Saturday, June 30

Mark Dever on Separation and Ecumenism

From the Together For The Gospel blog:

On my last evening in Geneva, I reflect briefly on various evangelical ecumenisms. I would not be a part of those that we evangelicals usually refer to as the ecumenists--like the World Council of Churches. (Don't they have offices somewhere here in Geneva?)

There is another kind of togetherness that I have publicly objected to--Evangelicals and Catholic TOGETHER. While I wish all of these men well, and some of them are good friends of mine, I fear that some of them--Protestant and Roman Catholic--have so elevated what they understand to be implications of the Gospel to be of equal importance to, and even to be part of, the Gospel itself. And when that is done, moral agreements may seem to diminish the difference, and at least the significance of the difference, between Rome's understanding of salvation, and that which we understand the Bible to teach. And in such a situation the cultural periphery is temporarily shored up, while the theological heart sinks into dangerous confusion. Such togetherness is purchased at too high a price.

Continue reading HERE.

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Friday, June 29

Happy Anniversary! To Us!

Christina and I are celebrating 11 years of marriage as a testimony of God's grace at work in our lives. Much has happened in our lives in the past 11 years. Through it all, our God has sustained us and provided as only He can. We rejoice today in the covenant of marriage and that God in His Word has given to us the clear principles and commands that He expects us to live by and treasure as His followers.

My wife is a precious gift of God that I do not deserve. She is faithful, loving, diligent, patient (especially with me), kind, thoughtful, beautiful, godly, passionate and humble. I pray that our anniversary is not the only day that I keep these truths in mind.

Our Vacation Bible School came to a close today, I am exhausted, relieved, and rejoicing in the gospel of grace that our Lord has given us to live, proclaim, treasure, and cherish.

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Thursday, June 28

Getting Personal: The Battle for Control - Our Words

Some more godly wisdom from Paul David Tripp in his book War of Words. These are also some good and humbling thoughts that remind us to have a God-centered view of our words before our day starts.

1. How does your communication reveal a frustration with people and circumstances?
2. In what ways is your communication an attempt to take control?
3. How do you typically respond when your plans are thwarted?
4. How do you respond when God sends suffering or disappointment your way?
5. Do you encourage those around you to rest in God's sovereign care? Do you point to evidences of his loving hand? How?
6. Do you seek to speak in a way that encourages the work God is doing in others?
7. Do your words reveal that you are resting in God's control or wrestling with it?

Paul David Tripp, War of Words, Pg. 84; emphasis added.

Wednesday, June 27

Some of My Own Reasons - For My Metamorphisis

There is an interesting conversation going on at the new Church Matters blog about the resurgence of Reformed Theology and the Doctrines of Grace among young evangelicals (who used to like the label fundamentalist before the hostile takeover from the militants). I'm looking forward to reading these posts and am curious to find out how someone who does not have his roots in fundamentalism (Mark Dever) explains the reformation of Calvinistic theology among young fundamentalists. I'll give some of my own reasons here. Some will seem pragmatic and simplistic and others will be more theological.

1. Questions regarding dispensationalism. Notice that I did NOT say a complete departure from it, just questions about it ranging from its historical foundations, interpretation issues (I'll address later) and realizing there are many today and throughout church history who have not had a dispensational persuasion who we hold in high regard theologically.

2. Becoming disenfranchised with manufacturing professions at "special" meetings. Methods that call for the manipulation of unsuspecting "converts" simply does not jive with young fundamentalists today. They have too many false professions that have shown regenerational fruit in their lives.

3. Actually looking into what the Bible says about election, foreknowledge, regeneration and conversion. Instead of just saying that election is based on foreknowledge (which is inherently pelagian) and embracing God's absolute sovereignty.

4. The influences of Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, John Calvin, J. Gresham Machen, B.B. Warfield, A.W. Pink (historical influences) and today John MacArthur, John Piper, D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, John Stott, James Boice, Phil Ryken, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan and a host of others who have influenced the thinking of many young fundamentalists concerning the Reformed faith.

Most young fundamentalists that I know are looking for substance...something with depth. I'm not trying to be divisive here folks but producing decisions and the week-long emotionalism associated with revivals have not produced the substance in mainstream fundamentalism. Most within IFB circles would openly concede that as well.

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Can You Take These People Seriously?

Do you have EVGP (Excessive Video Game Playing)? Are you addicted to video games?


The telltale signs are ominous: teens holing up in their rooms,
ignoring friends, family, even food and a shower, while grades plummet and belligerence soars.

Don't kid yourself. It isn't just teens who are addicted. There are a number of adults in there 20's and 30's who have this addiction as well. But if you have this addiction take heart because medical help just might be on the way. Lindsay Tanner's AP report hit the news on Thursday:

A leading council of the nation's largest doctors' group wants to have this behavior officially classified as a psychiatric disorder, to raise awareness and enable sufferers to get insurance coverage for treatment.

In a report prepared for the American Medical Association's annual policy meeting starting Saturday in Chicago, the council asks the group to lobby for the disorder to be included in a widely used mental illness manual created and published by the
American Psychiatric Association. [Read the entire article HERE.]

The Chicago Tribune reported on Monday:

Testimony at the AMA annual meeting Sunday seemed to favor deferring to the American Psychiatric Association, which will ultimately make the final call as it writes a new edition of a manual that mental health professionals use to establish diagnoses.

Sunday's debate at the AMA centered on whether enough science was available to classify excessive video game playing as an addiction and whether the organization should advocate an outright classification as an addiction or push for limits on game playing such as one to two hours of "total daily screen time."

The decision, which will be made by the psychiatric association, will be made over the next five years and could determine whether doctors diagnose specific medications or treatments for excessive video game playing. An addiction classification also could influence whether employers or insurers pay for coverage of such an addiction as they might for alcohol or drug dependency. [Read the entire article HERE.]

I heard about this from the Thursday edition of The Albert Mohler Radio Program. [You can listen to the entire program HERE.]

I can personally attest to the fact that there is an addictive element to video games especially those that have any type of role-playing involved. (My wife is a witness to my struggle with this addiction.) So I have no problem classifying video games as addictive. Just as I have no problem labeling card games, skydiving, blogging and many other exciting, endorphin-producing activities, as addictive. But there is a night and day difference between calling a behavior "addictive" and calling that same behavior a "mental illness." When classified as a "mental disease" it is viewed something that happens to me, something I can't control. "I am not responsible. I have a disease."

The fundamental flaw in the psychiatric system can be seen in this quote from the AP report:

Joyce Protopapas of Frisco, Texas, said her 17-year-old son, Michael, was a video addict. Over nearly two years, video and Internet games transformed him from an outgoing, academically gifted teen into a reclusive manipulator who flunked two 10th grade classes and spent several hours day and night playing a popular online video game called World of Warcraft.

"My father was an alcoholic ... and I saw exactly the same thing" in Michael, Protopapas said. "We battled him until October of last year," she said. "We went to therapists, we tried taking the game away.

"He would threaten us physically. He would curse and call us every name imaginable," she said. "It was as if he was possessed." [Emphasis mine]

Alcoholism, defined as alcohol abuse in the DSM-IV, is already qualified as a mental illness. Therefore it is a very short step to defining any behavior that has the same addictive qualities as alcoholism as a mental illness. That is why the list of substance abuse disorders will continue to grow and why an activity such as excessive video game playing (EVGP) is already being considered for mental illness status. If substance abuse is a "mental disease" why isn't any other behavioral abuse a "mental disease?" Once this idea comes full circle many of you reading this will be accurately diagnosed with EBD (Excessive Blogging Disorder), of which my wife has already told me has replaced my EVGP.

This brings me to my final point. After reading stories like this can we really take the mental health professionals seriously? When the mental health community begins to seriously consider EVGP as a disease the point is made for us: the psychiatric system itself is fundamentally flawed.

