But, because she voiced her religious views, she was hit with a lawsuit and eventually lost a large sum of money. Why did she lose? Because of her religious views, it is that simple. She was sued and punished for expressing and living by her religious convictions. (Read a good blog post about this here)

Back to California. Pastors could be forced to perform same-sex marriages or be punished (and criminally so) for not performing a same-sex marriage. This is further evidence of a growing anti-religious (and specifically anti-Christian) sentiment in California and the rest of the country. But in reality, this has never been about “equal rights.” Why? Because California already had perhaps the most marriage-like domestic partner law in the nation (see here). About the only thing missing was the title “marriage.” Now that title is applied. And the reaction of people shows that this was about legitimacy, not equality.

The Dallas News reported the following scenes: (source)

  • “Essentially, this boils down to love. We love each other. We now have equal rights under the law,” declared a jubilant Robin Tyler, a plaintiff in the case along with her partner.
  • In the Castro, long the center of the gay community in San Francisco, Tim Oviatt wept as he watched the news on TV. “I’ve been waiting for this all my life. This is a life-affirming moment,” he said.
  • “It’s about human dignity. It’s about human rights. It’s about time in California,” San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, pumping his fist in the air, told a roaring crowd at City Hall. “As California goes, so goes the rest of the nation. It’s inevitable. This door’s wide open now. It’s going to happen, whether you like it or not.” (emphasis mine)

Apparently, it is about legitimacy, not equality because equality was already there in all but name. It cannot be about love because same-sex couples were not prohibited from expressing love to one another in their own houses and they were not prohibited from “coming out” to anyone. Seeking life-affirmation in a court decision to tell you that your choice of lifestyle is OK is nothing more than seeking legitimacy to quiet the conscience. If it was only about life-affirmation, homosexuals would not feel the need to fight their battles in the courts and they would not be militant against those who suggest they are wrong. It cannot be about human dignity, for humanity cannot be defined by marriage. If it were about human dignity, single people would be, by definition, excluded–since marriage is now seen as an inalienable right. Human dignity is not related to marital status.

Now, there is much to consider–and this is very important in dealing with faith, freedom, and a free public square.

The right for anyone to freely practice their faith in the public square is now greatly threatened. When you consider the New Mexico lawsuit and the California ruling equating sexual orientation with race and gender a very frightening picture emerges.

Consider, for a moment, the percentage of the American population that is gay. The website claims that 1.16% of the American population is gay (source). Even if their numbers are wrong (and I intentionally used a “gay” source for these numbers) and the actual percentage is around 10%, gay and lesbian persons are still in the vast minority.

One of the so-called pillars of democracy is the concept of majority rule with minority rights (see here). Even former president Bill Clinton in his ill-fated interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday suggested the exact same thing (transcript here). Clinton said:

Democracy is about way more than majority rule. Democracy is about minority rights, individual rights, restraints on power. And there’s more than one way to advance democracy.

In the instance of gay marriage this principle is turned upside-down. Note again San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s words: “As California goes, so goes the rest of the nation. It’s inevitable. This door’s wide open now. It’s going to happen, whether you like it or not.” And, let’s remember–in 2000 61% of California voters voted to define marriage as between one man and one woman. So it isn’t about human dignity, or voter’s rights, or the will of the people, is it, Mr. Newsom?

Of course it isn’t. The homosexual people of California already had been given their “minority rights” by the domestic-partner law signed into law by former Governor Gray Davis. This is quite simply the pushing of an agenda, pure and simple. And, it is an agenda absolutely intolerant of any dissenting point of view.

This is not about democracy or equality. If a vast minority can work in such a way to effectively limit or prevent the free speech of another group, like religious persons who do not and cannot agree with same-sex marriages on the ground of their religious convictions, it is nothing more than the tyranny of the minority.

