The Purpose for Pastor's Space
We will periodically post items here on current issues and events.
perhaps you have seen it. If not, I linked it directly from the Vatican Youtube.
It raises an enormously important question, though I don't believe they would see it
as I do, or more importantly, as The Bible does.
Pope Francis' Prayer Intentions for January 2016
The difficulty with the video is complex because of the authority many invest in
the Vatican's position, but the theological error in it is actually quite simple to see.
would have to conclude that the writings found in The Bible are at odds with
the Pope's words. He says, "Most of the planet's inhabitants declare themselves believers."
This is true, but believers in what? Or better said, in whom do they believe?
Following these remarks there are other faith traditions represented.
Buddhism, Islam and Judaism. The God represented in The Bible is the same to the Jew
and to the Christian. The difference between us is regarding the person of Jesus and who
He is, essentially. We believe Him to be God in human skin.
We hold to the same view as they do regarding the Old Testament.
We disagree on the continuation of the covenant of The Law as it has been made
perfect in Jesus, but He is the same God in both Testaments.
The difficulty is taking the Pope's words, as they relate to all other religions
because all other religions do not follow God on His terms, but theirs.
The god of Buddhism is not a god in the personal sense, but a consciousness.
The god of Islam, according to their writings, is not deeply personal
nor is he presented as loving his creation, let alone directly engaging it,
as The God of The Bible did and still does.
By contrast, The God of The Bible is deeply personal and loving, in His Own words.
This is why the Pope's appeal to other religions cannot and would not be honored by the Biblical God.
Now, this is why the video is so deeply troubling.
The implication is that since we all believe in "God,"
we should all pray for peace and justice, whatever that means.
But does God hear the prayers not directed to Him?
that God grades on a curve, based on sincerity.
Quite the contrary. Here is what He says of other god's.
These are just a couple of the myriad examples which could be offered:
“You shall have no other gods before Me."
instead of calling them to the one true God who can.
He, of all people, should know better if we are to believe,
as his church holds, that he is God's representative on earth.
This may seem trivial to some, but it has the effect of not simply blurring lines,
but erasing the distinction that God stands alone, and there is none beside Him,
and none who can answer such prayers.
This is dangerous and a gross misrepresentation of what
someone speaking in God's name should propose.
Be careful, be Berean. Acts 17:11
Ever since the Supreme Court made its ruling on the redefining of marriage, churches have been trying to find their footing and coming up with an answer to the question of what to do going forward.
Listening to and reading the dialogue makes me wonder how many people or churches are
taking a biblical look at it, rather than a cultural or emotional look. It should go without saying that a church
should be open to people of all walks of life because we are all sinners.
" For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"
Yet that hasn’t kept opponents of same sex marriage, especially those doing so from a scriptural perspective, from being called haters, homophobes, or whatever other label they can find.
This article is not an examination of Hillsong, its leadership, its doctrine or its theology.
They are simply the church that is embroiled in a controversy regarding church discipline and openly homosexual individuals serving and participating in church.
What I hope to do in this article is to ask questions and give a biblical response to the controversy.
That being said, biblical marriage is easy to define.
Not to mention that the Bible defines all other unions as immoral.
So it's pretty simple to define and then defend the biblical view in a purely textual manner.
The trouble comes when having a biblical view is explained or enforced in a church setting.
Many pastors and church boards are waiting for the inevitable challenge that
will soon be brought somewhere against a church standing purely on biblical grounds
regarding marriage and marriage ceremonies, in particular.
That is a matter of a now and then event in a church and isn't a day-to-day matter.
However, in the operation and assembly of the church meeting together, what is to be done
with immorality happening in the midst of the assembly? Recently, a story broke about a very large church in New York who had an openly gay couple that was actively serving in their worship ministry.
Given the high profile nature of the church, the pastor and the couple became a topic of much
discussion in church circles. It prompted a response from the flagship church that satisfied many which seems to have people moving on with their lives.
But there is a problem with the response. The answers given were not specific to everyday members not in leadership. And there isn’t a clear indication of where they are going from here. The church where this began (Hillsong NY) has known about this couple for some time and they were involved in openly serving in the church. Now, obviously, each church is free to have whoever it wants to serve, wherever, etc., but biblically there are clear guidelines for leaders.
Some churches take a literal, direct view on such matters, scripturally speaking, while others take a more liberal view. In this case, based on reports, this church and its pastor felt that they were on good ground in saying Jesus never spoke on homosexuality. The video where he stated this is becoming difficult to find as the accounts that had it are now closed, in what seems to be damage control. What have survived are numerous transcripts which do record what was said. The part which caused so much controversy is this:
"Jesus was in the thick of an era where homosexuality,
just like it is today, was widely prevalent, and
I'm still waiting for someone to show me the quote where Jesus
addressed it on the record in front of people.
You won't find it because He never did."
Back to this in a moment, but given that the couple who was being defended have been
open about their relationship for some time, Hillsong can’t plead ignorance, thus the public statements of Lentz’s interview with CNN. Now, such public matters and press appearances created a backlash that brought Hillsong’s flagship church and senior pastor into the fray.
Cutting to the chase, Brian Houston had this to say in the middle of the dust-up:
"Hillsong Church welcomes ALL people but does not affirm all lifestyles.
Put clearly, we do not affirm a gay lifestyle and because of this
we do not knowingly have actively gay people in
positions of leadership, either paid or unpaid.
I recognize this one statement alone is upsetting to people on
both sides of this discussion, which points to the complexity of
the issue for churches all over the world.
I love and accept people on a personal level and if I lived next to
a gay couple I would treat them with the same embrace I would any other
neighbor because - surprise, surprise - not all my neighbors think like me.
Everyone has the right to pursue happiness.