How absurd does the APA (American Psychiatric Association) have to get before Christians stop buying what they are selling? In the past we have pointed out other absurd theories such as IED (Intermittent Explosive Disorder) and had Christians still feel the need to defend the psychiatric community. What will they have to classify as illness before Christians stop defending them and their theories? When are we going to take the Bible seriously when it tells us that our fundamental problem isn't mental, but spiritual? When are we going to stop blaming it on the brain and start searching our hearts?

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Tuesday, June 26

Listening to Scripture


This year I am attempting to read through the NIV. It has been delightful so far. What's more although I perfer the ESV as a translation I have enjoyed reading and listening to the NIV more.


But I would recommend (if you have not before) listening to Scripture. Get a good audio book version of Scripture and listen while reading. I have found comprehension far better when you are doing both. And all the major translations have a good audio Bibles. The Listener's Bible is a good series and read by Max McLean who is superb; also, the ESV NT is read by Marquis Laughlin who is beyond superb in my opinion.


Soli Deo Gloria

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Book Review: Preaching and Preachers

Dr. Lloyd-Jones was asked to deliver a series of lectures to the students of the Westminster Theological Seminary and he decided to speak on "Preaching and Preachers." He was reluctant to put those sixteen lectures into print but felt that his forty-one years of experience gave him some justification. All pastors should be very grateful that he did for we are the beneficiaries of that experience. This book is a classic and a must-read for every pastor! It continues to be profoundly relevant almost forty years after it was first put into print and is one of, if not, the most recommended book on preaching available today. Dr. Lloyd -Jones writes in the preface:

I have aimed at being practical, and I have tried to deal with the various detailed problems and questions that men have often put to me privately, and which have also often been discussed in ministers' meetings. In any case, as appears in many of the lectures, I thoroughly dislike any theoretical or abstract treatment of this subject.

While preaching I rarely refer to myself; but here I felt that to be impersonal would be quite wrong. So there is a good deal of the personal and anecdotal element, I trust that this will be found to be helpful by way of illustration of the principles which I have tried to inculcate.

Some may object to my dogmatic assertions; but I do not apologize for them. Every preacher should believe strongly in his own method; and if I cannot persuade all of the rightness of mine, I can at least stimulate them to think and to consider other possibilities. I can say quite honestly that I would not cross the road to listen to myself preaching, and the preachers whom I have enjoyed most have been very different indeed in their method and style. But my business is not to describe them but to state what I believe to be right, however imperfectly I have put my own precepts into practice.
He is not exaggerating when he talks about dogmatic assertions. He has many strong opinions and is not shy about sharing them. In Chapter 14: Calling for Decisions he gives ten reasons why he doesn't give an 'altar call.' This chapter also highlights that fact that Lloyd-Jones is a strong Calvinist. Although it doesn't come up very often it does shape his philosophy of preaching, but it is not so prevalent that non-Calvinists need to shy away.It is worth the price of the book to read his opinion on almost every question that preachers have. If anything, this book is extremely practical.

Chapter 1: The Primacy of Preaching
gives Dr. Lloyd-Jones' motivation for delivering this series of lectures on preaching. He writes, "The work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called. If you want something in addition to that I would say without any hesitation that the most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also...The primary task of the Church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God."

In 1969 when he gave these lectures preaching was already being considered outmoded and outdated. The great question was: "Can we justify preaching?" His answer, "You cannot read the history of the Church, even in a cursory manner, without seeing that preaching has always occupied a central and a predominating position in the life of the Church, particularly in Protestantism." He enumerates his reasons for why the place and power of preaching is in decline:
  1. The wrong emphasis on oratory and eloquence.
  2. "The loss of belief in the authority of the Scriptures, and a diminution in the belief of Truth."
  3. A justified reaction against the "professional pulpiteers."
  4. The publishing of sermons that led to pastors becoming essayists rather than preachers.
  5. An "increase in the element of entertainment in public worship--the use of films and the introduction of more and more singing" and the giving of testimonies.
In Chapter 2: No Substitute Lloyd-Jones continues substantiating the proposition that preaching is primary and therefore there can be no substitute for preaching. He goes for the jugular by declaring that the decline in preaching is linked to inaccurate theological conclusions. Man is inaccurately diagnosed as a victim and therefore his greatest need is deliverance. What pastors and churches must realize is that man is a rebel under the wrath of God. Therefore the Church's primary purpose "is to put man into the right relationship with God, to reconcile man to God." His concludes that we have been treating the symptoms and not the cause and by doing so we have actually concealed the real disease. The cure is true, biblical and theologically accurate preaching. Preaching that not only deals with the symptoms but also the disease. His contention is "that personal counseling and all these other activities are meant to supplement the preaching, not to supplant it; that they are the 'carrying on', 'follow up' work if you like, but must never be thought of as the primary work.

Chapter 3: The Sermon and the Preaching begins with another objection to preaching which asks, "Cannot all this be done better by means of group discussions? Should we not rather encourage more questions at the end of sermons, and a dialogue between the minister and the people who have come to listen?" Again it seems as if Lloyd-Jones was a prophet. These are current questions being debated in evangelical circles. In short his answer is, no! He gives numerous reasons of which I will let you read for yourself.

In the middle of this chapter he switches gears and begins answering the question, What is preaching? "Preaching is that which deals with the whole person, the hearer becomes involved and knows that he has been dealt with and addressed by God through this preacher. Something has taken place in him and in his experience, and it is going to affect the whole of his life." Lloyd-Jones divides preaching into two elements (1) the sermon/message and (2) the delivery/preaching. In subsequent chapters he goes into the specifics of these two elements.

In Chapter 4: The Form of the Sermon Lloyd-Jones warns against preaching topically and non-contextually. A sermon should be controlled by a systematic theology that takes the whole body of biblical doctrine into account. A sermon is not an essay or a lecture. "I therefore lay down this proposition that a sermon should always be expository." But he is quick to say what this doesn't mean. "A sermon is not a running commentary on, or a mere exposition of, the meaning of a verse or a passage or a paragraph."

Chapter 5: The Act of Preaching is something that Lloyd-Jones admits is very difficult to define. So while not giving a direct definition he does go on to give some things that must be present in authentic preaching.
  1. "The whole personality of the preacher must be involved."
  2. "A sense of authority and control over the congregation and the proceedings. The preacher should never be apologetic, he should never give the impression that he is speaking by their leave as it were; he should not be tentatively putting forward certain suggestions and ideas."
  3. An element of freedom and of exchange
  4. An element of seriousness, but never dull.
  5. An element of zeal, concern, warmth, persuasiveness and power.
To sum it up, preaching is "logic on fire! Eloquent reason! Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire."

In Chapter 6: The Preacher Lloyd-Jones articulates who is to preach. He makes it very clear the preacher is a man who is called of God to preach. Preaching isn't something that anyone and everyone can or should do. He then goes into discuss the "call of God." This is a topic that isn't often discussed among pastors, but it is of paramount importance to preaching. "I would say that the only man who is called to preach is the man who cannot do anything else, in the sense that he is not satisfied with anything else...Nothing but this overwhelming sense of being called, and of compulsion, should ever lead anyone to preach."He goes on to discuss the confirmation of that call by the Church and discusses numerous ways in which the Church could and should test each man's call.

In Chapter 7: The Congregation Lloyd-Jones deals with four fallacies of the "modern man" and preaching.
  1. We live in visually oriented world and therefore we must do other things than preach (drama, film clips, etc.).
  2. We live in a post-Christian era and people don't understand our terms.
  3. We live in a sophisticated, scientific age and must not speak dogmatically.
  4. We must have common experiences and speak the "language" of our audience before they will listen.
Here is his summary: "The modern approach is based on entirely false thinking. Indeed, it is ultimately due to bad theology. It is based on a failure to realize the true nature of sin, and that sin is the problem, not sins, and that specialization on the particular forms and manifestations of sin is irrelevant and very largely a waste of time." Again the timeliness of this message for pastors today is profound.