Many people today like to affirm the validity of all view points (liberals especially). They say every viewpoint is true because truth is not objective (not related to an outside standard). So what is true for you and what is true for me are both true, regardless if the two viewpoints are diametrically opposed to each other. So for the homosexual to view gay marriage as a good and acceptable thing and for an evangelical Christian to view gay marriage as an abhorrent practice are both true. Of course this is absolutely silly. Two plus two cannot simultaneously be four and five.

The evangelical Christian appeals to the outside objective standard of the truth–the Bible. The homosexual appeals to the subjective truth of their own experience. Both cannot be right. Because of the nature of subject experience, the liberal, post-modern homosexual thinker must affirm the validity of every viewpoint, even the evangelical position calling his or her position evil.

So, here we have a situation which is quite Orwellian. In Orwell’s Animal Farm we find that a certain class of animals, the pigs, taking over the farm. They insist all animals are equal, but some animals, namely themselves, are more equal than others (which of course is in-equality).

Today, the adherents to the radical homosexual agenda are not content with equality, they are after legitimacy and, because of their status as a vast minority by every estimation, their willingness to seek lawsuits against persons who disagree with them, and because of their absolute intolerance of other opinions on the matter of homosexual marriage, it is clear they are saying, “All viewpoints are equal, but ours is more equal than yours.”

The radical homosexual agenda is not about equal rights because it clearly includes the destruction or silencing of all dissenters. In other words, there is no room for equality for people who don’t share their position. If it were about equality, homosexuals would be happy having their rights to marriage or domestic partnerships and, at the same time, affirm the rights of others to disagree. But, that is clearly not the case. Anyone refusing to agree with homosexual marriage or unions is punished (just ask the New Mexico photographer).

So as evangelical Christians we will soon meet our own Diet of Worms. We will be called upon or compelled to do things that violate the Scripture and our Scripture-based conscience. We will soon see who the real Christians are. I pray that we (especially myself) will be able to point to the Bible and the God of the Bible and say with Luther, “Here, I stand. I can do nothing else. God help me. Amen.” May He help us indeed.

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“The Manifesto,” as seen by Dr. Mohler

Dr. Mohler wrote a very good response both praising and criticizing the evangelical manifesto. I think Mohler’s insight is priceless and is very worthy of consideration. Read his blog, entitled: An Evangelical Response to “An Evangelical Manifesto” here.

In the end, Dr. Mohler concludes the Manifesto is too thin in its theological matters and too much concerned with public relations. However, he sees some of the Manifesto’s points the same way I do (big surprise there!). On these points (like political action replacing the gospel) the Manifesto is quite good. But, there are, as Mohler points out, troubling lapses too.

I certainly recommend Mohler’s critique.


The Archangel

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What Is THE Need of the American Church?

I found a wonderful post on Justin Taylor’s blog. His post (seen here) compiles several responses from modern-day evangelical scholars on this question: What Is the Most Crying Need of the Church in America Today?

The answers are certainly thoughtful and thought-provoking. This is a good post to read (as well as his entire blog) and it bears our consideration and deliberation. I hope you enjoy Justin’s post as much as I did.

Many Blessings,

The Archangel

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Evangelicals, Politics, and “The Manifesto”

On May 7, 2008, a group of evangelicals issued an Evangelical Manifesto. Now, I have not had the opportunity to completely digest the manifesto–it is a 20-page PDF document that I will need to print it, devour it (using pencils and making notes), and then digest it. A recent article on the Associated Baptist Press site gives some clues to the Manifesto and its general points. Here are some excerpts from the ABP article:

The Associated Press, which attained a draft of the statement in advance of the announcement, reported May 2 that the manifesto is “starkly self-critical” of the evangelical movement for focusing on secular politics to the detriment of the gospel proclamation that is at the core of evangelicalism.

It criticizes evangelicals at both ends of the political spectrum for getting so heavily involved in fighting over culture-war issues — such as abortion rights and gay rights — that they have earned evangelicals the reputation of being little more than a political special-interest group. The document is clearly aimed at the most politically active evangelical conservatives, however.