I may totally disagree with you on what will bring people true happiness, and I will
always teach and preach according to my personal convictions and the teachings of scripture,
but I cannot make other people's choices for them - and quite frankly, I don't want to.
That's not my job. Even God created humanity with a free will."
So now to deal with the two statements, one at a time. Let's start with what
Lentz said regarding Jesus and the world in which He lived.
First, in the Israel of Jesus’ time, homosexuality was not “widely prevalent” as his audience was almost exclusively Jewish and homosexuality was not widely practiced as it was in the pagan world that Paul encountered. (Likely why Paul had far more to say on the subject than anyone else.)
As for the second part of Lentz’ statement, if Jesus didn’t single out homosexuality, does that mean that He was okay with homosexuality? He spoke about immorality, didn't he? Are we to assume a man who perfectly kept the Law was indifferent to a practice that the Law states is an abomination? To make the statement he made is exegetical malpractice by someone people refer to as "pastor."
Now, for what Brian Houston had to say.
“We do not knowingly have actively gay people in
positions of leadership, either paid or unpaid.”
That is a biblical stance to take, but there are some follow up questions that should be asked.
First, they cannot serve in leadership, but if they are openly practicing homosexuals, what then?
Are they encouraged to repent and leave the lifestyle?
Now, if they've had that conversation behind closed doors, great!
It just hasn't been disclosed from the reports and statements coming from Hillsong.
With all eyes on Hillsong NY and Australia, what better time to take a
clearly biblical position using the scripture as their authority with no reference to
or influence from the culture.
What we have seen instead are a number of statements,
but the full meaning is left to the eye of the beholder.
Also, has he spoken to Lentz to be sure they are on the same page?
Lentz is, after all, quite the celebrity among the cool, young, hip wing of progressive Christianity.
This is what having a passive view of scripture leads to and also shows how many people
can be satisfied with incomplete answers and half answered platitudes.
One thing is clear, there isn’t church discipline in place at the NY location as scripture requires.
Paul addressed matters of church discipline in 1 Corinthians 5.
In that situation, it was a matter of a young man involved sexually with his step mother.
The Greek for Paul’s description is porneia, from which we get the English word pornography.
This word simply means any illicit sexual act.
Those acts are described in all their disturbing terms throughout scripture.
To spare us all the sad details, the only sexuality which God gives as holy is between
a man and woman in a covenant marriage relationship, before God.
What needs to be said here is what Paul tells the Corinthian church to do in writing to them.
Now, if there is repentance, restore the person(s) (Likely the young man of 1 Corinthians 5)
as Paul tells them in 2 Corinthians 2:6-10:
6 This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such
a man,7 so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort
him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.
8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. 9 For to this end I
also wrote, that I might put you to the test,whether you are obedient
in all things.10 Now, whom you forgive anything, I also forgive.
For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven
that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ,"
Also in Galatians 6:1
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who
are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness,
considering yourself lest you also be tempted."
Can there be any other course for sin in their midst? Is Paul heartless and cruel? Hardly!
The Galatians and 2 Corinthians passages are clear as to his compassion.
His concern was for the wellbeing of the church when told them not to
tolerate sin among their members.
"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you,
and such sexual immorality as is not even named among
the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!
2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that
he who has done this deed might be
taken away from among you.
3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit,
have already judged (as though I were present) him
who has so done this deed.
4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are
gathered together, along with my spirit, with
the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,
that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
6 Your glorying is not good.
Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump,
since you truly are unleavened.
For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven,
nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company
with sexually immoral people.
10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people
of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners,
or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
11 But now I have written to you not to keep company
with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral,
or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard,
or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.
12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside?
Do you not judge those who are inside?
13 But those who are outside God judges.
Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”
1 Corinthians 5:1-12
I understand and appreciate that what is written here is difficult for some to take
in or even accept. It is the easier option to look the other way and tell
ourselves that what happens in another church does not matter
to ours or to us personally. That approach would be a mistake, as this will
be the narrative going forward and will be accepted as mainstream.
So, pastors need to decide if what was said speaks for them
and for their churches. If not, we should be able speak for ourselves, and use
God's Word as the only authority.
Depending on how we view and then comment on the world around us, we may have people
hang one of a few labels on us after they consider what we have to say.
It is particularly interesting when we view world events and trends through the prism of Scripture.
Viewing events from a biblical worldview will give us a better ability to understand the way those events or opinions are
relayed to people by secular news sources or its opinion makers.
It will also assist us on answering the views expressed by those secular sources.
The SCOTUS opinion on same sex marriage is a prime example.
Pessimism [pes-uh-miz-uh m]
The tendency to see, anticipate, or emphasize only bad or undesirable outcomes, results, conditions, problems, etc.
It is natural for us to seek out stories of optimism and hopefulness because who doesn’t like hopefulness?
Social media is full of such messages and they come from people who are glad to share their life experiences where good things seem to be happening all around them. I love to read such stories because they are heart-warming.
Our churches are likewise often filled with uplifting storytelling and are then followed by scriptures to support the premise.
These are seemingly good intentioned people and they only want to tell us of good and hopeful things.
Optimism is where some live their lives, even if it means turning a blind eye to all that is happening in our world.
The Christian should consider and rejoice in all that is good.
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble,
whatever things are just, whatever things arepure,
whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report,
if there is any virtue and if there is anything
praiseworthy—meditate on these things."
At the same time, we should be aware of trends and life, on a global scale, and then ask if all is well.
In fact, look at the titles on the best seller’s list under “Religious” or “Faith Based” and you will be treated to titles thinking you are living in some utopian world. Though well intentioned, perhaps they are not looking at the whole picture.
