Wednesday, August 30, 2006

An Introduction to the Emergent Church

What is the Emergent Church?
Is there something wrong with it? If so, what?
What do Harry Emerson Fosdick, William Sloane Coffin, Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller, Rick Warren and Bill Hybils have in common?
What is the emergent church's view of scripture, salvation, preaching and other important topics? Should we believe them or not? How do we know?
What does the emergent church have in common with the medieval church? Roman Catholicism?

If you profess to be a Christian, you need to know the issues. Please check this link out and give all five sermons on the emergent church (dated 01/24/06 to 02/09/06) a listen.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Spirit Led, Not Purpose Driven -- A Testimony

Here is a testimony from Apprising Ministries. May it bless you and encourage you as it did me.

Jesus Had it All Wrong?

Here we go again.

Normally, I enjoy much of what Ron Hutchcraft says. Today was different. Maybe it is just because he touched on a subject I'm so tired of and view as a rabbit-chase. I'm not out to get Ron Hutchcraft, but I'm so tired of hearing people talk about "not using Christian terms" when witnessing.

You can find his transcript here.

Ron Hutchcraft is rightfully concerned about getting the gospel out. But here we go again -- putting the emphasis on man rather than God. While I would agree that some phrases simply aren't even scriptural (such as "accept Christ as Savior"), there are a number of issues that I would like to address.

According to Ron, if we use the wrong words, someone may miss the Savior? No, Ron, not if God is sovereign and He has chosen His own. Jesus has already said that those who are drawn by Him will come to Him and all that the Father gives the Son will come to Him. Furthermore, Jesus says that no one can come to the Father unless they are drawn by Him (Just read John 6). In other words, clever language won't do it. It's an inside job done by the Holy Spirit. We are simply called to proclaim the Gospel. God will give the growth as we obey Him.

And what of Jesus? In John 3, when He was speaking to Nicodemus, did he give him "user friendly terminology"? No! The text says that Nicodemus reponded to the words "Born Again" with " How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" (John 3:4)

I guess Jesus had it all wrong?

And after 2000 years of using these terms, all the sudden they can't be used? Sorry Ron, I don't buy it. Especially in this day and age where redefining Christianity is so prevalent.

Ron wants to suggest that we should redefine sin as "running our own life instead of letting God run it". Yet, the biblical definition (among others) is "missing the mark" -- in other words, to not be perfect as God is. That is a big difference in definition. Again, the stress is taken off the need to " holy as God is holy" to just redirecting control to God. That doesn't cut it. Instead of a sinner needing to have forgiveness and the imputed righteousness of Christ, it's a simple matter of "letting God run your life".

I was sitting in Sunday School a couple of months ago. The Pastor was going on and on about "christianese". One after another, he would throw Biblical words up in the air like so many skeet. With each word, the cue to "shoot the skeet" was his question "What's wrong with that?". Of course, many said what he wanted to hear each time. And I just sat and listened.

When he got to "repentance", I had had enough. When he asked "What's wrong with the word 'repentance', I just replied "NOTHING".

The argument is that (supposedly) people don't understand these words. I don't think that is the case. How many times have you heard lost people joking about "I'd better repent or I'll go to hell". They understand. I think we're just ashamed of the words. So we want to soften them.

But what if they really don't understand the meaning of the terms? What would be wrong with explaining them? That is never even suggested, and that is really sad.

The words we use should be from God's Word. To make up new words, especially when they don't even convey the true meaning of the original is, I think, very wrong (and yes, I understand that translators have to construct terms to communicate truth in a new translation...but they are trying to convey what is in the original languages, not dumb the message down). It's kind of like a Bible study I went to years ago and one of the leaders would get the definition of a word from a modern english dictionary instead of digging into a just as easy to read Vines (Greek) Expository Dictionary. The result? A superficial, errant definition of a word in the Biblical text.

Sorry, but I have an issue with sloppy research.

So, back to our main point -- What else can a person do with an unfamiliar term? They can do what Nicodemus did -- ask! If the person isn't even interested enough to ask simple questions, are they really interested in what you are saying? Indeed, perhaps that was the very reason Jesus used the terms he used -- to spark interest and gain attention.

"Our word today from the Word of God" would seem to be contrary to what God Himself did in human flesh. Or did Jesus do it wrong?

It's not that hard, Ron. Do what Jesus did, not what you think he'd do.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Story of Conversion

Having started this blog just a few days ago, I thought this might be a good time to post the story of my conversion. Not that I had anything to do with it (as you will find as you read), but for the sake of God's glory.

May my story serve as a warning to those who are falsely assured of their conversion.