This is an issue I have been interested in for quite some time. I have been worried about such issues clouding the Gospel and slowing the work of the church.

First, some background: Theological Liberals went off the deep-end into the so-called “social gospel.” The social gospel seeks to correct social injustices like racism, economic inequalities, and all types of oppression. Unfortunately (and un-biblicaly), there is no “Gospel” in the social gospel. So, to correct the evil of racism, for example, is a worthy pursuit, but it is not salvific; it is not the gospel.

Is racism, for example, evil? Yes. Should we all work to end racism? Absolutely! Racism, however, is not the problem–it is a symptom of the problem and that problem is Sin.

As the ABP article points out, evangelicals have long been involved in fighting the so-called “culture war” over issues such as abortion and gay rights. While it is easy to see the ABP article is not particularly friendly to the conservative evangelicals, it does present an interesting perception of politically-active evangelicals. And, I’m sorry to say, I think their perception is right.

There are persons and groups in the evangelical community who have been called by God, I believe, to engage the culture, understand the “war,” and call the rest of us (Christians) to action. Men like James Dobson come to mind. His passion is the family and his work has been exemplary. But Dobson’s work, as necessary and as important as it is, is not the mission of the Church. The Church is called to “Make Disciples,” not save the culture.

Conservative evangelicals are, perhaps, standing on the precipice leading to the slippery slope of theological liberalism and, I’m afraid, some of us are inching ever closer.

Now, I do not think conservative evangelicals will reject the virgin birth of Christ or miracles or a historical Moses. But, conservative evangelicals do run the risk of having the wonderful truths of God and neglecting the Gospel. This will lead us to see political action as the true gospel, which is, of course, actually a false gospel.

There are many “dangers, toils, and snares” in this issue. First, political action, even if it leads to laws against sinful behavior, does not deal with the main problem of sin. In this sense political action is absolutely superficial because it does not deal with the root-cause of the problem–Sin. As we know, a law does not, in any way, guarantee acceptance or adherence–just look at the speed limit or so-called gun control laws.

But, even if passing a law guaranteed adherence, what good would that do? Do we believe in a works salvation? Certainly not! Even if you outlaw a sinful behavior and actually get sinners to stop doing the behavior, it gains us, and more importantly them, nothing, for it does not deal with their heart issue–the issue of their sin nature.

Political action does not equal evangelism because political action does not engage individuals with the truth of the Gospel. The Gospel is about people, not parliaments. The Great Commission is about people, not political systems. The power of the Gospel is what changes hearts and without a change of heart (which is only accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit) any change of action is useless–because it does not deal with the problem of sin. Worse yet, adherence to laws may give non-Christians the false and spiritually-deadly impression that they are heaven-bound because of what they do or don’t do.

Second, the church is called, by God, to police the church, not the world. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 says:

9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

In this letter, Paul is addressing a situation of gross immorality in the Corinthian church. He makes it a point to tell the Corinthian Christians that God will judge the world but it is up to us (Christians) to judge those inside the church (that is, the local church where we are members).

As evangelicals, we must concern ourself with the purity of our churches. Many well-meaning (but dead-wrong) evangelicals think that America is the new Israel. I’ve heard many pastors relate the responsibilities of Israel to America. At one point, I heard a preacher, while preaching through passages in Judges, rant and rave about the state of Israel and the current state of America.

America is not Israel. If there is a correlation between the Nation of Israel in the Old Testament and any group today, the correlation must be made to the Church. While Israel and the Church are somewhat different, they are certainly heirs of the same promises.

The problem we have, now, is that the church is barely distinguishable from the world, if at all. This is a huge problem, scripturally speaking. As evangelicals, we must first concern ourselves with reforming and purifying our churches and our people before we worry about cleaning up the world.