In many cases, this can only be deliberate because it is a means to an end and sells books.
Now I sound like a pessimist, raining on everyone’s parade, don’t I?
But here is the inevitable question:
Is it pessimism to ask where in the world, aside from the anecdotal stories, things can be viewed as really good?
I mean in an across the board and rife with reasons to expect a bright and hopeful future, where are they taking place?
Where in this world is the trajectory climbing upward?
Is it pessimistic to point out that true biblical Christianity is on the decline worldwide?
To state otherwise is to argue against facts and that kind of mentality is rooted in bad theology.
I will say that the underground church in places where it could get you killed is thriving,
but it’s hard to put a number on it given the nature of the threat.
This has led people to point to “Christian” involvement all over the world.
But involvement and visiting and “helping” the world’s poor is not necessarily making genuine disciples of Jesus who know Him.
Is all this “mission” work actually teaching, in depth, what Jesus and the early church taught?
Do we avoid doctrinal matters while doing missions work because they may offend cultural sensibilities?
The early church didn’t worry so much about such matters. In fact, Paul was careful to expose the errors of culture and he insisted culture be excluded from influencing the church. Jesus did likewise as he surveyed the 7 churches in Revelation 2 and 3.
No wonder the church was so alive in the beginning.
It was alive, in the midst of a hostile world because it had lofty standards and would not compromise them.
For those who did compromise, correction was insisted upon and was not considered optional.
It only took a half a century for trouble to reach the churches as Paul cautioned in his epistles and Jesus spoke in Revelation.
You may have noticed that (secularly speaking) I have not begun to talk about
economic, demographic, cultural, sociological, political or ecological matters.
There isn’t any good news on those fronts if we are honest with the news, as this week’s events in D.C. clearly illustrate.
Those secular trends and matters are heavily influencing most of the church and will increasingly do so
as we move forward in time.
We should be able to look at matters pertaining to the church while simultaneously examining things
pertaining to the unbelieving world and determine the trajectory of things. No doubt, good people are doing good things everywhere, but compare today’s world to the one of 5 years ago, or 10, or even 20 for that matter.
Are things going in the right direction? As I stated earlier, I do believe He is doing wondrous and marvelous things in the world. Unfortunately for those people in those places, it comes at an enormous cost to them, including their lives.
To use the old idiom, the cream rises to the top and when all can be lost, in an earthly sense,
what remains spiritually is pure and genuine.
Of the stories we read of genuine faith in the persecuted church, apathy has no place there.
That luxury isn’t available, nor desired. As for the western world, apathy seems to be the coin of the realm.
For the careful observer, we can see that true, biblical Christianity is being met with hatred and opposition even here in the west.
In some “westernized” countries, taking a biblical view on matters regarding sexuality and traditional marriage can
get one sued or prosecuted, depending on the level of the “offense.”
Traditional values are marginalized and legislative measures are being proposed, daily, as a counterbalance to
what little true faith remains. Don’t look now, but it’s already happening here in America, though not yet to the degree
of Europe and Canada, but just wait. Such are the times, and so we should expect them, given the volumes of passages God’s Word predicted would come to light before His return.
Summary: Given this analysis, people can easily see what I wrote above as pessimism.
Of course, I would counter and say it isn’t pessimism.
It is being realistic with the world as we know it, inside and outside the church walls.
It's what I see as realism.
Realism [ree-uh-liz-uh m]
The tendency to view or represent things as they really are.
If you remember at the beginning of this blog post I mentioned the “prism of scripture.”
Meaning, when we look at the world, we need to ask the questions, "does scripture tell us things will remain as they are indefinitely?" The simple answer is no. There will be a generation that sees the world, as we know it,
come to an end, as Scripture tells us. Sounds like an odd thing to say for some people’s minds,
but God’s Word is full of information about it in both the Old and New Testaments. Very few seem to want to discuss this, and therein lies the problem. For too many “Christians,” we seem deeply invested in the things
of this world and its distractions, but are not discussing God’s view of this world and His future plans for it.
There is a school of theology that believes the future is bright and the church will usher in the Kingdom of God.
It teaches that God is all about love and if we just reach all the world with “the gospel” all will be rosy.
Trouble is that that “gospel” is usually lacking vital information and detail.
It lacks the message of repentance, sin and a coming judgment on the unbelieving world.
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth.
It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away,
the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness,
because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment,
because the ruler of this world is judged."
So, it really isn’t the “gospel” but it a consumer grade Christianity or Christianism.
From every conceivable measure, this belief is a failure and a spectacular one at that.
This view comes from poor scholarship and no amount of proof to the contrary (in rapidly increasing amounts)
seems to deter them from pursuing a course God never asked us to follow in His Word.
To be blunt, this theology is faulty and fraudulent in its misrepresentation of the faith.
It leads to a false sense of security and it ensures a worldview that ignores
the real life difficulties humanity finds itself struggling to understand.
So is this realism, or pessimism? How about Realistic Optimism or does that sound Pessimistic?
It is realistic in the sense that it looks at things and is honest with reality and optimistic because it seems
abundantly clear that our blessed hope is closer with each passing day.
"looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing
of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ"
I am pessimistic as it pertains to things getting better and I will gladly eat crow should things turn around.
What would it take for that to happen? People, not just here in this country, but worldwide would need to repent and come to a saving knowledge of God, based on the clear teaching of Scripture.
One who doesn’t require His people to kill others in His name.
A God who doesn’t wink and nod at those who flagrantly reject His counsel.
A God who offers to all who come to Him mercy on His terms and not theirs.
For people who claim the name of Jesus to be honest and truthful with
His Word, in its entirety, and not just the pats that keep people showing up week in and week out.
Now that is an optimistic and hopeful thought, but is it realistic? Well, just call me pessimistic on that one.
