Wisdom is Known in Her Children

Wisdom ProverbsPharisees hate integration and humility. Why? Because it keeps them from claiming superiority and prevents them from sitting on the throne of their own absolute authority. Today, we see a lot of this in some circles. Sadly, we see this attitude expressed very arrogantly in some Reformed camps. When the present generation fails to understand the wisdom of the previous generation, they always create division instead of biblical unity. True unity depends on two essential elements–the truth of God (the Bible), and the Holy Spirit of God.

If we attempt unity only on the Bible, we are left with the dry orthodoxy of natural minded men holding to propositional facts about God. If we attempt it only with the Holy Spirit, we have existential foolishness apart from any standard to evaluate. True unity must have the Word and the Holy Spirit. The propositional with the experiential. The mind with the heart. The descriptive with the demonstrative. The facts of the message with the living fellowship with Christ.

Dr. John MacArthur is a prime example of ministering from the head without including the heart, the Word without the Holy Spirit, dryness of teaching apart from the living presence of God. He seems to be constantly leading a book promotion tour for his “Strange Fire” release by continually attacking and throwing non-cessationists under the bus of his fundamentalism. After years of watching Dr. MacArthur and reading many of his books, it is sad to see him spiral downward into this pit of hostility. This is especially sad when you watch some of the conference videos and see the laughter, mocking and snickering the speakers express as they toss out everything supernatural. Exposing the false always carries the danger of crossing a line and painting with too broad of a brush.

Thank God for lifting the skirts on the disgusting, manipulative and demonic activities of the majority of Charismatic leaders, especially those we see on religious TV programming. However, when wisdom is not used, those leading the charge will also implicate millions of godly believers who distant themselves from these extremes. The days of dry dogma are over. I know some dear Reformed brothers who minister under the living presence and joy of the Lord. They are not afraid of the presence of the Holy Spirit…in fact they cry out in prayer for it and their ministries are very fruitful. MacArthur and his Continue reading “Wisdom is Known in Her Children”

Freedom to You…Freedom from You

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen believers get serious about walking in the Spirit and following the Lord’s call for their life, they face one of the most dangerous places of their life. That place is not in obeying the Lord, but in how to communicate with those who are called differently or in another direction. We all want freedom and encouragement from others to follow the Holy Spirit’s leadership to us, but it is easy to demean or put down others not called to the same work. We must learn the principle of freedom to you…freedom from you!

If we want others to give us the liberty to respond to the call of Christ upon our life, we must give them the same liberty. If we do not, we will become legalistically assertive with our ‘vision’ and seek to impose it as a standard for all. Our communication will become coercive and over-authoritarian, and fail to display the liberty Christ has given to every believer.

If someone has a call to obey the Lord to do a particular ministry, and it does not violate the truth or standard of Scriptures, then praise the Lord. It does not matter if we agree with the how, when or whats of their calling, that is between them and the Lord. We must grant them this freedom and pray for them as they seek to obey their call with honest hearts and commitment. Every genuine believer is the Lord’s servant, not man’s.  Continue reading “Freedom to You…Freedom from You”

How To Kill A Movement

Fat manChurch history is replete with stories of how ‘natural minded’ men seek to control the work of the Holy Spirit with bureaucracy and red tape. Another such story came across my desk per a dear friend. The explosion of church planting and missionary work in the early days of America are filled with stories of sacrifice and uniqueness among the circuit riders who blazed trails across this country to take the gospel to every man in horrid conditions. Both Methodist and Baptist missionaries traveled in difficult conditions and with God’s Spirit to plant thousands of churches among the unreached in our great land.

When we get too ‘big for our britches’ we begin to think more in terms of organization instead of organism. This shift has been the death of many movements of the Holy Spirt within Christianity. Here is another sad story of how organization can kill the Holy Continue reading “How To Kill A Movement”

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit–Discernment or Rejection?

Holy Spirit, Not by mightEveryone seems to have an opinion about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Christian publications, television, conferences and denominations are filled with thoughts, discussions and positions about them. There are usually two sides to this issue. On one side we have wild-eyed false prophets claiming to exercise the gifts while they manipulate and control gullible and ignorant believers. Then on the other side we have spiritually dry intellectuals holding conferences to proclaim that the Holy Spirit doesn’t operate like He did in the New Testament and teaching that all who claim to operate in gifts are under the power of Satan and are not genuine Christians. Wow…are those our only options?