Third, the idea the “government” is responsible to solve the issues of the people is nothing more than Marxism. Today’s Political Liberals act in such a way as to show what they think: Government must solve all problems. Just look at Sen. Obama’s recent comments:

“You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate and they have not.

“And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” (From; read the article here)

It is clear that Obama, a political and theological liberal, thinks that Government is the solution. Religion is only to be clung to when the chief-religion of the government has failed to supply the people their opiate. This is Marxist thinking–the State is the object of religious devotion.

Evangelicalism must not go down this road or, for the sake of our own superficiality and our own expediency, we will lose everything we are called to be.

So, what should we understand about the intersection of Evangelicalism and Politics?

(1) The Gospel is about God’s work in Christ to save individual sinners. Since this is the case, conservative, Bible-believing, Bible-living evangelicals must care more about engaging individuals with the claims of the Gospel and of Christ than passing laws compelling adherence to biblical standards.

(2) The Gospel is about God changing the heart of individuals to desire to serve and please Him. We cannot do this (only God can) and we must not try to substitute adherence in outward actions only for true heart change.

(3) It is important for Christians and churches engage in social action. But, it must be realized that social action is to be done because of the gospel (as a means of common grace and to have an opportunity to share the gospel). Social action is not, has not been, and will never be a substitute for the Gospel.

(4) Evangelical churches must pursue the purity of the local church and purity of the people in the local church. We must make disciples and, in doing so, when necessary, we must engage in restorative church discipline (see Matthew 18:15-20).

(5) Evangelicals must keep their eyes on the things of God. In doing so, evangelicals will realize that a pure local church with pure people rightly bearing the name of Christ is a far more important prize than a dead, hell-bound nation with “good” laws and forced adherence. After all, we want our church members to be part of the “every tongue, tribe, and nation” of Revelation, not just “America” or another earthly nation.

(6) It is much more important to engage in personal evangelism than it is to engage in political action.

(7) As Christians who are also Americans, we must vote in such a way as to properly reflect our Faith. So, when it comes to things God condemns (like Abortion, Gay Marriage, Racism, etc) we must use our vote to fight against these things. Similarly, we must always stand up for and fight for our place in the “free market place of ideas” in the public square.

When you think about it, laws rarely, if ever, change the hearts of people. Usually, all a law does is inspire a half-hearted response of almost-conformity while still bucking against the law itself. On the other hand, history shows good examples of people with changed hearts working in such a way as to correct social injustices because of their changed hearts (William Wilberforce comes to mind).

It is much more important that our people not want to engage in sinful things like Gambling or Homosexuality, than to legislate laws forbidding the actions but neglecting the heart. If the people of our churches were properly discipled in the first place, no casino would long stay in business and abortion doctors would need to find extra work to put food on the table. Our problems are of our own making in this regard and discipleship, not political action, is the solution. Rightly engaging the culture requires Christians engaging the people of the culture with the Gospel and having God, through the Gospel, bring people to Himself.

So then, as evangelicals, we must dedicate ourselves to the local church and her people being everything that Christ has called (and died for) her to be. When we get that right–when are churches are more pure, when our people are more Christ-like, when our people live lives dedicated to the glory of God–then we will have an army of heart-changed people willing to sacrifice their lives to share the Gospel with the people of our nation. That will so change the face of our nation that we will not need to seek political means to change the actions of the people.

May God grant us the grace to share the Gospel as the primary means of engaging our culture and may He grant us the grace and strength to stand up (even in political arenas) for what is right according to Him and His word.


Filed under "Pop Culture", Biblical Theology, Current Events

On the lighter side…OF STUPIDITY!!!

I just had to address this, it’s way too good. The stupidity of some people seems to have no end.

