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Category Archives: Church
We must pray for the Ukrainian Church:
Churchmen were tortured and murdered the day after they were captured.
I recently returned from a trip to Brazil to teach a group of young seminarians the subject of apologetics. The first part of the curriculum is essentially an overview of the various systems of apologetics out there. For those who don’t know about what I am writing, apologetics is essentially the defending and declaring of the Christian faith to a non-Christian world. In many ways it is a subset of evangelism though in many ways it has become a way to gather a following and sell books.
The various schools of thought on this is not important to my article so I will spare you of a description of each. Frankly it can be very boring as you read and interact with many writers who argue their points and then you try to interact with them. The reason for it is simple, there is no basis for the average student to properly interact with the positions. Read that sentence again because it is very important. The men are being introduced to a huge subject and they usually do have sufficient knowledge to have a good, thoughtful opinion, much less a conviction.
The second part of the coursework is then a proposal for a specific type of apologetics that is borne from a sound exegesis of the key biblical texts related to the nature of man, especially due to the presence of sin, the ability of man to make a free decision unaffected by sin, and the nature of the way God converts a soul. These are not merely theological ideas that we should place on a table and all talk about like they are objects picked up off of the seashore. These are biblical statements and they mean something. And again this is where conviction comes into play.
As I taught the second half of the course I watched to see what types of reactions, comments and questions were raised in light of passage after passage being unfolded and laid before them. It is same thing I do when I preach. I labor to unfold the biblical passage before the people and I watch. Especially when it is on a subject over which I know there is dispute. When I say something like, “Notice the way Paul wrote this . . .” I want to see how many look down to examine the text. I can say that for the most part my church is eager to do so, making my job in preaching much easier than other pastors.
But I also see the one who will sit with their arms folded and are unmoved. They are convinced and nothing will change that. With my students in Brazil it was the same thing. I wanted them to raise questions but I wanted those questions to flow from the biblical text. Not some author and certainly not from their own thoughts. And this is where I now make my point of this post.
Convictions exist in every human. But for a Christian those convictions ought to flow from a willful submission to the biblical text. And if it doesn’t then those convictions come from something other that God’s Word. When you learn to submit yourself to the bible then you become a person in a consistent state of change. As you mature and as you learn you realize that certain texts were misunderstood by you. Others become more clear and certain and you see that your first thoughts were good but not as deep and full as they could have been. Regardless, a healthy Christian is one whose first question on anything is, “What does the bible say?”
I remember years ago finishing a sermon and a person came up to me visible angry. He told me that what I was teaching that night was not what the majority of the church believed. I looked at him and asked one question, “Did I properly deal with this passage or not?” He said that I did but that he did not like it nor approve of it. I put my hand on his shoulder and told him that his problem wasn’t with me but with the Lord.
Convictions. Powerful things they are. Just make sure they flow from the Word of God and not anything of this age.
I grew up in my formative years in Idaho, a bastion of Mormonism. I remember vividly my father trying to find a solid church when we moved there and having no luck. There were no Assemblies (meaning Plymouth Brethren) and the Baptist and E V Free churches were dead even to my seventh grade brain. There were really only two choices, become a Mormon, which wasn’t happening or attend a Nazarene church, which is what we did. Regardless, most of my friends were Mormons, I briefly dated a Mormon girl and I had a few friends in the Nazarene church leave and convert to Mormonism. There were countless conversations with them and I was always fascinated by the poster that most of them had on a wall somewhere prominent in there house of the story in pictures of Joseph Smith and Moroni.
I don’t run into Mormons much anymore. We had them stop by a few years ago and I was able to sit with them and my children and challenge their assertions and point them to Jesus. Not their Jesus, but the true Jesus. They left unconvinced but I have always thought about where they are now, did the Word of the Gospel take root? Or did Satan come and pluck it away?
Perhaps you have Mormons who you know or who are missionaries walking in your neighborhoods. Are you prepared to engage them? I found this article by Loren Franck to be very revealing as he confesses to lying frequently while he served his missionary term. I encourage you to read it so that you might better understand what may come your way if you get a knock on your door one day.