Chapter 8: The Character of the Message might seem like a contradiction to the previous chapter, but I believe it is the balancing of what he said previously. Lloyd-Jones says, "I would emphasize equally that the preacher nevertheless has to assess the condition of those in the pew and to bear that in mind in the preparation and delivery of his message...The chief fault of the young preacher is to preach to the people as we would like them to be, instead of as they are...You do not give 'strong meat to babes', you give them milk." He goes on to give a strong warning. That should be shouted across our land and taken to heart by every pastor. "The main danger confronting the pulpit in this matter is to assume that all who claim to be Christians, and who think they are Christians, and who are members of the Church, are therefore of necessity Christians. This, to me, is the most fatal blunder of all; and certainly the commonest."

There is much more in the final eight chapters on sermons, their preparation and their delivery. As well as more instructions to the preacher in general. I cannot recommend this book highly enough and I hope I have motivated you to buy and read this wonderful book.

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Monday, June 25

Get the Brooms Out - Cubbies Sweep the White Sox!

In dominant fashion the Cubbies swept the lowly White Sox for the first time in U.S. Cellular Field since interleague play began ten years ago. As a lifelong Cubs fan there is NOTHING sweeter than beating the pitiful Sox. Those who are not from Chicago simply will not understand this but this embedded bitterness for the south siders and the bitterness that Sox fans have for both the Cubs and their fans stems from years of torment and taunting in childhood. I do not even think that the players on either team really comprehend how serious the fans take these games.

Nevertheless, I wake up this morning rejoicing in the Lord's goodness and in the fact that my Cubbies are the dominant team in the city of Chicago. The Cubs not only won....but they won big, holding the pathetic Sox to just two runs in three games. Look for the Sox, who incidentally will ALWAYS play second fiddle to the Cubs in Chicago to go on a complete firesale trading spree that will likely send the likes of Mark Buehrle and Jermaine Dye to contending teams.

The Cubs on the other hand have put themselves right back into contention with timely hitting, a red-hot Alfonso Soriano, and dominating pitching that stifled the loser Sox all weekend. This couldn't come at a better time with a three game series at Wrigley this weekend against the division leading Brewers.

Enjoy this one Cub fans! We win and the Sox lose!!! The sweep was sweet!!!

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Friday, June 22

The Doctrines of Grace Under Attack in the SBC Again!

Over on the Founder's Blog there has been a lively discussion about raising money to combat what Dr. Jerry Vines (former pastor of FBC in Jacksonville FL) and other non-Calvinist SBC pastors are doing in sending out a so called "critique" of the doctrines of grace that was done by Vines. Though I have great respect for Jerry Vines, I consider this move to be "a shot below the belt". Let me also say this - I have met Jerry Vines personally. I consider him to be a kind, gracious, and godly man who faithfully pastored his church for many years. But for the life of me I cannot figure out his apparent disdain for the doctrines of grace.

Dr. Tom Aschol and others within the Founder's movement within the SBC are asking people to donate to raise $20,000 so that the DVD "Amazing Grace" can be sent out as well to every SBC church as a rebuttal to the recent DVD sent out to combat the rise of Calvinism in the SBC.

This is one of several reasons that I could NOT be a Southern Baptist. Though I love and respect many of my gospel loving brethren within the SBC, I do not think that I could stomach my money going to a cooperative program that is sending out DVD's and literature that speaks against the wonderful doctrines of grace.

I also think that this spells out an inevitable split within the SBC in the near future between the adherents of the doctrines of grace and those that are hostile to the doctrine of God's absolute sovereignty in all things. This will be interesting to see.....

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Wednesday, June 20

What Sets Us Apart? - Will The True Believer Please Stand Up

Can you pick out the true believer from the professing believer and the unbeliever? Given the following information please vote on which one of the following three people you believe to be a true believer in Jesus Christ.

Contestant #1

"Gary" has a bar in his garage. He can often be found spending time at the local Cigar Shop discussing spiritual things. He has one tattoo from his teenage years and has been known to grow his hair long. He listens to all kinds of music, but prefers heavy metal. He seldom goes to the movies but when he does it is to watch Disney movies with his family.


Contestant #2

"Bill" seldom consumes alcohol and can't stand any form of tobacco. He frequently enjoys a friendly game of No Limit Texas Hold'em Poker. He mostly listens to pop or light rock music. He does hang out with Christians but also enjoys catching every blockbuster to hit the theaters. He wouldn't be caught dead in a suit and tie.

Contestant #3

"Scott" never touches a drop of alcohol. He did smoke when he was a teenager, but gave up "that filthy habit" years ago. He loves classical music and frequently attends the local off-Broadway theater. He is also a big fan of the opera! He has very few religious friends but he did attend and graduate from a well known Christian Liberal Arts University.

Will the true believer please stand up?

If I published the above information like I was planning on doing I doubt I would have more than three responses and at least two of them would say in essence, "We don't have enough information to even venture an educated guess." That is because the esteemed readers of this wonderful blog are highly intelligent and solidly biblical. And they would be absolutely correct.

But what if I made it easier and gave three options to vote on.

Option #1: One of those three descriptions accurately depicts a real pastor currently serving in an evangelical church.

Option #2: All three of these descriptions accurately depicts a real pastor currently serving in a evangelical church.

Option #3: All three of these descriptions accurately depicts a real unbeliever.

Again, if the post stopped here I believe I would get absolutely no responses because the very astute readers of this distinguished blog don't like to comment on religious surveys, and they also would once again recognize that I haven't given enough or the right kind of information. "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." But, let me give just one more option.

Option #4: Options #1, #2 and #3 are all true.

If you chose Option #4 you would be absolutely correct! I can actually put names and faces on all three descriptions and either attribute them to an evangelical pastor or to an unbeliever. And many of you probably could as well.

The point is that all of us have the tendency to set up our own categories for determining the possession of saving faith. We can also take it a step further and use these same categories for determining another's level of spirituality. And it is amazing that although our categories are never exactly the same, we are always very careful to live up to the standards we have set for everyone else. The question is, are our standards biblical standards? Are our categories God's categories? Are we focusing on what should truly set us apart from the world?

Would we recognize the true believer if he or she stood up?

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Tuesday, June 19

On Vacation: An Update and Our Visit To Tenth Presbyterian

Just a brief update from near Lewes, Delaware: we have officially been on our trek to the East Coast since late Thursday morning. Thus far we have ...

Visited briefly with my parents near Peoria, Illinois.

Made the seemingly endless drive through Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. A coupl'a observations:

1) Indiana drivers are the kindest and gentlest drivers in the Midwest.

2) Ohio drivers are the rudest and worst (a sweeping generalization).

3) Ohio's roads are worse than Missouri's--and that's bad. It's no wonder the speed limit is only 65.

4) Pennsylvania's turnpike is expensive: cost us $16 to drive 300 miles. Too bad the condition of the road doesn't warrant the cost of driving on it.

5) Philadelphia is quite the city. I was surprised by the amount of trees lining the outskirts of the city. In fact, we didn't get our first glimpse of the city until we reached downtown.

6) Downtown Philly is a great place ... lots of shops, culture, and fun. Oh, and as our family took an hour walk through the heart of the city, we never felt threatened or in danger. We were able to book a three star hotel via hotwire.com for $80, and we had a sixth-floor view of Broad and Locust streets. The kids were ecstatic!