Born in 1954, I grew up in a "Christian" home. We went to a local Methodist church. I remember one time asking my mother "how do you get to heaven?" and she said "your father says you have to believe Jesus is the Son of God". Well, that was a form of the truth, but not the whole truth. And I'm sure my dad didn't mean to mislead.

Our family wasn't close. Dad worked alot to supply an income for our family. Mom eventually also worked selling various things, such as World Book Encyclopedias. And I was kind of a loaner. It was hard for me to make friends; in fact, I don't remember having any real friends during my youth.

This went on as I went into adulthood. In 1973, I moved to Peoria Illinois to work as a manager trainee at a restaurant. My "Christian" heritage was in my rear view mirror by then and I was basically developing chameleonic tendencies in order to get the approval of whoever I was around at the time. This got me involved, eventually, into the drug and alcohol scene, ironically starting with some younger "friends" of my parents who had once rented from them and since moved to Indianapolis. I'd go down there on a monthly basis and party with them for the weekend.

I was a very confused young man. I could only go along with things to a point, then I knew something was wrong. I just couldn't explain why.

Eventually someone told me about "praying to accept Christ". Well, again, I was only told part of the story. I'll explain later, but at this point I "prayed the prayer" and bought the argument that it was wrong to doubt my salvation. What I now realize is, is that all I had was an intellectual ascent to a body of beliefs, not a transfer of trust resulting in a personal relationship.

Not long after that, I ran into a group of legalists who convinced me that the point of the Christian life is to learn theology and pound at those who are "wrong". Well, this appealed to my pride and need for personal power and glory so I bit. I had no idea that the Christian life is one of dying to self. I began learning all about why not to believe various things. I studied the Bible on a regular basis (good) so that I could be ready to nail anyone who had a "wrong view" (bad). I even started studying Biblical (koine) Greek on my own from Machen's grammar

Eventually, I was listening to a series of tapes by John MacArthur about "The Hallmarks of Discipleship". He talked about true saving faith. But I still didn't get the point. However, I knew I was missing something. So, I left my job and went to California to study at a very good Bible Institute at Grace Community Church. Ironically, I was on that campus nine months but never asked the right questions about faith, and what real faith is. How I wish I would have asked.

After returning home, I got very discouraged. Contrary to what I saw in L.A., I saw a very political environment with the churches in our area. Unfortunately, I didn't understand that this wasn't about church, but about a person, Jesus Christ. So I ended up "taking a break" from it all.

I was about to find out how far I could fall without God in my life.

I ended up unable to hold a job; mainly because of the local economy. Lots of things shutting down. One layoff after another. As time went on, frustration grew and I ended up going to college. Feeling a need to prove to the world that I was "somebody", I made it a point to graduate first in my class -- and succeeded. However, because of the stress that involved I hurt alot of people who were very close to me. I left alot of emotional "corpses" in my wake as I sought to feed my ego by my GPA. During school, I was angry and focused on my studies. During breaks, I was drunk most of the time. By God's grace I never became an alcoholic.

Eventually I got a job at a large university. With it came a free Internet connection. That was a new "toy" to me and eventually I found the dark side of it all and eventually embraced it.

The short version is that I ended up returning to my old drinking habits, and eventually getting involved in all kinds of trash in an effort to be "happy". Pursuing personal happiness became my top priority. The problem went further...I was a member of a local service organization and could see that my hidden life was beginning to leak into my public life. Sin is never content to stay within the borders. What you practice in the darkness you will eventually cry from the housetops.

It was in July of 1998 that I was sitting at my computer. To my recollection, I had a secular cd in my computer and was listening to it. My point is that there was no preaching on a radio or TV, no Christian music in the background. But as I was looking at some political stuff on the Internet, it was as if "someone" was there and helped me suddenly understand the filth I had been in, and how horrible my life had become. Using and abusing people, all that. I also suddenly realized two things...that I was far from what my parents had raised me to be and (more importantly) I am a sinner before a very holy God.

See, that was the element that was missing from my earlier "pleas" to God. I had been trying to just add Him to my life as fire insurance. God doesn't honor that. I had been sold a bill of goods and failed to find out what the truth was. God, in His grace, was letting me know how wrong I had been.

Needless to say, I was in shock. I felt as if my jaw literally hit the floor. I began crying and got on my knees saying "God, have mercy on me, a sinner"; not realizing of course that I was quoting Scripture. I told the Lord that I didn't want to live that way any more and that I wanted to live as He wants me to live. In other words, I turned from my former way of life, confessing my sin and turning to God. That is repentance.