A article tells of an ongoing protest in Berkeley, California over a U.S. Marine recruiting station. This station has been in the news since earlier this year when the City of Berkeley City Council sent the Marines a letter telling them they were not welcome. (Read the articles here and here)

Now, they’ve resorted to witchcraft. The group calls themselves “Code Pink.” Here’s an excerpt of the article:

Members of the women’s group unfurled a pink banner and posted placards outside the center Friday, where later, they are expected to rally, armed with spells and pointy hats for a “Witches, clowns and sirens day.”

“Women are coming to cast spells and do rituals and to impart wisdom to figure out how we’re going to end war,” Zanne Sam Joi of Bay Area Code Pink told

Now, I do not believe witchcraft can in any way trump the sovereignty and power of God. However, witchcraft does play with demonic forces and, in that sense, it is dangerous. But, God is sovereign over the demons too.

Allow me, if you will, to be presuppositional for a moment. Let’s say the Code Pink personnel are casting spells on these Marines so that , through the spell, the Marine (or other Marines now serving in Afghanistan or Iraq) are injured, wounded in action, or killed. Does this not show intent to do harm? Would it matter if they used a baseball bat or a gun as opposed to a spell? If some horrible harm befalls the Marines at the Berkeley recruiting station, would not Code Pink be liable?

Well, the legal system probably won’t prosecute the casting of a spell, and they probably shouldn’t prosecute such silliness. But, the casting of spells does show what these people think about the U.S. and her Marines.

You know what ticks me off the most about this? If Berkeley, California were invaded by Chinese, Mexican, or Canadian armies, or people from Mars, these very same Marine-haters would be the first to complain that the Marines didn’t do enough quick enough. They’d complain the loudest about them needing the most help.

In the excellent movie A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson’s character, Col. Jessup (who is not a character to be emulated), chastises Tom Cruise’s character for basically accepting the gift of freedom at the hands of the U.S. Marines but then denounced the way in which the freedom was provided.

I wonder if it ever occurred to these Berkeley wackos that if it were not for those Marines, they would not be have the freedom to protest in the first place.

To the men and women of the U.S. Marines, Navy, Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard, we all owe a hearty “Thank you.”

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The Reports of Our Demise are…….?

In a recent Associated Baptist Press article, the current President of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Frank Page, warned up to half of our SBC churches could be gone in the next 25 years. From the article:

Page said the problem “resided in the churches” that refuse to change to stop their inevitable demise. He said the SBC downturn is not the denomination’s fault – because of poor programming or lack of emphasis on the denominational level…

“Many Southern Baptist churches are small groups of white people who are holding on [until] the end,” he said. “Not only have we not reached out to younger generations, but we have failed to reach out to other ethnic minorities who are all around us.”

Rather than embracing a “whatever it takes” mentality to change and restore a local church to health, Page said, many pastors and churches have “chosen to die rather than change, and they are doing it.”

Interesting words from Dr. Page. The question is, however, is he right?

Certainly, there is truth in Page’s statements. There is no doubt there are issues in our churches and those issues are neither small or nor insignificant. The important question Page is asking is this: Will our churches change? That is an excellent question and it is the crux of the issue, but not in the way you think. I’ll explain:

SBC churches resist change like the French resistance resisting the Nazis. No SBC church takes to change easily and the most commonly heard refrain in our churches is not “Jesus Saves, Jesus Saves,” rather it is “We’ve never done it like that before.” Have our churches missed out because of stodgy attitudes and a reluctance to change? Absolutely. But the change that Page suggests–reaching out to minorities and younger generations–grossly misses the mark.

Absolutely, the church (especially! SBC churches) needs to reach to minorities and to younger generations. However, I think the form of that reaching out is far more important than just “reaching out.” For instance, most people seem to think that it is necessary to use contemporary music in a worship service in order that the younger generation is reached. This is deadly theology. Any time you structure a church-wide service for the express purpose of reaching a person or people you are neglecting God and committing idolatry. God is and must always be our audience of one. Everything in the corporate worship service must have Him as its beginning and end.