I hear people say, from time to time, that those who take the narrow view of sticking to God’s Word
and who reject the modern church culture are “against” everything and not “for” anything.
So, as a public service to those critics, allow me to look at a passage which stood out to me recently.
We concluded our study in Zephaniah at our Sunday evening service where we study through the Old Testament.
We are working our way through the Minor Prophets and in the final chapter of Zephaniah, it opens like this.
1Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted to the oppressing city!
2 She has not obeyed His voice, she has not received correction;
She has not trusted in the Lord, she has not drawn near to her God.
3 Her princes in her midst are roaring lions;
Her judges are evening wolves that leave not a bone till morning.
4 Her prophets are insolent, treacherous people;
Her priests have polluted the sanctuary; they have done violence to the law.
5 TheLordis righteous in her midst, He will do no unrighteousness.
Every morning He brings His justice to light;
He never fails, But the unjust knows no shame.
"Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted to the oppressing city!"
This begins a woe and is a pitiful sign of what’s to come. The “oppressing city” is, of course, Jerusalem. Zephaniah was a prophet to Judah. The oppression was tied to its rebellion and pollution. These are, of course, assessments of a spiritual nature and their offense was against God Himself. He then goes on to point out four distinct reasons that lead to those conditions.
Verse 2 identifies four glaring problems that should be seen in their historical context to be sure. This was, after all, intended to speak directly to Judah's leaders, as well as to Jerusalem’s. However, if we do not make application of what we read and we think we shouldn’t give ear, we deceive ourselves. Verse 2 could have been written by Paul, or any other NT writer.
The problems are listed in this order:
"She has not obeyed His voice"
So He had spoken through the prophets, the Law and through their history. Yet theirs was a course of disobedience.
Though they should have known where all this would lead, they persisted in their opposition to God.
"She has not received correction"
His “voice” was one calling them to repentance and giving them corrective counsel that would have caused the pending judgment to pass. All they needed to do was listen and do as He requested in order to restore fellowship, but they refused.
"She has not trusted in theLord"
Trust implies that you believe the one making the offer, or giving the direction, is worthy of trust.
In this case, as inexplicable as it may sound, they did not trust, for whatever reason, what God had said.
Notice how one problem led to the next? Why listen to and follow the counsel of God just to refuse trust?
"She has not drawn near to her God"
The first three naturally progress to the fourth and final indictment.
They had willfully become distant from God and were pursuing other things. It was a repeating narrative through their history.
The same can be said of Christianity too, lest we think ourselves better than they.
So, you are likely wondering whenI will get to the "I'm for that" stuff.
Trust me, I’ll get there, but God still has some things to say to those in Jerusalem who had the greatest responsibility for the collective nightmare that was Judah in the 7th century B.C.
To the governing authorities, He described her princes as “roaring lions” and her judges as “evening wolves that leave not a bone till morning.” This was a way of illustrating their propensity to devour their countrymen and gain an advantage.
The prophets were consistent, as God’s spokesmen, to point out the injustice of the ruling class.
He saves His greatest rebuke, however, for the spiritual heads of Judah. Here is the gravest of indictments and
this spiritual disease is what gave rise to all the rest of Judah’s ills. The “Men of God” were deeply corrupt
and, thankfully, God spells out the offense so we can make application and avoid the same. Here is His assessment.
"Her prophets are insolent, treacherous people"
So the Prophets, who were to speak as the oracles of God and were to be His spokesmen,
were “insolent” (reckless and immature) in what they said and how they represented God to His people.
They could not be trusted to say anything of spiritual value. But how many people in Judah knew their speech was so poisonous?
I think this is a massive problem today in our churches because we see people who blindly trust and do not go
to God’s Word to investigate and prove what is spoken from the pulpits.
"Her priests have polluted the sanctuary"
They had defiled and putrefied the House of God. The place intended to be a house of total consecration had become soiled and corrupt. I am, again, reminded of things done in God’s name in churches all over the country.
The celebration of worldliness and ungodly “worship” and “cultural relevance” is nauseating and an offense to a Holy God.
"They have done violence to the law"
And here is why the problems existed. They knew God’s will because He wrote it for them!
As Paul tried to convince the Galatians,
“What purpose then does the law serve?
It was added because of transgressions”
In other words, the Law was given to demonstrate God’s standard and so that a written code would stand as
a testimony against the offender. In this case, nobody could plead ignorance. As it is in our day, Scripture is given so we
may know how it is that we should walk before Him. We cannot plead ignorance, nor can we blame the ignorant “Men of God” who do violence to God’s Word, all throughout the church. Look at the trends in the church that are big today.
Emotionalism, sensual and visual aesthetics that are supposed to enhance the “experience.” We have re-wrapped, new age,
meditative practices being given to the masses with “Christian” labels and idioms slapped on them.
Neo-Gnosticism, new revelations and never before seen manifestations.
“Apostles” and “prophets” saying some of the most unusual, ridiculous things and nobody is checking them out to test them against Scripture. “Progressives” who question any verse that sounds remotely absolute and then sacrifice them on the altar of “Epistemology” (that is, how do we know truth?) and “Deconstructionism” (saying that we weren’t there when things were written, so we can’t take things literally.) We are told that there is no absolute truth so we can subjectively make it up as we go.
There is great violence being done to God’s Word everywhere we look. God does not need our help in figuring out His intentions. He has made them abundantly clear by weaving them throughout the entirety of His Word, so they are unmistakable.
Now, you may still be wondering when I'm going to tell you what I'm "for," because so far I've only told you what I’m “against.”
I am “for” Verse 5:
"TheLordis righteous in her midst,
He will do no unrighteousness.
