Everything Else Matters Not in the Matthew Warren Tragedy

Losing a family member, especially a young son or daughter is the most painful event one can go through.  Our condolences go to pastor Rick Warren and his family who lost their son to suicide after a long struggle with depression and suicidal ideation.

Delight in Truth is a critic of Rick Warren and some of the positions he has taken over the years with respect to controversial social issues, but this tragedy makes everything pale in comparison.

Doctrinal points, accuracy of biblical teaching, styles of sharing the Gospel and their controversies matter not at this time.

The only thing that matters is the comfort that God can provide to Rick Warren and his family via the Holy Spirit, our Comforter.

There will be time to talk about mental illness, suicide, antidepressant treatment, and salvation issues in the setting of suicide.

Now we grieve with the Warren family for their loss.

Psalm 18:2  “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

image credit

Chinese Propaganda… in Our Christian Media!

I had written a post (here) about the online magazine Christianity Today, questioning whether it can be called Christian based on some the articles, editorials, and opinion pieces they publish.

So, it was not surprising to see an article in Christianity Today entitled “China Isn’t Trying to Wipe Out Christianity” which is basically an apologetic piece on the claim that persecution is really not that bad in China.

Having lived in communist Romania until age 13, and having seen the persecution methods employed by that government against my local church, I can testify that what I read in this article was a message influenced by communist propaganda.  The communist Romanians had freedom of speech, religion and assembly as part of their core values.  Allegedly. And theoretically.  But they were vehemently persecuting the existing ne0-Protestant churches for their FAITH under the banner of national security.  Any prayer meeting was seen as a national threat.  Every church was suspected of being a potential western ally.  Every faithful Christian was a potential revolutionary.  All of these to cover the real motive which was religious persecution.

They used the seemingly legitimate national defense excuse to accomplish their atheistic goals of suppressing the truth and stamping out religious practice.

And the propaganda disseminated in this article by Christianity Today follows some of the same old techniques we have seen in the former eastern communist bloc.  For example:

1. The government is really not after those practicing their faith in house churches.  Oh no.  They are after anti-government elements that pose a national threat… So I ask… National threat from whom?  Is the US or western Europe about to go to war with China? How ridiculous does that sound? Are they afraid that individual house cell meetings for prayer are going to topple a massive totalitarian government?  Even that is highly improbable!

2. The Chinese government is not persecuting the faith, they are trying to suppress protests which can be embarrassing.  So I ask… Why are Christians trying to protest in the first place if they are not persecuted for their faith?

3. The Chinese government is not persecuting Christians… only the ones who are trying to publicize human rights violations.  Again, when freedom of religion is suppressed, that is a human rights violation translating into religion persecution.

Quote from the article: “The point here is not in any way to minimize the seriousness of these cases, but simply to point out that these believers were not persecuted for their faith or even for belonging to a house church…”  This is exactly what the propaganda is!  That the persecution has nothing to do with faith but with anti-government activity.  We have seen this cover story time and time again in Romania.

This is an old trick and we are not going to fall for it!

Can we now see how ridiculous it is to blame Christian “trouble makers” to divert attention from the real underlying impetus of the atheist Chinese government, their real motive being the  persecution of the Christian faith? And Christianity Today is buying it despite multiple other reports and assessments with respect to the intense persecution of the faithful in China!

Even though Christianity Today may not (want to) discern the truth, we know that our brothers and sisters in China are suffering at the hands of an atheist totalitarian regime which wants to inhibit their faith in God.  We will continue to pray for these Christians and remember Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

image credit

Perspectives on the Unfriendly Starts of New Churches

Thom RainerThis short article was written by Dr. Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of Life Way Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, and it highlights some painful truths about the issue of churches breaking up.  It also holds the party that initiates the split accountable:

“A new church is started in a community with many members of an existing church. Unfortunately, the existing church has not blessed the new church start, nor has it been consulted about it. In many cases, a staff member from the existing church has led the unfriendly church start.

I have emails that include phrases like “deep hurt,” “betrayal,” and “kick in the stomach.” In other words, this new church start has not been received well at all by the existing church. I understand that there are two sides to these stories, so I am ready to be corrected. Nevertheless, I have some strong opinions about unfriendly church starts. Allow me to share four of them.

