Saturday, April 29

What Gets Attacked More? - Calvinism or Rick Warren

This is a rather loaded question and depending on your affiliation (denominationally or by association) this question may not have much relevance. However, it would be safe to say that no matter what your association may be, you are dealing with both of these issues in your church and in the circles of Christians that you associate with. Also, depending on the church that you attend, neither of these may be an issue, but that would be a rare case.

Calvinism - what a blessing it has been over the past five years to become enraptured with the wonderful doctrines of grace. To understand that God is God and He needs man for nothing - including salvation. This has also helped me in my understanding of my utter fallen sinfulness and my total dependence upon God and His grace. I have also found it to be very rewarding to preach from the standpoint that holds dearly the doctrines of grace. It has also been exciting to see the scores of young pastors (the vast majority of the age group represented at the Together for the Gospel Conf.) that are coming to grips with the doctrines of grace. Many of these pastors grew up in the realm of hysteric fundamentalism that taught an ardent form of "decisional regeneration" and pressured scores of people into emotional decisions that had nothing to do with making Christ the treasure of their life.

Even if you do hold to an Arminian persuasion regarding your soteriology it would be difficult for you not to concede the fact that holding to a more Calvinistic soteriology makes God much bigger and much more powerful than the Arminian view of man being the final determining factor in regards to our regeneration. But for some reason, the teachings of the doctrines of grace has been met with great hostility even within the most conservative realms of the theological spectrum. Many of us have been accused of making God into nothing more than a "puppet director". The notion has also been made that those of us who hold closely to the teachings of the doctrines of grace are weak on evangelism and have no burden for the lost. Perhaps their assertion that we need to be doing more evangelism is correct (I for one fall into that category) but to say that we do not believe in evangelism is far from being accurate. Last time I checked, one of the fastest growing denominations in the U.S. is the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America). Though I am an ardent Baptist I am truly thankful for these Gospel loving brethren in the PCA who love the doctrines of grace and are faithful in regards to their exposition of Scripture.

Rick Warren - For the life of me....I cannot understand this one. Why is it that those of us in Reformed circles seem to be the only ones speaking out on this? It seems that everyone who does not hold to the doctrines of grace openly criticize our "dangerous directions" but refuse to acknowledge the fact that a good amount of conservative evangelicals have fallen for Warren's purpose driven nonsense hook line and sinker. Why is it that Calvinism and the history of the Reformation is being considered nothing more than a sub category of church history that was nothing more than Roman Catholicism "light" while Warren seems to be getting a free pass as he preaches a Christ-less gospel?

Why is it that major publications within the world of conservative Christendom have failed to publicly affirm the heresy associated with Warren's gospel that is laced with self esteemisms and watered down messages? This blog has made very clear (much is indebted to Ken for this) the downright heretical teachings of Warren and the apparent lack of concern from many within the fundamental and evangelical world right now. With the likes of Ergun and Emir Caner using irresponsible rhetoric in regards to Calvinism and saying little to nothing about some of Warren's very dubious comments about orthodox beliefs, one should be at least tacitly concerned about this.

Folks, Calvinism is far from being the underlying danger that is facing the evangelical church in America today. In fact, it seems that it is those who are Reformed in their theology and their biblical hermeneutic that are the ones who are boldly speaking out about the dangers concerning Rick Warren and his heretical gospel that deals with purpose and not with sin and repentance.

My Synopsis of the T4G Conf.

Everything began on Wednesday with the opportunity to meet a plethora of fellow bloggers at the "Band of Bloggers" meeting at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Timmy Brister of Provacations and Paintings did a fabulous job of organizing this event. I also had the opportunity to meet several bloggers that I read quite often - Bob Kauflin of Worship Matters. He is incredibly gracious and was very encouraging to talk to. One of the common denominators with several of the Sovereign Grace men that I met these past few days has been their gracious and humble spirit. I was also able to meet Jason Robertson - of FIDE-O, Mark Heinrich - of Purgatorio (I know that you will find this hard to believe, but this guy is actually funnier in person than he is on his blog. He is absolutely hilarioius!), Tim Challies (needs no introduction), and Justin Taylor of Between Two Worlds. I had the opportunity to meet many others but time does not permit for now. There seems to be a common bond that many of us who blog share and it was good to be able to share face to face some of our excitement, joys, challenges, and concerns.

For those of us who were blessed with the opportunity to come to this conference I think we can all agree that our hearts feasted on some of the most Christ exalting and Christ centered preaching that we have heard anywhere. It was encouraging to see so many men come together to proclaim the centrality of the Gospel and the urgency of preaching the correct Gospel with a methodology that is not centered on cultural relevance, rather on God's Divine revelation given to us. I was reminded again and again that the Gospel that I preach and base my whole ministry on is not my own and should not be brought down to its lowest common denominator. I would suggest that if you were not able to attend, to get the CD's of the messages that were preached.

God used John Piper in a special way this conference on Thursday evening. Most of the men that I talked to agreed with my assertion regarding Piper's address. Passion, power, and a heart felt exaltation of the glory of God stirred my heart as Piper talked about the great power of the Spirit's working with the preaching of the Gospel. I know that I have already posted on this but it was worth another mention.

I also had the great privilege to spend some great fellowship time during the four and a half hour drive from Roxana IL to Louisville KY. Fellow blog partner Ken Fields, IL/MO ARBC State Rep. Bob Fields (yes that is Ken's father), and friend Greg Watson had some great fellowship together that at times included some rather intense discussions (it's a shame that some do not see things from "our window" -- of course you know that I am kidding).

Friday, April 28

What God Taught Me Today at T4G: When we hear the Gospel, we see God!

Yesterday, at the Together For The Gospel conference, God taught me much about myself; today, God taught me much about my ministry. Yesterday, God whacked me upside the head; today God put a fire within my heart.

For those of you who do not know me, I am an Associate Pastor, serving with a Senior Pastor who is gracious enough to allow me to preach every Sunday night. Tonight, after listening to John Piper preach on "The Glory of God and Preaching," I was faced with the realization that I don't do preaching very well.

I enjoy John Piper's preaching ... not because of what he says (although he says it well), but because of what I see. Let me explain my last statement this way: when men like John Piper preach the Gospel, I see God. This is what true preaching is all about.

Too much contemporary preaching is God-less. And it's God-less because it's Gospel-less. This was the theme of Piper's message tonight. When God's people hear the Gospel, they see the glory of Christ. In other words, through preaching, people see with their ears.

2 Corinthians 4:4-6, "In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
Because we cannot see God with our eyes, we must see Him with our ears. God has ordained that His people would see Him through hearing the Gospel. This truth makes preaching both significantly weighty and eternally significant.

Tonight, I am overwhelmed with the privilege and responsibility I possess in preaching. Tonight, I am faced with the reality that Gospel-less preaching will produce a God-less vision in His church. Tonight, I have seen God ... and I want my church to see Him, too.

John 12:21, "So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, 'Sir, we wish to see Jesus.'"

If I preach the Gospel, they will!

Thursday, April 27

Whoa!

It was that kind of evening. John Piper delivered the message this evening at the Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville Kentucky. This was the fourth time that I have heard Piper speak in person and by far, this had the most profound effect on me personally. Not only in my preaching but also in my personal walk with my Savior and Lord. Piper preached on "How God is Particularly Glorfied Through Expository Preaching". This is going out on a limb here when I say this, but there was not a heart that was not twisted, turned, convicted, and that did not feel the weight of the burden for the great need to exalt, treasure, and to seek after the glory of God in all things - especially in our preaching.

One comment stood out to me like none other - "Either you will bow or you will burn!" (preaching from 2 Cor. 3:18-4:6) There was a sincere conviction in my heart this evening to go back to my congregation and family to ask for sincere forgiveness in the light of my lack of zeal, boldness, and passion in regards to the Gospel and the treasuring of Christ. Thank you Lord for this evening! It was greatly needed in my selfish and stubborn heart.