Every morning He brings His justice to light;
He never fails,
But the unjust knows no shame."
He is everything we are not. Since we are not like Him, by nature, we had better learn to be like He is.
We had better leave the culture to rot and not invite it into our fellowships.
We had better demand that our leaders prove themselves by holding to His Word.
Is that not what Jesus commended Philadelphia for doing in Revelation 3:8?
He later told them to “hold fast” (or take captive) what they had in verse 11.
I am “for” acknowledging that God never fails because He is just.
He stands in total contrast to those who are unjust and unashamed
of their misrepresentation of who He is and what He has said.
Yeah, I’m “for” that.
As I write these thoughts, the world is in a place of turmoil as deep and troubling as any I've seen in my lifetime.
For a host of reasons in our country (economic debt, scandal, political control of our lives, social tension, political dishonesty and mismanagement) we are in a place of national disillusionment.
No solutions seem to be in sight and the political climate and “leadership” in D.C. is pathetic.
Nothing they seem to do makes a bit of sense and it’s as though they are trying to destroy our nation as it has been.
The America I grew up in has changed immensely and not for the better.
It is as though common sense and a concern for future generations has taken a permanent vacation.
Couple that with things we see happening globally and the picture becomes darker.
Fundamentalist Islam is taking ground exponentially, and their recruitment is swelling their numbers by the day.
It’s enough to cause a person to become despondent, if not for some biblical perspective.
More on that in a bit and I hope to put events in context as I see them.
The last two weeks have been bazaar, to say the least, from a policy level.
First, our President, and seemingly every cabinet level department, cannot seem to bring themselves to admit the obvious.
There is a neo-Islamization taking place in the middle-east (and elsewhere) but the administration would rather play semantics than to identify the people and the religious ideology that drives them.
In fact, we were told of the things the crusaders did in the name of Jesus, seemingly,
in an attempt to deflect attention to what is plainly obvious to any thinking person.
I don’t know anyone who would excuse much of what they did, but we can at least agree it was an answer to
repel a threat of a caliphate taking shape in the known world at that time.
Not much has changed as that still is the stated objective of the new proponents of this 21stcentury jihad.
This mentality and worldview leads to silly and inexplicable conclusions like “jobs” and “lack of opportunity”
as what largely contributes to violence, terrorism and radicalization (Hat tip to Ms. Harf.)
It would be funny if not for the fact that it reflects our policy and helps our enemies gather numbers relatively unchallenged. I can’t help but think how the Islamists in ISIS must chuckle when they see the hand wringing
at the State Department and White House over how to classify them.
It seems the only people who can actually identify them as Muslims, are fellow Muslims. Story after story shows that upwardly mobile people are flocking to these fundamentalist groups from 9/11 onward.
Then there is Iran and our seeming obsession to get a deal, any deal, with regards to their nuclear program.
We aren’t the first to try this, and Iran has always used such “negotiations” to strengthen their position and ramp up their war machine while dragging out their negotiations and demands, as they did with Europe during the last administration.
For the record, this is the same Iran who has been conducting war games in the gulf.
This apocalyptic regime constructed and then bombed a life size replica of an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.
Meanwhile, back home, they are burning US and Israeli flags and effigies of POTUS while yelling “death to America.”
Charming! And we have our politicians negotiating with people who would have us dead, if they had the means.
In an ironic twist, POTUS, his advisers, cabinet secretaries and defenders are apoplectic that
PM Netanyahu would dare to speak about the evil that is Iran.
It seems as though we have fallen down a rabbit hole, or slipped into an alternate dimension.
Our foreign policy looks like a skit on SNL, but is actually real life and it's deadly.
So, as I considered how things had become so upside down,
I felt the Lord reveal to me what should be obvious. I was looking at this all wrong.
The current state of things is not political. It is not economic or based on societal matters.
It is not about one political party or particular ideologies.
For that matter, it is not religious, though all of the above are elements that contribute to our collective mess.
The problem, as it may appear, is really not a problem, but a matter of timing.
The answer to all of this can be found in a biblical understanding of eschatology.
The study of end times and end things.
To some, that may sound oversimplified but here is why I believe this and this is very general.
The church, for the most part, ignores such things and doesn’t look at scripture as being
predictive about world events here and now.
As I see it, when we consider the battle of Ezekiel 38 and 39 and its participants, the only thing that the nations who come against Israel have in common is they are partially, if not totally, dominated by Islam.
The world being in a state of trouble and dismay is exactly what Jesus describes in Luke 21 and Matthew 24
(Luke 21:25, in particular, calls it “distress of the nations with perplexity”)
which I see all around us. The condition of the church and its having lost its dependence and promotion of
the Word of God is right in line with the warnings of the Apostles in passages too numerous to count.
In most of the world, solutions to all the crisis are never discussed.
But why? Simply put, because nobody dares point out the looming chaos that could happen at any time.
The bible doesn’t say things will continue forever here on earth. In fact, the opposite is true!
God said that He would put an end to it all and judge unrepentant man in the process.
Then He promised He would begin again with a new heaven and new earth.
1Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth,
for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.
Also there was no more sea.
2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying,
“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them,
and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;
there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.
There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
5 Then He who sat on the throne said,
“Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me,
“Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
6 And He said to me,
“It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.
I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things,
and I will be his God and he shall be My son.
8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral,
sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake
which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
So it's simple (at least to my mind.) Things here will progress until they cannot continue any longer.
At a time known only to God, He will return and start the process of changing everything in ways the human mind can only imagine. Changes that scripture said are matters of when, not if.
Meanwhile, we are to grow in His grace and knowledge and proclaim the good news of Jesus.