1. The DNA of the new church is a problem. In most unfriendly church starts, the new church is a negative reaction to the existing church. Thus, the very reason for the existence of the new church has negative overtones. The DNA is, at least in part, filled with negativity.

2. Ill will is immediately established between two churches. There is the perception that members were wrongfully taken from one church. Often the existing church feels the immediate pain of loss of people, finances, and leaders. They simply did not have time to plan to replace those who would leave.

3. The new church begins with a potential negative reputation in the community. The church is the congregation that “split” or “took members” or “fought” with the existing church. Those words do not enhance the reputation of a church that is trying to reach its community.

4. Reconciliation must begin with the new church. At some point, the chasm between the two congregations must be bridged. In most cases the new church should initiate that effort, especially since it started without the blessing or knowledge of the existing church.

A few years ago I spoke with a young associate pastor who told me that he had been approached by a large group in the church that wanted him to lead a split and start of a new church. Even though there seemed to be serious problems in the existing church, he refused to make such a move. When I asked him why he was not seizing the opportunity, his response was telling: “God called me here to honor this pastor as long as I am here. There are a lot of problems that I see in the church, but starting a new church is just not the answer. It’s just not the right thing to do.”

I agree. It’s just not the right thing to do.”

article and image credit

Theology 101: Is Decision Theology Biblical?

image

I used to attend Monday nights with Greg Laurie at Calvary Chapel when I was a kid. At the end of every service Greg used to invite people in the front to make a decision to accept Christ and become born-again after repeating a one minute “sinner’s prayer.”

This practice became more pompous at the yearly Harvest Crusades when after reciting the sinner’s prayer, fireworks went off and Greg would declare: “welcome to the family of God.

Is the personal decision to become born again unto eternal life grounded in the Bible? And is it ok to label a person born again after reciting the sinner’s prayer?

Billy Graham has been applying decision theology throughout his evangelistic career, and he famously declared that only 5% or less of those making a profession of faith at his crusades eventually make their way into the Body of Christ by joining a church.

It then follows that a huge number of people who make a decision to believe, make a profession that is NOT of faith. That is just the tip of a nefarious iceberg. These folks leave the crusade thinking they are saved and they continue to live unchanged lives. They are left with an empty decision, a profession, and a false declaration of salvation by a celebrity evangelist.

This problem invariably gets into the monergism vs synergism debate. Monergism holds to the supreme sovereignty of God in matters of salvation, and states that a human decision is not involved in becoming born again, while synergism claims that a human decision for salvation is necessary and synergistic with the work of the Holy Spirit.

But I argue that when it comes to conversion, philosophy can muddy the waters. Let us go to the Scriptures to highlight the fact that salvation belongs to God and it is the work of the Holy Spirit. The only thing that humans can do is abandon salvation.

First, a confession of true faith stems in the gift of faith given by God, NOT in a human decision:

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God”

Second, this faith cannot be activated by a human decision because such an action is contrary to fallen human nature:

1 Corinthians 2:14 “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

It becomes clear that in order to make an authentic confession of faith one has to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit because the unregenerated natural man is not able to do this.

Even repentance is not the result of human decision but something that is granted by God:

Acts 11:18 “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.””

I need to stress that human participation in salvation is not robotic. But also, it is not a man initiated event by decisions and sinner’s prayers. It is the result of the quickening of the Holy Spirit.

An appropriate altar call should include the presentation of gospel facts and gospel terms followed by an invitation to repent and surrender to God. Decisions to become born again have no place in a biblical understanding of salvation. Neither do declarations of eternal salvation for those who make professions of faith.

Time for Revival in the Catholic Church

Christianity is undergoing transformation these days, especially the Catholic Church which will soon have a new Pontiff. I would like to propose that we may see a spiritual revival in the Catholic Church with possibly a new guard coming in, as Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down.

The current Pope was the main doctrinarian and theologian of the Catholic Church, and I am inclined to say he was part of an old guard accepting liberal doctrines such as the denying of the physical resurrection, and salvation via the beatitudes. He was elderly to begin with when he was elected, so he was bound to be a transitional figure.

As we are living in the last days, could we be seeing perhaps the last opportunity for a leader in the Catholic Church through whom God will bring in a long overdue revival?

Everyone is talking about revival in the Evangelical Church, but what about revival in the fertile ground of the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide today? Image a spiritual revival in this block of people, and imagine the impact a new leader may have toward this purpose.

