Category Archives: Church

Word Up, Timmy

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1 Tim 4:13, ESV)

The public reading of scripture was of such importance to Paul that he told Timothy to devote himself to it. It’s clear from the context that Paul was telling Timothy to read large sections of scripture and teach and plead with the people on what was being read. Paul was not telling Timothy to decide what he wanted to give a sermon on and then choose 3 or 4 scriptures to back up what he was teaching on.

My oldest daughter is taking a comparative religions class in college and as part of her assignments has had to attend a Jewish synagogue and a Catholic church service. This morning was the day she needed to attend the Catholic service, so her and I attended a service at the Catholic church in downtown Fort Worth, Texas. We had never attended a Catholic service. I’ve spent most of my life in a couple of Pentecostal denominations and have pretty much raised my kids likewise.

As probably most people are aware, a Catholic service contains a lot of rituals, common prayers, and the like. In other words, the service is more formal than anything I’ve ever been a part of. We saw a lot of different things this morning. Much of it I was expecting, like the huge backlit Virgin Mary statue hovering over the platform…..at least 3 times the size of the Jesus below her.

The one thing we say that I wasn’t expecting, however, was the large amount of scripture being read. There were large portions from Acts, 1 Timothy, and 1 John. For lack of better words, the priest read and explained at length the entire chapter of 1 John 1.

I spent eight out of the last ten years in one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the world. A denomination that prides itself in the inerrancy of scripture. As well, I spent a great part of the last two years searching for a new church home. We tried all kinds of churches in our journey. The one thing that stood out in our church search was the almost complete lack of exactly what Paul instructed Timothy to do….the public reading of scripture.

Now I know if any of those pastors of the churches we’ve attended were asked, they would be certain that they were devoting themselves to the public reading of scripture and teaching. But they weren’t. Sadly, neither are very many in the U.S. churches of today. A 45 minute sermon where a few scriptures are used to explain or back up what you are teaching is not teaching through scripture.

Obviously, I’m not advocating the beliefs of the Catholic church. Their beliefs regarding salvation, the Pope’s earthly role, the forgiveness of sins, among others are just plain unbiblical. However, I listened intently to the priest’s teaching on 1 John, chapter 1, and it was pretty spot on.

It’s a pretty sad testament to the state of the American church when I heard more scripture being read and explained verse-by-verse in a Catholic church than can be heard in the overwhelming majority of Evangelical churches in America today. How can we expect anything else other than unbiblical nonsense when the shepherds of God’s flock won’t allow almost as much of God’s written word to flow from their mouths as their own words?

If Paul said not to neglect the public reading of scripture, then why is your pastor or church doing it?

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Just for your entertainment pleasure, below is a typical example of a sermon outline used in churches that have been trained by Saddleback Church, pastored by Rick Warren in Southern California. This sermon delivery method is designed to be focused on the felt needs of the congregation rather than the true biblical Gospel. Notice how little of the Word of God is used. Remember, this is basically a 45-minute sermon that is used to teach a subject of the pastor’s choosing with Bible verses used to back up his teaching.

Typical Seeker Sensative Sermon Outline

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Noise

As I’ve written on my blog before, I’m an introvert. It’s something I’ve come to terms with and something I’ve struggled to understand my entire life. For a majority of my life I didn’t realize there was such a thing as an “introvert” or an “extrovert” personality type and that they were actually the way God created us. Growing up I saw all of the people who were the “life of the party” type of people and thought there was something wrong with me. I’ve always enjoyed solitude and easily get stressed out in the noise and crowds.

I know people have often thought of me as aloof and somewhat arrogant. I don’t enjoy making “small talk” and in fact find it really boring. I have a hard time chatting about the weather and similar things. However, I’ve always enjoyed deeper conversation and when I’m paired off with someone of similar interests as mine I tend to dominate the conversation because I enjoy talking about certain subjects so much.

In other words, because I’ve never been a “life of the party” type of person; I’ve been told much of my life that I’m anti-social. To some extent this is true because social situations give me anxiety, but when in smaller more intimate conversational settings I enjoy myself, which is far from “anti-social”. I just never will be the guy dancing on a table at an office party.