As we wait for His return as Paul tells us in I Thessalonians:
“To wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead,
even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
I was having a discussion with a friend recently and the phrase “they love the Lord” came up when describing a person with a watered down understanding of scripture. That was the response I received when it was pointed out that they should know better, that they need to read the Word and they would see the error. It was used to dismiss a lack of maturity for a person who wasn’t a new believer, just an infant in knowledge instead of years.
We hear that term applied to people all the time and it has become generic and lacks any real specifics. As I considered the phrase, I started thinking of other ways such a description of a person should or could have been be worded. The first one that came to mind was sober or, more specifically, sober-minded. We see those words used in Scripture but they may be very different from the generic phrase “they love the Lord” that is often applied to people.
Said another way, I have met plenty of people who do indeed love the Lord, but are far from sober-minded.
So what exactly does the bible mean when this word or phrase is used?
The two common Greek words (νήφω nēphō and σώφρων sōphrōn) we translate as sober or sober-minded.
Depending on usage, they can be an action (verb)
I Thessalonians 5:6
"Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober."
"For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you,
not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly,
as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith."
Or something describing the action (adverb)
"Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts,
we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age."
It can also be used as a description or attribute (Adjective) as we see in
I Timothy 3:2
"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate,
sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach."
Okay, enough for the English lesson and on to "what does it mean to us?" Before that question is answered, I would like to point out that these Greek words in their various usages (22 times) are used by Paul to Titus or Timothy on 10 occasions out of the 22. So, in the entire New Testament, almost half are written from an elder pastor to younger pastors regarding qualifications of leaders and exhorting younger men in the faith to mature in their sobriety of mind. Interestingly enough, the Apostle Peter accounts for 5 of the remaining uses, and yes, he does so to call people to godly conduct.
When sōphrōn is used in the Gospels, it is recording the same incident and it is
a brilliant way of illustrating what sober-minded means.
"Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion,
sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid."
"Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons
had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid."
In these verses, the Gospels translate it as “right mind” and it describes the condition of mind of the Gaderan man who was formerly demon possessed. Now, after Jesus cast out the demons who once controlled him, this same man was found to be in his “right mind” which gives a great illustration as to what seems lacking in modern Christianity.
Consider his situation carefully. This man was controlled by the devil. He was hopeless and helpless and required intervention by the Great I Am who personally set him free. A raw display of power removed those who tormented this poor soul and gave him rightness of mind. What an earthshaking event to try to wrap our minds around and grasp.
Notice there was no lack of right mindedness afterward. He was locked in on evangelizing throughout the entire region.
He was changed in the most elementary ways imaginable and His former life was unrecognizable.
Can that be said of the modern believer?
The gospel records in Mark 5:18 how, once freed from his torment, he wanted to leave everything and be with Jesus.
But Jesus didn’t allow him to travel with He and the apostles. Why was that?
That was done because Jesus wanted him to be a witness and testimony and to not go back to his everyday life.
He would be more effective in that capacity, in an area where people knew who and what he was.
Mark 5 tells us he traveled throughout the Decapolis (10 great eastern Roman cities) and they marveled.
What a testimony to the power of Jesus to command the impossible!
As was said in the opening of this article, people may “love the Lord” but suffer greatly from “sobriety of mind.”
Look at some of the largest churches we know and look carefully at what is done there. Look at the modern church in light of the demon possessed man before and after conversion. Is there any real comparison?
Compare 21st century Christianity to the early church. Look at Paul’s instruction to the churches in his epistles.
I suppose Corinth was likely the most seeker sensitive church of the ones we know. There was a circus-like atmosphere there, from what we can tell from his writing, and he was not complimentary of them, to say the least.
In fact, he was heartbroken and, as was the case in 1 Corinthians 5:1, he addressed their
allowance of immorality as being something not even tolerated among the gentiles.
Permissiveness and not calling error where it's due will guarantee a lack of sober mindedness and a permissive church body. Look at youtube or other video outlets to see some of the biggest churches in America and ask how much sobriety is taught and promoted, as opposed to the carnal illiteracy being promoted in the name of God. Sure, they will tell you they love the Lord, but will they ever ask questions on what they are being taught and if it is biblical?
Do they even know or sense there might be a problem?
Enough with the micro, lets address the macro. We are being told to seek unity and common ground, even among people and faiths who believe a clearly different spiritual truth. The lack of sober-minded leaders and congregations alike make this an easy poison to sell to the masses. We are asked to look the other way on differences and only promote agreement.
I wonder if Paul was asked to find common ground with the gnostics or judaizers. We certainly know what his answer would be. I am sure agreement could have been had, if he were willing to look. But he refused and he warned instead.
It is now more important than ever to soberly examine every doctrine, teacher, leader and then thoroughly examine ourselves to see that we too are in our right minds. We do that by examining and knowing His Word. Not what a pastor says, but what God has said. It is not for the weak or timid, it is for the believer, filled with God’s Holy Spirit.
It is for the courageous and fearless. It takes a love for His Word and His truth. It may divide friend and family
(but that’s nothing new) as it did in the first century believers and from the ages since then.
If I read the scripture correctly, we cannot be one who “loves the Lord” without being also “sober of mind.”
We cannot see clearly who we love until all the fog of worldliness has been removed. If a church is not faithful to teach the whole Word of God, it is not worthy of calling itself a church. If a pastor is not faithful to teach the whole counsel
"For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God."
he is not a pastor but a hireling.
"But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep,
sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.
13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep."
Without His Word we cannot know Him accurately and fully. That truth is why He gave us His Word. Without His Word, we are not a fully instructed, informed and mature church, but a social club using slogans to entertain the masses.
Without a solid knowledge of His Word we may be saved but are permanently stuck in our infancy relying upon milk and not meat. Without His Word, we have no way to determine truth.
