Category: pastors

Is It Really Biblical Stoicism When . . .

The personal testimony of April Farmer was stirring and heart-wrenching!

It was well worth the listen and reminded me about what life is really like for many who live life outside of our awareness.

As I listened, I was moved by her aspirations to reach the place of “forgiveness.”

Nevertheless, I left her testimony with great ambivalence as to whether or not her view on forgiveness was actually biblical — once again!

The word “forgiveness” faces the same defining headwinds as other biblical words.  Like the word “love,” there are those who grossly misuse that word.  “Forgiveness,” like “love,” may be far removed from its biblical meaning.

Let me offer a series of 4 questions that reflect my ambivalence.

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#1 – Does the word “forgiveness” have different biblical meanings?

Is it one size fits all?

The answer is obviously, “no,” and the reason is equally obvious.  While Jesus was being crucified, He uttered these words — “Father, forgive (“aphiemi”) them for they know not what they do.”  If the prayer of Jesus was answered, forgiveness was granted!

Does that mean all those who crucified Jesus that day had their sin of rejection and crucifixion canceled?  Not according to Peter in Acts 2:23, as Peter calls on them to repent!

The word “forgive” (aphiemi)is the same word used in Matthew 6:14, 15 (“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”), Matthew 9:2, 6, 12:31, 32; 18:21, 27, 32, 35; et al! [1]

The word is legitimately, properly, and most often translated “suffer.”  Permit it to be, suffer it to be.  The words of Jesus to His Father were a call to suffer it to be.  Had not Jesus prayed that, all involved might well have been struck down straightway.

The word “forgive” (in the sense that we popularly use the word) can mean that, but it does not always mean, nor should it be translated as such!

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#2 – Is there “forgiveness of sin” (in the sense that we popularly use the word) without confession or repentance?

Does God “forgive” or “cancel the debt” without any confession that what was done was wrong.  Does God expect a repentant heart that seeks to make it right?

The Scriptures state that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.”  What if we do not confess them?  Are they forgiven by God? “Biblical forgiveness” requires confession.

In fact, it requires confrontation.  How do you even know if someone actually sinned against you if you do not confront them?  What if, in confronting them, they indicate that this-or-that is not even true!  It never happened.  That is why we are instructed to go to someone who sins against us. [2]

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#3 – What is a biblical response to wrongdoing?

If confession took place, forgive!
And if it happens again, and confession is made, forgive — 70X7.
The only requirement is a confession of wrongdoing.

Without confession that any wrong was done, there is no biblical forgiveness.  [3]  Nevertheless, there is the requirement of love, and that showing “love” may look very much like forgiveness.  I Corinthians 13 says you are to . . . . .

  • suffer it
  • show humility as an equal wrong-doer in life
  • not act unseemly — inappropriately
  • find no pleasure in one’s calamity
  • bear it
  • believe the best
  • hope that one day it will be made right
  • endure it

Are we to carry a grudge / offense?  Are we to go through life requiring that the “debt be paid.”

No!

We are to suffer it to be for now and maybe for all of our lives.

But there is no biblical forgiveness without confession/repentance.

Wrongdoers will have to deal with unforgiven sin in eternity, because it was never confessed to man and to God!

^

4 – “What does it matter? Just forgive them!”

After listening to the testimony of April Farmer (and others before her), I am primarily concerned that we are being taught to be “spiritual stoics.” [4]  That we are to smother our sense of wrong and wrong-doing, to douse wrong-doing with the word “forgiveness” and “act like” it no longer affects us.

If you doubt me, listen to the testimony (and that of others) as April shares how she has forgiven him yet betrays that she still has those feelings of anger and hurt.  Because you cannot wave the “forgiveness wand” over veritable wrongdoing. [5]  That betrayal of one who was your friend and even closest friend (Psalm 41:9), abandonment (or worse) by your covenantal spouse (II Samuel 11:3), seeing another unfairly mistreated (and worse) (I Samuel 20:34), friends who fail to stand in the hard days (Matthew 26:40,71) hurts and hurts deeply.