Yesterday we visited Delaware's Rehoboth Beach (first time in Delaware and at Rehoboth). We swam (read: 'waded') in the Atlantic. Each time I see the ocean (which is about every ten-or-so years for this Midwesterner), I am amazed at how far you can see; that you can see the curvature of the earth; and that the ocean has a smell you can't get from those candles (if the candles actually smelled like the ocean, they would never sell!).

We are staying with some friends (from our church back home) and their parents here in Delaware, and are enjoying a relaxing time away from the daily grind of ministry.

Oh, and one more thing: the highlight of vacation (for me at least) thus far has been a visit to the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philly. We attended the 9 AM service this past Sunday (after walking to church from our hotel--a six block walk), and enjoyed the service. Although Philip Ryken did not preach (Marion Clark preached from Philippians 1), we were able to witness our first paedo-baptism (a first for us lifetime Baptists)!

While attempting to prepare our children for the service (and the baptism), our son Noah quipped: "Good thing mommy hasn't had her baby yet; they'd probably grab the baby and baptize it!" We assured him they would do no such thing!

Tenth Presbyterian is a friendly church with a beautiful, historic building. We enjoyed our visit, and were surprised that several Baptists were accepted into membership as a part of Sunday's service! In the near future I will share several additional observations concerning our visit to Tenth Church.

Well, we're off to take a spin in the bay ... on the jet skis. Hope you all are doing well. I'll check back in when I can.

From Dreamy Delaware,

Ken

Postscript: This Sunday we hope to join Mark Dever and the congregation of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D. C.

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Church Covenants and Alcohol - Utter Ludicrousy

It has been quiet over the past couple of weeks here due to a number of factors. Ken is on vacation...apparently from blogging as well. Ministry has tied me up over the past week or so making it difficult to post on a consistent basis. But today I thought I would take this opportunity to "open up a can of worms" so to speak and deal with an issue that has stifled Christians for centuries - the issue of abstinence. Really though, this is not so much of an issue outside of the United States. In countries like England, Germany, and Australia it is not uncommon for Christians to be drinkers (notice I did NOT say drunkards). But here in America this is one of the hot button issues of our day that has the evangelical world in a tailspin.

Let me be honest here about my own personal views regarding this matter. I am a teetotaler. I have been for years now. Alcohol does not appeal to me. I highly recommend to the people that I pastor that they abstain completely from alcohol. In fact, I would hesitate to recommend someone for a position of leadership in our church if he was not a teetotaler. Anyway.

Now that this is all in the open here let me address what is news to me. Some churches actually have in their church covenants statements regarding the total abstinence of alcohol and requiring members to PROMISE that they will NEVER touch alcohol. And the Scriptural mandate for that thinking is??? I understand where it may be a good idea but where on earth is the Scriptural mandate folks?

I've got an idea.....let's go ahead and insert into our church covenants the following:

  • Requiring all church members to refrain from gluttony. That may just eliminate all church potlucks...or at least the items that we get to choose from at the potlucks.
  • Requiring all church members refrain from obesity. How many of the proponents of total abstinence have guts hanging over their belts??? Just trying to be consistent here folks!
  • Requiring all church members to refrain from ALL forms of secular music. That would mean country, classical, love songs, or patriotic songs for that matter. See how ridiculous this is getting folks!
  • Requiring all church members to refrain from gossip. That would probably be a good idea.
I'm aware of the fact that this sounds like going to the extreme, but taking something that is a "good idea" like abstaining from alcohol and making it a Scriptural mandate in church covenants is also going a bit too far.

Yes, drunkenness is a sin. But so is gluttony, gossip, laziness, worshiping tradition and personality. Praise God for solid church covenants (my church has a great one that I love immensely). But church covenants should declare what we believe and how we intend on living this out in our lives. They should NOT be some sort of stick that we use to get across our own personal hobby horses.

Is being a teetotaler a good idea? Yes! I firmly believe that. But that conviction is due more to a cultural persuasion than a Scriptural one. Hopefully this will trigger some helpful responses and a lively discussion.

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What Sets Us Apart?

I have an acquaintance, a professing Christian, that doesn't go to church regularly. He has gone sporadically at times but for the past thirty years he has only had one period of regular church attendance and that lasted about a year. I am greatly concerned that he doesn't go to church. I try to think of ways to encourage his attendance and have recommended numerous churches in his area. His inattendance and apparent lack of love for the Church has even caused me to doubt his salvation.

But then I think of all the evidences supporting his inclusion among the brethren. He attended a Bible-preaching church throughout his childhood and teen years. He prayed to receive Christ as a teenager. He married a Christian girl from his youth group. He knows a lot about the Bible. He isn't caught up in any great sin. He loves his wife and kids. He has a strong work ethic. He has even carried on extensive spiritual conversations with me on numerous topics. If he would just join a church and attend regularly, everything would be fine. Or would it?

As far as I know he doesn't spend daily time with God in prayer and Bible reading. But neither do most church members or pastors for that matter.

As far as I know he doesn't witness to his family members, neighbors or co-workers. I don't think any of them except a few family members would even know he professes to be a Christian. But isn't that the norm among church members?

It would appear that he views life through a humanistic, materialistic, psychological and secularized world view. It doesn't seem as if biblical truth impacts the way he views the world, nor does the Bible appear to influence his daily decisions. But with the average evangelical church member giving only 2% of their income to the local church, is he really that different? With emergent, liberal and integrated theology making inroads into most denominations and churches can we really say that biblical thinking is the norm among church members?

It is troubling that for the year he attended church (Sunday School and AM worship) he fit right in. He sang the songs. He opened his Bible. He listened to the preaching. He participated in class discussions. He attended a small group Bible study where he was required to do weekly homework. He even attended work days at the church. He was one of us.

I guess that is what scares me the most. Except for going to church once a week, he is one of us.

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Sunday, June 17

The Danger of Desensitization

Tim Challies has written a great article on the upcoming movie Evan Almighty. He has highlighted what I consider to be the greatest danger with not only the theater, but visual entertainment in general.

A week from today, the movie Evan Almighty will hit theaters across the continent. A projected summer blockbuster, it is the sequel to 2003's hit comedy Bruce Almighty which starred Jim Carrey and pulled in over $200,000,000 at the box office. Evan Almighty is, I believe, the most expensive comedy ever made with a budget said to exceed $175,000,000. Clearly the studios are expecting it to be as successful as its predecessor.

I did not see Bruce Almighty. It struck me as utterly blasphemous and I could not bring myself to watch it. I was surprised, and shocked even, to hear how many Christians watched, enjoyed, and recommended it. A couple of times I got close to clicking the "Buy" button on "Video on Demand" but just couldn't pull the trigger. I wanted to watch it just to see what the fuss was all about; I wanted to analyze it and review it as objectively as was possible. But I couldn't.

Maybe my concerns were irrational, but when I thought about the film I just knew there was no way I could watch it with a clean conscience. While it sounded like the moral of the story was somewhat useful ("We are only human and cannot comprehend how or why God does what He does") the journey to this moral seemed terribly blasphemous, beginning with having a person play the role of God and going on from there. The end doesn't often justify the means and I knew this would be the case for me with Bruce Almighty. The previews for the film, which were shown constantly on television, showed that the movie also had some vulgar elements (see this synopsis at Plugged In). My conscience just would not allow me to see it. So I didn't. I couldn't.

So while the first film dealt with the way God works, the second deals with faith. It is, in effect, an update of the story of Noah. I don't know if the filmmaker attempts to reconcile the fact that God has made it clear that he will never again destroy the earth in a flood. I don't know if this film presupposes that the first flood never really happened. According to this glowing review by a believer it seems the film deals with flooding that occurs because of environmental issues (the reviewer offers this hint: "Check your cinematic and political critiques at the door. Just have some fun."). Morgan Freeman reprises his role as God, commands Evan to build an ark, and much hilarity ensues.

