A Sober Exhortation to Preachers and Future Preachers…

This is taken from a message I gave a few years ago to a few future Pastors and Church leaders. I have condensed it for this blog…

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. ( 2 Timothy 4:1-7 NKJV)

In the 19th century our nation was visited by a renowned French author, historian, and philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville. He came to America to look for the source of her greatness, and this is what he said:

“I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution.

Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits AFLAME WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

I have a deep frustration with the current evangelical ethos in America today. I long to see “pulpits AFLAME WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS “ once again. Many say about government, that our governors are a reflection of the people who put them in office, and I believe this to be true, I also believe that Christians in America are a reflection of the preaching they sit under. I feel the American people have ceased to “be good” and have become the scourge of the world mainly because of its preachers. We live in a time where many of the pulpits of our country are occupied by pragmatists and cowards, men who are afraid to preach the “whole council of God.”

Whatever happened to biblical words like sin, righteousness, judgment, wrath, holiness, and hell?

All too often preachers who refuse to use these words are in effect believing that they are wiser than God. Preachers all to easily can deceive themselves and this why Paul has given the young preacher Timothy this exhortation and four directives or charges:

First he is to faithfully preach the word, second he is given an instruction “when” and “how” to preach, third he gives reasons “why” he must preach, and fourth he is given a call to persevere.

In Paul’s first directive he commands Timothy to preach the word, verse one:

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word!

Paul “charges” or gives Timothy a mandate to Preach the word. In his mandate is a reminder that he is to preach in the sight of God and the Lord Jesus Christ who will be his Judge. Paul reminds him that he is to Preach “GODS word“ not his own. Paul knows that this young preacher needs to be cautioned that he is handling the very words of God. Very similar words are found in James 3:1

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.

So very often I hear modern preachers softening the tone of God’s word or moderating the plain teaching of scripture. I understand their primary motive, they feel they do not want to “offend” people and thus turn them away from the Gospel. These preachers refuse to use words like Hell, Sin, Judgment or other words like these.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that: THE LANGUAGE OF THE BIBLE, IS THE LANGUAGE OF GOD

God wants people to hear his voice, and his voice is best heard through the unadulterated, undiluted preaching of his Holy Word, not through the preachers pragmatic approach to people’s sensitivities. Preachers must be cautioned not to soften God’s word or avoid preaching on certain texts. When preachers do this, they are saying to God that they are wiser than Him when it comes to dealing with people.

Again this is a weighty exhortation to preachers: THE LANGUAGE OF THE BIBLE, its promises, its comforts, its warnings, its harsh tone to the disobedient, all of it is…

IS THE LANGUAGE OF GOD

Preachers must be careful how they handle it, they must be careful of what they stress as “important“, and what they stress as “as not that important“. I think of the words of Jesus words in Mat 12:36-37

“But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

In Paul’s second directive he instructs Timothy “when” and “how” to preach, verse two:
“Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching.”

This “in season and out of season” is a clear call for preachers to be faithful to God and to His word in all situations and in all circumstances, to be faithful to the word whether the circumstances are favorable or not. Faithfulness to the ministry of the word is what he is called to, not what he thinks is “effective”.

He tells Timothy to convince or to correct, which simply means it is the preachers responsibility to teach his hearers where they are in error and to point out the sin in their lives. The word that is translated “convince” in this text is the is the same word translated “convict” in John 15:8 when used in speaking of the Holy Spirit’s ministry :

“And when He has come, He will “convict” the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment”

Robert Murray M’Cheyne in a message he gave in February 1837 titled “conviction of sin” said this about preaching:

Why should you say that we (preachers) are harsh and cruel and severe when we begin to deal with your souls by convincing you of sin? Am I become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

When the surgeon comes to cure a corrupted wound, when he tears off the vile bandages which unskillful hands had wrapped around it, when he lays open the deepest recesses of your wound and shows you all its venom and its disease — do you call him cruel? May not his hands be all the time the hands of gentleness and love?

Or, when a house is all on fire, when the flames are bursting out from every window, when some courageous man dares to alarm the sleeping inmates, bursts through the locked door, tears aside the close-drawn curtains and with impatient hand shakes the sleeper, tells him to wakeup and run A moment longer, and you may be lost! Do you call him cruel? Or do you say this messenger of mercy spoke too loud — too plainly? Ah, no. All that a man has he will give for his life.