I recently finished reading a book by the name of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. The book is an in-depth look at the differences between introverts and extroverts and focuses on the traits of extroverts. The writer, Susan Cain, describes in-depth what she calles the “Secret Power of Introverts”. The quietness of an introvert allows for creativity, thoughtfulness, and introspection. Most, but not all, of the worlds greatest minds were introverts. People who literally changed the world. People like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther, and the like were all introverts.

Quite interestingly, the book has a section dedicated entirely to extrovertism in the American church and it’s effect on mainstream Evangelicalism. Susan Cain, in my understanding, is from a Jewish background and isn’t a professing Christian. Of all places she chose to use as an example of an American church that idolizes extrovertism, she chose Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Southern California.

In the section of the book mentioned above, Susan Cain met with a man who was a Presbyterian minister for an interview at Saddleback. They attended a service there in order to get the look and feel of what a service was like at Saddleback church. The basic gist of the interview centered around how “extrovertism” has gripped the popular American Evangelical church culture and how church services of quiet contemplation, prayer, and scripture reading are no longer a part of most of the American church.

 In order to draw the multitudes into the American Evangelical church of today there has to be plenty of excitement and programs to keep people interested in attending church. Saddleback church and Rick Warren with his Purpose Driven Life method of doing church has arguably had the largest impact on the latest church culture of “extrovert” idealism.

 As I said earlier, I’m an introvert. I enjoy reading and quiet. Although I’ve struggled with thinking there was something wrong with me all of my life, I now no longer do. I’ve come to understand there’s a place for solitude, prayer, and Bible study in God’s church.

However, for many years I attended an Assemblies of God church that had fully implemented Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life “seeker sensitive” church growth model. As time went on, I was considered “odd” and was cast aside. I enjoyed Sunday School. It was cancelled. I enjoyed Sunday night services. They were cancelled. I enjoyed Wednesday night Bible study service. It was cancelled. Once a month prayer rallies were cancelled in lieu of bi-yearly “praise rallies”.

In other words, all of the things than an “introvert” would enjoy about church, things like learning, Bible study, close relationships with a tight-knit group, suddenly vanished. In their place came large social events and activities designed to “pump” the congregation and build excitement with the church. Things to cause “seekers” to want to come to church. Programs to make it fun for the kids but little in the way of teaching them the Word.

I now know that God created me with the gifts he gave me. I know that I am a member of the Body of Christ. I may not be a hand or a mouth in His body, but I am a member nevertheless. I also know there are many others like me (my oldest daughter, for instance) who have become weary of the “rah rah rah” of the American church. We worship God with all of our minds, bodies, and strengths. We love to serve behind the scenes without much fanfare. We long to share insights into God’s word with others. We want to give without others knowing.

Today’s American churches make very little room for this. Much of the American Evangelical churches are geared more like high school pep rallies where the “cheerleaders” and the “band” are worshiped. The quiet and the contemplative and the faithful are increasingly moved aside for the new, the excited, and the vocal. The quiet ones are now looked at with suspicion as having some sort of spiritual issue because they aren’t “on fire for the Lord”.

I know this is the way it is, because I lived it for 2 years while looking for a home church. My family and I visited many churches across many denominations and to find one that actually was centrally on the Word, prayer, and music with sound doctrine was virtually impossible to find. And there are over 60 churches within a few miles of my home…….Hey, I live in Texas, you know.

Next Sunday, look around. Has your church become a social club? Is there room within the congregation for the quiet among you to serve and worship? Is there a balance between “excitement” and “reverence, awe, and solitude” before the Lord as a congregation or is it all “celebration. all the time”. Is your fellowship actually a true “body” of Christ that makes way for all parts or are only the “mouths” esteemed?

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Context, Context, Context

How many times have you heard of an argument between two people where one person accuses the other of taking their words out of context? Or how many times has some public figure been vilified in the media for a comment he or she made and their defense was that their comment was taken out of context?