I have three concerns and these form three reasons I can't and won't go to see this movie.

At Christian Answers I read an interesting interview with the film's director, Tom Shadyac, who is a professing Roman Catholic and who has directed, among other films, Ace Ventura, The Nutty Professor and Liar, Liar. The interview took place after the release of Bruce Almighty and one thing the interviewer said really struck me: "Well, I have to be honest, I laughed so hard at this movie, and I was so touched by it emotionally that while I was watching it, I didn't think about the curse words and things like that." And this is exactly why I will not go and watch Evan Almighty. If I go, I know I will laugh. I will laugh at things that are meant to be funny but which are actually dead serious. Only later will I realize what I've done. The genre of film will reduce my defenses and allow me to laugh at things that may be blasphemous or vulgar or otherwise unbiblical. So, like Bruce Almighty, I'll just stay away even though part of me really would love to see this one. [Emphasis mine.]
Read the entire article HERE.

This is the danger of the visual medium. It has the potential to slip unbiblical truth past your defenses because it presents its philosophy in an apparently palatable manner. It takes what is appalling and makes it appealing. It takes what is an abomination and turns it into a joke. It takes blasphemy and couches it in a manner that appears not only safe but silly.

For the past few decades comedies and sitcoms have become the perfect medium for desensitizing Christians to worldly philosophy. Sin is turned into silliness. The sacred is twisted into a joke. We embarrassingly laugh at what God considers an abomination, while God becomes the butt of the joke.

Christians typically respond in one of three ways.

Response #1: Undiscerning Participation

In my experience this is the largest group and the group that is in grave danger. This is the group that Tim Challies is targeting with his warning. These are Christians who take in anywhere from twenty to forty hours of visual entertainment weekly while spending only two to four hours a week in the Scripture. (And that is probably being generous.) Their motto seems to be: "All things are lawful for me." Therefore they see little to no problem with taking in hour after hour of worldly philosophy through television and movies. They would be very hesitant to admit that they have been influenced in any way by what they are watching. They sit and soak in the worldly amusement with all filters turned off, and with so little biblical influence they have almost no foundation for discernment even if filters were turned on. For the most part the desensitizing has already taken place.

The result is that hardly anything is off limits for these Christians. It can be rude, crude, full of sexual innuendos, blasphemous toward God, mocking the Bible and Christians, yet it stays on the visual menu. In a group setting they might hesitate to mention what they watch and even feel shame and embarrassment when found out. But for the most part there is little shame or hesitation to not only talk about, but recommend this filth to other Christians. Their hearts and minds have been captured by the enemy.

Response #2: Unqualified Rejection

This is the second largest group although it pales in comparison to the first group. These Christians don't attend the theater or rent movies. Most don't purchase cable television and some have even gone so far as to not own a television at all. Their motto could be: "I will not be enslaved by anything." So deciding not to risk enslavement they have taken an admirable position and decided to go the safest route. One thing that these people need to keep in mind is that the visual medium itself is not inherently evil. It is only a medium that can be used for both good and evil. Although they keep the danger of worldly influence at bay they are in danger of taking personal convictions and protections and setting them up as equal to Scripture. Legalism and Pharisaism are potential problems for this group.

Response #3: Qualified and Discerned Participation

This is by far the smallest group. These Christians recognize the danger but are not abandoning the visual medium all together. They believe there is much to be enjoyed and the danger can be "filtered out" by the tight reign of biblical discernment. They own a TV and probably have cable. Most would rent movies and some even go to the theater. But they have set up safeguards. They watch critically. They don't sit and soak in the visual medium with the brain in neutral. They use movie reviews and are very selective in what they watch. Tim Challies is in this group and you can see his approach in the article he wrote. The motto of this group is: "Not all things are helpful (but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater)."

There are many Christians who think they are in this group, but are actually in the first group. That is because self-deception is a danger for this group. How sure can you be of your discernment? How confident can you be in your ability to filter out the worldly philosophy? Can you really trust yourself to walk this fine line of participation without succumbing to the desensitization? It is easy to become over-confident concerning our grasp of the Scriptures - both the commands and the principles.

One more danger to consider. Wherever there is liberty the inherent danger will always be license. It is a short step from discernment to desensitization. That is why daily time with the Lord in His Word is so important.

Response #1 is not an option for the believer. As a Christian we must choose between Response #2 and #3. Both of those options have benefits as well as dangers. "Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ."

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Friday, June 15

Book Review: Making a Difference in Preaching

I've been meaning to write this review for a couple of months now. This is due to my self-imposed assignment to write a review of every Christian book that I read.

Making a Difference in Preaching gives Haddon Robinson the privilege of casting an even longer shadow than that already cast by his forty-plus years of preaching and teaching homiletics...As a teenager Haddon W. Robinson wrote the following in his diary about the preacher Harry Ironside, "He preached for an hour and it seemed like twenty-minutes; others preach for twenty-minutes and it seems like an hour. I wonder what the difference is?" Haddon Robinson has spent the rest of his life trying to answer this question...His discoveries are compiled in this book, a collection of articles and chapters from various sources written by Haddon Robinson on what he considers to be the elements that contribute to excellent preaching.

This book is not a must-read, although an interesting read, for pastor-teachers. This book had many good and practical things to say and many reminders of things you will find in almost every book on preaching. The following chapters were the most helpful to me.

In Chapter 2: What Authority Do We Have Anymore? Robinson deals with the subject of relevant preaching. Pastor-teachers "face an Olympic challenge to earn respect, credibility, and authority." He gives six suggestions on how to do this.

  1. Articulate Unexpressed Feelings
  2. Listen to the Invisible Congregation - This was an interesting idea for pastors to "sit six or seven flesh-and-blood people around their desks as they prepare." This helps pastors to view their message through the eyes and ears of a diverse audience. What would the skeptic, the teenager, the divorcee, etc. think about what I am saying? How can I answer their questions or arguments?
  3. Admit Complexity - Be careful not to give oversimplified answers to complex problems. "It's helpful to admit the tension and point it out."
  4. Speak With Authority - The pastor is to rely "not on his own authority but on another--God's Word--and he shows how that authority makes sense...The authoritarian, on the other hand, is someone who speaks about biblical and nonbiblical things in the same tone of voice."
  5. Be Precise in Descriptions - "Authority also comes from a track record of being truthful and not distorting the facts...Accuracy builds credibility."
  6. Display Character

In conclusion Robinson points out that "one advantage of a lengthy ministry is that the pastor has a better chance to bring perception and reality together...A pattern of care can cover a multitude of less-than-stellar sermons. Of course, the flip side is that we may have things to live down, and that also takes time."

Chapter 4: Preaching with a Limp deals with the difficulty of preaching through pain. "How do you preach when you don't feel like it--when you're distracted, unable to focus, when your family is in turmoil or your health is failing or detractors in the church are launching artillery rounds in your direction, when you're going through loneliness or feelings of failure?" Robinson gives three dangers of preaching while walking through the tunnel of pain.

  1. Using the pulpit for self-therapy.
  2. Using the pulpit as a sniper's perch.
  3. Failing to preach the full counsel of God.

There are also two mistakes pastors can make that cause our families to question our sincerity.

  1. Implying that what ought to be actually is in your life.
  2. Illustrating with your best moments and implying that's the norm.

"Preaching through pain requires that we do two things: compartmentalize and filter...We preach what the Bible says, not what we feel...On occasion we need to filter our preaching through our experiences, choosing sermon texts that resonate with what we feel, sharing some of the tough lessons we are learning even if we never tell the story behind them."

This topic isn't dealt with in most books on preaching, but is a very necessary and helpful chapter.

