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Friday, April 18, 2014

Riding coattails

Posted by Gary on August 24, 2010

1 Timothy 2:11-15 “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.”

I often wonder how Christian congregations who would not support or allow a homosexual to be their pastor are willing to allow women to be their pastors. If you were to ask such folk why they would oppose a homosexual in their pulpit they would quickly respond, “Because God has forbidden homosexuality” and they have answered rightly. God has also forbidden a woman to teach or have authority over a man, why isn’t there the same concern to obey God as He speaks about the roles of men and women?

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

The true minister’s confession

Posted by Gary on January 28, 2010

While reading a sermon entitled, “Be Zealous” by J.C. Ryle I came across this quote from Robert Murray M’Cheyne concerning his heart and his ministry. I do believe it to be the true confession of any real minister of God:

“None but God knows what an abyss of corruption is in my heart. It is perfectly amazing that ever God could bless such a ministry.”

May God grant to all of His servants the same self-honesty and humility.

God grant us to see the truth about ourselves that we might then by grace see that Jesus is our righteousness. Grant that your servants would be empty of pride and full of the realization of grace received. O Lord, we have been full ourselves, make us full of Yourself. Amen.

Never a chance

Posted by Gary on April 22, 2009

Recently our youth group had the privilege of welcoming Mike Hall for a visit. Mike won five world power lifting titles from 1986 to ’91 and is a two-time gold medal winner at the Pan Am Games. More importantly, Mike is a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ who is committed to sharing the gospel.

After receiving a commitment from Mike to come to our youth meeting I began to tell our group members that I was going to arm wrestle Mike. Why did I do this? Losing my mind as I get older. Of course I knew I had no chance but we do what we can at times to generate interest in those we are trying to reach. So for weeks I hyped the upcoming arm wrestling match which I am proud to say, lasted 34 seconds. How long would it have lasted if Mike just decided to end it from the get-go? Probably about 3 seconds.

We had a wonderful evening with Mike who shared his testimony with our youth which included Christ’s work in his life and the fact that Mike won his lifting titles without the use of steroids. Mike is proud to be billed as “The World’s Strongest Drug Free Man.”

Mike hails from Dagsboro, Delaware and is also a minister of the gospel.

I came away from this experience uttering the famous line spoken by Apollo Creed at the end of his fifteen rounds with Rocky Balboa, “Ain’t gonna be no rematch.”

Rick Warren, The Inauguration and the frightening responsibility of being God’s servant III

Posted by Gary on January 19, 2009

When God’s servants are called upon to pray they are first and foremost to consider God, His holiness, greatness and glory over and above the thoughts and opinions of the people who will hear and hopefully join him in His prayer. The great snare in public prayer is to consider human beings above God. This can happen in two ways. First, the sin of trying to impress the other prayer participants by our phrasing and wording so that our intention albeit ever so subtle is to lead people to marvel at how Godly we are.

The second sin in public prayer is born of the fear of man. The sin here is being afraid to bring before God in prayer what would be most honoring to Him and most necessary for us from fear that it will anger and upset the people participating. Tomorrow is the Inauguration and the real pitfall before Pastor Rick Warren will be coming very near and dancing all around what needs to be prayed and yet never saying the words. Pastors can display an amazing ability in this realm, we can avoid what needs to be said while making it sound very much like we have.

Let me come to the point. Any prayer offered on behalf of our nation that would make request for God’s blessing upon our president and the country itself must include amongst many other things:

The specific confession of our sin of having turned away from the One, True God. Here is where the vaguery floods in. A pastor may pray asking “god” to forgive us for turning away from Him but what God are we speaking to? What God have we turned away from? Here of course is where the whole thing falls apart and I am afraid true Christians and pastors must either play the man or refrain from participation. This prayer needs to include a request for forgiveness for turning away from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God ultimately revealed as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“But Gary, our country is founded upon the freedom to believe in whatever god we want to”. Yes, and here our country finds itself at odds with the Law of God which permits us no such freedom:

Exodus 20:2-3  "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Our government of course would respond that it is not looking for such a specific, unquestionable reference to God to which any servant of God must respond, “Then you are not looking for me to offer the prayer either for I cannot.” God’s people, let us never forget: we are not messengers of religion in general nor nation promoters, we are the redeemed people of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are Christ’s ambassadors, we speak only of Him and in His interests. How can a prayer that can be attributed to any god be considered faithful to the only God?