Why, then, brethren, will you blame the minister of Christ when he begins by convincing you of sin? Do you think that the wound of sin is less venomous or deadly than a wound in the flesh? Do you think the flames of hell are less hard to bear than the flames of earth? The very Spirit of love begins by convincing you of sin; and are we less the messengers of love because we begin by doing the same thing? Oh, then, do not say that we are become your enemy because we tell you the truth!

We have moved a long way away from the preachers of old like this. It takes a lot of Courage to step on peoples toes but this is exactly what Paul is telling Timothy to do! He tells him to rebuke and exhort, this implies to be sharp or severe and to warn of the consequences of disobedience and of future judgment.

Charles Spurgeon charged his student future preachers that it is their job to: “thrust the sword of the spirit – into the hearts of men”

It is important to understand people don’t need the word of God toned down in order to swallow it, they need it given as Paul says with all long suffering and teaching. He is telling Timothy to be patient with people, as opposed to getting angry with them knowing that Godliness takes much patient teaching and instruction. They are to give the word in strong doses but to be patient as it says in Gal 5:9

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

In Paul’s third directive he gives Timothy reasons “why” he must preach In verses three an four, Paul warns Timothy what will happen to the sinful nature if it is left unchecked

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

Isn’t this exactly what has happened in the modern Christian culture. Many of today’s “Christian’s” have a shopping mall attitude about Christianity. We have leaders who fuel this attitude with marketing schemes, and “specialized” ministries to meet every so called need because “this is what works”

A Fox News article Called “Religion gets supersized at Mega Churches” helps makes my point:

These massive holy houses attract churchgoers by the thousands with celebratory services that tout contemporary music, television screens and sermons that aren’t “churchy,” according to the pastor of the nation’s largest church. But critics say the sin-free pep rallies don’t encourage personal transformation and reflection, keystones of religion. Instead of a pulpit, pews and a group of familiar faces found at traditional community churches, megachurches can resemble a campus. “They are so large you can select the activity that you like,” said Ken Woodward, Newsweek’s contributing editor who covers religion. “If you want to lose weight Jesus’ way, you can join the weight-loss program or join a basketball team … These churches have so many people they don’t just sponsor a team, they sponsor a league. “Not everybody can afford to join a country club.” At the biggest church in the country, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, Pastor Joel Osteen preaches to some 25,000 people each week — and sin is not on the menu. Osteen said his goal is to “give people a boost for the week.” “I think for years there’s been a lot of hellfire and damnation you go to church to figure out what you’re doing wrong and you leave feeling bad like you’re not going to make it,” Osteen said. “We believe in focusing on the goodness of God.”

You see the spirit behind all this is a kind of pragmatic attitude that says: “hey its this is working, is bringing people into the kingdom, right” It is easy to aim at Mega Churches but this pragmatic spirit isn’t just found at these kind of churches it is all over modern evangelical Christianity. I would say (I could be wrong) that most of the decisions made in evangelical churches today are made solely based on “what works”.

But does this pragmatic approach really work in the long run?

What about the average American Evangelical Christian? How many can name all the ten commandments? How many have read the whole Bible? How many Churches have regular prayer meetings anymore?

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12

Remember Jesus’ sobering words in Matthew 7

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Are these churches really helping and loving people if they keep the sobering truths of God’s word far from their hearers because they are afraid of offending them? Preachers must be careful not to become teachers that who “itch ears” and “turn ears away from the truth” and teach in Paul‘s word‘s to Timothy here: “fables”.

We need bold and courageous Preachers who will Preach and teach “the whole council of God”.

In Paul’s fourth directive he calls Timothy to persevere in his preaching ministry, verse five:

But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Of all people the Preacher must guard himself because as Jeremiah said:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
It is so easy for the preacher to slip into self deception, and to do, as one man has said: to run from the 3 “C”s of Conflict-Controversy & Confrontation to embrace the 3 “C”s of Comfort-Compromise & Cowardice.

If the preacher cannot see the “deceitful nature” of his own “sinful heart” how will he teach others? And if the preacher will not confront the “deceitful nature” of their peoples “sinful hearts” who will? Oprah? Dr Phil? The politicians? The news media? No! God has given this ministry to the Preacher! How many modern preachers are willing to take this call? The call to confront people with who they really are? Wretched sinners who need God’s Amazing Grace to help us overcome the sin that wreaks havoc in our lives.

