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Saturday, October 25, 2014

What wolves?

Posted by Gary on March 22, 2014

Matthew 7:15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

When one surveys the landscape of American Christianity today primarily through discussion and comments on social media, one is left wondering if anyone believes the warning Jesus gave us in Matthew 7:15. You can sample such a discussion on Dan Gaffney’s Facebook page here.

What Jesus intended us to hear cannot be mistaken. As always, Jesus speaks clearly and frankly. Jesus has warned us that that there are false prophets and that these prophets are wolves (who by the way, eat sheep). So deceptive are these false prophets, they actually appear to be one of the sheep they are determined to devour.

If we took Jesus seriously, we would weigh carefully the teaching and example of every person who claims to be Christ’s messenger using the infallible measuring rod for such examination, the Word of God.

But what we find increasingly is that people, yes, I am afraid many Christians included, have no willingness or intention of examining, weighing and passing judgment on those who seek to influence the destiny of their eternal soul or the souls of  others.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

The diagnosis and cure…

Posted by Gary on November 22, 2012

Revelation 3:17-19 “Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.”

Modern evangelicals in our culture have gotten money, power, and influence, and it has been like giving whiskey to a two-year-old. But the need of the hour is theological, not political. The arena is the pulpit and the (Lord’s) table, not the legislative chamber. The message is Christ crucified and risen for His chosen sinners and now acknowledged Lord of all. This risen and conquering Christ is the Head of the Church. Before we are equipped to proclaim His lordship to the inhabitants of all the earth, we must live as though we believed it in the Church

We must therefore study the Scriptures and reform our doctrines and beliefs according to the Scriptures. We must then pray, seeking reformation and doctrinal renewal from the sovereign Lord Who alone can bestow it. When the household of God has been cleansed, according to His Word, we will be  qualified to preach the triumph of the Lord Christ to the nations of the world. And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). (Doug Wilson from “Mother Kirk” p.22)

Election loss God’s veiled kindness?

Posted by Gary on November 20, 2012

“Behind a frowning providence, God hides a smiling face.” (William Cowper)

How do I as a Christian and pastor view the results of our recent national election in which our nation chose a President that supports infant murder and sodomy over a moral Mormon? Well, I would be lying if I did not say that I am grieved that America chose Barack Obama as its President again. Our nation is determined to perish and is consciously choosing our ruin, even voting for it. May God have mercy on us.

Would I have been comforted if Mitt Romney had won? Only minimally. I am afraid that American Christians have traded gospel righteousness for mere human morality. The simple truth is that Mitt Romney’s morality does not flow from Christ’s righteousness for Romney’s gospel is another gospel which is not from God and is to be condemned:

Galatians 1:6-8 “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!”  WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

A great hospital

Posted by Gary on January 20, 2012

Mark 14:27 “All of you will desert Me,  Jesus told them.”

“We see in this verse, how well our Lord foreknew the weakness and infirmity of His disciples. He tells them plainly what they were going to do. “All of you shall desert Me.” 

Let us take comfort in the thought that the Lord Jesus does not cast off His believing people because of failures and imperfections. He knows what they are.

He takes them, as the husband takes the wife, with all their blemishes and defects, and, once joined to Him by faith, will never leave them. He is a merciful and compassionate High priest. It is His glory to pass over the transgressions of His people, and to cover their many sins.

He knew what they were before conversion: wicked, guilty, and defiled; yet He loved them. He knows what they will be after conversion: weak, erring, and frail; yet He loves them.

He has undertaken to save them, notwithstanding all their shortcomings. And what He has undertaken He will perform.

Let us learn to pass a charitable judgment on the conduct of other believers. Let us not set them down in a low place, and say they have no grace, because we see in them much weakness and corruption. Let us remember that our Master in heaven bears with their infirmities, and let us try to bear with them too.

The Church of Christ is little better than a great hospital. We ourselves are all, more or less, weak, and all daily need the skillful treatment of the heavenly Physician. There will be no ‘complete cures’ until the resurrection day.”

  (J. C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Mark”)

Me first

Posted by Gary on June 20, 2011

Acts 20:35 “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

Coming upon twenty years in the pastorate, I am increasingly grateful for believers who live out their life in the church by calling. The way that many approach life in the church is dishonoring to God and sad. “Does this church offer me what I want?” “What can this church do for me?” seems to be the first and most important question that most people ask.

Very few people seem to want to know whether or not God wants them at a church based upon service and sacrifice. Few consider that perhaps He wants to use them to help a church become what He wants it to be and that they will get what they need not by insisting that they get it, but by laying their lives down sacrificially.

There is a selfishness that marks the church-goer of this day that I am afraid belies something, the real absence of discipleship. A good question for every professed believer to ask himself is how much his discipleship resembles the Christians held before us in the book of Acts. The “Me, me” of this day, the insistence that a church offer everything one seeks as the basis for attending is shameful and foreign to Biblical Christianity.

Though increasingly rare, it is a joy to see individual Christians and families who are most concerned about whether or not God has called them to a local church body and whose basis of answering that question is not what is in it for them. God has His children/servants who by faith believe it is better to labor and receive than to only seek to receive.

What joy there is in seeing a church become something, what a privilege to have a role in helping a church become what God wants it to be.

Power

Posted by Gary on May 10, 2010

U.S. Capitol Building detail by Kevin Burkett1 Chronicles 29:11-12 “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.”