Chapter 6: Homiletics and Hermeneutics seeks to build the bridge between homiletics, the construction and communication of sermons, and hermeneutics, the method of interpreting the text. "Expository sermons are derived from and transmitted through a study of a passage (or passages) in context. Not only should an expositor find the substance of his or her sermon in the Bible, but she communicates it to her hearers on the basis by which she receives it...The theme of the sermon should develop from the thought of the Bible....Biblical preaching should not only be true to the Bible in its central ideas but in the development of those ideas as well."

Homiletical methods sometimes tempt the minister to impose an arrangement of thought on a text foreign to that of the inspired writer. The shoe must not tell the foot how to grow. To be truly biblical, the major assertions supporting the sermon's basic concept must also be taken from the passage on which it is based. Of course, a preacher may sometimes rearrange his material along psychological lines, but whatever outline the sermon assumes--and this can vary with the audience, speaker, or occasion--its content should reflect the argument of the biblical author and ought at ever place to be controlled by the writer's thought...biblical preaching must reflect God's thought both in them and development.

Preachers who honor the Bible will align the purposes of their sermons with the aims of the biblical writer...A less obvious way of ignoring the purpose of a biblical author lies in the common practice of employing the historical narratives as case studies in morals, virtues, or spiritual struggles...What is not asked in these sermons is whether the biblical writer intended for these histories to be used in this manner...While the Bible may serve as a source of illustration to explain or apply a point or to convince an
audience that a proposition is valid, if the historical event is separated from its purpose, then it does not carry the weight of Scripture and examples from church history, moder literature, or the morning newspaper would serve as well.

Before a preacher can deal with a particular passage, therefore, he must look to the larger context of the book to ask why this writer recorded this story for his particular audience. Until he can sit where the biblical author sat as he addressed his readers, he cannot determine the relevance of the book or any of its passages for Christians today. The purpose of the sermon must flow out of the purpose of the historical narrative...This means that the preacher deals with the passages as parts of the canon.

This was by far the most thought-provoking chapter for me and it alone is worth the price of the book. I don't think I have thought through this challenge since college. From my experience it would seem that most pastors today need to rethink their sermons in light of these thoughts. I know I do. Reading this chapter has caused me to determine to read a few good books on hermeneutics and exegesis from a homiletical viewpoint.

My only real criticism of this book is the egalitarian view Robinson developed over the years. As you should of noticed from one of the previous quotes Robinson obviously believed that women could serve as pastors and preachers. This was an irritating distraction in some of the chapters, but shouldn't be enough of a cause to not purchase this book and learn from it.

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Thursday, June 14

Ruth Graham Present With The Lord

From FoxNews:

The wife of Billy Graham died at 5:05 p.m. at her home at Little Piney Cove, surrounded by her husband and all five of their children, said a statement released by family spokesman Larry Ross.

"Ruth was my life partner, and we were called by God as a team," Billy Graham said in a statement. "No one else could have borne the load that she carried. She was a vital and integral part of our ministry, and my work through the years would have been impossible without her encouragement and support.

"I am so grateful to the Lord that He gave me Ruth, and especially for these last few years we've had in the mountains together. We've rekindled the romance of our youth, and my love for her continued to grow deeper every day. I will miss her terribly, and look forward even more to the day I can join her in Heaven."

Ruth Graham has been bedridden for months with degenerative osteoarthritis of the back and neck and underwent treatment for pneumonia two weeks ago. At her request, and in consultation with her family, she had stopped receiving nutrients through a feeding tube for the last few days, Ross said.
Story HERE.

Postscript: Although our family has left for our East Coast vacation, this story necessitated a mention. I am still officially on vacation ... literally! It seems my blogmates are as well!

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Tuesday, June 12

You Tube Tuesday: Casting Crowns

Thanks to Bob Hayton for pointing out this Casting Crowns video. Casting Crowns are my favorite group. I really appreciate their thoughtful, doctrinal and practical lyrics. I am encouraged, convicted and emboldened by their music. Their new CD is coming out on August 28 (HINT! HINT!) and this preview gives you the inspiration for many of their new songs.




This is one of my favorite songs. Watch this music video all the way to the end to see an example of how not to witness.




A great video for dad's! Listen to the fading tag "All they really wanted was you."




They are a great group to see in concert. Their focus is God, not entertainment.


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Monday, June 11

Gospel Opportunity - Pray for Ken!

Since my faithful blogmate has been dogging me as of late regarding my laziness in the blogosphere I thought that I would take a time out in a day that has me driving kids back and forth to camp and going to Six Flags tomorrow.

I know that Ken has already asked for prayer regarding this matter but I do not believe that we can emphasize enough the enormous responsibility of sharing the Good News with the lost. So, I ask that you join me and others in praying for Ken as he shares the Gospel tomorrow at about 9 AM (Central Time) to a group of young people. Yes, most have heard the Gospel and I would even venture to say that most have been converted as well. But I also know for a fact that I have at least four young people coming with our youth group who do NOT know the Lord. I would greatly appreciate prayer for them as well.

So let us pray for a few things specifically this evening and tomorrow morning:

  • That the Gospel would go forth with clarity!
  • That the distractions would be limited - I have preached in this venue before and it is no easy task - roller coasters running, people running around, distractions everywhere and so forth and so on. I think that you get the picture.
  • For hearts to be softened by the Spirit's conviction.
  • For us as pastors, youth leaders, sponsors, and Christians to be ready to speak with those who have questions about the Gospel and what it means to those of us who know Christ.
  • For safety for all those who will be in attendance - on the way to the park, while at the park and on the way home tomorrow. It will be a busy day!
As Calvinists we know that God's sovereign will ALWAYS be accomplished according to His good pleasure. But we also know that God uses the preaching of the Gospel to save those who believe. May He be glorified tomorrow.

NOW I HOPE THAT THIS GETS KEN OFF OF MY BACK AND TO STOP CALLING ME OUT PUBLICLY ABOUT MY BLOGGING LAZINESS!!

SPECIAL NOTE: In all seriousness, please continue to pray for our brother and fellow blogmate Don Fields during this time of transition and searching regarding his ministry. I am going to make this a special matter of prayer tonight as well. Thank you Don for your humility and candor in sharing what the Lord is doing in your life!!!

Perhaps someday here on the blog I will share my own tumultuous journey into the ministry. It is not your a-typical journey from seminary to the pastorate. One day when I have time...perhaps.

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In Everything Give Thanks!

Most of you only know me through this blog, but some of you have known me outside the odd confines of the blogosphere. I am somewhat of a private person so I rarely post on subjects of a personal nature. I probably wouldn't be writing this post except for the fact that Ken let the cat out of the bag with this post. So some of you have been wondering if we will be leaving Fort Myers, Florida anytime soon. The short answer is no. We will be in Fort Myers for the foreseeable future.

The church I candidated at voted to not extend a call for me to be their Senior Pastor. We just found out yesterday afternoon and have been processing that information and letting our family, friends and church know God's answer to our prayers.

A verse that has been on my mind in the last 24 hours is 1 Thessalonians 5:18. "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

Our response to the God-ordained "circumstances" of life is a testimony to the reality of our faith. We have many responses to God's unfolding plan and many times thanksgiving is slow to come. But this is an unconditional command. "Give thanks for everything."

It is easy to give thanks when things happen as you want them to, according to your timetable. But how do you respond when they don't? When God brings pain, suffering, and turmoil into your life how can He expect us to be thankful? Through the transforming power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

He gives us the "why" of our thanksgiving. "This is God's will for you." He wants us to realize that He is in control of ALL things. He is God. We are not. When we have a God-centered view on life thanksgiving can be the first response in every circumstance.

Traci and I are thankful that God has been clear in his answer. We are trusting and resting in His sovereign plan. We know that this is God's will and we appreciate your continued prayers as we seek God's direction for a Senior Pastor position.