While one can suffer all things, one still suffers – bears -endures it!

To deny such hurt and pain is to deny the reality of who we are, and not sinful reality, but human reality!

We have been created as social-relational-emotional beings that feel hurt, anger, betrayal, insult, exploitation, injury, and more!

That does not mean we carry it around for life, but that over time, as we suffer all things and bear all things, we work our way through it.  Sometimes, working out way through it happens very slowly — and that is okay as long as we are on a path to that end.

“Just bear with me, I am trying to get there!” is real life and living, not the fake words of some kind of stoic “arrival.” Those words are the Christian’s reality in life and living in a fallen world and broken people.  It is the reality that I think even April Farmer states — though unwittingly.

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1 – Matt 6:9-15; 18:21-35; Luke 7:36-50; 11:1-4; Eph 4:31-32; Col 3:12-13
Two other words are translated “forgive.”

  • “charizomai” – which most realize comes from the word translated “grace”
  • “apoluo” – only two times translated “forgive” in one verse Luke 6:37

“charizomai” and “aphiemi” are used interchangeably in Luke 7:42, 43, 47, 48

^

2 – “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.”

Let me assure you that one day what is going to be judged and condemned by God —  is not the sins of a man, but the man for his unconfessed sins!

^

3 – There is a lot of self-righteous forgiveness when one states that they have forgiven another(s), or repeatedly forgiven so-in-so, when they do not even know if they have been sinned against.

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4 – John Dryden:

And none can boast sincere felicity,
With equal mind, what happens, let us bear,
Nor joy, nor grieve too much for things beyond our care.
Like pilgrims to the appointed place we tend

“Accept it and take it as from the hand of God for your life.  He brought this into your life, and you are to praise Him and rejoice in that He has allowed this!” — is just another one of those theological ditches that lacks the balance of Scripture!

^

5 – Yes, there is real/veritable wrong-doing, and there is perceived wrong-doing.  All of us have been wronged — real or imagined.  But when there is veritable wrong, confession is necessary for biblical forgiveness.  Nevertheless, we are commanded to still love — and to biblically love even our enemies!

^

Audio Link: Her personal testimony

Look For These Two Church Trends!

Calvinists are correct when they state that their theology has significant practical implications for life and living. [1] It is far more than just a set of theological beliefs revolving around the doctrine of salvation or delineating of the word “T-U-L-I-P.”

It has some significant and serious implications regarding pastoral counseling and care!

This is most apparent and pronounced when dealing with two groups of individuals within the local church — those who have been abused and those who are struggling with their assurance of salvation!

#1 – Those who have been abused physically, emotionally, psychologically, or sexually are all too often given a “theological schematic” to interpret what has happened to them. After experiencing a devastating emotional and psychological experience, he/she is told the Lord is in control of everything. Nothing crosses His desk that He has not stamped with His approval. He loves us, and He is sovereign in all the affairs of life!

“The Scriptures teach that ‘all things work together for good for those who love God.'” Therefore, this horrific experience will redound to your good after all is said and done! No matter how painful it may be, you are not to rely on our feelings and/or how it may seem to look, but you need to rest in Him.

The minimum outcome of such counseling is spiritual dissonance — trying to couple God’s love for us and the atrocious actions of others against our personhood. “Conflicted” is an understatement. The victim cannot understand such teaching and refuses to believe that it has come from a God who loves them.

Nevertheless, they now believe that they must always be joyous and thankful for what has happened since this is part of God’s plan for their life.  Sadly, this trend should be called what it is — Christian stoicism!

The shame and guilt that comes with not being able to thank, praise, acknowledge it as coming from His hand, and/or accept it as “good that is working together, only deepens the pain. Then some wonder why these people, and those who hear about such counseling, leave the church!

^

#2 – “Coincidentally,” it also has some significant and serious implications regarding a believer’s assurance of salvation!

Those struggling with doubts and fears will find little to no comfort from those pastors and ministry leaders who traffic on the extremes of Calvinistic thinking (or even those far less than the extreme edges).