The context of anything we say, or do for that matter, must be taken into account in order to understand the true meaning of our words or actions.

For instance, what about the words “Justin! I could just kill you!”? Or what if someone overheard something racist come out of your mouth but failed to hear the part about it being a comment a coworker had made and how you had chastised the coworker for the comment?

What about certain behaviors? What if a girl had been sexually abused much of her life and as a young adult became promiscuous? In light of her past, could her behavior at least be more easily understood? Would you be more inclined to excuse some of her bad behavior when understood in the light of her past? Additionally, what about cultural context? Words and actions that are appropriate in one culture can easily mean something else in another culture.

Context is everything. When we fail to understand people’s words and actions apart from the entire context of the conversation or culture, misunderstandings easily occur.

Most American churches today are being led by pastors who are handling the Word of God the same way a journalist might take a politicians words out of context and tell a story to suit the journalists own political viewpoints. They hand-pick one or two verses out of the Bible and preach an entire sermon based on those two or three scriptures while rarely returning to the Bible. Additionally, it’s not too hard to turn on any “Christian” TV show today and find a televangelist who has built and entire framework of doctrine around just one single verse.

2 Timothy 3:16,17 (ESV) states the following:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The entire Bible, from cover to cover, is the Word of God. Just like taking one sentence out of the President’s speech and trying to explain the entire meaning of his speech based on just one or two sentences, you can’t take one or two sentences out of the Bible and expect to completely explain the meaning of the text.

While writing to Timothy about how to be a good pastor of the people, Paul states:

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching (1 Tim 4:13, ESV)

Paul understood the likelihood of error being introduced into Timothy’s teaching by simply reading one verse and giving an hour-long talk on what it means to the congregation. Paul understood that the context of any given verse was of utmost importance.

Taking one or two verses, or even three, out of the entire context in which they were written and preaching for an hour is exactly what is happening in much of the churches in America today. Particularly those of the Pentecostal, Charismatic, and “Purpose-Driven” variety.

A common method of sermon preparation for these pastors would look a little like this: First they would determine a “theme” for a series of sermons. All of the sermons for several weeks will center around this central sermon theme. For instance, the central theme may be about “Wise Stewardship”. the pastor would then develop several points he would like to teach his congregation about wise stewardship. Each of these points would be an entire Sunday sermon and would teach a particular aspect of using God’s resources wisely. As an example, one Sunday would be about giving to the poor, another would be about giving of your time, another sermon would include tithing, and so forth.

Thirdly, while preparing for a particular Sunday sermon, the pastor determines what he would like to teach the congregation about “Giving”, for instance. Using his knowledge of the Bible, he would determine which passage of scripture best fits what he would like to teach his church and he uses this verse or two to back up what he is trying to teach the people. As he preaches along, he may quote a verse or two as he preaches to further establish his points.

This method of sermon delivery actually has a name. It’s called a topical sermon. The topic is chosen by the pastor and then scripture is then used to establish the credibility of the sermon. While there certainly is a time and place for topical sermons, this is a bad choice for most sermons. Topical sermons lend themselves, by nature, to introducing too much of man’s opinion into the sermon and too little of the Word of God.

The proper way of handling the Word of God is called expository preaching, or inductive teaching. These methods basically take an entire section of scripture and “expose” its meaning. By going through an entire book of the Bible chapter by chapter and verse by verse only then can each individual scripture be properly understood in light of its original intent to its original readers, its cultural meaning when it was written, and what the scripture is telling us today. There is no other way to properly interpret scripture and it’s one of the reasons we have so much goofy doctrine being taught today.

When a pastor is committed to the public reading of scripture, as Paul commanded Timothy to be, and he teaches through the Bible book by book, chapter by chapter, and verse by verse there is far less likelihood that error will be introduced into his teaching. Though pastors are still human and errors will still be made, it’s easier for the average Christian to spot errors when the scriptures are taught in this manner. Additionally, the difficult-to-interpret scriptures aren’t glossed over, as most pastors tend to do when teaching topically.