A prayer offered on behalf of the nation must also include a confession of our intentioned murder of the unborn children who bear the image of God. Isn’t it a marvel that prayers can be offered to God seeking His favor and blessing while all the while refusing to acknowledge that we have murdered millions of the children who bear His image? Can we attack God by attacking His image in children and then ask for His blessing? Pray all you want, make it sound as religious and flowery as you like but a prayer without confession of the sin of infant murder will be an offense to God:

Isaiah 1:15-18  "So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord, Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.”

“But, our government has said infant murder is lawful.” Yes, and again our nation finds itself at odds with and in opposition to the Law of God. Do we not see that this is the issue? We are at odds with and in rebellion against God and at the same time we think we are going to receive His blessing. It is not going to happen.

Our sins against God in regard to the life that bears His image are many and great. Our sin is rising up to heaven until a day comes when God will relent no longer. Our nation has been unraveling for decades, in judgment block after block has been pulled from our foundation until one day that one block to many will be removed and our house will collapse totally:

Matthew 7:26-27  "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell– and great was its fall."

The responsibility of God’s servant is to confront leaders and nations of their sin so that they will repent and can then rightfully call upon God for mercy and blessing. Are we not all aware of the gigantic elephant in the room? Shall we call upon God while refusing to acknowledge our sins against Him? An attempt to avoid what needs to be said is unfaithfulness on the part of God’s servants.

Perhaps one would ask me, “Gary, you are saying so much, would you like to offer the prayer at the Inauguration?” Here is my answer…In my vanity I would like to think that I would be faithful and bold and would pray just as I have advocated that Rick Warren must pray. As truth takes hold of me I know that without great grace, I would play the coward and seek to please men. A man would be a fool to seek for himself the shoes that Rick Warren will stand in tomorrow. He had only better be there by the calling of God. Pray for Rick Warren, for me and for all of God’s servants, how we need God’s grace to be faithful.

Rick Warren, The Inauguration and the frightening responsibility of being God’s servant II

Posted by Gary on January 14, 2009

Isaiah 1:15-18 "So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD, though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.”

There is an eternity’s difference between coming into the presence of God and mere religious formality. Few things have more potential of being formality than political events with a clergyman’s presence. To come into the presence of God means to recognize His holiness, our sinfulness and to lay the heart bare before Him. Religious formality requires none of these things, it only requires religious language.

How do we know the difference between the two? Religious formality takes place without any humbling, soul searching effect on the participants. A prayer is offered and no one is challenged, humbled or offended. To rightly come into the presence of God one must be willing to come to terms with their sins against God and they must also by His grace be willing to part from them.

Religious formality may make reference to sin (more likely the words “faults” or “weaknesses” will be used) but the sins that are most offensive to God and that we most need to acknowledge are never mentioned and participants come away from such a prayer thinking about the sins of others, not their own, hence the avoidance of offense.

Most often at political events prayers with any confession list things we as men do against each other (violence, prejudice, neglect of the needy) but almost never include a list of sins that we commit against God (which all sins are against God by the way). A confession of man’s wrongs against man will be tolerated gladly for in the end most of us convince ourselves that we are not guilty even of these.

All this prayer takes is a man who knows Biblical phraseology and he can slither away just fine. He can mention “reaping what we sow” while never getting specific about what we are sowing or what we will reap. He can confess that we “have turned away from God” but will not be specific about which God we are guilty of turning away from.

Amazingly, all it seems to take to quiet the concerns of today’s evangelicals is a few Biblical phrases and then a conclusion that is in Jesus’ name or some equivalent that those of us who know the Biblical phraseology know means Jesus, “Prince of Peace”, “Wonderful Counselor” or “Good Shepherd”. “He used the phrases” evangelicals trumpet gladly and never ponder that we all escaped the shining light of God’s truth and have offended and angered God by our prayer not honored Him.

O come on Gary, do you really think more than this could be said in an inaugural prayer? Well the question is, what are we after? If we are after formality, avoiding offense and the satisfaction of having offered a prayer then we couldn’t push for more than this. But if we are actually intending to come into the presence of the one, true, living God then something much more penetrating and confrontational is necessary.

Pray that God gives Rick Warren the faith and courage to be His true messenger on January 20.

Rick Warren, The Inauguration and the frightening responsibility of being God’s servant

Posted by Gary on December 30, 2008

Pastor Rick Warren has been asked to offer the invocation at the upcoming Inauguration of Barack Obama and my mind has been processing ever since. Perhaps at the outset I should make mention of the fact that this issue has led to a gut check on my part. I am skeptical and very concerned about Warren’s presence and how he will handle this opportunity to represent the living God. At the same time I must ask myself if I only want to share my concerns and assume the worst or if I am going to pray for Rick Warren. By God’s grace I will.