The lack of pastoral care in these situations is far removed from the words of Jesus to Peter, after his blatant denial of the Lord — Peter, who, after three years of personal ministry and contact with the Lord, who was warned that such a denial would happen, who adamantly denied the possibility of such a denial!

Nevertheless,
“But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee.”
and
“Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”

The first and natural impulse is to conclude that one is not a believer. Rather than seeking a sincere and meaningful discussion about what is causing such doubts and/or fears, far too often, the road taken is to readily confirm such doubts. The doctor’s first diagnosis, with little or no sincere inquiry, is a confirmation of the worst of all possible conclusions — he/she is a child of Hell!

That is followed by calling up passages that cause consternation for any and all believers. Who hasn’t read this-or-that passage and felt the weight of such words? [2] Nevertheless, the very fact that one is sincerely and meaningfully concerned about their soul and eternity is of little-to-no import to such “doctors.” He/she must not be a true believer!

Instead of recognizing that assurance is a privilege given to those living for Christ, the theological momentum is toward “lostness.” The tendency is to put more of a burden on the back of believers rather than inquire about one’s devotional life, spiritual activities, friendships, prayer life, interest in the things of God, reading, music, social media, amusements, etc.

The cause of one’s doubts may be poor decisions and choices. The Holy Spirit is a noisy resident, and it may well be his residency that is causing the doubts. It may be one’s dissatisfaction with one’s growth, stagnation, progress, or a life experience that is causing the doubts!

It is just another form of “theological abuse,” as is the theological-ideology that allows marital abuse!

The doctrinal fountainhead [3][4] of this pastoral-ministerial approach is the belief that one can lose their salvation, that one must persevere to be a true Christain, and/or a practical denial of progressive sanctification.  Some can affirm their belief in “eternal security,” while also repeatedly creating doubt as to whether one is a believer based on some behavioral failure.  The theological term is “doublespeak.”  [5]

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1 – If you believe that such teaching is but a strawman, then take time to read what Tom Hicks of “Founder Ministries (headed by its president, Tom Ascol) has to say about marital abuse.

“The Bible teaches that God works “all things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11) and “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). People often feel anxious or fearful because they’re trying to control things that are outside of their control (Luke 12:25).

But Scripture teaches that God works all things for the good of His chosen people which means we have no reason to be anxious. We can know that everything which comes to pass is God’s love to us, no matter what we feel or how things seem. We, therefore, can quiet our fears because God governs all things for the good of His people . . . . But the Bible says that God controls everything, and that means He rules over all the results of our obedience. As we obey Him, He will certainly keep all His promises. While obedience will often bring suffering into our lives, that suffering cannot destroy us because God sovereignly guarantees that it will not. “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith” (1 John 5:4).”
https://founders.org/2017/05/11/some-practical-implications-of-calvinism/

Survivors also struggle deeply with God’s sovereign purpose in their lives. . . . Doctrinally, they often know the right answers to these questions, but emotionally and experientially, they struggle profoundly . . . . Christian spouses who are abused are suffering for Christ and are being persecuted for righteousness sake. God the Father spared not His only begotten Son to accomplish the redemption of poor sinners. And Christians who are abused share in His sufferings. Therefore, the church must be very tenderhearted and supportive toward abuse survivors. The Lord Jesus Christ does not crush the bruised reed or extinguish the smoldering flax.
https://founders.org/2019/04/24/how-your-church-can-serve-survivors-of-domestic-abuse/

2 – Before quoting Matthew 7 about “fruits,” check out its aim! It is about how to recognize false prophets who prophesied   (7:15, 22)!

While Christians should bear signs of being a believer, and there ought to be fruit that reflects what has happened in the heart, there is more to “fruit” than a definition that doesn’t touch one’s own life. Let’s talk about our prayer life, or who we have shared the Gospel with recently, our self-serving spirit, materialism, gluttony, pride, ego, etc.

3 -The practical fountainhead is a lack of self-awareness about one’s own sinfulness.