The Bible predicts a dreadful fate for liars. For instance, while banished on the island of Patmos, the Apostle John saw that “all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). Similarly, the beloved disciple writes, liars are doomed to an eternity outside of God’s presence (Revelation 22:15). Because Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44), lying is extremely serious sin.
As a full-time Mormon missionary from 1975 to 1977, I lied for the church countless times. Like my colleagues in the South Dakota-Rapid City Mission, which served the Dakotas and adjacent areas, I spoke truthfully about my background, but touted many Mormon teachings that contradict the Bible. After my mission ended, however, I examined these doctrines more closely. The harder I tried to reconcile the contradictions, the more evident they became. So, after extensive prayer and study, I resigned my church membership in 1984. Cheated and betrayed, I lacked spiritual life for the next 17 years. But God, knowing those who are His (John 10:14; 2 Timothy 2:19), drew me to Christ (John 6:44) and saved me in 2001. My spiritual emptiness was replaced by the abundant life only the Savior can give (John 10:10). And now, like millions of Christians worldwide, I have everlasting life through my faith in Him (John 3:36; 6:47).
I can’t remember all of my missionary lies. Some were small, others grandiose, but all were false and misleading. Here are ten I’ll never forget.
It is now a bit over a week since we entered Brazil. I wanted to give a bit of an update one what is going on and how you can pray. Philemon and I arrived at Sao Paulo in the morning of the 9th. Right when we got off of the plane Philemon received the news that his father had died so grief was his companion. We came with our wives this time and were able to get to Atibaia with no problems. We are staying in a small apartment on the church campus that is sufficient to our needs. That evening we all went to another town called Terra Preta where I taught a bible study to the men on marriage and Kim taught on the attributes of God to the ladies. This is a very small church that is one that PIBA (stands for First Baptist Church of Atibaia in Portuguese) supports. It is a church that they are trying to revive for it was close to dying not that long ago.
The rest of the week was teaching. Philemon is teaching the seminary students the synoptic gospels, John and Acts while I am teaching Apologetical Methodology. It is good to see the men again and Philemon and I both see a definite growth in all of them from last year. Their questions are deeper and more informed and they show a growing maturity. All these men are very busy ministering in a multitude of ways through evangelism, serving in various churches, leading bible studies and such. The seminary is definitely church-based and is actively allowing these men the chance to practice ministry as they learn the Word.
Kim and Linda continue to teach the ladies. I was happy to hear the report from Kim about how her time with the seminary and pastors’ wives went. She was able to give a lot of practical advice and encouragement to them all. Several expressed their appreciation hearing her stories because they too have experienced similar situations. It gave the seminary wives a chance to really begin to understand what they can expect, both good and unpleasant, as their husbands take a church to shepherd. They still have two more sessions to go before they are done.
Philemon preaches at PIBA this last Sunday in the AM service. He taught out of Romans 8:31-39 and did an excellent job encouraging us all to remember that God is for us and all we need to do is to look to the Cross to remind us. The church received him well. What was very touching was that they announced (without anyone translating for us) that his father had passed away. Then we watched people begin to file forward to give money to Philemon as an expression of sorrow with him. Very humbling and very touching.
I then preached that evening at the small church in Terra Preta. My text was from 1 Peter 1:3-9 and was exhorting them to see that through the resurrection of Jesus we have a living hope that allows us to not merely endure suffering but to rejoices even as we weep. It was a bit of an adventure because my Surface was not charged as I thought and it ran out of power shortly after starting so I was winging it the whole way. Regardless the text was well known to me and the sermon accomplished much. Kim and I find ourselves “connected” to the pastor and his wife (Jeremiah and Anna). They show a genuine love for the people and yet they also have a difficult road to walk. Small churches (25-30) are so vulnerable to the smallest changes. Just consider what would happen in one family left?
