Monday, March 30, 2009

What God Expects When You Have His Word

Sunday I had the privilege of expounding Deut. 6:1-9. It was a personal challenge to my own heart, and was very sanctifying for my soul. Here in this text we see what God expects of His people who have been given His Word. There is a high demand placed upon them by God Himself, and that is something that our post-modern world cannot stand.

I was once at St. Paul's Cathedral in London where a female bishop got up to read Jonah 2. Before reading the text she said, "This story is hardly believable and is not to be taken literally." A church here in Czech Republic that I know of had a meeting a couple years ago where everyone in the church believed the Bible was the Word of God except the pastor. Another pastor I know once said to me, "In our church we don't preach against speaking in tongues and we don't preach for it. We don't preach against women being elders and we don't preach for it."

Well then, what in the world do you preach? If pastors have this view of the Scriptures then what do they do with Deut 6:1-9? Here in this text we see 4 expectations that God has for those who have His Word! They are to be taught the Word (6:1-2), to obey the Word (6:3), to love the Lord of the Word (6:4-5), and are to be consumed by the Word (6:6-9)!

And as pastors, if you aren't teaching your people the Bible, if you call Jonah a story that is hardly believable when Jesus Himself spoke of it as a literal, then you and your church are doomed! If you don't believe the Bible is the Word of God, then you have nothing to say on Sunday and you have no authority. If you won't preach against things and for things, then you are not preaching at all.

God in Deut. 6 taught the importance of knowing His Word, obeying His Word, loving Him, and passing on His Word to succeeding generations. When the church fails in this, it fails, and fails miserably. And the church is largely failing. We know of large churches that are dying. They are as plants with no water. The living Word is not being poured into their poor souls. They are dying of spiritual hunger. We know of dear people in these churches who are desperate for a man to lead them and preach the Word of God.

The time is desperate, there is a great urgency among us, and we watch these churches perish by the lack of men who will stand in the gap and say, "Thus saith the Lord!" Where are the men lining up saying, "let me preach!" Where are the men preaching the gospel calling people to Christ? Where are the men like John Knox who said, "give me Scotland or I die?"

Pray! Pray that God would raise up a new generation of men willing to go to the stake, men who are willing to travel down paths overtaken by thorns and vipers, men who are not afraid to stand for truth and preach the Word! And don't just pray, GO! The harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Truth Quote of the Week

Another truth quote from C. H. Spurgeon that sure does fly in the face of our post-modern world:

"Men of the world are apt to say, 'You are such a set of bigots; you think everybody wrong but yourselves.' Is it wonderful that if we think we are right, we do not believe that those who are opposed to us can be right also?"


Monday, March 23, 2009

The Age of Diotrephes

The apostle Paul told Timothy: "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivatae weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 3:1-7).

Does this not describe the age in which we live? We live in an age when people have deep love for themselves, yet are told they don't have enough of it (eg. self-esteem). We live in an age when people pursue wealth and material possessions at the cost of serving Christ. We live in an age when people call evil good (eg. homosexuality) and good evil (eg. saving the lives of the unborn). We live in an age when the church is filled with a lack of holy living, malicious gosspis, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. All this is undeniable. But we don't hear much about the Diotrepheses of the world.

The church today is full of such men. John describes him in his 3rd epistle:

"I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church" (3 John 9-10).

I have personally experienced such attacks at various points in our ministry. The stories some of these people have fabricated are false and they know it as I have never had the encounters with them that they have told people. I thought the shenanigans I experienced earlier in our ministry were but isolated incidents. But what is so amazing is the number of pastors I have spoken to in recent years who either have a Diotrephes in their church or have had one in their church. We live in an age when men desire the preeminence. This is nothing new of course. This is what Satan sought after when he was thrown from heaven with 1/3 of the angels.

These type of men will do whatever they can to hold their power and keep you from having any. If they have to fabricate stories and lie to discredit you or bring you down they will. If they have to twist Scripture to make it say what they want, they will. These are men who are ungodly, lovers of self, men as described in 2 Tim. 3:1-7, and men who are partners with the Devil in their deeds.

John in vs. 11 shows that this Diotrephes wasn't saved. I cannot say what the spiritual status of such men are, but John here wasn't afraid to say what the Lord makes of such people.

Men in the church, we are to be Demetriuses! He is mentioned in vs. 12 as having a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth iteslf. We are to be men of truth, men of God, men without a personal agenda, and men who walk in holiness and humility which are vitally and inextricably linked. Such men are lovers of God and haters of self, they are the opposite of everything Paul wrote of in 2 Tim. 3:1-7. May God expose the Diotrepheses of our day for who they are--ungodly, wicked, and agents of the Devil, and may He raise up more Demetriuses in the church to be a light to the world. A light that declares His glory among the nations (Ps. 96:3).

Friday, March 20, 2009

My Trip to Saddleback - Part 2

I wanted to follow up on my observations from my trip to Saddleback Church. This time focusing primarily upon the sermon.

After all the singing it came time for Rick Warren to preach. You can see his apparel in the picture to the right with his shirt untucked and very casual appearance. When he got up to preach he began with an introduction that lasted for about 5 minutes. Then someone came up to sing a song. After that he returned to preach. His sermon outline was okay, but not expositional. He said he was preaching through the Lord's prayer, so I was expecting an exposition of the prayer.