This kind of ministry is not easy, it doesn’t always win them many friends, as a matter of fact it some cases it could be very costly. But if preachers are not willing to carry their crosses and be crucified (by possibly being called nasty names, having their intentions maligned or even being falsely accused because they expose the deed‘s of darkness and bring them to the light, just like our Savior did) how will those who sit under their ministry do the same and carry their crosses in their workplace and neighborhood?

I once spoke with an old Methodist minister who after many years in the ministry said to me in speaking of his congregation, “they know how to make old men like me shut up”, In it I could hear the regret’s of an old preacher. I thought about what I would say to him if I ever get the chance to speak to him again. I would encourage him, I doesn’t have to end that way, preach the truth! – Who cares what it cost’s you now you’re an old man and you don’t have much to loose GO FOR IT! You have only one life! You still have time fight the good fight, run the race! Finish well so you will hear the words “well done good an faithful servant”…

Preachers are to Preach, Teach and Minister in such a way – as their death approaches they won’t have any regrets. This way they can say with Paul the words he says to Timothy in verses 6 and 7 of this 4th chapter:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

May God raise up faithful Timothy’s all across our land so that our churches and our pulpits in America will once again be AFLAME WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Lar

“Homeschoolers are only good for cleaning toilets”

RC Sproul Jr. once said as a homeschooling dad that he was either raising up martyrs or warriors for the next generation.

This article by Gary Demar at American Vision shows that if homeschooling survives in this country and continues to grow at the rate it has been, homeschoolers of the future will more than likely be running the show!

If you are a homeschooler or are thinking about being one please make sure to read through many of the responses, they are very encouraging indeed!

Christ and Culture

Culture receives its meaning from the meaning of history… Historic Christianity… believes that Christ stands at the center of history…. According to Scripture, Christ is king not only in his natural prerogative as eternal Logos, co-equal with the Father and the Spirit, but he has been anointed Mediatorial king in virtue of his obedience and sacrifice rendered on Calvary… Whereas the first Adam fell into sin and disobedience through the subtlety of Satan, Christ as second Adam fulfilled all righteousness and he finished the work given him by the Father. In his office as Mediator, Christ is the Reconciler of the world, the first principle (arche’) and Logos of history, the Key to Culture…

The kingdom of our Lord is broader than the church as a visible organization, although the visible church is one of the most important manifestations of that kingdom in this world. But, as a matter of fact, the citizens of the kingdom of God are also members of families, of societies and nations, and as such they must show their allegiance to the King.

Henry Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture

PBS Special: Jesus in China

If you weren’t aware of it PBS will be running a Frontline special called “Jesus in China” on Tuesday evening at 9pm Eastern Time (Chicago Channel 11 Tuesday 24th at 9pm and rebroadcast again on Thursday the 26th at 2 am) on the spread and explosive growth of Christianity in China, especially the growth of the persecuted underground house church movement which is starting to emerge from its persecution. Here is its promo:

A wave of Christianity is sweeping across China and the Chinese government is racing to control it. In Jesus in China, FRONTLINE/World travels from rural villages to urban centers to find out what is at the heart of the movement. read more…

Here is a preview:

Also, the featured story on the front page of the Chicago Tribune this Sunday was titled “Jesus in China” if you hasn’t read it you can find it here

What I find interesting is how Christianity always affects the political landscape – As a peoples ethics change (as Christianity inevitably does to a people) Its political landscape is changed as well – ethics, politics and law are inevitably bound together (neutrality in the area of law is a myth, law is the en codification of a peoples collective ethic which is shaped by their ethical values).

Political liberty eventually came to the early church who was at first persecuted by Caesar, to the eventual legitimization and acceptance of Christianity by Constantine (Caesar is not Lord, King Jesus is and Caesar is to submit to Christ’s ultimate authority). Later the medieval and later Kings submitted to Christianity’s definition of ethical boundaries for Christian rulers (they are not God but are to rule under God, ethically defined by the scriptures) This put limitations on the power of Caesars, Kings and Governments resulting in liberty.

Because of Christianity freedom has been the inheritance of western civilization. First Christianity sets men free spiritually from the bondage of their sin – then as it progresses collectively in a nation – it give birth to greater religious, political, civil, and economic liberties. In short Christianity is a religion of liberty and it will once again give liberty to the people of China from its Marxists Persecutors and Lords.

Lar

The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted. To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed Luke 4:18 NKJV

Cultural Engagement?

