Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rock the Vote: Vote Biblically

In recent weeks I have heard all kinds of bad advice from evangelicals about how to vote on November 6th.

 "Vote for the lesser of two evils." I guess we should be thankful that Stalin and Hitler aren't running for office.

 "We are not voting for a pastor. We are voting for a president." I agree. We are not voting for a pastor. We are voting for a deacon. According to Romans 13:4, we are voting for a diakonos, a "minister".

 "Don't throw away your vote on a third party candidate." Abraham Lincoln was a third party candidate. Did those who voted for him waste their vote?

 Do you really want to "rock the vote"? Then vote Biblically. On Sunday I preached this sermon called Rock the Vote: Vote Biblically. Please take the 35 minutes or so it takes to give this a listen. It's important. If we are to glorify God in how we eat and drink (1 Corinthians 10:31), shouldn't we glorify God with our vote?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Paul Washer on Biblical Street Preaching

Please note what Paul Washer says about the requirements for a street preacher as well as the need for compassion and level headedness. The time for everyone with an attitude and minimalistic training to give it a go in the open-air is over. Let's hold the street preacher to the same standard as the pulpit.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Central NY "Saints" Canonized

The news that two Central New York Roman Catholics from history will be canonized as saints this weekend is being met today with excitement by many Roman Catholics in the area, including a couple hundred who have traveled to Rome to participate in the big doings.

The news is met by me with one word, three syllables: "Whoop-de-doo!"

 Mother Marianne is a Syracuse native who went to Hawaii and set up a leper colony in Kalaupapa. She served there from 1883 until 1918. Kateri Tekawitha was a Mohawk Indian convert to Catholicism in the 17th century and lived near present day Albany, NY. Her claim to fame is that she took a vow of chastity and lived as a virgin until her death at the age of 24.

 I don't mean to make light of Mother Marianne's sacrificial service, or Tekawita's virginity, but service to lepers and purity is not the issue here. The issue is what the Roman Catholics claim when they declare someone to be a saint. By the way, what's the big deal about someone actually doing what is commanded of all believers? How bad has it gotten that someone who remains sexually pure needs to get rewarded? Doesn't that fall under what Jesus talked about: being an unprofitable servant doing only what He has commanded?

In order to be a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, one must have some miracle attached to their lives, either during their lifetime or later. In both of these cases, the miracles are attributed a long time after they actually walked this earth. One Central New Yorker claims to have been healed from a pancreatic ailment by praying to Mother Marianne in 2005. A kid from Washington State claims to have been healed of a flesh eating disease because of praying to Tekawitha in 2006.

 I don't question the validity of their healing. I do question the source. You can pray to dead people all day long and it is a waste of time. God hears prayers. Nowhere in the Bible are we commanded or is it even suggested that we should pray to dead believers. However, the Scriptures are full of admonitions to pray to God. We are encouraged to "pour out our hearts" to Him in Psalm 62:8.

Were these people healed? Very possibly. The source of their healing was not a superstitious prayer to a dead person, but God. He causes the blessing of rain to fall on the just and the unjust. Because God is merciful, He allowed these people to be healed. Until they repent of falsely crediting their healings to dead people and start crediting them to God, they are guilty of idolatry and will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Question: when I have an invitation from the very God who created this universe with spoken words, why would I waste my time going to dead saints? Just set aside the question of how do we know that these people had anything whatsoever to do with these healings for a moment. How these things are "verified" by the Vatican can also be set aside. According to the Bible, who answers prayer? Dead believers or God? 1 John 5:14-15 makes it clear that it is God who answers prayer. He hears us when we pray according to His will and He answers.

The issue of Tekawitha's post-death appearances is another issue which fails the test of Scriptural support. She is reported to have appeared to three people and told them that they were to tell others that she was on her way to Heaven. Let's assume for a moment that she was not trusting in the doctrines of salvation that the Roman Catholic Church taught (not likely considering her beatification and canonization), especially in the 17th century, and that her faith was actually Biblical. If so, why would she need to tell others she was headed to Heaven? Jesus told the story of the rich man and Lazarus and it is recorded that the rich man's brothers would not repent even if one rose from the dead to plead with them. Did Tekawitha know something Jesus didn't? Considering that the Apostle Paul said that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, then why would she be "on her way". The truly saved believer is ushered at the moment of his or her death into the presence of Jesus Himself. There is no need for a GPS or to pack for a journey.