When scripture is taught by reading through it verse by verse, we get a good balanced diet of God’s word each week. I used to attend a church where each year we focused on the “vision” and our “mission” at the beginning of the year and as the year progressed we moved into sermons about “serving” the body of believers. Towards the end of the year came the sermons about “giving”. Year after year this “topical” style of preaching continued. It did nothing more than keep the people in spiritual infancy feeding on spiritual “milk”.

There are many pastors and churches committed to verse by verse teaching. Even many pastors in denominations that have abandoned this type of teaching still teach in this manner. Calvary Chapels are churches that are all committed to teaching verse by verse. Churches that identify themselves with 9Marks are also churches that are committed to teaching in this manner and there are many others out there.

Although I’m not suggesting that anyone leave their church they are attending, I am suggesting that you take a long hard look at the manner in which your pastor is handling the Word of God. If topical preaching is the order of the day, I would almost guarantee that the people aren’t being fed the Word properly. If you need to find another fellowship, look for one that teaches line by line through the scriptures…….your very soul may just depend on it.

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Muchas Gracias

It’s been a long year, a hard year.

Since the beginning of the year we’ve attended more churches than I care to count. I spent the first eight months of the the year working a part time job from home, which certainly helped out, but after several months it became hard to pay the bills……then I was laid off from that job for around six weeks.

A few weeks ago I was hired back at my old company where I was laid off from at the end of last year. My new position at my old company is to help assist the Chinese with technical questions by helping them do my…….job.

And to top it all off, I’ve had about a 15lb weight gain due to some medication I was taking earlier this year making it difficult to do what I like best….running.

I’ve written here many times about faith and trust in God. This year has certainly put that to the test….I’ve failed miserably. My faith has been sucked right out of me to the point I have a difficult time even praying regularly. Through all of it I have such a hard time believing God is even paying any attention to little ol’ me.

Oh I know He’s there. I know He loves me and never will forsake me….but I seem to no longer find it easy to see it deep inside.

Yet somehow I still look to Him. Not knowing if I’ll ever get an answer or if He’ll ever cast a look in my direction again. But Lord, to whom else shall I turn?

The Bible says if we have faith as small as a mustard seed that we can move mountains. God has to be providing me with the faith I need to survive right now. Otherwise I’d have given up long ago. I guess my faith is as small as a mustard seed right now….I sure seem to be moving mountains. They seem to be falling all over me.

That’s where my thanksgiving comes in at. My God loves me enough to have disciplined me this year (Hebrews 12). He loves me enough not to break this bruised reed nor snuff out this dim candle that’s still somehow burning inside of me.

So tomorrow I wake up. I thank God I have a job for the day. I thank Him my children have more food than 90% of the children in the world and I thank him for a faithful wife…faithful to me and faithful to God. After that I’ll have to let tomorrow take care of tomorrow.

And most of all, I’ll give thanks for God for not snuffing me out, which is what I deserve due to my sinfulness and rebellion and whining and grumbling……

By the way…. I don’t care for quail anyway.

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I Know Like I Know

The news was filled last week with the impending devastation of hurricane Irene. I heard one newscaster describe Irene as “the perfect storm”. While many people lost their lives in the hurricane and there was a lot of property damage, hurricane Irene failed to deliver the devastation many were predicting.

Sometime week before last, about a day or two before Irene made landfall, I received an e-mail from a friend that attended our last church. The e-mail was actually a forwarded e-mail from a woman in a nearby town that runs a “prophetic” ministry. The e-mail contained excerpts of a “prophecy” she was given about hurricane Irene being a judgement upon America brought by God. The general tone of this prophecy was that God was sending this hurricane upon America because the American church was failing to pray like it should. Additionally, at the end of the e-mail, was a link where we could order a CD that contained the “prophecy” in its entirety, for a small donation of course.