I need some help, someone needs to give me a definition for what contemporary evangelicals call “cultural engagement”.

When evangelicals talk of cultural engagement, sometimes I wonder where the “engagement” part is…

Sometimes evangelicals make a dichotomy between some kind of “soft or loving engagement”, “intellectual engagement”, and “confrontational engagement.” They often do the same with evangelism, there is evangelical apologetics, sharing the gospel, and then there’s “confrontational evangelism.”

My question is:

Is using the term engagement really “engagement” at all… are we lying to ourselves when we use this term?

In doing a short survey of online dictionaries here are some of the definitions for engagement:

An encounter, conflict, or battle (dictionary.com) / A hostile encounter between military forces (Merriam-Webster’s dictionary) / A hostile meeting of opposing military forces in the course of a war (Free dictionary) / A fight or battle between armed forces (Oxford dictionary) / A tactical conflict, usually between opposing lower echelons maneuver forces. (Wiktionary) / In any situation of conflict, an actual instance of active hostilities. (Wiktionary) / Employment in fighting; the conflict of armies or fleets; battle; a general action; appropriately the conflict of whole armies or fleets, but applied to actions between small squadrons or single ships, rarely to a fight between detachments of land forces. (1828 Webster’s)

I’ve given this a lot of thought and I wonder if the real “cultural engagement” comes from the type of folk that many evangelicals are uncomfortable with:

Often evangelicals (not all) think of these folks as kooks and crackpots, people who make the name of Jesus look unpleasant, ridiculous, or even obnoxious.

I wonder who looks more like they are engaged as defined by the definitions above – evangelicals who claim to be “culturally engaged” (somehow very softly) or these “kooks and crackpots” who are actually out there speaking prophetically to the culture about sin and righteousness and judgment?

When it comes to “engagement” I think of the prophets, Elijah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah, I think of John the Baptist, Jesus Christ or the Apostle Paul all who preached “repentance” – these are the biblical examples of “cultural engagement”.

When I think of church history and men like Wyclif, Hus, Tyndale, Knox, Bunyan, Guthrie, Renwick, and many more down through Church history, I think of men who truly confronted and engaged their culture, men who were ridiculed and were seen as radicals and crackpots by average churchmen of their generation. These men truly engaged the culture of their day often at the cost of their possessions, their families, and even many times to the cost of their life.

I wonder who would these men of old feel more kinship with? Contemporary evangelicals who claim they are “engaging the culture” or those we think of today as “crackpots and kooks”?

Lastly take a look at this video, as you do think about the impact this little group is having on the abortion debate. The hard and harsh truth sometimes speaks more a thousand words.

I thank God for these men and women. I have a deep respect for them, organizations like Repent America, Missionaries to the Pre-Born, Abort73 and Americans for Truth

Sometimes I wonder if these men and women are the true cultural warriors “engaging the culture” of our time.

If there were more Christians like these – militant, willing to confront the culture in all its sin and its wickedness, men and women who were willing to carry the cross of scorn and ridicule even from their fellow churchmen. Maybe, just maybe we would make a bigger difference in this culture for the kingdom of God.

Lar

Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, But such as keep the law contend with them… Proverbs 28:4 KJV

And when he is come (the Holy Spirit), he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment… John 16:8 KJV

Switch-Hitter Meets Ambidextrous Switch-Pitcher

Now this is neato, a switch pitcher…

Here is the full story

This guy could start 2 days in a row with no arm problems!

Germany: Parents sent to jail for homeschooling

If you didn’t know it, Germany has reinforced a Nazi-era law banning homeschooling.

The German courts have decided the parents do not have an “exclusive” right to lead their children’s education. The courts have said that Germany “has a justified interest in counteracting the formation of religiously or ideological “parallel societies”. They also view homeschooling as “child welfare endangerment”.

The Germany courts have decided that the state has primary jurisdiction over children not the parents. Fines now are not enough, now they are going to send families to jail for their rebellion against the state!

Fascism (National Socialism) hasn’t completely died in Germany after all…

The scary part is that Statism is alive and well here in America. Pray this tyranny is never legislated here. If Christians lose the right to educate thier children, Christianity in America will regress for many generations.

An example of how governments use education as a means of control and indoctrination is North Korea. The state has almost wiped out Christianity via harsh persecution and controlling education. It is so bad there that, the government uses teachers to spy on parents, “do your parents read the little black book?”. Christian parents have had to keep their faith secret, even to their own children.