It is easy to get into some dramatic and wild arguments about whether some of the gifts have “ceased” or whether all remain. Discussions about neuter nouns and modifiers in the Greek are all fascinating as men perform linguistic backflips in order to deny God’s gifts for today. (No one would read through the New Testament and arrive at the position that gifts have ceased. It only comes about with linguistic gymnastics by those scared of or predisposed against them.) Equally ridiculous are the silly presentations of the so-called ‘Word of Faith’ cronies making the gifts up under their own carnal desires rather than submitting to God’s Word. (No one would read through the Scriptures and conclude that the charlatans we see on religious TV are under the influence of the Holy Spirit. To do so only comes about through lack of discernment.)

LifeWay research did a survey a couple of years back asking Southern Baptist pastors, “Do you believe that the Holy Spirit gives some people the gift of a special language to pray to God privately?” 50 percent of SBC pastors said “Yes” and 43 percent said “No” while the Continue reading “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit–Discernment or Rejection?”

The World Will Hate You

chainsIn our day of political correctness, ‘likability’ has become a golden calf. This has become true in many of our churches and pulpits. We must seek to go out as “lambs among wolves” when sharing the gospel, however, we must be careful that we do not dumb down the message beyond recognition.

There are a couple of issues that we must clearly understand in order to prevent us from watering down the gospel and getting caught up in the swell of cultural softness. We must never take the nails, thorns or splinters away from the scandal of the cross as we share, but we must make sure our presentation of those truths are not muddled by the ugliness of carnality and bitterness. Nothing is a ugly as a preacher sharing the glorious truths of Christ with harsh bitterness, frustration or control. It makes a mockery out of the message and fails to present the God of the Scriptures.

If we stand for the truth and Spirit of the gospel, we will be persons who are:

  • Loving
  • Gentle
  • Courteous
  • Kind
  • Tenderhearted
  • Respectful
  • Truthful
  • Honoring others

Equally so, when we stand for the gospel we will also be: Continue reading “The World Will Hate You”

Christianity: It’s Not Just About Doctrine!

aposlescreedHave you ever heard, “Well, his doctrine is correct.” or “He believes in a sound statement of faith.” These are two examples of  statements which are common among evangelicals in regards to community and fellowship. It is imperative that we understand that Christianity is not just about doctrine. A person can be correct on all the major points of theology and yet spiritually dead or heretical in practice. We can be as straight as a gun barrel and just as empty.

In many of our mainline churches, the Christian faith has been reduced to a set of doctrines which one must adhere to. That is good, if we do not stop there! Certainly, the historic faith of Christianity can and should be presented in the fashion of sound theological propositions. However, the ‘faith’ of Christianity is way more than just some accurately stated doctrines or correct mental belief. At its core, it is about an initimate and personal relationship with the risen Savior. And this relationship takes place through repentence and faith in the finished work of Christ at calvary.

There are many ‘professing’ believers who would tow the line on sound doctrine, but whose lives are still destined for hell because they have not entered a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Sound doctrine protects us from cultic/heretical representations and preversions of the Christian faith. Therefore, sound doctrine is essential for accurately presenting and holding to the biblical view of God, Man, Sin and Salvatiion. It is impossible for cults to flourish apart from erroneous doctrine, as false doctrine is the seed bed for strange and heretical views.  Continue reading “Christianity: It’s Not Just About Doctrine!”

Broken Boldness

broken-jar-2Arrogance in the pulpit–the great tragedy in the American Church. As pastors, we are called to be leaders, not in pride and aloofness, but in humility and brokenness. And we will be, as soon as we have a deep and fresh vision of our own sinfulness and constant need of the mercy and grace of God.

As pastors and elders, we are entrusted to communicate the glorious truths of the gospel. We are called to be God’s mouthpiece to the sheep under our care. And we will be, as soon as we confess that our own homiletical skills and linguistic craftsmanship is unable to pierce the heart of man for eternal value, and we cry out for God’s Spirit from on high to anoint our words and direct our messages.

As leaders, we are called to be examples of modesty and hospitality. And we will be, as soon as we see the waste of our silk suits, expensive automobiles and ostentatious houses, and we use our resources to reach those in our community who are needy and lowly.

Every morning, we must ask our souls, “Are you broken today?” The flesh loves to run the show, it loves to get the attention and applause of man. However, if we are to fulfill Continue reading “Broken Boldness”

Evaluating The Value of Modern Mission Trips

Cross and the WorldIn the mind of American Christians, the thought of modern missions usually consists of people dropping $2,000 or more to fly to an overseas mission field and teach kids how to comb their hair or kick a ball. However, it usually includes very little that reflects biblical missions. We leave the field with smiles and tears, but with very few conversions. We come home with the joy of having gone, but with the realization that a lot of money was spent for very little return of spiritual fruit. It seems it has become more about us…about appeasing our conscience over the lack of sacrifice we make for the gospel with our life of luxury. Instead of embracing the cross with all of our life, we offer one week out of the year to do ‘missions.’