The part of the “prophecy” that was forwarded to me was already quite lengthy. I shudder to consider just how long the full length prophecy was. Nevertheless, as I read down the prophecy about the impending doom upon America, the “prophecy” said that if the American church would only begin to pray like it should, hurricane Irene would be turned out to sea. The “prophecy” also went on to describe that as we began to pray, that further judgements would be turned back and as we continued to pray that eventually America would be “taken for God” and we would be swept into this great end time harvest of souls.

Sound familiar? Sounds a lot like the typical doctrines of the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) to me.

Nowhere in this lengthy “prophecy” excerpt was there a call for us to preach the Gospel. No where was there a call for man to repent and turn to God.  In all fairness I hadn’t heard the full length prophecy and there is a possibility there was more on the CD to be ordered. But from what I was reading, the direction the prophecy was taking was that we could all make the world a much better place and “take it for God” if we would only pray and pray. In other words, we could all collectively change God’s mind to what we believe needed to happen.

I composed a short e-mail and sent it back to all the original recipients. I, of course, offended some of them. In a kind and gentle way, I said what the American church really needed was to get back to preaching the Gospel. To have such heart for the lost that we feared what could happen to them if a hurricane DID hit them and take their lives before they had heard the Gospel. I said that the American church had turned so far from the Biblical Gospel and had been chasing a man-centered, “best life now” sort of Gospel for too long. This is what we needed to repent of and begin to preach the true Gospel to a lost world.

Additionally, and this is probably where the offense was taken, I stated that this world doesn’t get better. I stated that there is no great “end-time harvest” in which the entire world turns to Jesus Christ. Sadly, the majority will reject Jesus and the Gospel. This isn’t something that my former friends wanted to hear because of the type of doctrine they have come to depend on.

Briefly, my former church friends have increasingly come to embrace a doctrine of the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) that states that there will be an “army” of end-time prophets that will rise up and perform such signs and miracles that the entire  world will turn to Jesus Christ and usher in His second coming. This “end-time harvest” will then usher in the return of Jesus Christ. This is, of course, very unbiblical.

The Bible is very clear that when Jesus returns not only will the entire sinful world not be expecting His return, but many in the true church will be asleep as well. Take for example:

[25:1] “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. [2] Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. [3] For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, [4] but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. [5] As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. [6] But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ [7] Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. [8] And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ [9] But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ [10] And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. [11] Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ [12] But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ [13] Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13ESV)

Notice how even the wise virgins with the oil were asleep. They were prepared for His return, but nevertheless asleep. There won’t be this massive waiting on the return of Jesus. When Jesus returns the majority of the church will be asleep.

Consider also:

[13] “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. [14] For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14ESV)

Jesus Himself said few will find the narrow gate. The trials of this life and the pursuit of “our best life now” will ensnare most. Most will choose the easy path that will lead them to destruction. The “gate” is the church. The sinful world doesn’t choose to enter through any gate. The majority of the “church” will choose the easy path to destruction.

Finally, take at the book of Revelation. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the book of Revelation by any means. I do, however, believe that this is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”, just as it’s titled. In other words, this book was given to John in order to reveal to the world just who Jesus Christ is. I firmly believe that Revelation was not given by God to be completely shrouded in mystery. I believe that a common man seeking after the heart of God through prayer and Bible study can understand the majority of the book. I don’t believe for one second that there are only a few who have been gifted by God to be able to properly interpret the book of Revelation. Like any other scripture it’s meant to be read and heeded. Though I don’t believe the things shown in the book have all come to pass yet, and we won’t fully understand much of scripture until they do,  I believe it is meant for the common Christian to understand. The trouble is, a mockery has been made out of the book of Revelation because too many self-serving people have tried to capitalize on its symbolism for their own agendas.

