We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Presbyterian Church (USA) Continues Slide to Hell

Here we go again. The Presbyterian Church (USA) continues its downhill slide to total apostasy as it more firmly embraces and approves of the homosexual lifestyle.

Today’s Cedar Rapids Gazette, p.7B, has an article by religion writer Molly Rossiter, telling about three proposals by the Presbytery of East Iowa which will be sent to the General Assembly in July. Two of the proposals are to change the language defining marriage as “between a man and a woman,” to the new definition as between “two people.” The other proposal is to make possible the ordination of homosexual men and women in the PCUSA.

The first two proposals were written by the Presbytery of Des Moines and endorsed by the Presbytery of East Iowa. The third was written by a committee of a Presbyterian Church in Iowa City (a city which is very liberal politically, with a very large homosexual population) after being tasked to do so by the Presbytery of East Iowa.

“The same-gender question has been a matter of some conflict and controversy,” said Rev. Sam Massey, pastor of the Iowa City church.

Well, Mr. Goatherd Massey, where in Scripture do you find any “conflict and controversy”? God’s Word is very perspicuous - it says homosexual behavior is wrong, period. No question to be left unanswered, no conflict between opinions, and no controversy over whether it is right or wrong. Why is this so difficult to understand?

A question I have for the new definition of marriage, is, why stop at “two people”? Why not three or four? Or why not a person and their pet? There is no moral foundation for approving the first and not approving the last two - are they not being intolerant?

As many years as the PCUSA has been sliding down the hill to hell, can there be any real Christians left in that denomination? If there are, then --- WHY?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Get Rid of the Leaven!

Evil is never static. It must defend its lies by adding more lies. Legalism is like garlic; there is no such thing as a little of it. If a few people in a church hold false doctrine, they will get more and more followers, unless sternly dealt with. William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, Galatians 5:9

This is why I firmly believe pastors should expose false teachers regularly from the pulpit; tell the flock about the poison they will find in the Christian book stores and on the TV!  Expose the Gothards, Ezzos, Pearls, the Beth Moores, the Benny Hinns, the Joel Osteens, etc!  Expose Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance Ministries!  Report on the Emergent church!

Too many pastors say all we have to do is teach the truth so they will recognize error, but experience has proven that to be totally inadequate.   There are too many cultish teachers and groups who have a very tasty outer shell which hides poison on the inside.  Sometimes the doctrine is good but the application is heavy with legalism.  EXPOSE IT FOR WHAT IT IS!!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What Entertains You?

One of the things I find disturbing is that Christians don’t think a whole lot about their entertainment, and whether or not they are enjoying something that God would disapprove. I am only, at this time, discussing the media: movies, television, computer games, etc. I have noticed that Christians, more often than not, will justify just about anything if they like it. So we become entertained by that which Christ died to save us from.

Take for example movies. How many Christians watch R-rated movies where nudity is displayed and where sexual immorality is the norm? I have heard many times the line, “But it was a good movie!” I have to admit there are movies even I have enjoyed that push the limit (the only R-rated movies I do are those such as We Were Soldiers and Blackhawk Down which are R-rated due to war violence and language). But as time goes by I am hearing more and more Christians discussing the latest stuff they’ve been watching or listening to, which they really shouldn't be doing.

What I think we should be doing as Christians, is filtering what we see or hear through a grid of Scripture. Many years ago I set up such a grid for my children, and I’d like to share it with you here (the Bible version I use is that which I think is most pointed - most clear as to the intent - or one I like best).

I will not put anything wicked in front of my eyes. Psalm 101:3a (GWN)
More than all that your guard, guard your mind, for it is the source of life. Proverbs 4:23 (Tanakh)
Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness. Romans 6:13 (NIV)
But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints. And coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable.  Ephesians 5:3-4 (HCSB)

Now, I don’t mean get all legalistic about it, because then you would be hard-pressed to find any movie acceptable! But we should at least give pause for thought if we are about to watch our favorite TV show or see the latest movie or listen to the last rock album. I know there are those who say we should avoid all forms of entertainment anyway because ALL of them have wickedness in them, and perhaps they are correct, but I will not push it that far.