Last week I joined my daughter and her grade school class on a trip to Washington D.C. to tour the Capitol and visit the Smithsonian. As we walked about I saw what was the appearance of power everywhere. Dark suits, attaches, sunglasses back on the head, clusters of people outside of meeting rooms, names of influential people on office doors, to those whose hearts and lives are bound up in this world I am sure it is very impressive.

As I went through my day it was increasingly obvious that this is the place of action and those involved in it think themselves movers and shakers. But in truth, Washington and those in it do not know what power is nor do they possess it. Power belongs to God.

It was striking to me as I looked on the people in the suits with the briefcases that time is rolling over them like it has over every other Washington power broker in the past whose bodies are now being eaten by worms and whose souls have already gone to their place either to heaven by the mercy of the all-powerful God or to hell to receive there forever the justice of God.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Trusting in princes-redux

Posted by Gary on February 5, 2010

I find that the concern in me regarding today’s Christians and their political pursuits does not cease. I wrote an initial post entitled, “Trusting in Princes” to express my concern and revisit the topic today.

I understand fully that for now we are creatures of this world and much of our life must be taken up with the things of this world. We have to eat, work, sleep and have obligations that come from living in this world, this is all granted. Yet, the Bible commands the Christian to keep his focus, efforts and affections on the things above as much as possible (Colossians 3:1-2).What we think about, what we become joyful over or unhappy about reveals more than anything where we have placed our affections and trust.

I would ask Christians in our day to examine themselves to find out how much their thoughts, affections and trust are tied to the political happenings of this world compared to the things above and the gospel.

For example, how much do we find ourselves thinking about healthcare reform in comparison to thinking about how many people will die this day and enter eternity separated from Christ? How much time do we spend beefing up on political happenings compared to time beefing up on knowledge of Scripture, Christian living and theology? Are you more angry about the government czars appointed by the President than you are that 45,000,000 million babies have been slaughtered by our nation since the early 1970’s? Are you really angry about abortion? What have you ever done about it? How much do you know about the battle that surrounds abortion in comparison to what you know about the battles being fought in congress?

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Onto something?

Posted by Gary on March 17, 2009

In a recent Christian Science Monitor article entitled, “The Coming Evangelical Collapse” Michael Spencer holds forth the prediction that Evangelicalism as we know it will collapse within the next 10 years. While I am not certain about the time frame, I am in agreement with much of Spencer’s assessment and prediction. I would also say that a collapse of much of what is called Evangelicalism would be the best thing that could happen for the Christian faith in the west. Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the article:

“We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the “Protestant” 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.

Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I’m convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.”

I will leave you to read the article for yourself but I want to pick up on something Spencer points out which is one of the reasons he believes Evangelicalism will collapse. Spencer mentions that Evangelicals have identified themselves with “the cultural war and with political conservatism.” I cannot agree more and have shared my thoughts in this post. Here is the quote from Spencer’s article:

“Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.

The evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can’t articulate the Gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith.”

It is that last line…“We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith” that stood out. I recently started reading again the book “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis. If you are familiar with this book you know it is comprised of a series of imagined letters between two demons, one more experienced and of higher rank who corresponds with his nephew, an underling named Wormwood.

In letter number VII Screwtape gives his nephew advice on how to bring harm to his assignment, a man who has recently become a Christian. The issue has to do with whether the underling should encourage his patient to be a pacifist or patriot in response to the recent war (I assume WW II). The demonic advice seems to be strongly at work in our day. I will leave it with you to ponder:

“Whichever he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of a partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the “Cause,” in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the war-effort or of Pacifism.

The attitude you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and Faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours—and the more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here.”

Your affectionate uncle,

SCREWTAPE

How dare you

Posted by Gary on November 14, 2008

A South Carolina Catholic priest has had the audacity to tell his parishioners that their claim to faith should govern their choices in life. In a day when you and I are told that we can define what being a Christian is or that we can practice Christianity cafeteria style (“I’ll take that, but not that”) the Reverend Jay Scott Newman has spoken clearly:

"Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exits constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ’s Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation."

Under the judgment of divine law? Reverend Newman don’t you know that we don’t believe such a thing even exists? At least not for people who go to church. We really believe that judgment only awaits only a few people and of course not us or anyone we love. Judgment belongs to people who do horrible things like murder people, you know like Hitler and his six million or Stalin and his thirty million. You don’t mean to assert that our annual murder of forty two million babies will bring divine judgment do you?

Condemnation? Reverend Newman you and your kind are the real extremists, you mean to tell us that we are sinful and evil people who deserve to be punished. Even worse you would have us believe that God actually condemns people and sends them to hell. Maybe your God Reverend Newman but not our God, our God is love. Yes, we know His Word contains many warnings of His justice and holiness but we know that God finally realized that He was being unloving and harsh and changed Himself:

Malachi 3:6 "For I, the LORD, do not change…”

Jesus doesn’t have anything to do with judgment:

Revelation 19:11-15  “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.”

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Third diocese splits from Episcopal church

Posted by Gary on November 8, 2008

1 Corinthians 11:19 “…for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”

A third diocese recently split from the Episcopal church over, “the Bible, gay relationships and other issues” according to this story. It is encouraging to see faithfulness to God’s truth in a day that is marked by such unfaithfulness. A fourth diocese will take a similar vote in one week.