Take a look at the following passage:

[9:1] And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. [2] He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. [3] Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. [4] They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. [5] They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. [6] And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them. [7] In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, [8] their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; [9] they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. [10] They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. [11] They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon. [12] The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come. [13] Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, [14] saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” [15] So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. [16] The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. [17] And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. [18] By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. [19] For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound. [20] The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, [21] nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. (Revelation 9 ESV) (bold emphasis mine)

Above is merely an example of the types of things seen throughout the book of Revelation. Thunder, hail, death, earthquakes, war, and disease. These things are prophesied in scripture. As sure as Jesus will someday return as promised in scripture, these things seen in the book of Revelation will also come to pass. As an example, if we were to pray as hard as we could for Jesus not to return, it wouldn’t happen because it’s a promise of God. Likewise, if we band together and pray for one of these hailstorms that’s meant to be a judgement of God to cease, it’s not possible because it, too, is a judgement of God.

Now, I’m not saying here that we should never pray for protection from a storm. Nor am I saying that God may never turn a storm or other natural disaster that’s headed our way. What I am saying is that if anyone, prophet or otherwise, thinks that every single judgment from God can be avoided if we would merely band together and pray, they’re just plain wrong.

I’m not really sure how everyone thinks the judgements listed in the Book of Revelation will come about, but think about this: If Jesus was hovering visibly over the Earth shooting giant hail and thunderbolts, don’t you think people would bow and repent in His presence? I would think so. So here’s what I think about the judgements in Revelation: I think they are to be taken fairly literally. In other words, when it says Large hailstones Kill a bunch of men, I believe it will appear here on earth just like any other hailstorm, only much more cataclysmic. People won’t visually see God doing it. When the Revelation speaks of pestilence, it will appear on Earth like any other disease, such as the swine flu, that’s swept the Earth before, only on a much grander scale like’s never been seen before. The reason people will refuse to repent of their immorality is that it will appear like any other natural disaster, although much bigger, and people on Earth will refuse to believe that God Almighty controls the heavens and the Earth.

Look at this scripture:

[8] And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. [9] And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”[10] Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. [11] There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. (Luke 21:8-11 ESV)

Notice how Jesus said “for these things must first take place”. No matter how hard you pray, there will just be some natural disasters that can’t be stopped. It’s bold and arrogant in the face of Almighty God to think that only if we would all band together we can convince God to do otherwise.

So what are we to do? First of all, we’re to pray like Jesus:

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke22:42ESV)

We won’t know which natural disasters He’s willing to turn and which are judgments. Therefore we are to pray as Jesus prayed on all things. I don’t need another CD-hocking “prophet” to tell me this, I have God’s eternal word, the Bible to tell me how to pray.

Secondly, we know the Bible tells us to preach the Gospel both in season and out of season. In other words, we are to always preach the Gospel because the Bible says it’s the power unto salvation. But before that can be done, we need to have a handle on just what the Gospel is. I’ve spent a lot of time in a lot of different churches the last couple of years and I can assure that most Christians have no clue what the Gospel is, though most think they do.

Finally, we need to realize that there are judgements and disasters coming on this Earth that can’t be stopped. Disasters like have never been since the Earth began. Regardless of when you think the “rapture” takes place, read Matthew 24 and Luke 21 and it’s clear we Christians will experience at least some form of natural disasters before the return of Jesus. No matter how hard we pray, they can’t be stopped because it’s the beginning of the birth pains.

Look up, and pray for wisdom. Pray that you will be spared the judgements of God. Most of all, preach the Gospel………The true Gospel, for only by the Gospel may men be saved from what’s coming upon the Earth.

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Filed under Christianity, Church, Evangelism, Life

My, My, Pastor. What Big Teeth You Have.

I was reading a post on a blog I enjoy reading from time to time, m’kayla’s korner, about someone in the UK whose church became ‘Bethelized”. Now, this isn’t a word you’ll find in any dictionary, but this isn’t the first place I’ve seen it used. For a church to become “Bethelized” is to adopt the ways and practices of Bethel Church in Redding, California.

For those who aren’t familiar with Bethel Church or their practices, they are a church in Redding, CA that’s pastored by a man named Bill Johnson. They started out as an Assemblies of God church but around a couple of years ago, they voted to withdraw from the Assemblies and go it on their own. They didn’t want the restraint of a denomination keeping them from promoting some of their heretical doctrines, as if the Assemblies of God are much of a restraint these days.