Just to put things in perspective, let’s look at some thoughts from the early church. These quotes come from A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs.

Neither may we watch the other spectacles [i.e., the theaters], lest our eyes and ears be defiled by participating in the utterances that are sung there. For if one should speak of cannibalism, in these spectacles the children of Thyestes and Tereus are eaten. And as for adultery, both in the case of men and of gods, whom they celebrate in elegant language for honors and prizes, this is made the subject of their dramas. Theophilus (c. 180)

Let spectacles, therefore, and plays that are full of indecent language and abundant gossip, be forbidden. For what base action is there that is not exhibited in the theaters? Clement of Alexandria (c.195)

Are we not, in like manner, commanded to put away from us all immodesty? On this ground, again, we are excluded from the theater, which is immodesty’s own peculiar abode. … The very harlots, too, victims of public lust, are brought upon the stage…. Let the Senate, let all ranks, blush for shame!… Is it right to look on what is disgraceful to do? How is it that the things that defile a man in going out of his mouth, are not regarded as doing so when they go in his eyes and ears? Tertullian (c.197)

If, again, we despise the teaching of secular literature as being foolishness in God’s eyes, our duty is plain enough in regard to those spectacles that come from this source: the tragic and comic plays. Tragedies and comedies are the bloody, wanton, impious, and licentious inventors of crime and lusts. Yet, it is not good for us to dwell on anything that is atrocious or vile. What you reject in deed, you are not to welcome in word. Tertullian. (c.197)

The father who carefully protects and guards his virgin daughter’s ears from every polluting word, takes her to the theater himself - exposing her to all its vile words and attitudes. Tertullian (c.197)

In the theaters also, you will behold what may well cause you grief and shame…. The old horrors of parental murders and incest are unfolded in action calculated to resemble reality…. Things that have now ceased to be actual deeds of vice become examples…. Adultery is learned while it is seen…. The matron who has perhaps gone to the spectacle as a modest woman, returns from it immodest. What a degradation of morals it is! What stimulus to abominable deeds, what food for vice! Cyprian (c.250)

In like manner, the tragedies place before the eyes [of the audience] the incests and parental murders of wicked kings. They also portray dire crimes…. And what effect do the immodest gestures of the actors produce, except to teach and incite lust? The actors’ weakened bodies are rendered effeminate after the gait and dress of women. They imitate unchaste women by their disgraceful gestures. Why should I even mention the mimes, who instruct others in corrupting influences. They teach adulteries while they act them out. By pretended actions, they train their audience to do those actions that are real. What can young men or virgins do when they see that these things are practiced without shame and are willingly watched by all? Lactantius (c.304-313)

I think that last citation really sums it up. What about you?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Misuse of Scripture is Nothing New!

One of the books on my shelves is a very interesting collection of teachings from the early church, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, edited by David W. Bercot. I have found it to be a very useful reference on many matters, and I highly recommend it to all believers. Today I was looking for information on something and came across this highlighted quote (I can’t read without a highlighter) from Clement of Alexandria (c.195 AD):

Those who give themselves up to pleasures, twist Scripture in accordance with their lusts. … Such people, in consequence of falling away from the right path, err in most individual points. As you might expect, they do not have the faculty for judging what is true and false…. For if they had, they would have obeyed the Scriptures…. We also give a complete explanation of the Scriptures from the Scriptures themselves. From faith, we are persuaded by demonstration. However, when those who follow heresies venture to avail themselves of the prophetic Scriptures, [they do the following]: In the first place, they do not use all the Scriptures. Secondly, they do not quote them entirely. Finally, they do not quote them as the body and context of prophecy prescribes. Rather, selecting ambiguous expressions, they twist them to suit their own opinions, gathering a few expressions here and there. Instead of looking to the sense, they make use of the mere words.

