Tuesday, August 26, 2008

If God is All Powerful, Why Doesn't He Stop Sickness and Death?

Here is the answer. Like it or lump it. But it is the truth.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Biggest Bookstore with the Smallest Marketing

Check out this incredible bookstore, with 12 buildings! One of the buildings is an old manure tank. Maybe I need to buy the farm.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Todd Bentley, Marital Problems and Evangelical Hypocrisy

It's been reported that Todd Bentley, of Lakeland Revival fame, filed for separation from his wife, Shonnah on August 11th. You can read one of the news stories here.

Considering some of my recent blogs regarding Bentley's heresy, some might suspect that I would jump all over Bentley like flies on the proverbial manure. After all, how could a man who claims the power to raise the dead, usher in international revival, put gold fillings in people's cavities, and impart revival blessings to others have irreconcilable differences with the woman he promised (before God) to love and cherish "till death do us part"? One is reminded of the line, "Physician, heal thyself." Indeed.

Bentley is an easy target at this point. There aren't many other evangelists who have been featured on Nightline or interviewed by Geraldo recently. His ludicrous claims, thoroughly undocumented "healings" and aversion to preaching anything resembling the Gospel sets him up for the tirades of bloggers like myself.

Those thoughts notwithstanding, I think we conservative evangelicals do ourselves a disservice if we don't point out some of our own hypocrisy. Yes, Bentley deserves just about all of the flaming that can be dished out on blogs. However, when it comes to his decision to begin divorce proceedings (in Canada, filing for separation is the first step towards divorce, something which ought to be done in the United States since the trial period before the divorce might actually reconcile some marriages) against his wife, keep in mind that if you believe that this disqualifies him from ministry, "what's good for the goose is good for the gander."

For example, if you think that this incident ought to oust Bentley, I wonder what you think about other prominent Christian leaders and celebrities who have done the same thing? Charles Stanley's marriage problems and subsequent divorce did not oust him from his prominent pastorate in Atlanta. This, in spite of the fact that Stanley, before he himself was divorced, took a hard line against divorce. Amazing how things change when the shoe is on the other foot, isn't it?

I wonder if you were a Sandi Patti fan back in the 1980's? Patti was a favorite amongst conservative Christians during that time for her Christ-centered music. If you were a Christian teenager at that time, you probably had her music foisted on you from a well meaning but severely misguided grandparent, in an effort to wean you off of that "devil music" such as Petra or Stryper. But what happened when she divorced? Did her fan base disappear? Perhaps for a time, but she is now back in evangelicalism's good graces.

Amy Grant's slightly more recent divorce has not diminished her popularity for many professing Christians. And Michael English was quickly reinstated in Christian pop culture just a couple of years after his admitted infidelity with another Christian musician named Marabeth Jordan of First Call.

Know this: if past performance is any indicator, those who follow Bentley will welcome him back with open arms. It's not surprising considering the dramatic rise in divorce statistics WITHIN the evangelical community.

The question is, as it always is, "What does the Bible say?" We know that God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16). Jesus said that the only just cause for divorce is adultery (Matt. 5:32). Having said that, it's a sin like any other. It can be forgiven through the work of Christ (1 Cor. 15:3). Does it disqualify from all ministry? 1 Timothy 3:4-5 indicate that an elder must "control his own household." A Christian musician is definitely not the same thing as an elder, but what category does Bentley fall under? This is something that the governing body of Fresh Fire Ministries will have to consider seriously.

Can we hope that they will take this seriously? Probably not. They have already shown their blatant disregard for truth by promoting Bentley. At the very least, they have put Bentley's plans on hold for the time being. Chances are, this is a temporary stop gap procedure to stop the PR bleeding.

In the meantime, this is a good time for us to ask ourselves, "How highly do we professing Christians view marriage?" Is it possible that for all of our posturing in the "culture wars", all of our campaigning against homosexual marriage, we are nothing but rank hypocrites? Satan does not need the homosexual agenda to destroy marriage. We're doing a pretty good job of it on our own.

Monday, August 11, 2008

"Little Bilney"

“Behind Hugh Latimer (1485-1555), the ‘Preacher of the English Reformation”, was his mentor Thomas Bilney.

Bilney, a quiet scholar at Cambridge University, acquired a Greek New Testament from the famous Erasmus. As he pored over it, one verse of Scripture seemed to be written in letters of light, and it led to his conversion: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!

Bilney wanted to share his experience with others, but this was Reformation truth, and the Reformation had not yet reached England. Teachers such as Luther were being fiercely attacked by English churchmen like Hugh Latimer.

But as Bilney listened to young Latimer rail against the Reformation, he prayed this unusual prayer: ‘O God, I am but ‘little Bilney’ and shall never do any great thing for Thee. But give me the soul of that man, Hugh Latimer, and what wonders he shall do in Thy most holy name.’

One day Bilney pulled Latimer aside. Using his own conversion verse—1 Timothy 1:15—he led the great Latimer to simple faith in Christ, and the English Reformation was born.”

–Morgan, Robert J. Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, n.d. (2000). Page 224.

Oh, that we had more “little Bilneys”, who think more of what others can do for the sake of the Gospel than what they think of themselves. How often do we look to build up self, pour into our own lives, and not seek after others with the expectation that they will do more! How many of us will seek to humble ourselves in prayer, asking GOD to save the souls of others so that THEY will do something for God. How often do we pray instead “Use me” to do thus and such.