If you are looking to purchase any of the sessions from this conference, by all means, get this one!!! (John Piper 4-27-06 PM Service). I am sure that C.J. Mahaney and John MacArthur are going to be magnificent tomorrow as they share the Word with us and I would also go so far as to say that it would be a wise investment to purchase the whole conference set.

What God Taught Me Today at T4G: I have a propensity toward non-humility.

Yeah, I know; the gramatically correct term for non-humility is pride. I just have a hard time admitting my extreme tendency to be so unabashadly proud. I hate admitting this ... especially considering the names of those who've struggled with this same issue:

Lucifer -- Isaiah 14
Adam & Eve -- Genesis 3
King Saul -- 1 Samuel 13 & 15
King Nebuchadnezzar -- Daniel 4
The Prodigal Son's older brother -- Luke 15
As I reflect upon Mark Dever's opening Together For The Gospel message from 1 Corinthians 4, the Lord smacked me upside my head (and yes, it did hurt!) with verse 7:
"For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If you then received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?"
Wow, what a verse! Yeah, I've seen it before ... hey, I've even preached it before. But I've never been whacked upside the head with it before. Tonight, I was brought face to face with my non-humility ... my pride.

You see, I find myself so often thinking in these terms, "Well, after all I do, I deserve ... " Tonight, God taught me to think thusly, "Well, there is only one thing I deserve ... hell; and anything I experience that is better than hell, is a gift of God's grace." Oh, I knew this before tonight -- intellectually that is. Tonight I was awakened to my sinful unwillingness to confront and correct my pride propensity.

As I write this piece, I am overwhelmed by God's gifting grace. Here is a brief list of God's gifts of grace in my life...

My wife, Joanna: not only did God create "a helper fit for Adam" (Genesis 2:18), He created the perfect woman for me!

My children -- Elizabeth, Noah, and Hannah: God's word specifically states that "children are an heritage from the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is His reward." (Psalm 127:3) We don't have brats running around our house -- we have three blessed gifts from God's hand!

My life and ministry: Not only did the Lord call me to pastor (1 Timothy 1:12), He enables me to do so (John 15:5) by His grace (1 Corinthians 15:10).

While I have believed in God's free and sovereign grace for several years, tonight I felt its effects. I am nothing ... I have nothing of value to offer. God is everything ... and He has offered an infinitely valuable sacrifice on my behalf. And while I enjoy the benefits of His grace (Psalm 103:2), I am ever-learning to boast only in His cross.

Now I must deal with my headache. It hurts being knocked upside the head. Yeah, I know: no pain -- no gain!

Wednesday, April 26

Off To The Together For The Gospel Conference

Mike and I will be spending (and blogging) the next few days at the Together For The Gospel Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Mike and I will also be spending a couple of hours this afternoon with bloggers Al Mohler, Justin Taylor, Timmy Smith, and Tim Challies, among others at the T4G Band of Bloggers fellowship.

This will be a special time, and we are anticipating this to be a true God-centered, Christ-glorifying time with 3,000 fellow believers!

In the words of that overused cliche, "we wish you were here!" For the readers of this blog, we sincerely mean that, and will keep you updated with pictures and synopsis.

Tuesday, April 25

More Thoughts on Worship Services - Prayer

Those of us from the "free-church" tradition are known for our obstinance when it comes to written out or rehearsed prayers. However, I would like to make the case that this is not as unorthodox as it may seem and that it really is quite biblical. I am not advocating here vain repititions....Simply more thought and meditation to our public prayers with the people of God. If the truth be told, we are just as guilty as anyone when it comes to prayer repitition. How many times have we heard these phrases - "Lord be with us today in the service"; "Lord bless us today"; "Dear God, give the preacher the words to say"; "If there be one here today who does not know they are going to heaven may this be the day"; "Lord thank you for this day"; and "God, forgive us where we have sinned". Though I would take issue with a couple of these phrases that are said multiple times throughout the week in many evangelical churches, for the most part, these are not bad sayings in essence. However, we are admonished in Scripture to avoid "meaningless repititions" (Mt. 6:7). In fact, I am a firm believer in praying Scripture and I try to make it a habit when praying publicly. That is why I do not think it is a bad idea to remind our feeble and forgetful minds of what needs to be prayed about and perhaps writing out our prayer or knowing it well by heart.

For example, take a look at the last service you were in. I'm sure there was plenty of singing, preaching, and some prayer. As a matter of fact, I would dare say that most of us when we look at our services objectively we would come to the honest conclusion that we spend probably less than 90 seconds a service in prayer alone! For all of us, this is a travesty.

Ron Owens in his book "Return to Worship" has some very convicting words:
"We say we believe in prayer. We have it listed in our church bulletins, but do we pray? If the time actually spent in corporate prayer in our worship services is an indication, we have reason to be concerned. Might a lack of prayer be the major reason that, in spite of having better programs than ever before, in spite of having bigger and fancier buildings than ever, in spite of there never before being so many megachurches, we are making less impact on society than ever before? Could prayerlessness be the reason the darkness in our land is becoming increasingly dark? Could it be that the prayerlessness of our churches is why so many are powerless?" (Pg. 94)

Many of our churches are known for preaching, facilities, caring, sharing, giving, programs, children activities, Awana, outreach, dynamic pastors, stellar music, but sadly so few are known as a place that both publicly and privately prays. All of us know the danger of having a pulpit that actually prays with the constant demand of honoring our "time limits" the added pressure of keeping people's attention.. This is in reference to prayers that focus on the wickedness and sinfulness of man, our inability to do anything good in and of ourselves, the sovereignty of God, the character of God, His grace, forgiveness, Word, immutability, love and concern for His children, redemption, holiness, purity, watchcare, an open confession of sin and a need for repentance and the list goes on and on and on. It is an unfortunate fact that many believers in our churches have failed to understand that our worship time should naturally be a time of prayer.

Along with our Christ-exalting music, exposition of the Word, giving monetarily, should be our substantial amount of time in prayer. What better way to demonstrate our utter dependence upon our sovereign King!

When It's Time To Say Goodbye: The Ins And Outs Of Leaving A Church

Adrian, Missouri, may not mean anything to you, but I still consider it my hometown. Adrian is just a small, western Missouri, nothing-but-a-map-dot town of 1,600 people. The streets are narrow and full of holes, and, like many Missouri towns, the stray dogs seem to outnumber the residents (it’s worse in Arkansas). Still, I proudly claim Adrian as my hometown.

I remember my first day of school at Adrian R-3. I remember our principal, Mr. Morrow, reading Flipper to us. I remember standing at Mrs. Jewell’s desk in third grade, reciting my multiplication facts. I remember being sent into the hall for talking (surprised?) in fourth grade. I remember the countless football, basketball, and baseball games I played. I remember the homecoming game of my senior year: running off the field after making a tackle, I noticed two of my fingers were bent backwards and touching the top of my lower forearm. I remember my coach telling me to turn my head while he popped both fingers back into place, shoved two Tylenol 3’s down my throat, and rushed me back onto the field. I remember my Dad organizing a Little League basketball program that bears his name to this day.

In 1993, at twenty-one years of age, following my sophomore year of college, I left Adrian for good. My dad had pastored Calvary Baptist Church for fourteen profitable years, and was following God’s leading to a camp ministry. I remember standing before my home church, choking back the tears and the sorrow, reading Philippians 1:3, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you all, making request with joy.” I still remember watching that moving truck pull out of the driveway of my childhood home. That day a part of me died.

Calvary Baptist Church was the first church I remember leaving. And although our family left in response to God’s leading, it was still a traumatic experience! Leaving a church for the right reasons is never easy. They say that “parting is such sweet sorrow.” I disagree; whoever said that never knew what it was like to be a part of God’s visible kingdom on earth. Leaving a church is rarely sweet, but it is sometimes necessary.

Over the next several weeks (this will take some time due to the vast amount of necessary research), I will be addressing the issue of “When It’s Time To Say Goodbye: The Ins And Outs Of Leaving A Church.”

While my family left our home church to follow God’s leading to another ministry, this will not be the overarching theme of this series. I will be addressing two fallacious attitudes toward church membership.