The Roman Catholic Church is not Christian by any reasonable definition of the term. It is a pagan institution, incorporating elements of pagan idolatry in their worship and denying the source of truth that all true Christians embrace: the Bible.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Vote Biblically

Here is an excellent resource from Go, Stand, Speak on the issue of how to vote Biblically.  There is precious little that has been written or produced on this important topic.  As we approach this election, we must consider what the Bible has to say and honor the Lord by submitting to it, regardless what we may have heard about this issue in the past. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Spirit, Our Ministries and Hearts Out of Control

What role does the Holy Spirit and His guidance play in the dreams we have for our ministries?  Certainly the Word of God should guide how we do ministry and make our plans.  However, considering the fact that we have an incredible ability to find Scriptures which justify just about anything and everything we do, we must ask ourselves the question, "What of the leading of the Holy Spirit?"  What if we exegete the text properly, but we apply the text out of a sinful motivation which originates in our hearts? 

I am throwing this out there for discussion and the consideration of readers of this blog: it's possible and in some cases, likely, that what we claim we are doing for the Lord we are really only doing for ourselves.  Motive is a slippery thing to nail down.  I am beginning to believe that motive ought to be the first thing we self examine whenever we embark on new ministry.  It is also something we ought to examine throughout the entire course of our ministries.  It's possible to start well, but finish poorly. 

All of this comes to mind as I am studying the nature of what the Bible calls the "heart."  The heart, Biblically speaking, is the center of our intellect, emotions and will.  The Bible doesn't have much good to say about the heart, in spite of every Disney movie you have ever seen with the inevitable ballad about the human spirit and its invincibility and the endless encouragements to just "follow your heart", "be true to your heart", etc., etc., ad nauseum.  Follow that advice and you will end up in the psych ward. 

Ecclesiastes 9:3 says that the hearts of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts while they live.  God wiped out the entire planet (minus one family) because, "every imagination of the thoughts of his [mankind's] heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5).  After the flood, God declared of man that, "...the imagination of his heart is only evil from his youth" (Genesis 8:21).  Of the few things it is said that God hates, one of them is "...a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations" (Proverbs 6:18).  It's all summed up with Jeremiah 17:9 which says, "...the heart is deceitful above all things; who can know it?".  A rhetorical question with an obvious answer: NO ONE. So you still want to "follow your heart"? 

Because of all of this unreliability and unpredictability of the human heart, the Scriptures warn, "...keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23). 

With all of this in mind, consider this quote on human nature and ministry from T. Austin Sparks. 

"A forceful, dominating, assertive soul, not under the government of the Holy Spirit, is a terrible menace to the interests of God.  Decisions will be made, courses adopted, objectives secured, positions occupied, in the name of devotion to God.which will be Towers of Babel, Pyramids of Egypt, Ishmaels of Abram (not Abraham).  There will be a good deal of remorse bound up with these achievements eventually, and a wish that they had never been.  The result will be something false, and many may be involved in the tragedy."  (What is Man?  89)

Sparks' words here are loaded, especially if you have ever been guilty of creating one of these Towers of Babel in the guise of ministry.  The truth of what he's saying is undeniable if you've ever witnessed one of these tragedies.  The ultimate safeguard is the filling of the Holy Spirit.  When we are led by Him and not our ambitions, we are safe.  When we use spiritual things to accomplish our fleshly ends, we are in grave danger.  And, as Sparks says, "many may be involved in the tragedy."  People will be hurt.

There is not a ministry style invented which is not susceptible.  Whether you are talking about the local church or a parachurch ministry, leaders who are not under the leadership of the Spirit of God are a "menace to the interests of God."  Why?  If you are not being led by the Spirit, you are being led by your heart and that never turns out for the glory of God or the good of His people.

This is why we must not become overly enamored with our own "good ideas."  The conference circuit is full of men who have come up with good ideas with thin proof-texts that have "worked."  Christians line up to buy their books and DVD's.  Many aspire to come up with some profitable good idea so that others will buy their product.  American Christianity and marketing are virtually synonymous right now.  It is as if the Spirit of God cannot lead the average American pastor through the Word of God unless we have some evangelical pope or Magisterium to tell us what we really ought to be doing.  Our God given resources are not enough.  It's easier to buy someones program than it is to get leading from the Holy Spirit.  

The early church in Acts waited for the Spirit of God to move before they moved.  We move and hope the Spirit of God will catch up to us and bless our plans, as if He owes us something.  We do need to keep our hearts will all diligence and part of that keeping is yielding to the Spirit of God. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pastors, Evangelism and Politics

Gary DeMar has written an excellent blog responding to a recent sermon by Dr. John MacArthur.  I applaud both DeMar's article and MacArthur's sermon.  Please give the sermon a listen here and then read Demar's response here.

If pastors do not wake up and begin speaking to the moral issues that their people are voting on this fall, they should not be surprised when the culture makes Biblical Christianity illegal in this nation.  The silence of the pulpit and the moral confusion in the pew may be an indicator of God's judgment.

You can watch Dr. MacArthur's sermon below.