This illustrates an important point: It is more important to focus on the “what” of what we are doing than the “how.” Unfortunately, most SBC churches are concerned with reaching minorities and younger folks–and that is not bad–but the question persists: with what will they reach them? Will pastors preach and teach the Bible? Will they go the extra-mile and delve into the Greek and Hebrew to make sure they are preaching and teaching God’s thoughts? Or, like so many times before, will the church fail to examine the most important things–the Gospel and the Scriptures–just to repackage the same old anemic, lifeless, pseudo-gospel in which the Scripture is stunningly absent?

So then…what changes need to be made? Here are a few suggestions:

(1) Churches must seek to fulfill the Great Commission

The Problem: Many churches seem to operate under the assumption that getting someone “saved” is the point of the great commission. You know the scenario–someone prays the “sinner’s prayer” and they walk the aisle at the end of a morning service, bathed in the sound of “Just As I Am.” They make their profession of faith and one of the old stalwarts of the church exclaims a motion–“I move we accept _________ for membership.” A hearty “aye” ensues and voila!, a new church member is minted…pending baptism, of course.

The Solution: Churches must realize the Great Commission is about making disciples. Once someone gets saved, the battle has not ended–it has just begun! Every potential church member must be introduced to the church and the faith through a vibrant discipleship program.

First, every potential member must go through a new member’s class–before they are even considered for membership.

Second, a potential member must meet with the pastor so that the pastor, in private, can ask the important questions–tell me about your conversion, explain the gospel to me, tell me about your last church, etc.

Third, on the recommendation of the pastor, the potential members must be interviewed by a membership committee (for churches without elders). Obviously, the best strategy is for the elders to interview the potential member.

Fourth, after completing the new member’s class and upon a successful recommendation by the pastor and the elders (or membership committee) they can be brought to the congregation for a proper introduction and a vote for membership.

Fifth, the new member now must be instructed in the scriptures through a discipleship program which seeks, intentionally, to get into the deep things of the faith.

(2) Churches must practice biblical church discipline.

The Problem: I’m sure many of us know someone who is not living in accordance with the scripture. Yet, we say nothing. You know the thought-process–“Who am I to say anything…?” “Well, they’re so nice, I don’t want to upset them.” “I love them too much to say anything.”

Unfortunately, scripture requires restorative church discipline. The lack thereof shows a complete breakdown in the understanding of what a church should be–a covenant community of believers committed to helping one another walk a proper Christian walk.

The Solution: Churches simply have to do discipline. Now, I’m not suggesting crucifixions of offending members–and scripture doesn’t suggest that either! Rather, restorative church discipline is lovingly pointing out a brother or sister’s error according to scripture.

Scripture, not our personal tastes, must govern what is considered grounds for discipline. In this way we hold ourselves and the offending party to scripture. This avoids all hypocrisies since both parties are under the same scripture.

Restorative church discipline seeks to set someone straight so that they can regain the joy of their salvation, avoid a false assurance of salvation, and keep the Bride of Christ pure.

(3) Church members must demonstrate their love to each other.

The Problem: Churches are clique-ish. There are groups in the church, perhaps your Sunday school class or other small group, with which you feel quite comfortable. So, for the people in these groups, you will do anything. But for someone outside of your clique-circle, you wouldn’t lift a finger. This is simply not biblical!

The Solution: All members of the covenant community must demonstrate love to each other. It is not enough to say you have love for your fellow church members, you must show it. Love is a verb; it requires action. Talk is cheap. Let your actions do your talking.

We must go out of our way to discover and meet the needs of our fellow church members.