Because of His Word, we should demand more of our churches, our pastors, our leaders and ourselves.
"Faith comes by Hearing, and hearing by the Word of God."
Who are you to judge another’s servant?
To his own master he stands or falls.
Indeed, he will be made to stand,
for God is able to make him stand.
I recently heard a teacher use this verse as a reason why we should not correct someone publicly, even when what they believe is demonstrably incorrect according to scripture. It was all in the context of one person thinking they knew better than the other and that such things must not be so. The bottom line, it's not for any of us to correct anyone on the nebulous "non-essentials."
But where are those "non-essentials" listed? I have not seen them.
But wow, Romans 14:4, we shouldn't judge another servant?
Does Romans 14:4 apply to that teacher's opinion regarding correction?
Well, the context for Romans 14 deals with people's conscience that Paul calls "weak" or easily offended.
Matters of foods, days, feasts etc. Paul says the mature should take into account their weak conscience and
defer to them so as not to stumble those with a weaker conscience.
So, the chapter is clearly misapplied to doctrine, should one try to use it that way.
Now, as far as doctrine is concerned, do we let it ride so as not to offend those with wrong doctrine? Can we make the leap from conscience to doctrine using Romans 14? Not hardly. In the very same book of Romans, Paul tells the same readers (not pastors) in 16:17:
Now I urge you, brethren,
note those who cause divisions and offenses,
contrary to the doctrine which you learned,
and avoid them.
He has a much different standard for doctrine as opposed to conscience. If a doctrinal view is unscriptural,
it needs to be addressed. Doctrine is the dividing line that triggers the identification of the one peddling
bad doctrine and then emploring the healthy to avoid the unhealthy doctrine. Pretending there are not
differences or avoiding their discussion is not unity, it's ignorance. Especially those who are teachers
and love the flock God has entrusted to them. If they do not warn that flock, then who will?
That is why Paul also told Timothy in II Timothy 3:16 that correction and reproof
is one of the reasons Scripture was provided.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,
and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,
for instruction in righteousness...
It begs the question, can a person (a pastor in Timothy's case) teach Scripture and not correct and reprove?
Is not most all of Paul's writing for the purpose of correction of doctrine in the early church?
Should we ever have an opinion, then find a passage that sounds similar and then claim scripture agrees with me? The answer is, of course, no. Scripture is the arbiter of truth and we need to agree with it.
How could it be any more simple?
People like using Ephesians 4:16 to show why we need to forget about divisive doctrine and fighting over
non-essentials. Here is what it says:
16 From whom the whole body, joined and
knit together by what every joint supplies,
according to the effective working by which
every part does its share, causes growth of
the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Pretty compelling, right? Wrong. Look at Verses 14-15
14 that we should no longer be children,
tossed to and fro and carried about
with every wind of doctrine, by the
trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness
of deceitful plotting,
15 but, speaking the truth in love, may
grow up in all things into Him who is
So which is it? The answer is yes.
For the body to be knit together and functioning properly there must be a knowledge of what is true and correct doctrinally.
Nowhere does Paul mention essential and non-essential.
That is an error of modern pragmatism within the church.
Paul was no such man.
The Christian church is in a time of deep peril. A steady, yet gradual, movement away from Biblical truth has been underway in the modern churches for decades. Churches are becoming a place where people can identify with a brand (Christianity) and not The Savior (Jesus Christ). Church has all too often become a place to be dazzled by visually stunning, program-oriented, highly entertaining productions, all designed to appeal to the senses and emotion.
Seeing that all of this is going on, shouldn’t we ask, where is the message of Salvation? Where is the message of the risen Savior, Jesus Christ? Where is the weighty message of the innocent Son of God, paying the price for our guilt caused by our sin? People are made to feel comfortable, rather than being told the truth. People are entertained and moved along their way, without ever having been confronted with their most desperate need, the available forgiveness for their sin. Should any of this come as a surprise? Not really because we have been warned. Paul told us in I Corinthians 1:18,
“For the message of the cross is foolishness
to those who are perishing”
And so we see churches avoid the foolishness they see in The Cross, as Paul put it. But there is more to this story and it is the second part of Paul’s message to the Corinthians
“...but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
A friend recently brought something to my attention and it was chilling to read. What I read was written in the late 60′s and the copy I had in my hand was from 1971. It was prophetic in ways that were profound to me. Our current state of affairs in the church is so thoroughly predicted that it could have been written yesterday instead of 40 years ago.
Here is a portion of what I read.
With increasing frequency the leadership of the denominations will be captured by those who completely reject the historical truths of the Bible and deny doctrines which according to Christ Himself are crucial to believe in order to be a Christian. In some of the largest Protestant denominations this has already taken place. The few remaining institutions which are not yet dominated by the disbelievers will go downhill in the same manner.
There will be unprecedented mergers of denominations into “religious conglomerates.” This will occur for two reasons: first, most denominations were formed because of deep convictions about certain spiritual truths. As more of the truths are discarded as irrelevant because of unbelief in Biblical authority, there will be no reason to be divided. Unity is certainly important to have, but never, according to the teachings of Christ, at the expense of the crucial truths of Christianity.
Secondly, as ministers depart from the truths of the Bible they lose the authority and power that it has to meet real human needs, and as many ministers who are not truly born spiritually themselves and are consequently without the illumination of God’s Spirit, they no longer will be able to hold their present congregations, much less attract others. So they resort to “social action gimmicks,” super-organization, and elaborate programs as a substitute.
As Paul predicted concerning these ministers in the last days: holding to a form of godliness [literally religion] although they have denied it’s power….. And again he says
“they are always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth." II Timothy 3:5 & 7
The Late Great Planet Earth Pg. 182
Hal has had his share of ridicule by his sceptics, since this book was published. However, regardless of one’s view of the entire book, he seemed to have had a firm grasp on the direction and inevitable destination of the modern seeker-friendly and emerging/emergent church movements.