1) The “if you don’t play my way, I am taking my Bible and going home” kind of church member. Too many disgruntled church members are quick to leave a church because their feelings are hurt, their “needs” aren’t being met, their advice isn’t being followed, the pastor’s preaching is tedious, the music is too boring or too exciting, or the carpet is the wrong color. The overwhelming majority of church-leavers depart for these wrong reasons. As a pastor, this breaks my heart.

2) The “I’m into reformation rather than separation” kind of church member. Too many believers are remaining loyal to their liberal and man-centered churches, when biblically, they not only have reason to leave – they have a responsibility to do so. This may seem rather fundamentalistic, but I am convinced Scripture demands such action (and so was Martin Luther).

So, as we begin this series, let me remind you that leaving a church for the wrong reasons is never right; and staying in the wrong church for the right reasons is never right, either. For those who find leaving an easy way out, your unresolved problems will follow you to your new church home. For those who find leaving too difficult, you will experience the frustration of seeking to worship Christ in a Christ-less church (see Revelation 3:14-22).

I close this post with a brief overview of what we will be discussing in the next couple of weeks: when should a church member leave a church?

1) When the Gospel is not paramount.

2) When the ministry is not biblical (balanced).

3) When public sin is not confronted.

4) When truth is sacrificed on the altar of love.

5) When love is abandoned in the name of truth.

These are not only extremely practical issues, these are eternally significant issues. The church of Jesus Christ is “the pillar and ground of the truth”, the “house of God”, and the “church of the Living God” (1 Timothy 3:15). And may we never forget the price that was paid to secure it as such, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He has purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).

Monday, April 24

Solomon's Meditation On Worship, Pt. 2

Here is the conclusion to the sermon I was privileged to preach last night. You can read part 1 here. Again, the text for this message is Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 [click here to read in the ESV]:

God is above all. He is infinitely high and lofty. He is the Superior in His universe. There is none like Him, there is none who even compares in greatness, glory, power or majesty. God is unique…and we will not worship Him well if we do not consistently affirm His transcendence.

Psalm 97:9, “For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods.”

Herein, though, lies a problem. As humans, we tend to think of transcendence in terms of aloofness. We think of the wealthy, who live on Boulevards, in their own gated communities. We think of politicians, who dress in expensive suits and reside in upscale D.C. condos. BUT, ALTHOUGH OUR GOD TRANSCENDS HIS CREATION, HE DOES NOT STAND ALOOF FROM IT. In fact, the heart of the gospel is that, although God transcends His creation,
He came near -- He condescended.

In the Garden of Eden, after Adam’s sin, while Adam and Eve were hiding…God came near. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were tossed into the fiery furnace, God came near. On that morning in Bethlehem, the infinite stepped into the realm of the finite. God took on human flesh, and in the form of a baby, He came near. And although Jesus Christ was perfect and sinless, on the cross, He identified Himself with sinners. He, while still being God – the One who holds the stars in their place and sets the sun on its course, the One who is ever-present in the deepest and darkest reaches of space, the One who transcends all limitations, took the sin of His creation upon Himself, and died in the place of sinners.

A transcendent God who has not condescended is unknowable. Yet a God who is not transcendent is not worship-able. We cannot appreciate the significance of what happened on that cross until we understand the heights from which Jesus came to accomplish the plan of redemption! Philippians 2:6-8 (ESV), “(Jesus) Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” And the result is Acts 4:12!!

2) Because fearless worship fails to exercise caution in the presence of God. (1a) “Watch your step” is what Solomon says in verse 1! Be careful…how you come into God’s presence. He is not a God to be trifled with…he is a God to be feared and respected and reverenced. So, don’t come flippantly or glibly or presumptuously. Be careful, be cautious.

Now I know what you may be thinking…and you are right. According to Hebrews 4:16 and 10:19, we are to enter God’s presence with great boldness… Hebrews 4:16, “Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace…” Hebrews 10:19, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.”

Listen…the only reason we can enter God’s presence with great boldness; the only way we can enter God’s presence at all in worship is because of and through the blood of Jesus. For believers, our presence in God’s throne room has been validated by the blood of Christ!

Allow me to illustrate… Imagine opening your mail in the morning and receiving an invitation to the White House to meet the President. So, you prepare for your all-expense paid (thanks to the taxpayers) trip to meet the President. You pack your best suit or dress, you shine your shoes, you take a couple of toothbrushes and razors, just to be prepared! Finally, as you make your way into the White House, you let out a loud, "YIPPIE," and begin jumping from sofa to sofa in the Blue Room. After calming down, you help yourself to a couple of cans of soda, overflowing your glass with the fizz, but not taking the time to clean up your mess. As you notice the President walking toward you, you greet him with “Hey, dude, what’s up?” You proceed to give him a pat on the cheek, and slap on the back, and a rub on the head. You then comment about his growing belly, while patting it incessantly.

This is a rather comical scenario, why? Because you wouldn’t enter the White House in that manner, and you wouldn’t greet the President that way. Why not? Because he’s the President of the United States of America. He holds the highest office in the land. You would never enter the White House glibly or presumptuously. You would enter cautiously … carefully, you would watch your step! You are a guest in the home, the presence of the political world’s most powerful and respected man.

So, as you would make your way into the White House, you would notice the tight security…but you wouldn’t fear for your wellbeing, you have an invitation, you are welcome, and because of what you hold in your hand, your presence there is validated! The invitation that gains you entrance is all of the President’s grace. You did nothing to deserve to be there; you’re no hero. You haven’t rescued a baby from a burning building. You don’t really belong there at all. Yet the security detail waves you by, they’ve been expecting you. You enter with boldness … all because of the gracious invitation of another!

You get the picture, don’t you? You understand the correlation. As we worship our Savior, who transcends all His creation while coming near to redeem us, let us draw near to Him in worship, cautiously yet boldly, but never glibly or flippantly. Psalm 89:6-7, “For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around Him?”

May God rescue us from fearless worship…and grant us the longing and desire to make much of Him…on HIS TERMS! And may we find in this God-honoring worship, a deep and eternal satisfaction for our souls! AMEN!

BLOGGER PROBLEMS...

It seems BLOGGER is experiencing some rather serious publishing problems. Therefore, we are experiencing some rather exasperating difficulties posting anything new...

Please be patient and check back soon ... here's where a Calvinist's understanding of God's complete and absolute sovereignty pays dividends!

GOD IS GOD OVER BLOGGER!!

Now, if He would be pleased to fix their problems...

Sunday, April 23

The New Busch Stadium, Derrek Lee, and Greg Maddux

My first pilgrimage to the new Busch Stadium was made on Friday evening with my 8 year old son Joseph to watch my beloved Cubbies get blasted by the St. Louis Cardinals. Some thoughts about the new stadium - it is not as loud as the old Busch Stadium, still too much red, the music was loud, $8 beers were everywhere (no, I did not have any), the crowd was quite rambunctious (due to my Cubbies sweep at Wrigley two weeks earlier) and the Cubs played horrible. The concourses are huge and give a lot of walking room. However, the bathrooms were a bit smaller than I thought they would be (I actually had one Cardinal fan express his disappointment over the bathroom size!). I have to say, that living only thirty minutes from St. Louis makes it much easier to see my Cubbies in action than living an hour and a half from Wrigley (depending on the traffic). Still, nothing beats Wrigley....nice try St. Louis but you have failed once again.

The game Friday was tempered considerably due to the loss of Derrek Lee a few nights before (broken wrist). This takes away a whole other dynamic to the Cubs' lineup. Not only have they lost his gold glove for a couple of months, but they have lost his prolific bat and base stealing capabilities. I know what all of the Redbird fans are going to say about this - "but didn't we lose Rolen for a few months last year too???" Yes, you did but you did not lose Albert and you know as well as I do that if you lost Albert you would be in deep trouble. Losing Pujols is like losing your legs and still trying to walk. All Redbird fans know that as well as I do. Anyway, a trade needs to be made soon for a solid first baseman who can fill in for a couple of months or we are in deep trouble. You cannot win without a bonafide number three hitter.