This blog post, here on m’kayla’s korner, got me to thinking further about some events that’s transpired this past few weeks in my own life. As I’ve stated here before, my wife and I have been on a search for a new church for over a year. As it turns out, I guess God led us to a church within a couple of months of our searching, but we were still too hurt to recognize it. We ended up moving on from that church and looked for another six months before we realized that was where we are supposed to be in the first place.

This church we’ve chosen isn’t perfect. We would wish for some other things if it was up to us, but one thing I’ve come to learn on our journey for a new church home is that there aren’t many pastors that open a Bible and teach extensively from scripture. This church we’ve chosen does. The pastor doesn’t sweat, he doesn’t yell, and he doesn’t “impart”. He simply teaches line by line and verse by verse through each book of the Bible, the way the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to do. It’s done the same way in our children’s church……line by line, verse by verse so that as little of the pastor’s philosophies are woven into the teaching as possible.

Now back to what’s been on my mind the last couple of weeks. We still have some friends that attend our old Assembly of God church. Our old Assembly of God church along with all of the other Assemblies of God in the area have been at youth camp this past week. Each year the camp gets a themed name. This year’s themed name was “Supernatural Camp“. I thing it goes without saying just what the camp focused on this year, and it wasn’t preaching the Gospel (though I’m sure they thought that’s exactly what they were doing).

The focus was on imparting the “Fire of God” on the kids for them to take back to their local churches.

The focus of the camp wasn’t on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was on acquiring the “power” of God, the dreams, visions, the supernatural knowledge. In fact, I would go so far to say that most of these AG kids left camp and weren’t able to articulate the Gospel at all. You see, I know they can’t, because none of our former friends’ kids can.

The youth pastor of our former church was trained at another AG church who adored Bethel Church. If you was to go today to this church’s website in Irving, Texas it’s really nothing more than an idol to Bethel Church and Bill Johnson. There’s nearly as much on their website about Bethel as their own church. The sad part is that the pastor of this church in Irving, Texas is a Section Leader of the Assemblies of God while promoting a church that cast off it’s restraints from the Assemblies of God. Probably all done in a spirit of “interdenominational unity”, of course.

My wife posted on her Facebook this past Sunday something along the lines of “Something I love to hear in church on Sunday, ‘Church, open your Bibles to………’ “. I can’t count the amount of churches we went to that claimed to be Bible-centered, Gospel-preaching churches. These claims were made proudly on their websites and in their bulletins. But, you see, just because a pastor gives a 1-hour sermon on something and backs it up with several scriptures scattered from across the range of the books of the Bible, doesn’t mean it’s Bible centered. It only means they’ve used scripture to support their teaching. All those mis-contextualized scriptures makes the sermon sound so…..scriptural. But in all but one of these other churches, we never heard the Gospel presented. I’m not talking about an invitation to “receive Jesus”, but the actual death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with a call to repentance.

In other words, there are more than 60 churches within a 5-mile radius of our house (this IS Texas, ya know) and of the 20 or so churches we tried, only two preached gospel centered preaching directly from scripture. Two. By the way, the other 40 or so churches were easily dismissed from their websites. It was obvious we weren’t going to hear the Gospel in those churches.

It’s a sad state of church affairs out there. I guess I was in for a shock just how complacent God’s people have become. Oh sure there’s a lot of hollering and screaming in churches all across America every Sunday, but that doesn’t equate to line by line, verse by verse Gospel centered preaching. The infection is only getting worse as churches like Bethel, and IHOP, and Morningstar among a growing tsunami of other self-promoting ministries take their heresies worldwide.

So if you’ve become a frog in a pan of water on a stove, I can’t advise you to run from your current church. What I can advise, however is to search your heart, search out God, and search out the whole council of God’s word, the Bible, and see if you’re sitting under a self-centered, empire-building wolf…….you might just have become so used to your surroundings that you’re failing to realize your about to be eaten.

Most of all, be a Berean and hold every minister of the Gospel accountable for every word that comes out of their mouth. Remember, Luke called the Bereans noble for holding the Apostle Paul accountable.