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Loose Ends: Busyness Prevails and Cedarville's Cedars Shuts Down

Busyness is prevailing ... all the loose ends are demanding my attention before our family leaves on our trip out east -- which is why I will not be posting in the near future.

Several have emailed me concerning the articles appearing in the Cedars online magazine (which has been shut down ... read the explanation HERE), and several others have shared some intriguing information in the comments section, so be sure to check them out. It seems we are getting conflicting reports from those who have had contact with Cedarville University. I have personally emailed two professors, and are awaiting their responses.

Please pray for me as I address a group of 100 - 150 teens tomorrow at our annual Six Flags youth rally. Plead with God that I will show Him as He really is--the great and gracious Redeemer and King. I will be sharing a message from Ecclesiasties on 'The Emptiness of Thrill-Seeking.'

And just in case you are longing for some content here, perhaps an outcry from our readers would inspire my two blogmates to do a bit of pecking on their own keyboards ...

Maybe, just maybe they will begin to earn their keep around here!!!

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Thursday, June 7

More Intriguing Views From Cedarville University: Student Newspaper Calls For Christians To Support Gay Marriage

A reader directed my attention to the following story in Cedars, the student newspaper of Cedarville University:

Nikki [a practicing 'Christian' homosexual] and I agree – as citizens of the United States, homosexual couples should enjoy the same marital status as heterosexual couples.

A marriage license confers almost 1,400 legal rights to married couples. Approximately 400 of these rights are granted on the state level and another 1,049 on the federal level. Among other things, these rights include: joint parenting, joint adoption, joint insurance policies, automatic inheritance in the absence of a will, bereavement or sick leave to care for a partner or child, and immigration and residency for partners from other countries.

“I’m a God-fearing, tax-paying, contributing member of society, I should have the same legal rights as everyone else,” explained Nikki.

I am still vexed by arguments against the legalizing gay marriage.

While some Christians argue that gay marriage will destroy marital sanctity, United States divorce rates hover around 50 percent. How can the Christian Right oppose gay marriage on the premise that gay marriage will destroy the ‘sanctity of marriage’ while evangelical divorce rates are among the highest in the country?

Others argue that legalization of gay marriage would eventually lead to marriages between people and animals.

“That’s dumb,” said Nikki. “We’re not crossing species. Animals can’t sign a marriage contract.”

As Christians, we are responsible to love, accept, and tolerate those with whom we disagree. It is important for Christians to understand that granting homosexual couples legal status does not condone homosexuality. The biblical argument is an entirely separate issue.

“I’m not asking you to forgive me, that’s an issue between me and God,” explained Nikki. “When I meet my maker at the pearly gates, the only thing I‘ll worry about is my own relationship with God.”

“Every person should be able to find happiness,” concluded Nikki. “You may not understand me, and I may not understand you, but we should nonetheless love and accept one another.”

As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors. To deprive a person of fundamental legal rights on the basis of sexual orientation is neither loving, nor does it extend the promise of equality that these United States so ardently seek to defend.

Read the article in its entirety HERE.

JULY 13 UPDATE: More intriguing news from Cedarville ... the University has terminated two Bible professors and has acknowledged New Perspective tendencies among Bible professors. Click HERE.

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Wednesday, June 6

Can an Apostate Teach a Christian Worldview?

Yesterday, Mike Hess made mention of Francis Beckwith's connection with Summit Ministries and their upcoming conference at Cedarville University. Some of the comments were troubling.

"Would you not allow Justice Scalia to speak at Cedarville on law and religion because he is Catholic? I've attended Summit and Beckwith's discussion on politics and religion deals with the right of Christians, including Baptists, in being involved in politics. He will be teaching the Summit kids how to respond to challenges to this type of activism by secularists who don't like Baptists or Catholics who believe in the sanctity of human life and marriage."
What this commenter seems to miss is that Summit Ministries is a ministry dedicated to teaching a biblical, Christian worldview. This is the statement from their website.

Summit’s mission is to…

Ground Christians in their faith
Equip them to defend the biblical worldview
Prepare tomorrow’s servant leaders

Summit’s Vision is a world in which…

Christians make decisions based on an integrated Biblical worldview
Christianity is seen as an intelligent and defensible position in the market place of ideas
Christians actively seek to engage and transform our culture

Than this information was given by Roger Willis:

"Mike, I wrote Summit Ministries when I first heard of Beckwith's declaration to the R.C. communion. I asked them if he would still be on their faculty. Here is the reply I received:

Dear Roger: Yes he will since our doctrinal statement is the Apostles Creed and he endorses it; besides we are non-denominational and don't push any particular denomination...Frank would agree with this point as well...d.a."

Summit Ministries doctrinal statement is the Apostle's Creed. [Read HERE] But it is more than that. They state that "Summit is an evangelical, non-denominational Christian ministry." Therefore to allow Beckwith to continue teaching they must admit and agree to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is a Christian, evangelical denomination. To do so shows tremendous ignorance of RCC doctrine. They would have to agree with Beckwith's own statement which totally destroys the meaning of the term"evangelical." Beckwith said, "I do not believe I ceased to be an evangelical when I returned to the Church. What I ceased to be was a Protestant."

In yesterday's podcast of The Narrow Mind, Gene Cook Jr. discussed Beckwith's reconversion to the Roman Catholic Church. If this topic is of interest to you I urge you to download and listen to the entire one hour program. [Download HERE] Gene was referencing a recent interview that Beckwith had with the National Catholic Register in which Francis enumerated his reasons for returning to the Roman Catholic faith. [Read the entire interview HERE.]

Gene does a great job of pointing out that anyone who holds to Roman Catholic doctrine CANNOT be an evangelical, and even more importantly a Christian according to the biblical definition. There very well may be true Christians who attend Roman Catholic churches, but they are Christians not BECAUSE they hold to Roman Catholic doctrine, but because they DON'T hold to Roman Catholic doctrine. Beckwith says,

"Catholicism does not teach 'works righteousness.' It teaches faith in action as a manifestation of God’s grace in one’s life. That’s why Abraham’s faith results in righteousness only when he attempts to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God.

Then I read the Council of Trent, which some Protestant friends had suggested I do. What I found was shocking. I found a document that had been nearly universally misrepresented by many Protestants, including some friends."

Here is what the Council of Trent says about justification by faith [courtesy of CARM.org]:

CANON 9: "If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is
justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate
in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any
way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will;
let him be anathema."

CANON 12: "If any one shall say that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy pardoning sins for Christ's sake, or that it is that confidence alone by which we are justified ... let him be accursed"

Canon 24: "If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema."

Canon 30: "If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema."

It is amazing to me Summit Ministries could continue to have Francis Beckwith on their staff. He will NOT be teaching from a biblical, Christian worldview. He CAN'T be teaching from a biblical worldview because he doesn't believe in Sola Scriptura - the Word of God is our sole source of divine revelation. Nor can he be teaching from a Christian worldview because he doesn't believe Sola Fide - justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone.

He might be teaching from a historical, religious worldview. A worldview that has obviously changed in the last couple of years. But Francis Beckwith is not a Christian, he is an apostate!

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The Psychological Seduction of the Church

Christians today use terms that a century ago were never heard of....such as -

"My child is not bad, he or she just has ADD/ADHD."

"My depression is so bad that I now have to take anti-depressants and other meds to give me victory over my depression."

"I am bi-polar, therefore, I have two personalities and unable to behave in a biblical way on a consistent basis."

"My doctor told me that I have a chemical imbalance and that there are neurons out of whack in my brain."

NOTE: Read many of the great biographies and journals of Christians centuries ago. While you may come across many who did indeed battle things like discouragement or even perhaps depression it is a safe bet that you will not find any of the psychological jargon that is used so often today in evangelical circles as legitimate sicknesses (that have never been organically proven).