Imagine a pontiff who may be bold enough to embrace the Charismatic and Pentecostal type movements going on among Catholics in South America, or one willing to move toward reformed positions… a pontiff who is willing to chastise the liberal wings of catholic priests who deny Jesus as the only way to eternal life.

Even here in the US, I have seen sporadic evidence that Catholicism is changing.  I was playing a worship song in the operating room not too long ago, a song known in our Evangelical churches, and to my surprise one of my nurses who is Catholic recognized the song and the band, and said “we sing this song all the time at mass.”

After my initial shock I got more information, and it turns out that for some time now their church is holding evangelical style services, with worship songs that typically have a Reformed or Pentecostal message… followed by sermons!  She even said “we love to sing music from our evangelical brethren!” Amazing!

Imagine the Catholic Church moving away from empty rituals and toward a real salvation relationship with Jesus.

We must think in these positive revival terms because the opposite is an apocalyptic scenario. At the opposite end of the spectrum we could be seeing a new pope who will usher in the era of the AntiChrist. And let me tell you, the lukewarm (or dead) post-modern Evangelical Church is not ready for such turn of events.

However, the real Body of Christ will be ready for whatever will happen. A revival will be welcomed as the kingdom of God will be extended throughout the earth even more. But also the opposite will be welcomed, the ushering in of the AntiChristic era which will mean that our time is at hand and Jesus is about to return.

Right now though, the world needs revival, and I am hoping for the salvation of many souls.

image credit

Louie Giglio Withdraws from the Inauguration and… the Gay Debate

In another half-meant attempt to extend an “olive branch” to evangelicals, Obama asked Passion City Church pastor Louie Giglio to give the prayer at his 2nd inauguration as a reward for Giglio’s social work to end modern slavery.

After initially accepting with enthusiasm, the pastor released this somewhat apologetic and confusing statement:

“Due to a message of mine that has surfaced from 15-20 years ago, it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration.  Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ.”

He was referring to a sermon from what he wants to make it seem like a long, long time ago, when he used to preach against the sin of homosexuality.

He now wants to withdraw from the spotlight.  A reasonable conclusion is that he does not wish to defend or debate the biblical truth he once proclaimed in the public square.

On one of the hottest issues threatening to split churches and spread false teaching, Giglio, one of the most recognizable faces of the American Christianity, wishes to remain silent.

Historic Christianity demonstrates that men of God have not been silent on issues of sin.  Jesus Himself did not withdraw from the debate on sexual immorality in Matthew 19.  Paul did not shy away from labeling homosexual relations as unnatural and idolatrous in Romans 1.  Peter was bold in addressing immorality and false teaching in 2 Peter 2.

Even Rick Warren did not withdraw himself from the debate, he actually craves it making the rounds an all the popular talk shows exposing a lukewarm position on the nature of homosexual relations.

Why is Louie Giglio backing down?  Why won’t he deliver a firm inaugural Christian prayer to God in the name of Jesus (not in the name of Islamic prophet Isa like Rick Warren did in his inaugural prayer) and let the storm rage around him?

I love the Casting Crowns song lyrics which highlight the storm around us:

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am

This was the opportunity of a life time for Giglio to stand up for God and for biblical truth in front of an audience of hundreds of millions, and he blew it!  It would have been an eternal testimony… I am so disappointed…

image credit

Top 10 Christian Tweets of 2012

According to The Christian Post these are the top 10 Christian messages on Twitter in 2012.

10. Max Lucado – “On this Good Friday, envision the Savior on the cross, bloodied and cast in shadows. Listen as heaven whispers: For you, my child. For you.”

9. Colton Dixon (American Idol finalist) -“Someone loved you so much that he died for you. His name is Jesus.”

8. Joel Osteen -“God has you exactly where He wants you. Learn to be happy where you are, and God will take you where you want to be.”

7. Robert Griffen III (rookie quarteback for the Redskins) – “Couldn’t have written the beginning any better To God Be The Glory.”

6. Joyce Meyer – “God’s timing is perfect; He is never late. Even when things seem out of control God is still working and has a plan for your life.”

5. Gabrielle Douglas (olympic gold medalist in gymnastics) – “Thank you guys for everything! I am SO grateful God has truly blessed me! Remember to ALWAYS give him the glory for he is GREAT!”