How to pray? First, that all four of us would continue to be faithful in our labors. Second, that we can continue to encourage one another as we interact with each other. Third, while here, things in our “real” lives continue and Philemon and I both have several issues we are addressing from afar. Pray that we not become discouraged nor become distracted. Fourth, pray that the students truly absorbs what we are teaching. Fifth, pray that when we travel (we are driving ourselves) at the end of this week we will be wise and there shall be safe travels.
The Gospel Coalition is involved in all sorts of interesting activities right now. If you are unaware of the recent withdrawal of Tullian Tchividjian from the organization you can read some interesting and frankly important information here where Kevin DeYoung does a nice job giving a synopsis (maybe) of the issues. They are not little ones and they center around the nature of how a Christian deals with sin and the commands of the Scripture. Tchividjian essentially makes any serious obedience unnecessary because we are under grace. Though I appreciate his love of grace in all that I read of him I find that he misses the point almost completely on how grace now frees us and empowers us to obey our Lord. Secondly, I see him having an inappropriate understanding of the relationship between Law and Grace which makes any movement forward in this whole thing essentially a waste of time.
The following are a few useful articles for you to read if this little post piques your interest (honestly, just following the links on DeYoung’s article will keep you busy):
- Todd Pruitt He has several more excellent links and some very useful comments after them.
- Tullian Tchividjian We see here some of his ideas. “Are we free to fail?” “Are we free to be ordinary?” Of course we are, Jesus did it all. And therein lies the problem. Note how this article is filled with skin-tingling thoughts but really light on clear biblical exposition to support it. Here he gets irritated with the claim that he is pushing a view that celebrates failure though he doesn’t really address it in reality.
- Jen Wilkin This is the article that seemed to irritate Tullian.
- Jared Oliphant Responds to Tullian’s response.
- Carl Trueman Asks some very, very, very, very practical questions. The kind that tend to not get asked but should in debates like these. I have to invite him to preach at our church some day.
If you are interested, here is a three part series I did on the doctrine of sanctification. If you listen to them you will see the great chasm between myself (along with others) and Tchividjian. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
Regarding Josh Harris and CJ Mahaney stepping down, I am glad they did. Many troubling things over several years have caused me to take a big step backward to wait until more comes to light. Pretty shocking and sobering to read that a pastor and brother-in-law of Mahaney now admits under oath that he knew of the molestation and never contacted the authorities. One wonders if this is truly the very first time he admitted it to anyone. My mind is boggled.
Here is yet another chilling account of persecution against Christians. Keeps things in perspective.
A Christian woman in Sudan reportedly has until Thursday to either recant her faith or face a possible sentence of death.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, was convicted by a Khartoum court this week of apostasy, or the renunciation of faith, Amnesty International said Wednesday, a day before the expected ruling. The court considers her to be Muslim.
According to the rights group, she was also convicted of adultery because her marriage to a Christian man was considered void under Sharia law.
You can read the rest here . . . .
Scott Postma has a great article he posted the other day that I thought was worth my reader’s time. I have argued from the beginning of my ministry as a pastor that the problems in any church ultimately comes because of the leadership. Perhaps one day I will actually explain that, but right now I have other things I need to do. Regardless, here is a bit of a taste of his article. And, by the way, those ten things he lists I agree with in every way.
Abuse, apostasy, and irrelevance are just a few of the words that keep coming up in the search for reasons for the decline. There are a variety of compelling opinions and I even have a few of my own.
But I suggest there is another area of decline more significant and perhaps much less obvious—and one that certainly contributes to the church’s decline in numbers.
And I think its likely a careful analysis would implicate the church’s leadership for this more significant issue.
In other words, I’m concerned about pastors and the role they play in the church’s decline.
By saying so, I’m not suggesting this pastor has it all together. Nor am I trying to cultivate (or ratify) some dishonest skeptics’ hate for the church. Rather, I’m hoping to raise some concerns in a conversational kind of way.
Further, I’m not claiming to be the expert in all church issues. However, I have been in some form of pastoral ministry for the last 19 years and feel I have some measure of insight about the issue.
So in an effort to pursue this conversation in a healthy way, here are 10 pastors I’m concerned about.
Read the rest here.