This all comes down to a matter of discipleship. The necessary changes revolve around discipleship. Again, from the article:

“I see no more courageous call for any pastor than to lead their people to leave behind unbiblical methods of ministry and embrace news ways of accomplishing biblical goals,” said Rick Hughes, the state convention’s senior consultant for discipleship. “We must face the fact that much of the American church is declining for a very biblical reason: We have failed to be and make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

In a recent questionnaire, I was asked to describe the ideal church. Here’s my answer:

I would describe an “ideal church” as a Romans 12:1-2 church. In Romans, Paul says: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)

I believe the ideal church would be a covenant community of believers who, intentionally, on a daily basis, offer the entirety of themselves to God as a “living sacrifice.” True Christianity has no room for the Sunday-only Christian. The Christian life involves a daily re-commitment to be a follower of Christ (not that salvation is lost) so that you daily remind yourself that you are to live His way, not our way—that we are to seek, demonstrate, and proclaim His glory, not our own. The ideal church has members who daily seek to worship God with every part of themselves and in every aspect of their lives.

The ideal church will have members, then, who think it more important to glorify God than to steal from their jobs or cheat on their wives or be absentee fathers to their children. As Romans shows, this is not done in our own strength; this is done by and through the mercies of God. The members of the ideal church will seek to do everything by the mercies of God—presenting their bodies to him as a living sacrifice of worship—so that they do not look like the world. The ideal church should look different from the world; the church must look different and be different from the world.

In the ideal church, there is no room for superficiality. In the ideal church, church members will seek to help each other by sharing burdens, bearing burdens, and sharing and partaking in each other’s joys and sorrows. Also, the ideal church members will care enough about their fellow church members to encourage them to live in the manner worthy of a Christian, even engaging in restorative church discipline (using the Matthew 18 model) when someone stumbles in their walk.

Ultimately, the members of the ideal church will seek to serve and worship God with the entirety of their heart, mind, soul, body, and strength and they will seek out ways to serve each other as an act of worship to God, even if that service is difficult or heartbreaking (in the case of restorative discipline).

If the church gets this one thing right (which is a big and difficult task), the church will not have any problems with its tithes and offerings, giving to missions, going on missions (short-term and long-term), sharing the gospel with our neighbors, or maintaining the unity of the Body. Romans 12:1-2 is the umbrella under which all these other important and necessary items fall.


Filed under "Doing" Church

On Pastors, Red Herring, and Strawmen

There are times I hate politics. Not that I hate politicians. No, what I hate is the constant mis-representations of positions and, more importantly, facts related to the opponent.

Exhibit A: I read a article about the Democratic party-friendly people complaining about the outcry against Barack Obama’s association with his pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The reason for the outcry? John McCain has not received similar scrutiny for his so-called “pastors” John Hagee and Rod Parsley. (read the article here)

This entire thing is nothing more than a Red Herring and a Strawman argument.

Let me say, first off, as an evangelical Christian I have no theological affinity for either Hagee or Parsley and I have no affinity for Wright either–I do not agree with much (if any) of their theology. But, as far as this article is concerned, theology is not the issue.

The issue is that Barack Obama has voluntarily associated himself with Rev. Wright and his church for the past 20 years. On many occasions, Obama has spoken very highly of Rev. Wright and his experience at Trinity United Church of Christ. John McCain has not been and is not currently a member of either Hagee’s church or Parsley’s church. I’m not even sure McCain has ever been to Hagee’s church or Parsley’s church.

Since there is no state church of the United States, all church memberships are done on a voluntary basis. What does this mean? It means that Obama has, for 20 years, chosen to keep his affiliation with Wright and Trinity United Church of Christ.

McCain and Obama both have received many endorsements, some were, I’m sure, unsolicited. Unfortunately, for Obama, his record of voluntary association with Rev. Wright for 20 years shows his (Obama’s) ringing endorsement of Rev. Wright. As for McCain, his record shows no endorsement of any kind to the teachings and/or churches of either John Hagee or Rod Parsley.

While the candidates cannot control who endorses them, they surely can control whom they, through their actions, endorse.

Ultimately, for the Democratic-friendly who wants to see McCain be piñata-ed by the media, their story does not and will not have any real traction because it built on faulty facts and presuppositions.

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