Greg Maddux - where do you begin when talking about this ageless wonder? Just when I thought he was going to come out and have a horrific year, he once again defies the laws of age and totally mystifies one of the most prolific lineups in baseball. With no overpowering fastball (83 m.p.h.) and less than golden stuff, Maddux confused Cardinal hitters all day - including Mr. Pujols. No one, including myself, could foresee Maddux starting the season at 4-0 with a 0.99 ERA. Nevertheless, we will take what we can get right now.

Just to remind all Cardinal fans - we are still leading the season series 4-2 and unlike your team at Wrigley, we avoided the sweep. Also, the Cards have yet to beat the Cubs with Derrek Lee in the lineup....just a thought for you to chew on for a while.

Solomon's Meditation On Worship

Following is the sermon I will be preaching in tonight's evening worship service. I have thoroughly enjoyed preaching through Ecclesiastes, and tonight I am introducing Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 with a sermon entitled "The Futility of Fearless Worship" ...

Text (ESV): "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool's voice with many words.

When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear."

Sermon: Have you ever considered how frustrated a man King Solomon must have been? To be so wise, so wealthy, to be the son of King David, to live in the palace, to finance and build the greatest Temple Israel has ever known, to experience so much … yet to be so disillusioned with what all this produced. And in Ecclesiastes 5 we are presented with the reason for his heart-wrenching dilemma.

In this text we read the diary of a man who attempted to worship his God on his own terms rather than on God’s terms. Solomon bought into the message of that bumper sticker we’ve all seen. You know, the one that reads, “Try Jesus.” And so, Solomon did. He “tried God.” And, the discouraging and depressing message of Ecclesiastes 1-4, could be summed up like this … “trying God doesn’t satisfy.” It’s not that God cannot satisfy…it’s that “trying God” cannot satisfy. King Solomon tried God while trying women. He tried God while trying wisdom. He tried God while trying wealth, and work, and wine.

But, as we see in Solomon’s life, trying God never works because God isn’t someone to be tried … God isn’t someone to be worshipped on our terms, GOD IS GOD! He is not some means to an end … He is not something to be tried in order to get what we want … He is the Beginning and the End, He is the Alpha and Omega. Our God is not someone to be trifled with; He is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29).

He is the God who spoke the word and the universe instantaneously appeared. He is the God who defeated Pharaoh and his army by drowning them in the Red Sea. He is the God who stopped the sun in its tracks to give light to Israel’s army; who shut the lions’ mouths to preserve Daniel’s life; who guided the stone from David’s slingshot to the forehead of that undefeatable giant named Goliath! He has not only told us He is God – He has shown us. He has defeated Israel’s enemies in supernatural fashion, but most importantly, He has defeated death through His Son! This is our God, a God to be feared … which will inspire us to worship Him on His own terms!

WHAT WORSHIP IS

When we think of worship, we think about gatherings like tonight. We think about singing. We think about praying, we think about preaching. But we aren’t gathered in a temple tonight, we are gathered in a building. There is nothing special about the bricks and mortar that hold this place together. Worship, although it is what we gather to do here, is not limited to this place on Sundays and Wednesdays. Worship is not an extension of what we do in singing, praying or preaching, worship is, for the Christian, treasuring and making much of Christ. It’s ascribing great worth to our God!

Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides Thee.” Rev. 5, “…Thou art worthy…”

For the Christian, worship is to be a lifestyle of treasuring and making much of Christ, regardless of where we are or what we are doing!

WHY FEARLESS WORSHIP IS FUTILE

1) Because fearless worship fails to properly recognize the transcendence of God. (1-2, 7) Now the word transcendence may be a bit unfamiliar to you, so here’s what it means: God is above us…He is infinitely bigger and greater than us. In fact, although we were created in His image, He is much more unlike us than we are like Him! If God were like us, we would have no cause to worship Him! Here’s an illustration… In athletics, there are those who stand head and shoulders above the rest. There are few Babe Ruth’s and Michael Jordan’s. There aren’t many Walter Payton’s and Joe Montana’s and Wayne Gretzky’s. And when we talk about these athletes, we use phrases like this, “They were so talented, they transcended the game.” In other words, there are a few athletes who were, at one time, bigger than the game itself!

Solomon is lamenting the fact that our worship is easily handicapped by a low view of God, which has been a propensity of the human race since Adam and Eve, and their son, Cain! Like Cain, we find ourselves expecting God to oblige to our terms of worship. We expect Him to enthusiastically accept anything and everything we offer, regardless of whether it’s what He has required!

What Solomon is saying here is this, “We cannot worship a God we do not fear. And we will not fear a god we fail to see as transcending all creation … including ourselves.” David puts it this way in Ps 135:5, “For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.”

God is above all. He is infinitely high and lofty. He is the Superior in His universe. There is none like Him, there is none who even compares in greatness, glory, power or majesty. God is unique…and we will not worship Him well if we do not consistently affirm His transcendence. (i.e., Isaiah in Isaiah 6 seeing the Lord high and lifted up!)

Psalm 97:9, “For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods.”

I will post the conclusion of this sermon tomorrow. I don't want to tip my hand to our church members who may be checking in this afternoon!

Friday, April 21

Planning the Sunday Morning Service

Personally, this is about as difficult at times as preparing the message from God's Word. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I cannot read music, lead singing, sing very well at all, play any type of instrument, or know how to judge between a good singer and a bad singer (though many make that judgment call very obvious from time to time). However, I do see the preperation of the order of service - songs to be sung congregationally, Scripture readings, offering, special prayer time, reading of church covenant, and the message from Scripture as an integral part of our local church's spiritual health and life. I am not sure if there is a time in the life of a church more important than when we gather on the Lord's Day. Because of that, I struggle, pray, and thumb through the hymnal to make the worhsip of God's people as God-centered as possible. To say the least - I fail miserably at this. There is no doubt that our songs, fellowship, worship, giving, and of course the message could stand to be more Christ-centered than it is already. That is probably the reason that I have been so consumed with Ron Owens' book - "Return to Worship". So here we go, let me know what you think about our songs and the order of service for this Sunday morning (4-23-06). Please keep in mind that I am doing all I can to avoid the songs with the Arminian stain of man-centerdness.

To God be the Glory
Scripture Reading - Psalm 19

Hallelujah, What A Savior
How Great Thou Art

Offering

Wonderful Merciful Savior
My Faith Looks Up to Thee

Message

Amazing Grace - Note: Please keep in mind that I do not call this our invitational song. Rather, I prefer to call this our "closing song". I hate to concede any of our public worship or theology to Charles Finney's brand of man-centered emotionalism.

The bottom line is this.....the planning of our worship services should not be taken lightly. The content of our worship services says a lot about the content of our theology and our view of God. Looking forward to your input an help with this....

Purpose Driven Theology: "We aren't your daddy's 12 step program...

...but, nonetheless, we are one!"

While Saddleback (and Purpose Driven churches) are to be commended for their desire to help people solve their problems, how they attempt to do so is rather troubling. "Celebrate Recovery" is the trademarked name of their new and improved (due to the insertion of Jesus' name) 12 step program based upon Rick Warren's interpretation of Christ's Beatitudes in Matthew 5. Rather than trying to explain how this program is patterned after the world famous AA 12 step program, I will let you read for yourself [or you can click here].

1. We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors. That our lives had become unmanageable.

2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.


3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.


4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.


5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs.


6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.


7. We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.


8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.


9. We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.


10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.


11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and power to carry that out.


12. Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and practice these principles in all our affairs.

Here are a few other disturbing findings and comments concerning this -- in their own words -- 'Christ-centered 12 step program' ...

By this time you are well on your way to recovery, and that is something to be proud of. First, you stepped out of denial and into God's grace. Then, you continued your growth and completed the spiritual inventory, which took a lot of effort and courage.