4. Lecrae – “I’m not a Christian because I’m strong and have it all together. I’m a Christian because I’m weak and admit I need a Savior.”

3. Bubba Watson (golfer) – “To God Be the Glory!!! #Masters”

2. Rev. Run (some former rapper… who is this guy?) – “1 cross + 3 nails =4 given #ThankYouJesus!”

1. Tim Tebow – “Happy moments, praise God. Difficult moments, seek God. Quiet moments, worship God. Painful moments, trust God. Every moment, THANK GOD.”

***********************************************************************

Which tweets are your favorites?

Which tweets are biblical?  Heretical?

I await your analysis and comments…

Mark Driscoll’s “Puff or Pass?” On Recreational Marijuana

Mark Driscoll, controversial pastor of Seattle-based Mars Hill Megachurch marks the legalization of recreational use of marijuana in Washington with the publication of a brochure that asks the question “Should Christians smoke pot or not?”

Previously labeled by some as the “cussing” pastor due to the strong language used in some sermons and for showing unedited R-rated movies in his congregation, Driscoll now tosses up the equivalent of “Should Christians get high or not?” or “Should Christians dip into the habits of this world or not?”

He states that up until now his answer was always NO to marijuana based on Romans 13, explaining that it was an illegal drug.

But now… recreational marijuana is legal in Seattle!

Apparently that changes everything! 🙂

His 38 page brochure introduces the issue of smoking pot by making the following comparison:

“Some things are neither illegal (forbidden by government in laws) nor sinful (forbidden by God in Scripture), but they are unwise. For example, eating a cereal box instead of the food it contains is not illegal or sinful—it’s just foolish. This explains why the Bible speaks not only of sin, but also folly, particularly in places such as the book of Proverbs. There are innumerable things that won’t get you arrested or brought under church discipline, but they are just foolish and unwise…”

At the end of the brochure he endorses a position where he advocates against the use of recreational marijuana and is open for its medicinal uses (without questioning the motives for such medicinal use because he is not a medical doctor).

My main concern is not with his position.  It is with the fact that he does not label “getting high” as a sin, unlike pastor Douglas Wilson who labels it sin (quoted extensively in the brochure).  By implying that marijuana use is unwise, but not necessarily sinful, he leaves the door open for someone to think that getting high on pot may be OK.  This is especially problematic given the population of troubled kids that he ministers to.

He states he would strongly urge his 5 children not to use pot.  But I would have loved to see him make a strong statement forbidding his kids from getting high because it is sinful behavior, based on biblical principles:

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

The word sorcery in verse 20 is translated from the greek word pharmakeia.  It refers specifically to the use and administration of mind altering drugs for the purpose of getting high or inducing trance.

Also, we cannot engage in sinful behavior as the world does:  “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2) NLT.

Marijuana, cocaine, heroin, propofol, etc are inanimate objects that do not constitute sin in themselves… but the motives, cravings, effects and behavioral changes associated with their recreational use constitute sin.

Given the mind altering properties of marijuana, the sinful behavior associated with it, the main motives for its use, and the sinful situations used in, the godly answer to Driscoll’s question “Puff or Pass?” is definitely “Pass.”

False Teaching Alert: Universalism Among Evangelicals

UNIVERSALIM:  definitions

1. the principles and practices of a liberal Christian denomination founded in the 18th century originally to uphold belief in universal salvation and now united with Unitarianism

2. a school of modern and post-modern “Christian” theology which includes the belief in the doctrine of universal reconciliation, the view that all human beings and all fallen creatures will ultimately be restored to right relationship with God in heaven.

3. emphasis on the “all religions lead to heaven” and acceptance of all religions in an inclusive manner, believing in a universal reconciliation between humanity and the divine.

Shane Hipps is the (former) co-pastor of Mars Hill Bible (Mega) Church in Grandville, Michigan.  He used to pastor that megachurch with famous author Rob Bell who wrote the book “Love Wins” where Bell questions the existence of hell.

I draw your attention to the following video which is a trailer for Hipps’ new book.

Pay close attention to the remarks made about Jesus as being the “wind” in the many sails of the wide religious landscape.  When he says that Jesus does not claim Christianity as His own, does he really mean that Gospel found in the Bible is not the only way to God?