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Filed under Charismania, Christianity, Church, Life, Pastors, Televangelists

Horse Sense

Each winter here in Fort Worth, Texas we have an event called the Fort Worth Stock Show. It’s kind of like a state fair with more emphasis on the showing of livestock from the area ranchers. One of the more popular events at the Stock Show is the cutting horse competition.

Cutting horses are horses that are specially bred and trained for the “cutting” of individual cows from amongst a herd of cattle. In other words, the horse has the ability to zero in on a particular cow of the riders choosing and separate the cow from the rest of the herd by darting back and forth in front of the cow keeping it from rejoining the herd. The horses are bred to be quick and agile and their instincts are to keep individual cows separated. It’s in their nature.

As I’ve said before, my wife and I have been on a journey to find a new church for over a year now. It probably wouldn’t have been such a hard task  if we didn’t start out on the search with too many preconceived notions of how “church should be done”. We’re learning. A lot.

Nevertheless, one of the things we’ve noticed far too much of is what appears to be a “select” few kids who always seem to dominate the youth group. They’re almost always female, pretty, and have an outgoing and charismatic personality. In other words, they’re the kind of girls who, at least at first, other people are drawn to. In a youth group of 50 or 60 kids, there might be around 5 or 6 who seem to be in this “inner circle”.

These girls tend to run the show. The worship music choice, the activities, skits, talent competitions, etc seem to be all dominated by these “inner circle” girls. In church where there’s home groups, they all congregate and dominate a home group, usually the youth pastor’s. I guess what disturbs my wife and I the most, though, is the way they seem to even dominate who’s friends with who within the church.

Back to the cutting horse illustration.

When new kids who are attractive are brought to the youth group by their friends, whether these new kids are male or female, these “inner circle” girls go into “cutting horse” mode and cut these new, attractive, “right stuff” kids from the rest of the “common herd”. These new kids can never be part of the “inner circle”, but they are kept close and hugged, loved, and shown lots of “Christian fellowship”. These new “right stuff” kids are basically “cut” from the friends that brought them to church in the first place. Not in an overtly obvious way, but by having their time dominated by these “inner circle” girls in a “Christian love” sort of way where the friends that brought them to youth group in the first place are basically left on the outside looking in.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in high school. My wife tells me this is the way a lot of teen girls are acting these days. This behavior is subtle enough it looks an awful lot like these girls are “on fire for the Lord”. Always flitting from person to person, hugging, chatting, loving on these new kids. But if you pay close attention, it’s easy to see it’s only with a certain kind of new kid. A “right stuff” kid.

Look at this scripture in  James 2

2:1 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. (ESV)

You see, youth group leaders, or any other Christian for that matter, can stand on stage all day long and talk about the outreach to the poor and homeless they’re doing in downtown. They can talk about all of the food distributions they’re doing for the low-income families in the community. They can even cry while watching the video of their recent mission trip to Haiti. But if they can’t look around within their own circle of influence and realize that  preferential treatment of some of their fellow Christians at the exclusion of others within the group is no more “un-Christian” than ignoring the plight of the poor in Haiti, then their hearts are growing hard.

This type of behavior is the way the world runs things. Look at Hollywood and who it is we worship in this country. Good looks and charismatic personalities are worshipped in this country. But we’re Christians. We don’t march to the same set of rules the world does therefore your youth group shouldn’t operate the way the rest of the world does.

There’s always those that are on the “outer fringe” in church. Especially in youth groups. Take a look around. Are you showing preferential treatment to those with the”right stuff”? Is it only the “pretty people” who seem to be running the show? Are the “less than right stuff” people being included equally?

Parents. Open your eyes to the behavior of your kids. Especially your girls. Be honest in your assessment. What kind of friends are they chasing after? Underdogs or Top Dogs?

Remember, in God’s kingdom the last are first. In the bible, the ones who “got it all goin’ on” here on Earth, well, that’s their reward.

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Filed under Church, Life, Youth Ministry