After writing an inventory, we must deal with what we wrote. The first way to do that is to CONFESS our sins to God. We learn how we confess our sins to God, and instantly receive forgiveness. Then we need to admit our wrongs to another person. By doing this we gain healing that the Bible promises, we gain freedom, and we gain support. Next, we need to be entirely READY to have God remove our character defects. This lesson helps you to be willing to voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in your life. The good news is you can have VICTORY over your character defects. The acrostic of VICTORY takes you through the steps necessary to see this change in your life. The lesson on AMENDS helps you offer forgiveness to those who have hurt you and shows you how to make amends with those that you have hurt. Then learn the three types of forgiveness: accepting God's forgiveness, forgiving others, and forgiving yourself. Finally, learn how to receive and model Jesus Christ's freely given gift of grace. (emphasis added)

--Website summary of Celebrate Recovery workbook 3

Before I turn the keyboard over for your comments on Warren's strategy of dealing with 'habits, hurts, and hang-ups', I ask you take note of one glaring problem...

Salvation is taught as the final step of recovery! In this psycho-babble filled model, men and women are taught that they can avail themselves of God's power to change, heal, and renew -- all while remaining an unbeliever (until the last step anyway). Yet feeding Scriptural principles to unbelievers is like feeding meat to a cow!
1 Corinthians 2:14, "The natural (unsaved) person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned."
What Warren fails to understand is that habits are not 'character defects', habits are idols of the heart. Scripture indicates that man's problem is a heart problem ... and until man deals with his heart problem, he will be unable to deal with his habit problem.
James 4:1-2, "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel..."
The first step in helping people deal with their problems is to introduce them to Jesus Christ. Man's root problem is not his drinking habit or anger issue -- man's greatest need isn't recovery or reform: man's root problem is sin and his greatest need is a Savior. If we really want to help those overcome by their sin, this will be our message!

PS -- Does anyone else wonder how people in Scripture dealt with their 'habits, hurts, and hang-ups' without the aid of a 12 step program?

Thursday, April 20

Purpose Driven Theology: "You can get to heaven without knowing Christ."

According to this question and answer appearing on the Saddlebackfamily.com website, it is true. Here is Purpose Driven theology's view of salvation apart from Christ [click here]:

Question: What about people who live in a country where they have never heard about Jesus? Will they be able to get into heaven by some other way?

Answer: There is only one way to get into heaven, through what Jesus did on the cross for us. He paid the price for our sins on the cross, no one else could do that because He alone is God.

What about those who haven't heard about the cross? They can be saved the same way that the people in the Old Testament were saved. The book of Romans tells us again and again that Abraham was saved the same way that we are, by his faith. Abraham didn't know the name of Jesus or that one day Jesus would die on the cross for his sins, but he trusted all that he knew about the God who had shown Himself to Abraham. Because of that trust, when Jesus died thousands of years after Abraham, the same forgiveness that was offered to us was given to Abraham.

God still reveals Himself to people who haven't heard the name of Jesus today. Romans 1:19-23;10:13-21 tells us that, even by nature itself, we can all clearly see who God really is. None of us can stand before God and say, I didn't understand." We all live as His creations in the world that He has made... the evidence of the love and grace of God are all around us! Let me be clear about what this means. A person who trusted in God without hearing the name of Jesus would be of the heart to immediately recognize that Jesus was the name of the one they believed in if they were ever to hear His name and story. They would know, just as Abraham would have known, that this is the truth about the God they have been following all of their lives. Someone who has begun to walk in the light is always able to recognize a brighter light.

Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 'For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." Romans 1:19-23

"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message? Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: "Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, "I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding. "And Isaiah boldly says, "I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me. "But concerning Israel he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people." Romans 10:13-21
Now for the biblical, orthodox, and historical answer to this question:

1) Although creation gives ample evidence of a Creator, understanding this universe is the handiwork of an Almighty God does not make one a Christian, regardless of where they may live or whether they will ever hear the name of Jesus. Romans 1 (the passage alluded to above as proof otherwise) is all about condemnation rather than salvation. Because creation testifies to the existence of a Creator, man is without excuse. Creation (general revelation) testifies to the existence of an omnipotent God (Romans 1:20) who is full of glory (Psalm 19:1).

Creation cannot communicate God's love, grace, or redemption. These attributes of God are visible only through the lens of special revelation, namely the Living Word (John 1:14; 3:16) and the written Word (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Remember, even the demons believe in God, and tremble, yet they will spend eternity separated from God in the everlasting fires of hell (James 2:19). Belief in "God" has never saved anyone, even saints in the Old Testament.

2) Old Testament saints obtained salvation in the same manner we do today -- by faith in Jesus Christ. Now granted, they did not know about Him what we know. But living on the other side of Bethlehem and Calvary did not eradicate their need to exercise faith in the coming Messiah. Each time they performed a sacrifice, the OT saints were reminded that God had promised to send a Messiah.
Hebrews 11: 13, "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth."

John 8:56, "Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad."
No one, including the OT saints, has ever been saved from their sins apart from grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone!

3) When someone is convinced of God's existence through the testimony of creation and desires to know more about Him, God will sovereignly and graciously reveal Himself through a human messenger. Paul, in Acts 17, is an example of one who testifies of Christ to those who had built an altar "To The Unknown God", resulting in the salvation of Dionysius the Aropagite and a woman named Damaris, among others.

The need for missions hinges on this truth. If man can get to heaven by simply believing in a deity, missions loses its necessity and urgency. Why do we send missionaries to the deepest jungles of Africa and South America? Why did Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian give their lives for the sake of proclaiming Christ to the Indians of Ecuador in 1956?

The heart of the gospel is the cross-work of Jesus Christ. Apart from the knowledge of Christ, there is no knowledge of the cross. Apart from the knowledge of the cross, there is no knowledge of a substitutionary sacrifice. And apart from the knowledge of a substitutionary sacrifice there can be no salvation. Salvation has and always will be only through Christ and His cross.
Acts 4:12, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

John 14:6, "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'"

Romans 10:9, "...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

Acts 16:31, "And they said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved...'"
Apart from the name and work of Jesus, there is no salvation! Christ is the ONLY WAY TO THE FATHER! To believe otherwise not only negates the need for evangelism and missions, it eradicates the purpose of the Cross. And any cross-less Christianity is no Christianity at all.

Wednesday, April 19

Busch Beer and Purpose Driven Theology: What They Have In Common, Pt. 2

Same song ... second verse. If you have yet to read the first verse of this Purpose Driven jingle and are wondering about the word "beer" in the title, click here.

For all who read yesterday's post, welcome back. Below are the final two exerpts from Rick Warren's Easter Sunday message delivered at Saddleback in April of 2001. Again, while reading, I encourage you to exercise caution and discernment, this catch-phrase theology is catching -- at least it is in some 40,000 churches across America.

Before you read Warren's words, I must take a moment to give credit where credit is due: he does mention the word "sins" and the phrase "Jesus died on the cross" in the conclusion of his message. Yet, as you will see, these words are given only a "courtesy mention" in passing ... inserted in a canned prayer that Warren admits to be praying on behalf of all those who want to be converted by "saying a simple 'Yes' to God."

The problem with this Purpsose Driven theology (in addition to being purposefully pragmatic and anthropocentric) is the shallow and pseudo conversions it promotes. And here is proof:

Saddleback averages 20,000 in weekly attendance [click here for megachurch attendance figures]. Recently, Saddleback celebrated their 20,000th baptism [click here to see Warren celebrating]. Let's see ... this church has baptized 20,000 converts; averages 20,000 in attendance, and claims to have thousands of unbelievers attending their seeker-oriented services each week? And what about all those who were already baptized when they joined the Saddleback family membership?

The only possible explanation for the above figures is shallow and pseudo conversions. Conversions that result in little, if any, commitment to a local church; conversions (and baptisms) that produce little, if any, commitment to a changed life. In fact, Saddleback openly endorses and practices the baptism of 'converts' who are living in open and unrepentant sin [click here to read this in their own words].