Dr. Ed Bulkley in his classic work "Why Christians Can't Trust Psychology" takes on many presuppositions that today's Christians accept as Gospel truth. Such as the myth that integrating psychology (which is based on 300 different schools of thought) and Scripture is both healthy and necessary for the Church.

Bulkley cuts right to the heart of the claim that psychology is actually proven to be a scientific method and that therapeutic help is the proven method that produces real change. Bulkley also gets into many of the dubious claims of psychology that unfortunately so many Christians have bought into hook, line and sinker.

This book offers an alternative that I personally love - using the Scriptures and Scriptural methods and relying on the Holy Spirit to help produce true, lasting and godly change in the lives of counselees through the power of God's Word which has given to us "everything pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3). Bulkley also breaks down the promises that God gives to us as His people and the counterfeit promises of psychology that have, for the most part, aided in the decay of our culture with its unfounded presuppositions and unproven methods.

Unfortunately, the average evangelical pastor in America feels that he needs to "outsource" much of his counseling to the "experts". Cases that deal with the "serious" problems need to be given to these "experts" who are...of all things called "professionals". This is not due to the fact that God's Word has become insufficient. Rather, this is because the average evangelical in America has become inept in their individual knowledge and application of Scripture to their own personal lives and problems (much of this blame should go to the pulpits of evangelical churches as well).

Let me also take this opportunity to say a few words to our integrationist friends (Bulkley does a similar thing in his book). I do not doubt for a second that many of you are sincere and want to please the Lord with what you feel He has called you to do. So I ask that you read a book like this objectively. I also at one time felt that we needed to integrate the theories of psychology with Scripture. God in His grace graciously convinced me that His Word is sufficient in dealing with ALL matters regarding our behavior and non-organic matters.

Get this book and read...you'll be glad you did!

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You Tube Wednesday: "Moms, This One's For You!"

My wife pointed me to this You Tube video, and even received a mention on Amy's Humble Musings blog! So Joanna, this one's for you!

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Tuesday, June 5

More Troubling News Out of Cedarville! - Francis Beckwith

Not only have we read today about critical remarks made recently about Nouthetic counseling by a Cedarville publication, but it has also come to light that Francis Beckwith, who has incidentally recently resigned from the Evangelical Theological Society's presidency due to his recent conversion to Roman Catholicism is scheduled to speak on June 21st at Cedarville's Summit Ministries Leadership Conference (summer camp).

Will Beckwith's recent conversion to Catholicism provoke Cedarville to make a change regarding this? What on earth could this man speak on that would be of value to church leaders who come from predominately strong Bible believing churches?

Marian devotion?
Transubstantiation?
Indulgences?
Papal infalability?
The Mass?
Justification by works?

Does this sound anything like what we teach in evangelical churches? This would NOT be a conference that we would want our young people to go to and this news, quite frankly, is very troubling to say the least.

You can read about the "Summit Ministries Leadership Conference" here. This is a conference where we are supposedly challenged to defend our beliefs in a pluralistic society. The following is an excerpt:

"At the Summit Ministries Leadership Conference, you will learn how to understand ideas and answer major challenges to Christianity, being taught by our nationally renowned faculty who will answer your questions, help you develop a Biblical worldview, and challenge you to become a leader."

And we are to learn this from a recent convert to Roman Catholicism?

HT: Greg Linscott

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Cedarville University Newspaper Critical of NANC's Stand On Homosexuality

LATE-BREAKING UPDATE: I found the NANC article referred to in the Cedars article HERE. Interestingly, and contrary to the impression the Cedars article gives, the NANC pamphlet is entitled, "Effective Counsel For Christians Tempted By Homosexuality".

My brother-in-law recently uncovered more fodder from the once-solid institution of fundamental evangelicalism in Ohio:

Last week, we received in our mailboxes a pamphlet from the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC), written by John Street, outlining a nouthetic approach to counseling Christians dealing with homosexuality. While I respect NANC’s right to a voice within this conversation, their article “Effective Counsel for Christians Tempted by Homosexuality” is, in my opinion, a prime example of the wrong thinking that healthy dialogue will help our community to avoid.

From the start, NANC’s article stereotypes and judges the people it presumes need counsel. In the second paragraph, Street describes “Fernando” as “single and very effeminate. Many people at church assume he’s a homosexual because of his feminine-like mannerisms... the way he dresses, walks and talks... the topics of his conversations are more feminine than masculine (clothes, style, haircuts, etc.).” The article concludes its description of Fernando by declaring that “the evidence seems to be convincing” – Fernando is gay. Street draws similar conclusions from his observations of the “single middle-aged woman, Lucy, who was supposedly converted after two decades of many lesbian relationships.” Though Lucy now professes faith in Christ, because she wears her hair short, dresses in a way that is “unmistakably masculine,” and declares that she can do whatever a man can do, Street is convinced her conversion couldn’t have been genuine. She can only be a “predatory female,” hungry to feed on the innocence of God’s unsuspecting flock. The article is fraught with these stereotypical observations and hasty conclusions, and I honestly wonder if the author of this article has ever met a homosexual person; if so, I seriously doubt he’s ever really listened to her.

Even more disturbing than the gender stereotypes are Street’s cavalier declarations of the state of his subjects’ spiritual lives. Street worries about Fernando because he won’t discuss his “struggle with homosexuality” (which, of course, he’s never even admitted to having). He worries that if Fernando doesn’t accept counsel on “how to act more masculine... there is reason to doubt that he possesses the teachable spirit that accompanies salvation.” And Lucy, that butch and upstart woman, almost certainly does not possess this teachable spirit, and therefore, she cannot be a Christian. Street acknowledges, though, that there is hope for Lucy and her limp-wristed friend Fernando. If only they will surrender to the Lord Jesus and become accountable to church leadership, then “serious counseling” will lead to “quick changes” in their lives.

Not to be a skeptic, but I seriously doubt it’s that easy. First of all, I’ve never met a homosexual who wanted to be gay when first confronted with his same-sex attraction. I’m not saying they don’t exist – only that I’ve never met anyone who fit this description. Therefore, I find Street’s assertion that “a person who IS a homosexual (lesbian) or effeminate IS NOT a Christian no matter how passionate his or her claim” somewhat problematic. Like any Christian trapped in sin, perhaps Christians inclined to homosexuality deserve a little grace and the suspension of our judgment that they are destined for the bowels of Hell. Furthermore, Street’s solutions for dealing with homosexual proclivities seem far too simple for people whose sexual orientation seems, to them, completely natural. His assurance that repenting and trusting Jesus will bring “quick changes” is hasty and misleading. Far from offering the freedom of Christ, this article’s reliance on gender stereotypes and quick judgment offers only the bondage of antiquated, and false, gender assignments and the imprisonment of spiritual pride.

Read Justin Keller's Cedars article in its entirety HERE.

Perhaps the author (as well as the paper's faculty adviser) overlooked the Bible's clear teaching regarding homosexuals and the kingdom (actually, Cedarville's not-so-kind critique is devoid of any Scripture):
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV), "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
These verses don't make me (a heterosexual) any better than the homosexual, nor do they make me any more deserving of God's saving grace. But Scripture is clear--those who habitually practice the sin of homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God (that is not to say that Christians will not fight against homosexual--or other sinful--urges ... see Paul's testimony in Romans 7).

Those aren't my words--they are God's words. They are not words of hate; they are words of love ... warning sinners of deception and encouraging them to repent of their sin and to turn to Christ in saving faith.

He is the homosexual's (and heterosexual's) only hope.

Note: I have previously addressed homosexuality in a three-part series entitled, "Toward A Christian Understanding of Homsexuality." Part 1; Part 2; Part 3.

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