I now realize that being a Christian (a real one) is much more than "agreeing that Jesus is the Son of God". It is realizing that we are all criminals before a holy judge. He has found us guilty and passed sentence -- eternal separation from God in hell. HOWEVER, this same judge has also taken off his robe and come around to our side of the bench (Jesus came to earth and paid the penalty for my sin and yours ... He died in our place when he owed no penalty of His own). He then went back to his side of the bench (rose from the dead and seated at the right hand of God the Father) and declared my debt paid in full. That was the message I should have heard in my youth. That and the need to transfer my trust from myself to trust in Christ. It's not about "Faith". It's about "faith in Christ". I used to have "faith in faith". Now I trust Christ.

So, would you consider yourself to be a good person? Yes? Well, what about measuring yourself by God's standard? Have you ever told a lie? What does that make you? A liar? You say "well, I've never murdered anyone"... but have you ever hated anyone? Jesus said that if you hate someone you have committed murder in your heart. So that would make you a murderer just like it does me. You say you've never committed adultery? Jesus said that if we look upon someone with lust we commit adultery in our hearts. So we are adulterers. Ever stolen anything? I don't care how small. A pen from work? That makes you and I thieves. God says that no adulterers, liars or thieves, nor the covetous (among others) will ever enter heaven.

So what do you do? Ask God to forgive you? Would that work in a court of law? "Hey judge, I know you found me guilty and all but hey, can't you just forgive me?" Would that be a just judge? Of course not! Such a judge is a mockery to justice. But as I mentioned earlier, this Judge came around to our side of the bench and paid the eternal penalty for our sin.

It's not about "finding your purpose" or "filling a God shaped vacuum" or "finding peace". It's about being transformed from death to life. About establishing a transforming love relationship with a Judge who wants to be your father through the penalty paid by His Son, Jesus. It's about realizing that you and I have offended a holy God and asking him for mercy and grace, turning from our sin and embracing the One Who died for us.

So, now you know more about me and what my journey has been. I pray you know Him or are on your way to knowing Him.

In the Name of Purpose: Sacrificing Truth on the Altar of Unity.

Tamara Hartzell has come out with an e-book which discusses the "Purpose Driven" agenda and methodology. Click here to access the e-book.

Read it, and be warned as well as edified.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Challenging times

It was the apostle Paul who stated to Timothy that in the last days "
...the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths." (2 Timothy 4:3,4).

Clearly, we are seeing that today. Whether it is in the world driven contemporary church growth movement, including what is becoming known as "Warrenism", the "Emergent Movement" or Contemplative mysticism, the clarity and authority of the Bible, the written Word of God, is under increasing attack.

But this is no surprise. Again, it was fortold by God's Word in Paul's letter to Timothy nearly 2000 years ago.

Surely, we live in a "me" age of itching ears. Very few have any tolerance at all for the final authority of a holy God who deserves and demands our worship and obedience. Oh, no. We must have our entertainment!

Doctrine, better known as Biblical Truth, is spurned. It is deemed as impractical and divisive. I beg to differ! There is nothing more practical than sound doctrine!

Romans 12:1 tells us to be "...transformed by the renewing of our mind...". It comes down to an issue of being changed. And there is no transformation without the renewing of our mind. And how do we do that? By knowing the Truth. Not guesswork. Not what "feels right". But what is true.

It all starts with repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. But it doesn't stop there. It goes on via progressive sanctification. And that, my friends, is only realized by knowing Biblical Truth.

Jesus warned of this. In Matthew 7:21 and following, He speaks of a group of people (and some of whom may be reading this!) who have had all manner of experiences. But after they make their appeals, the Lord merely says "...I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.'

The phrase really means "...those of you who acted like I never gave you a law." See, it's entirely possible to have all manner of experiences and claim to spirituality and have no place in Christ. It's a matter of real faith being manifest in obedience. Jesus said in John 14:15 "If you love Me, keep My commandments."

The current trend in the evangelical church is a movement away from scripture to mysticism and pragmatism. If it feels good, it must be right. If it works, hey, it has to be right. And the Scriptures are being marginalized as unclear and unauthoritative as the professing church begins to embrace all manner of paganism and ecumenism.

Secular marketing techniques for church growth are quickly replacing the Biblical model. Instead of taking the spreading the seed of the pure gospel as we should, we are trying to gain numbers by asking unconverted fish what kind of bait to use. In other words, somehow we've decided that God's Truth and God's method (or commandment, if you will) is not sufficient. Somehow, God needs our wisdom. What utter nonsense!

And "faith" that is divorced from obedience is not real faith at all. Or at least not faith in the only worthy object which is God and His Word.

So, we begin this blog with a clear purpose; to be a light to those who choose truth, discernment and obedience over human folly.

God has given us a clear blueprint. He has spoken clearly and He has not stuttered.

Will we obey?