If you would have been among the thousands flocking to a megachurch in Saddleback Valley on Easter Sunday of 2001, here is what you would have heard from the pulpit (oops ... I mean 'lectern'):

Fill in this blank, “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to _________.” “I don’t think I’ll ever get married.” “I don’t think I’ll ever get remarried.” “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget that person that hurt me, and forgive them.” “I don’t think I’ll ever get over that hurt.” “I don’t think I’ll ever have a fresh start.” “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fulfill the dream that I’ve always had.” Do you know why you think like that? Because you’re looking at your situation from your point of view, instead of looking at it from God’s point of view … When you look at your situation from God’s perspective, God has power that you don’t have, and when you open your mind to the power of God, God can do incredible changes in your life that you never thought possible. He can make you better than you were before. Yeah, you’re good, but you could be better…

I hope you’ll say a quiet “yes” to God in this service. I hope you’ll go, “Yep, God, I want to open my mind to your power and I want to open my life to your grace. Yes, God.” If you do that, you will never be the same again. You will see changes in your life you never thought possible. If you do that, it will make an incredible difference; because God’s grace changes everything…

Has God been trying to get your attention? I think so, I think so. That is why He brought you here today, because you were made for more than you’re living, far, far more. He wants to help you, your heavenly father wants to say, “You can start over, and this time, I’ll help you.” Easter gives us the power to start over. Jesus gives us the power to keep going. He gives us the power to change; to be different. You see friends, the bottom line is – Easter is not about big musical productions…big numbers…big crowds. Easter is really about real, personal, internal change in you and me.

Last Easter here at Saddleback over 1,000 people stepped over the line spiritually … And we’re going to close this service with a prayer. And I’m going to pray the prayer I personally prayed years ago when I stepped across the line spiritually; when I said, “God, I know about You, I know You exist, I just don’t know You, and I want to get to know You.” I prayed that prayer, and it changed my life. I’m going to invite you to follow me in this prayer. Now you don’t have to say these same words, it really doesn’t matter what words you say, what matters is the direction of your heart. Just saying “Yes” to God is enough.

But as I pray this prayer in a minute, if these words kind of express what’s in your heart, you just kind of go, “Me too, God. What Rick’s saying right now, me too. I’m saying the same thing with my heart.” And you’ll take that first step. So let’s pray that prayer together, would you bow your heads with me as we close. First I’m going to pray for you, and then you can follow me in a prayer.

“Father, there are people here today in this tent and in the worship center who’ve never begun a relationship with You. They know about You, they know You exist, but they haven’t really got to know you personally. And so today, I pray this Easter, You will give them the courage to open their mind, their heart, and their life to You.”

Now you pray. Here’s a ‘fresh start with God’ prayer. You can pray this prayer; just say in your mind … “Dear God, I’d like a fresh start on life. I don’t want to stay the same. There are things in my life that I know need changing. So as much as I know how, I want to open up my mind to your power, and my heart to your grace. Thank You for loving me, and for forgiving me. I don’t understand it all, but I thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to die for my sins, help me to understand that more. Jesus Christ, I want to open up my life to your love, and your grace, and your power to change. Thank you, Amen.”

Again, this sermon was the beginning of the end of my Purpose Driven journey. Oh, and by the way, I've never followed Hoyt Axton's advice to "head for the mountains of Busch...beer." But I must admit, I once followed the advice of those Purpose Driven jingles. But, by God's grace, I am now in recovery. Hmm ... I wonder if we should start a Celebrate Recovery group [click here to order your kit]. So, what should we call it?

What Does This Look Like To You?


Well, it depends.

According to several articles in TIME Magazine [click here], if you are an evolutionary scientist, this is a missing link in the evolutionary process. From these ancient bone fragments you are able to deduce the following...

This fossil is 375 million years old.

This "Tiktaalik" had the fins and scales of a fish, but its crocodile-like neck and ribs resemble those of a land animal.

This animal had webbed feet on crocodile-like legs.

These bones give enough information to create a detailed sketch of this animal's color, length, tail, age, environment, diet, and place in the evolutionary chain. From these bones, the evolutionist can also determine that the evolution from life in water to life on land happened gradually in fish living in shallow water.
In the words of Dr. Farish A. Jenkins from Harvard University, "The skeleton of Tiktaalik indicates that it could support its body under the force of gravity whether in very shallow water or on land. This represents a very critical early phase in the evolution of all limbed animals, including us." [For more evolutionary gobbledygook on this subject, click here.]

So what des this fossil look like to a Bible-believing, young-earth, creationist Christian? Well, contrary to what Dr. Jenkins says, it doesn't look like me (although Joanna says the nose looks rather familiar!). It does, though, seem strikingly similar to that zoo-favorite reptile, the crocodile.

Again, I am no scientist, but I do know the Creator personally; and He says we are not related!
Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Genesis 1:21, "And God created great whales, and every living creature that moves which the waters brought forth abundantly after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good."


Genesis 1:27, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."
It appears that Dr. Jenkins disagrees with God. So, whom will you believe: the doctor or the Creator?

Tuesday, April 18

Busch Beer and Purpose Driven Theology: What They Have In Common

As many of you know, I spent several years in the Purpose Driven movement, which may explain why several have accused me of beating the proverbial dead horse on this issue. Yet that is not my intent. From personal experience I can testify to the fact that Purpose Driven theology and methodology becomes ingrained in the minds of those who purport its teachings. Often I still struggle prying myself from its ever-tightening jaws.

Have you ever wondered why all those beer jingles stick with you? They are built to. I can still remember the Busch beer commercials (bet you didn't expect to be reading this on a Baptist blog!) from when I was a boy: "It's time to head for the mountains of Busch...beer." I can still hear Hoyt Axton's voice inviting me to drink beer from the mountains (I've never understood how beer comes from the Rockies). It is rather comical that I remember this song having grown up without a television in my home for over eight years! Still that jingle has stuck with me for more than twenty years now. Why? Because it was catchy.

Purpose Driven theology is built on the same premise. I can still quote you the now-trademarked terminology. We've been inundated with the marketing strategy of ... "A great commitment to the great commandment and the great commission will build a great church." "40 days of Purpose" "40 days of Community" "40 days of Commitment" By the way, isn't the number 40 associated with judgment in Scripture?

The latest and greatest Purpose Driven jingle is the new global PEACE plan. Through this plan, Saddleback Church plans to eradicate illiteracy, poverty, AIDS, disease, and corrupt political leadership.

Every time I stand behind a lectern or a pulpit, I must consciously fight the theology that's been ingrained in my mind through the pop-psychology jingles of the Purpose Driven movement. I once downloaded several sermons a week from the Pastors.com website. I once preached Rick Warren's sermons and devoured his books. But the following Easter Sunday 2001 sermon was the beginning of the end of my infatuation with Purpose Driven theology.

I still remember listening to this sermon in my office at my previous church. I remember hearing those same catchy phrases I had heard countless times before. Yet this time I heard them for what they were really proposing. The Lord used this sermon to begin opening my eyes to the truth: what I was hearing was nothing more than a catchy jingle, repackaged for an Easter crowd.

Here ... you can read it for yourself. This is an exerpt from Warren's 2001 Easter sermon. As you read, do so discerningly and with great caution. Warren's theology is catchy ... and it will stick with you.

"Easter is all about change. God took the worst possible situation, the death of His Son, turned it around, used it for good, and changed the world. Easter changed history. Every time you write a date, the focal point is Jesus Christ. Every time you write AD or BC, this event split history … More than that, this event is still changing individual lives, like me, like you today.

Did you know that the purpose of Easter is not for religious people; it is not. If you have no religious background, if you don’t really feel that connected to God, if you rarely go to church, congratulations – this is your holiday.

Did you know that Jesus Christ did not come for religious people…Jesus said, “I came for religious outsiders…” Jesus said, “I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders. An invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.” (text uncertain) Easter is God’s invitation to you – the invitation of a changed life.

So, here’s the question: What do you want to change? What do you want to change about your life?

You probably think that you’re a pretty good person, and you know what, you’re right – you are! You think, “I’ve got a good life; I’ve got a great family; I’ve got a good career; I’m a pretty nice person – I’m a pretty good person; I live in a nice place; I’ve got it good.” And you know what? You’re right. I have no doubt, you’re probably a very good person, but it’s nothing compared to what you could be. You are only using a fraction of your God-given potential. You have barely scratched the surface. You were made for more than you are right now. Yeah, you’re good, but it’s nothing compared to what you could be, and that’s what Easter is all about: how to change from good to better. And we’re going to look at it today – how to become a better person.