It just goes to show you that the “cult cocktail” (Scripture with a twist) is something the Church has been dealing with for a very long time. In fact, let’s all remember what Peter said:

[Paul] speaks about these things in all his letters, in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:16 , HCSB)

The thought that false teachers twist the Scriptures “to their own destruction” should make them reflect on what they are doing.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

In Christ Alone

Another of my favorite contemporary hymns is In Christ Alone, by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. As with others I like, this song has some really good doctrinal “meat.”

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

What is “Church” For?

What is the reason we assemble together as believers? What was the biblical purpose for assembling, and should it still be the purpose?

Whenever the Bible speaks of the Christians assembling together, what do we see taking place? There really isn’t a whole lot in the Bible about their assemblies for worship, but let’s start with a look at Acts.

Chapter 2, verse 42 we find “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers.”

Continuing to chapter 20, verses 7-11 we find: “On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he extended his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were assembled, and a young man named Eutychus was sitting on a window sill and sank into a deep sleep as Paul kept on speaking. When he was overcome by sleep he fell down from the third story, and was picked up dead. But Paul went down, threw himself on him, embraced him, and said, ‘Don’t be alarmed, for his life is in him!’ After going upstairs, breaking the bread, and eating, he conversed a considerable time until dawn. Then he left.”

1 Corinthians 11:17-26 is a discussion by Paul about their misuse of the Lord’s table, and he gives them appropriate instructions. This tells me that the Lord’s table (or as many call it, Communion) was a common part of their gathering.

In Romans 12:6-8, Paul mentions the various gifts among the members of the church: “According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the standard of faith; if service, in service; if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.”

In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul again discusses various gifts among the body of believers. Starting at verse 4 he says, “Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord.  And there are different activities, but the same God is active in everyone and everything.  A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person  to produce what is beneficial:” He then lists various gifts, ministries and activities, but he says they are to “produce what is beneficial,” meaning beneficial to the body of Christ. A few passages later Paul tells of the various types of people and gifts that have been put in the Church by God:  “Now you are the body of Christ,  and individual members of it. And God has placed these in the church:  first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next, miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, managing, various kinds of languages.” (vs. 27-28). But the whole discussion is in the context of everyone in the assembly needing everyone else because not everyone is blessed with the same gifts.

Now look at what Paul says at 1 Corinthians 14: “Therefore if the whole church assembles together, and all are speaking in other languages, and people who are uninformed or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all are prophesying, and some unbeliever or uninformed person comes in, he is convicted by all and is judged by all. The secrets of his heart will be revealed, and as a result he will fall down on his face and worship God, proclaiming, ‘God is really among you.’ How is it then, brothers? Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, another language, or an interpretation.  All things must be done for edification.” (vs. 23-26) He says “ALL” things must be done for edification. And he speaks about unbelievers who might come in, not that unbelievers are invited in or are part of the normal assembly, which is why all things must be done in an orderly fashion.

The last Scripture at which I want to look is Ephesians 4: 11-16:  “And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together  by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.” [my bold emphasis]

So what have we learned about the New Testament assemblies? The assembled saints met to hear the apostles’ teachings, for breaking of bread (including the Lord‘s table), for singing psalms, for fellowship and prayer. They had been given gifts for the building up of the body: encouragement, edification and discipling. Is there anywhere mentioned that the assembled saints were to use their meeting times to evangelize?

I think the Church has become very much misdirected as to the purpose of their assembling together on Sunday mornings. Too often the services are “seeker sensitive,” entertainment-oriented so as to appeal to unbelievers. Too often we are told to bring our unsaved friends and acquaintances to church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the assembly is where we come to meet for corporate worship and fellowship and discipleship. When this is compromised by making it a time to bring in unbelievers, we do not properly build up the body. Evangelization is not for the church assembled or for the sermon, rather evangelization is what the individual believers should be equipped to be doing outside the assembly.

[All Scripture is from the Holman Christian Standard Bible]