Here are some of the things that have been on my mind:

I do not believe that Christians and ministers in particular are to add anything more to the offense that is already built into the gospel. Some pastors are offensive in a way that Christ never was and convince themselves it is faithful zeal. At the same time faithfulness does mean holding forth all the offense of the gospel and embracing whatever it will mean for ourselves personally and for our ministries and churches for those of us who are pastors

Warren seems willing to offend to a certain level but then almost always ends up recovering his image as a nice man who wants to dialogue with everyone.I am all for being nice and for talking with whoever is interested in finding the truth but these good things can often be unfaithfulness and underneath, a man’s intention to avert the ultimate cost of belonging to Christ. I will not pass the ultimate judgment on Warren but my knowledge of myself and my own heart gives me cause to have real concerns about Warren.

What is the ultimate test of a pastor’s faithfulness when it comes to his teaching and speaking on behalf of God? One must only be counted faithful to the degree that his preaching and teaching resembles the preaching and teaching of the prophets, apostles and the Lord Jesus. Here is where I have real concerns about Warren and at another level Joel Osteen, I do not hear them saying the same things, the same way the prophets, apostles and Jesus did. There has never been a nicer man, more willing to speak with unbelievers and true seekers than Jesus. There has also never been anyone more ferocious, convicting and unbending in their preaching than Jesus either.

If you get nothing else out of what will be written on this topic I will rejoice if this lodges in your mind… The test of any man who claims to represent the living God is the degree to which his preaching and teaching reflects the teaching of the prophets, apostles and the Lord Jesus. The size of a pastor’s church, budget and book sales mean nothing of themselves, they may even be the markers of something wrong. Listen carefully to a man when he is preaching and teaching, can you hear the echo of Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Peter, Paul and the Lord Jesus in his words?

Along with comfort is their piercing? Do you feel you are being taken hold of? Not in a way that is warm and fuzzy but in a way that leaves you in awe of the greatness and holiness of God? When he has finished are you more convinced of what sin has done to you? Are you more convinced of your need to repent? Does Christ’s death and resurrection on your behalf mean more to you then before he preached to you?

I think I’ll be content to establish this much for now. I will post some thoughts on the Inauguration next.

Thank you Loraine

Posted by Gary on October 9, 2008

I am increasingly grieved and angry with that which I see in the realm of Christianity and "ministry" concerning  copyright restrictions. In particular, I believe that it is wrong for that which is called ministry or gospel to be conducted as business.

Today I picked up a book from my shelves, the classic work on predestination by Lorain Boettner. What a joy it was to open the front pages and see this written:

Anyone is at liberty to use material from this book with or without credit. In preparing this book the author has received help from many sources, some acknowledged and many unacknowledged. He believes the material herein set forth to be a true statement of Scripture teaching, and his desire is to further, not to restrict, its use.

Compare Boettner’s position with the warning given in many other books on my shelves:

All rights reserved-no part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review in magazine or newspaper.

Or, how about this one?:

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher or a license permitting restricted copying.

Here is the fundamental question that must be asked, are we involved in ministry or in a business venture? If it is ministry than I cannot demand and impose in the same way I do if it is about making money. Some may remember the radical position of Keith Green who did not charge for his concerts and told those in attendance that they could take an album for what they could afford even if they could afford nothing. Steve Camp in our day has come to a similar position and I am grateful to see it.

If I am a sinner who was rescued by God’s grace and then granted the privilege to serve Him in the ministry in what sense can I claim that anything I offer in ministry is "mine"? When I write a sermon or prepare a study do I not believe that God has given me the information? Can I therefore claim it as mine and demand that others pay me and threaten them with legal action if they infringe on my rights?

For example, what would most think if before I preach my sermon I read a statement telling my listeners that if they quote anything I say in the sermon that they must attribute it to me or litigation will ensue?  Would it be right for me to charge a fee for copies of my sermons and then demand a portion of every copy sold?

I struggle at times between the need for someone to make a living and greed. I understand that as a pastor I am provided for by my congregation and that the musician or author might claim that their album or book is their living, that is granted at least in some cases (many times authors are pastors or musicians are making money from various ventures often to the tune of large sums of money).

There is much more to be said about these things and I continue to think on them. For now let it suffice to say that much of what is going on in evangelicalism today is not ministry, it is business. The genuine mark of gospel ministry is found in an attitude that seeks above all things to bring the truth about Christ to as many as possible without hindrance and freely.

Would we still do what we are doing even if we weren’t being paid for it? That’s how you know if it is a call to ministry.

Matthew 10:8  "Freely you received, freely give."

1 Corinthians 4:7  "What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?"