For all the money, all the photos, all the hype, what do we really have to show for modern missions? Where is the revival?

Maybe we need to re-evalutate our mission trips and begin getting serious about what they should be in light of the pattern we see in Scriptures. Maybe we need less expensive ‘mission trips,’ and more gospel centered mission ministry. That is, trips which have purpose of equipping believers and reaching people with the gospel through street evangelism and church planting. Trips where fruit of conversions are the focus, and leaders are equipped to mentor believers, instead of just games, toys and western ideas of what outreach is about. Continue reading “Evaluating The Value of Modern Mission Trips”

Pastor, Have You Been With Jesus?

Pastor prayingPastors have a great influence in the lives of their flock–they are supposed to. As under-shepherds to Christ, we are to help direct and encourage the sheep to follow Jesus in the daily life. However, there is a dangerous trend we see in America among men in leadership. It seems very few spend quality time with Christ in prayer.

Many have detailed messages with elaborate outlines and cute points. However, a trained heart realizes that most information comes from books and sermon outlines they have quickly glanced over from ministry helps, and not from time on their face seeking the heart and mind of God. We have dead preachers preaching dead sermons to dead congregations.  Continue reading “Pastor, Have You Been With Jesus?”

Changing Hurdle Jumpers

hurdleWe have been rapidly moving toward a post-Christian culture. That can be daunting to those, like myself, who are old enough to remember the Christian dominating culture and have lived through the transition. However, if we embrace one important dynamic, it does not have to be the hurdle we think it is.

In order for many of our neighbors in our culture to ‘come to church,’ they must jump many hurdles to get to our services. Some of those hurdles are:

  • Meeting times – do we worship a day or a person?
  • Dress codes – do ties and dress slacks make us more spiritual?
  • Meeting protocol – why 3 songs, an offering, a sermon and a prayer?
  • Bible linguistics – why heavy theological language which most don’t understand?
  • etc.

The average ‘posty’ (my term for a post-Christian person) must jump over these and many other hurdles in order to ‘fit into’ our puritanical and centralized pattern of church. Continue reading “Changing Hurdle Jumpers”

Not the Couch…The Cross!

Counselor CouchThis post is for Church Leaders: Today’s pastors are expected to be a jack of many trades. One particular job that has been laid at their feet is not only dangerous, but destructive. It is the expectation to be a free version of a professional counselor. People want to meet with the pastor and muse over all the emotional baggage of their life under the pretense of looking for answers. Many times, these encounters have to be repeated every few months in order to provide a ‘release’ for those craving an audience for venting their frustrations, and to keep them afloat.

It must stop! For the spiritual health of the leaders and their need to spend time with God in prayer and the study of Scripture, it must stop! Pastors must be bold enough to make a couple of things clear to their congregations and those ‘needy visitors’ who, under the pretense of possible membership, will suck the life and time out of your week. Here are a couple of potential helps.

Pre-Counseling Requirements for Members:

1. Attend regular services. (When the doors open, be there!)

2. Respond to what is taught.

3. Repent for any thing preached which fits your life. (Not discussion about it, but repentance.)

4. Take the necessary paths to restore relationships with those you’ve offended–NOW! Continue reading “Not the Couch…The Cross!”

Rescuing and Healing the Wounded

RestorativeCDFrontBookCovercopy2My latest book, “Restorative Church Discipline: Rescuing and Healing the Wounded,” just became available in paperback. In this book we take an in-depth look through the biblical steps in reaching out and rescuing those overtaken in sin. It is time, as believers, that we stop shooting our wounded and begin caring for our brothers and sisters who are hurting and abandoned in their sin.

This is not a theoretical book. Instead, we walk through each step, explaining their ramifications, looking at the pitfalls, and giving insight from Scriptures. The information in this book comes out of practice, not out of detached doctrine. During 30 years of ministry I’ve witnessed many believers and churches get damaged because of the lack of genuine care to restore them to Christ. Biblical accountability is one of the great watersheds in our day.

If you’ve ever wondered about the ‘how to’ of employing Restorative Church Discipline, or the responsibility to reach out to those fallen into sin, you’ll gain many insights from this book. We cover many topics relating to reaching out to those wounded in sin. Some of Continue reading “Rescuing and Healing the Wounded”