May we all be “Little Bilneys” and have that very estimation of ourselves.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Vacations, Reading, the Civil War & Memorization

Well, we are back from a much needed vacation. As much as I enjoyed the time away, it is good to be "back in the saddle" with Lost Cause Ministries, Informed Evangelist and the book business.

Last week we went on vacation to San Angelo, TX. We were blessed with some good family time and some time to enjoy the great outdoors of West Texas. The end of July is not usually the best time to go on vacation, but it was the only time I could get away for a solid week. At the State Park, where we camped in an air conditioned cabin, we saw roadrunners, prairie dogs, the State herd of bison and longhorn steer, hummingbirds, deer, snakes, black tailed jackrabbits, and a skunk. We managed to do a couple of hikes through the interesting terrain in the mornings, before it got too hot. In the evenings, we went to an isolated ridge and watched the sunset behind a picturesque plateau. While we were in the area we visited Fort Concho (Indian wars), the Indian paintings at Paint Rock, and had some incredible Mexican home-made ice cream.

I had a chance to do a little booking while we were in town. San Angelo has a few used bookstores. Two of them are the garden variety paperback exchange type shops, but I still managed to scrounge up an Advance Reading Copy of Richard Bradford’s first book, “Red Sky at Morning” as well as a limited edition of a book on Texas history, printed in San Angelo. But the best find was in the reputable “Cactus Book Shop”. This shop specializes in the Southwest and in Texas in particular, both fiction and non-fiction. The owner is friends with the prolific Western\Texas author, Elmer Kelton (whom I once met in Fort Worth) who lives in the San Angelo area and who drops by the shop to chat with the owner and sign books. It is a wonderful shop to visit and the owner is very knowledgeable. In my never-ending search for the titles printed by the Modern Library, I scoured his Modern Library section and was surprised to find a small collection of Modern Library reprints which were once owned by Fred and Tommie Gipson, with their inscriptions and address labels on the endpapers. Fred Gipson is the author of the classic book into film and classic TX juvenile, “Old Yeller.” Gipson wrote a couple of other juvenile dog stories set in Texas, but he was also a serious author of Texas non-fiction. The prices were reasonable, so I bought them all. The owner had a framed invitation to the Gipson’s wedding hanging on the wall, so the provenance is very good on these titles. I’m going to take my time with these and sell some of them since one of my specialties is Texas fiction and literature, but I’m going to keep a few as well, for my own modern library collection.

During the trip I caught up on some reading as well. I've been reading through J. William Jones' "Christ in the Camp", the fascinating story of the revival which took place in the Confederate Army (specifically, the Army of Northern VA) during the Civil War. I dabble a little bit in Civil War history, but as a born and bred Yankee, I was taught that the South was pretty much evil in their cause. Certainly, slavery WAS a horrible evil in America. As an antiquarian bookseller, I've had some pretty scarce abolitonist material, including Frederick Douglass' autobiography and a book signed by the guy who bankrolled John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. A guy named "Joshua Speed" was Abraham Lincoln's best friend and I've always been an admirer of Lincoln, and not just because I share Joshua's last name.

However, it's pretty clear that men like Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee were devout Christians and not the garden variety false converts that we have in evangelical American Christianity today. They not only supported, but encouraged the revival and spiritual growth of their men. They were good friends of the chaplains, supporters of the colporters (evangelists) who came through the camps, and both had deep walks with the Lord. Jackson's walk with Christ is most impressive. Some of his men thought him crazy because of his constant attitude of prayer. One of his main concerns was the evangelization of his men.

Compare this with the leaders of the Union armies: Grant was an alcoholic, Sherman was downright brutal, and Grant's predecessors in his position were egomaniacs. I've been blessed reading "Christ in the Camp", but especially by the early chapter on Stonewall Jackson. I love the movie "Gods and Generals" which focuses on Jackson, and which is very accurate historically, in spite of Ted Turner's atheism. Jackson's life is one that I want to emulate. He was a bold leader of men, but only because of what his humble walk before God.

He fought on the wrong side regarding the slavery issue, but seeing what's become of our federal government one can't help but wonder if the South had the right idea about the issue of states rights. Considering the financial prosperity of the South these days compared to the relatively depressed North (e.g. Detroit, New York State) it's easy to see how less governmental interference has brought a more stable economy here. The War may have been a judgment of God on our nation for ALL of the evils of our nation's birth (slavery, the extermination of the Native Americans, etc.); we lost more men in the Civil War than in all of our other wars COMBINED. More than 625,000. But this does not diminish the wisdom of stronger state's rights that the South fought for.

I also read a great little book on the importance of Scripture memorization by N.A. Woychuk. This is a discipline that I have neglected. I've memorized Scriptures over the past few years, but not purposefully. I have a good memory and can memorize single verses that I use without being very systematic about it. But the Lord has given me this memory for a reason and I need to develop it even further. So, I've begun memorizing chapters as well as verses on evangelism from the School of Biblical Evangelism. I'm using a software program to help which has been fun and very, very helpful. You can check it out here.

Well, those are my thoughts for today. Time to get back to work. Thanks for reading.