The portion of the prayer he said he was going to preach was "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil - Matt. 6:13." His outline should have been the points of application, not the main points of the sermon. You will NOT notice an explanation of the verse in the handout he gave or in his outline:

1. Identify what makes me vulnerable
2. Plan to avoid it
3. Guard my heart
4. Pray for deliverance
5. Turn my attention elsewhere

He said nothing of the biblical text and said nothing about what Jesus was teaching His disciples in the text, or why they should pray to not enter into temptation. He used at least 8 different Bible translations in the message to make his points. The worst was when he was preaching on guarding your heart, he had a little test for everyone to take. He said he would interpret the results for everyone at the end. Here is the test. Take it and see how you do and I'll give you his interpretation of your likeliness to fall into temptation:

Physically exhausted...................01234...Energetic & in shape
Discouraged or pessimistic.........01234...Encouraged & hopeful
Bored & discontented..................01234...Challenged & contented
Spiritually dry or empty.............01234...Spiritually alive & growing
Alone or distant from others......01234...Close to those you love
Insecure or unsure......................01234...Confident & secure
Wounded or deeply hurt............01234...Loved & understood
Bitter or angry.............................01234...Forgiven everyone
Like you've failed........................01234...Successful

Add up your score:
30-40 = You're in good shape
20-30 = You're in serious danger
0-20 = You're in crisis need

Amazing. What about the amount of time you spend in the Word, in prayer, in ministry serving, etc.? If you are in Rick Warren's category 30-40 where he pronounces you in good shape and not as likely to fall into temptation, then you are in danger according to the Bible. 1 Corinthians 10:12 "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall."

Two interesting statements he made in the sermon were--Jesus faced sexual temptations, and then he told everyone--"don't resist (temptation), refocus." I'll let you ponder those thoughts in your mind as you run them through the grid of Scripture.

Overall the sermon was very weak, no exposition of the biblical text, and very man-centered. The points of his outline were very practical and helpful, but there was no theological foundation or biblical motivation to live this way. There was no discussion of the consequences of sin, the judgment of God, no discussion of the fear of God, and no focus on holy living or the glory of God.

The service ended by him making a call for everyone to join a small group. I don't recall a gospel presentation or an opportunity to meet with someone to talk about coming to know Christ. But it's been over a week since I was there and maybe I forgot. But I don't think so.

I also closely watched to see if he would come down and greet people and shake hands, but he left and was nowhere to be found.

At a couple different points people came up to one of the guys I was with and forbade him from taking pictures. On the way to the parking lot we found a bulletin board with their church activities. We couldn't find there any Bible studies or "Sunday school" groups, but we did find a class on water hygiene. ???

Overall it was an interesting experience, and one that made me even more thankful for Grace Community Church where we were for the Shepherd's Conference

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Trip to Saddleback - Part 1

I thought I would comment on my trip to Saddleback Church. In this post I plan to speak about my observations with the exception of the sermon that was preached. That will be in the next post.

I went having heard many things and didn't really know what to expect. It was far larger than I anticipated; they even had their own traffic light on campus. The landscape reminded me of Disneyland on the outside with the running water, lighted trees, and etc. The inside of the worship center was smaller than I thought it would be, but they do have about 4 or 5 services.

We got there a few minutes late due to heavy traffic, so I wasn't able to see everything from start to finish, but they had just begun singing when we walked in. I did not recognize even one song that they sang. Their style of worship was very casual, which was evident before we even walked in the door. The door greeter was in flip-flops, a Hawaiian shirt, and those pants that don't go down to your ankles. Another observation was that no one had a Bible except the guys I was with and myself. You can see that in the picture to the upper right as people were walking to the worship service.

When Rick Warren headed to the pulpit after the choir finished singing, he started jumping in the air across the stage like a rap star and gave the worship leader "high fives." He then said, "cool." I was very surprised by that statement. I thought it was supposed to be a worship service where the natural response of the heart would have been "glory," "hallelujah," or "praise the Lord!"

It was obvious that the entire service was designed for the enjoyment of man. It seemed to me that the songs after the sermon seemed to be full of the words "you," "me," and "we" instead of words like "Christ," "Jesus," "God," "glory," and etc. Up to the point in the service that the preaching was to begin an unbeliever who may have been "religious" but not born again would have probably been very pleased. It was non-offensive, there was not too much talk about God, there were no demands placed upon your life, and the atmosphere in the building was very bright, colorful, and pleasant.

However, a believer hungry for truth may have felt differently. I personally was desirous of more depth and focus on the glory of God. I am trying to remember if there was much prayer in the service or Scripture reading, but don't recall at this point over a week later.

The next post will discuss the sermon that we heard. This is what I was most interested in out of everything.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Shepherd's Conference 2009

I just returned from a great time at Shepherd's Conference at Grace Community Church. It was fun seeing old seminary buddies, former professors, friends, fellow missionaries, and hearing some good preaching. It was also a packed week of meetings with church pastors, elders, missions organization leaders, and friends. I praise the Lord for the time there and for everything the Lord used to speak to my heart.

Here is a video I took of our pastor singing "Amen." I thought some of you would enjoy it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Home Sweet Home!

I just returned from the Shepherd's Conference at Grace Community Church. It was a great time seeing friends and hearing some good preaching. The weather was beautiful, the food was great, and the fellowship was sweet. However, it is good to be home with my lovely wife and kids! Praise the Lord!