Here’s what Easter is all about – it’s about change inside of you. If you really want to be a better person, God says here’s how you do it. You’ve got to open your mind to God’s power. Change the way you think first. “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” (text uncertain) Notice, you don’t change by trying harder. You change your life by changing the way you think, and opening your mind to the possibility of God. Open your mind to the possibility that He exists. Open your mind to the possibility that He loves you. Open your mind to the possibility that He might know everything in your life and still care about you, that He knows the problems you’re going through, and He can help you. Open your mind to the possibility that He has power that maybe you don’t have and you can tap into that power and make some changes you haven’t been able to make on your own …"

What does Rick Warren believe about man? "You're pretty good, but you could be better." Yet Romans 3:10-12 contradicts Warren's teaching,
"As it is written, 'None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned asid; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.'"
I wonder how many church-goers heard this sermon on Sunday? I'm ashamed to say that my congregation did...back in 2002. May God have mercy on the souls who were there to hear it.

The second verse of this Purpose Driven jingle with be forthcoming tomorrow, Lord willing.

An Open Question To All Baptists...

Are you a proponent of Congregational Rule or would you subscribe to a Congregational Form of Government?

To some, the difference between these two alternatives may seem rather insignificant, but I am convinced otherwise. As Baptists, we pride ourselves in "doing church by the Book", although I am not sure our view of polity is as biblical as we may claim -- especially if we don't see a difference in the above alternatives. The distinction may be subtle as far as definitions go, but the practical implications for church ministry are enormous.

Now for your input ... which of the above alternatives do you find to be the most biblically compelling alternative?

This question is a preface to an upcoming discussion of this issue.

Monday, April 17

Crucial Issues for Fundamentalism

I apologize for my brief hiatus over the past several days. I was out of town for a few days visiting family with no internet access. Our return on Saturday was met with a ton of things that needed to be done in preparation for Easter. The Lord gave us a wonderful day yesterday and it was a joy to preach about our resurrected Lord. With all of that being said, let me get down to some issues that I see us facing right now in the world of fundamentalism that have become serious points of debate and at times separation:

Calvinism - Historically, those of us who hold tightly to inerrancy have traditionally held to the doctrines of grace (a.k.a. Calvinism). It has also been exciting to watch many who have had traditional Arminian backgrounds that make man the determining factor in salvation, come to appreciate the clear Scriptural teachings in regards to unconditional election. But many in the world of fundamentalism have had many struggles with this teaching. To many it seems unfair and it goes against the grain of the man-centered theology that has evolved out of fundamentalism over the past several decades. This will come to a head when James White and Tom Aschol (representing Calvinism) square off against Ernin and Emin Caner (representing the Arminian view) at Liberty University in October. This is a debate that I would pay to see in person and I am looking forward to purchasing the CD's from this one. If we fail to accept the clear teaching of Scripture in regards to man's total inability to seek after God, the basic thrust of biblical theology is in serious jeopardy. I pray that the pragmatic "arms race" that militant fundamentalism ignited back in the 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's, and 80's will not hinder a clear understanding of the doctrines of grace.

Evangelism - This ties in closely with my previous point. Because we have been so incredibly results driven in our approach to local church life, our soteriology has been greatly affected along with our methodology. As Mark Dever points out very candidly in his book 9 Marks of a Healthy Church - "Our theology should determine our methodology". Hence, we are at a crossroads as to how we are going to do our evangelism. The biblical mandate is clear to evangelize the world. Those who hold dear the doctrines of grace do not use our Calvinistic leanings as a crutch to cop out of evangelism. Rather, we use them as a great source of assurance knowing that God has an elect that He will save and that we are commanded to get the Gospel to. The pragmatic Arminian evangelistic approach has been devastating to local churches throughout the world. One only needs to ask dozens of so called "converts" who have been counted as those who have made "decisions" in many of these mega churches as to what it actually means to be saved and it will not take long to realize that the emphasis on mass numbers and the de-emphasis on substance and doctrine has drastically harmed the church. Will fundamentalism continue down the road of 1-2-3 pray after me along with a foot in the door pressuring people to pray a concocted prayer and then granting them assurance of their heavenly destiny without laying out any implications of the Gospel call? We are reaping today the harmful effects of the "sales" approach to evangelism that has produced an unregenerate church membership in many circles.

The Emergent Church - This is probably the fastest growing threat to orthodox Christianity today. I am very thankful for the prominent evangelicals who have articulated very clearly the dangers of this movement that at first glance seems to address many of the failures of fundamentalism, but at the same time throws propositional truth right out the window in the name of openness and spiritual "experience". Though most who sit in the pews of our churches have yet to hear about this movement, its influence is growing rapidly and it will not be long before many of the people that God has called us to shepherd will be coming with questions regarding this movement. I recommend that you take a look at D.A. Carson's critique of this movement in his book entitled - "Becoming Conversant With the Emergent Church".

Secondary or Ecclesiastical Separation - I am well aware that both of these could have been in separate sub categories but for the sake of space and time I will combine the two. We're seeing this in a number of circles. The most personal to me would be the situation regarding the GARBC and Cedarville University. I will be at (Lord willing) the GARBC Nat'l Conf. where they will be voting on the association's position in regards to "Ecclesiastical Separation". I have read the statement that we will be voting on and look forward to see how this goes. But the association that I belong to is not the only one that is going through its own metamorphosis in regards to this issue. We are finally seeing independent Baptists openly acknowledge for the first time that not every Southern Baptist pastor or church is the district manager of the anti-christ. For years, it was the unpardonable sin for IBFers to have anything to do with the "apostate" SBC. Now, we are finding that there are a number of other ministries that dearly love the Gospel of our precious Lord as well - PCA (Presbyterian Church of America), Sovereign Grace Ministries, and many strong Gospel loving Southern Baptists (especially those associated with the Founder's) who love and cherish the doctrines of grace. It is interesting to note that when we look at the history of fundamentalism (especially in the 20's and 30's) the issue of secondary separation was not the lightning rod issue that it is today. I am not saying that separation is not an incredibly important issue - IT IS! Scripture is clear in its teaching regarding our separating from those who are apostate and compromise the integrity of the doctrine that we stand for. I also go so far to say that I do not shun from the word "separatist" when used in the appropriate context. However, I do shun from the word "isolationist" especially when it entails those who love God's Word, the Gospel, and are strong on doctrine and refuse to compromise on the essentials of the Gospel.

These are just a few of the issues that come to my mind. I realize that I could spend several hours on this alone but time only permits me to go this far. Anyone have others that they would like to add and elaborate on???

Purpose Driven Theology: "Anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart."

In Rick Warren's best-selling church growth manual, The Purpose Driven Church (which is subtitled, "growth without compromising your message and mission"), he makes the following claims (page 219):

Jesus Attracted Crowds by Meeting People's Needs

"People crowded around Jesus because he met their needs -- physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, and financial. He did not judge some needs as being "more legitimate" than others, and he certainly did not make people feel guilty for their needs. He treated each person with dignity and respect.

Jesus often met a felt need in order to establish a beachhead for evangelism in a person's life. I pointed out earlier that Jesus frequently asked people, "What do you want me to do for you?" God uses all kinds of human needs to get people's attention. Who are we to judge whether a person's interest in Christ is for the right reason or the wrong reason? It doesn't matter
why people initially come to Jesus, what matters is that they come. He can work on their motives, values, and priorities once they enter his presence.

I doubt that any of us had absolutely unselfish, unmixed motivations when we asked Christ to save us. We came when we sensed a need that he could meet. We should not expect unbelievers to have Christlike motives and values.