We should all stay on guard,
It’s a term we hear thrown around in church constantly, usually so as to benefit the ministry or minister who speaks of it. In fact, it is used so often, people might not fully realize what it means, nor could they find examples of it in the pages of scripture.
Genuine “revival” comes when people see the sin around them, seek God in a place of humility, acknowledge their offense and turn from what they have become. Some may call that repentance, but saying sorry is not repentance. There needs to be a change of conduct, life and focus.
One of the best examples anywhere in scripture is found in II Kings 22 and 23. It tells of Josiah, the king who followed Manasseh (after the brief two year reign of Amon who, like Manasseh, was wicked) Manasseh and Josiah ruled Judah for a total of 87 years (55 and 32 years respectively.) One was the epitome of wickedness and the other, Josiah, a man who was tender toward the things of God. For a full look at Manasseh, look at II Kings 21.
As for Josiah, he is a better figure to study. He began his reign at age 8 and the reforms he instituted did not begin until 18 years into his reign. That was when he instituted the repair project to the Temple in Jerusalem. In the time of the repairs, a scroll was found (it was the book of The Law) and they were astonished to have found it. Think of that! To find THE Law in THE Temple was news worthy? How bad must things have become to make that the reaction?
There are two interesting, immediate reactions when the scroll was found. First, a simple reading caused a deep grief and sorrow in Josiah. Second, he sought to know what will happen next (wanting to know if there was hope left) and he inquired of God through Huldah. What he did with that information would determine the future of Judah during his reign.
The message he received back from Huldah was encouraging, to say the least, and God acknowledged the heart of a repentant man. Revival was not possible without his repentance and the reforms which were immediately implemented.
The twenty second chapter of II Kings serves as a model for what is needed after repentance. A matter of the heart is followed by swift and decisive action. He immediately dismantled those things that were offensive to God throughout the land. He removed those in power who were leading God’s people in rebellion through pagan idol worship. The heartbreak of chapter 22 is softened by the beauty of a nation who returns to their God in chapter 23.
The Old Testament book of Hosea offers another perfect example of a man God used to identify the spiritual problem of his day. However, in his time, there was no hope of repentance in their future, so only judgment would follow. Chapter 4 of Hosea identifies the outward problems of the inward disease, and it’s why no hope was coming. The chapter begins in the first two verses like this:
Hear the word of th Lord,
You children of Israel,
For the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land:
“There is no truth or mercy
Or knowledge of God in the land.
By swearing and lying,
Killing and stealing and committing adultery,
They break all restraint,
With bloodshed upon bloodshed.
By chapter 4, their spiritual infidelity was already identified along with the worship of graven images that were part of it. (4:12) By the time verse 2 concludes, seven of the ten commandments have been identified as being violated. The response to Hosea’s message was indifference and ignorance, quite the opposite of Josiah and Judah. God holds them accountable in 4:6 and then identifies their dire condition in what is a truly iconic and breathtaking verse.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being priest for Me;
Because you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.
They refuse knowledge, so they are rejected by God and so will be their posterity as well. (“your children”) Are the people alone to blame? No. This is a problem that begins with the priests (leaders and pastors of today) and then finds its way to the people. The leaders decay spiritually and then the people suffer under the leaders (4:9.)
And it shall be: like people, like priest.
It is a repeating cycle in both the Old and New Testaments. A lack of knowledge of God and His Word leads to people who are carried away in error, all the while thinking things are fine. The leadership is biblically illiterate, so that illiteracy is then passed along to the people. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Note the reforms of II Kings 23, how they are completely God-centered, with no mention of what’s in it for me. They saw their offense and sought God’s forgiveness. They put away the gods of self-gratification and indulgence. They opted for a life of self-denial and consecration to God. They familiarized themselves with God’s Word and lived accordingly.
Contrast that with the Hosea and the northern 10 tribes. How highly was God’s Word esteemed? How familiar were the priests with all that God commanded? Did they know it well enough to instruct from it, even if they believed it?
Contrast that with the 21st century church. How highly is God’s Word esteemed? How familiar are the “pastors” with the entirety of scripture? Do they know it well enough to instruct from it? Do they relegate much of the bible to “history?” So why bother, besides, we need to be intentional, missional, relevant, etc. That is pastoral malpractice and invites God’s wrath upon the hirelings that would pedal that poison to unsuspecting sheep.
It is astounding how “me-centered" the church has become, but is not the leadership to blame? Everything seems centered around making people feel comfortable. From the pews to the message, we are looking for ways to get people in the seats. The mere mention and study of God’s holiness and our penchant for sin are sorely missing. They are replaced by feel good production, slick marketing and a live for now as we build a kingdom for God.
If we neglect speaking about His holiness and if we avoid speaking about sin, we will then avoid speaking about repentance and true revival will never come. For the record, I see no such revival in our future. This may sound pessimistic, but I am of the opinion that no such time is coming to us as it did to Judah under Josiah. Why? I think the answer is simply that people are unaware of their condition. They have no real understanding of God’s holiness and how He deals with such indifference.
I don’t see a church looking for genuine revival for these reasons, as I don’t think the church knows the meaning and mechanism as I have already discussed. I see the church consumed with self more today than at any other time in my almost 30 years of being a believer. The need for the church to fall to its knees before a holy God in repentance is essential, but not likely. As a worldwide body, we are uneducated in His Word, we have no fear and we are self-absorbed. I personally believe we are that generation Jesus addressed when He said in Luke 18:8
Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
Watching and waiting Luke 21:28