It is my deep conviction that anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart. That key to each person's heart is unique so it is sometimes difficult to discover. It may take some time to identify it. But the most likely place to start is with the person's felt needs. As I pointed out earlier, this was the approach Jesus used."
Warren makes several troubling and theologically inaccurate statements in these four paragraphs:

First, while I understand that Jesus' ministry did attract crowds (and at other times dispersed them), historically, the church has taught that Jesus' miracles were not for evangelistic purposes but for authentication purposes. Jesus fed the five thousand, not as a means to save them, but to authenticate His deity. Now, granted, many of Jesus' miracles did have evangelistic effects, but Christ's purpose in performing these miracles (and thereby meeting people's "needs") was not the latest "evangelistic marketing strategy."

The Bible's reality does not support Warren's claims. Jesus did attract crowds, but the need-meeting of which Warren speaks never resulted in a mass evangelistic crusade. In fact, much of Jesus' evangelism took place one-on-one. Why is that significant? Because the purpose of Jesus miracles (the meeting of people's physical needs) was not evangelism, but the authentication of His deity (John 2:11).

Second, while Jesus did ask the question, "What do you want me to do for you", it doesn't appear in the gospels nearly as frequently as Warren would lead us to believe. In fact, Jesus asks this question only of Bartimaeus (in three different gospel accounts: Matthew 20:32; Mark 10:51; Luke 18:31), and James and John -- while they were bickering over who would have the position of authority in Christ's kingdom (Mark 10:36).

Warren seems to be using Jesus' question as a catch-all for our evangelism efforts. This really should come as no surprise, especially in light of how Warren has built Saddleback -- via a community survey asking unbelievers what it would take to get them into church. "What do you want us to do for you" evangelism creates a consumeristic, rabbit's foot, genie-like response to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
But Jesus did not come to meet people's "felt needs". Jesus came to give life to the dead (John 10:10). He came "to seek and save those who were lost" (Luke 19:10). He came to "give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). And He came to give rest to the weary and heavy laden (Matthew 11:28). Can we really build an entire theology and methodology around a question Christ asks twice in Scripture?

Third, while "relationship evangelism" is a scriptural principle, Warren's "deep conviction that anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her own heart" is outright heresy. Warren has erased God Himself from the conversion equation. In Warren's view, winning the lost to Christ is not dependent upon God's work in the sinner's soul, but the evangelizer's work in discovering the key to the sinner's heart. This methodology contradicts the simple and clear teaching of Scripture...

John 6:44, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him."

We don't hold the key to man's heart, God does. And any other view is God-demeaning and Scripture-denying. Theology determines methodology ... and any pastor who is deeply convinced that he can win anybody to Christ by discovering the key to their heart makes conversion the work of man rather than the work of God.

Let us be warned, this kind of teaching may tickle ears and fill pews, but it will not glorify God. It may have been the approach Jesus used, but let us remember one important truth: WE AREN'T JESUS!

ADDENDUM: Mark Dever, in The Deliberate Church, weighs in on this anomalous theology of evangelism
(pgs. 56-57):
"Some evangelism strategies seek to make the Gospel attractive to unbelievers by fronting all the benefits of Christianity and saving the costs for later. They promise that you'll experience more satisfaction, less stress, a better sense of community, and an increased sense of meaning in life -- and you'll be prepared for eternity to boot! -- if you'll just make a decision for Christ right now. Perhaps all of these things are right around the corner for the listening unbeliever. Yet what does this kind of 'benefit evangelism' do the the biblical Gospel? It makes the Gospel appear to be all about me and improving my lifestyle and making me happier. Now, granted, we are the beneficiaries and God is the benefactor. W're not the ones 'doing God a favor' by becoming Christians. Yet the Gospel is not ultimately about me. It is about God making His holiness and sovereign mercy known. It is about God's glory, and gathering worshipers for Himself who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. It is about God vinidicating His holiness by punishing Christ for the sins of all those who repent and believe. It is about making a name for Himself in the world by gathering a people and separating them to Himself for the spread of His fame to the nations.

'Benefit evangelism' fills our churches with people who are taught to expect everything to go their way just because they became Christians. But Jesus promises persecution for following Him, not worldly perks (John 15:18-16:4; cf. 2 Tim. 3:12). We want to build Christians and churches who persevere through hardship, who are willing to suffer and be persecuted and even die for the Gospel of Christ, because they value God's glory more than the temporal benefits of conversion. We don't want people to become Christiains because it will reduce their stress. We want them to become Christians because they know they need to repent of their sins, believe in Jesus Christ, and joyfully take up thier cross and follow Him for the glory of God.

There are indeed wonderful benefits to the Christian life; but being God-centered in our evangelism by focusing less on the temporal benefits and more on God's character and plan makes for more Christians ready to suffer, and more churches motivated by God's glory."
Someone once put it this way, "What you win them with is what you win them to." Scripture doesn't describe salvation as a "ticket to heaven" but rather as a "life to be lost for Jesus' sake."

Friday, April 14

Spurgeon: "The Resurrection proves the futility of all opposition to Christ."

The following is the conclusion to Spurgeon's sermon entitled, "The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus." This was preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on Easter Sunday, 1882, following a rather lengthy bout with illness. Spurgeon's text was 2 Timothy 2:8. Here is the Prince of Preachers:

"The Resurrection proves the futility of all opposition to Christ. The learned are going to destroy the Christian religion. Already, according to their boastings, it has pretty nearly come to an end. The pulpit is effete, it cannot command public attention. We stand up and preach to empty benches! As you see-or do not see. Nothing remains for us but to die decently, so they insinuate. And what then? When our Lord was dead, when the clay-cold corpse lay, watched by the Roman soldiery, and with a seal upon the enclosing stone, was not the cause in mortal jeopardy? But how fared it? Did it die out? Every disciple that Jesus had made forsook him, and fled, was not Christianity then destroyed? Nay, that very day our Lord won a victory which shook the gates of hell, and caused the universe to stand astonished. Matters are not worse with him at this hour! His affairs are not in a sadder condition to-day than then. Nay, see him to-day and judge. On his head are many crowns, and at his feet the hosts of angels bow! Jesus is the master of legions to-day, while the Caesars have passed away! Here are his people-needy, obscure, despised, I grant you, still, but assuredly somewhat more numerous than they were when they laid him in the tomb. His cause is not to be crushed, it is for ever rising.

Year after year, century after century, bands of true and honest hearts are marching up to the assault of the citadel of Satan. The prince of this world has a stronghold here on earth, and we are to capture it; but as yet we see small progress, for rank after rank the warriors of the Lord have marched to the breach and disappeared beneath the terrible fire of death. All who have gone before seem to have been utterly cut off and destroyed, and still the enemy holds his ramparts against us. Has nothing been done, think you? Has death taken away those martyrs, and confessors, and preachers, and laborious saints, and has nothing been achieved?

Truly if Christ were dead I would admit our defeat, for they that are fallen asleep in him would have perished: but as the Christ liveth so the cause liveth, and they that have fallen are not dead: they have vanished from our sight for a little, but if the curtain could be withdrawn every one of them would be seen to stand in his lot unharmed, crowned, victorious! “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and whence came they?” These are they that were defeated! Whence, then, their crowns? These are they that were dishonored! Whence then their white robes? These are they who clung to a cause which is overthrown. Whence then their long line of victors, for there is not a vanquished man among them all? Let the truth be spoken.

Defeat is not the word for the cause of Jesus, the Prince of the house of David. We have always been victorious, brethren; we are victorious now. Follow your Master on your white horses, and be not afraid! I see him in the front with his bloodstained vesture around him, fresh from the wine-press where he has trodden down his foes. You have not to present atoning blood, but only to conquer after your Lord. Put on your white raiment and follow him on your white horses, conquering and to conquer. He is nearer than we think, and the end of all things may be before the next jibe shall have come forth from the mouth of the last new sceptic. Have confidence in the risen One, and live in the power of his resurrection."


WOW! And I have to wait until Sunday to preach?

Yet I wonder what those over at Debunking Christianity would say to Spurgeon's claims? Maybe we'll find out!

May God grant you and yours a blessed Easter Sunday.

HE IS RISEN, CHRIST IS RISEN INDEED!