4 – Link To Lloyd-Jones’ Full Message

External Link To Lloyd-Jones Full Message

https://jameslau88.com/2020/05/10/the-doctrine-of-being-saved-eternally-by-martyn-lloyd-jones/

♦♦♦♦♦

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Eternal Security . . . .

“If this doctrine (Eternal Security) isn’t true, well then if you ever find yourself in glory, the glory will have to go to you for holding on.

The position would be this — that you like a number of other people, have been given the same gift of salvation and eternal life — They foolish didn’t hold on it, but that you did.  And therefore the glory goes to you for holding on.

But that’s a blank contradiction of the teaching of the Scriptures everywhere. . . . Man has nothing to boast of at all.  And when you and I arrive in heaven — my dear friends — we realize that we are there not because we held on while others gave up — but because He held on to us. . . . and we’ll give Him all the praise, the honor, and the glory.”     

Let’s Kill Some Of These Disingenuous Arguments!

As a past pastor and college professor, let’s call out some of the terrible arguments that “explain” why church services are canceled this coming Sunday. 

#1 – “Christmas is not biblical.” — You are right! Christmas” is the artificial day of celebration, not the Lord’s Day.  If you would like to cancel Christmas as a day of celebration, go at it.  It has no biblical basis.  The Lord’s Day has biblical, historical, and experiential support!  Churches aren’t canceling Christmas celebrations, but the established service(s) of God’s people on the Lord’s Day.

#2 – “Few will attend.” — Decisions on whether one should have a service on the Lord’s Day are not based on whether all or some of God’s people attend or don’t attend.  Those who would like to worship and praise God during “Sunday School,” Sunday Morning, Sunday Evening, Mid-week, et al . . . .  should have that opportunity provided to them by their pastor.  In fact, the pastor should want to provide such opportunities for those who are the most “committed.” 

#3 – “Only doing it one day this year.” — Christmas is a recognized religious “holyday” celebrating the incarnation!  Remarkedly, it is the most likely day that people who are not church-going people – go. (along with Easter/Thanksgiving / Mother’s Day).  Many non-church people may not attend on Christmas Sunday evening, nor do they throughout the year!  Nevertheless, over the years, we have had hundreds attend our Christmas Sunday evening drama and because it was on Christmas Sunday. Pointing out that the culture is removing Christ from Christmas while removing Him from your regular Sunday services, is just duplicitous!  And then we wonder why fewer attend church or trust their pastor’s pulpit ministry.

#4 – “We are replacing/moving it. — “Saying that you “replaced the Sunday evening service with a Saturday candlelight service, fellowship time, singspiration, etc. is an abuse of words at best and deceptive at worse.  Call it what it is!  You didn’t “replace” or “move” anything!  You canceled the Sunday evening service because it fell on Christmas!  You are allowed to have both and/or more than one seasonal service, without canceling another.  Such statements are underhanded!

#5 – “Romans 14” — Romans 14 isn’t about having or not having the regularly scheduled services on the Lord’s Day when Christmas Day falls on a Sunday. —  talk about expository preaching and properly exegeting what the Scriptures teach!  No more of this talk about what others believe and teach when we ourselves can make the Scriptures say what we want them to say to justify a bad decision!

#6 – “It is legalism to judge.” — It is not “legalism” to follow a biblical, historical, and experiential practice, such as Sunday worship, any more than it is legalism to expect God’s people to read their Bibles, pray, praise Him in song, witness, etc.  There is no reason to stop or pause in doing any of these godly disciplines.  None of them make you godly, but godly people follow such practices.  Else, it is legalistic to expect people to come to church on Superbowl Sunday (or an anniversary, a birthday. . . .)  if God’s people would rather watch football than attend church!  — “Let’s not be legalistic” — since choosing football over church is a legitimate and proper option.

#7 – “We don’t have an evening service.” — Some churches no longer have Sunday evening services.  These churches and pastors have nothing to say about the matter!   They have already put into practice what will be happening around America in a few days.   They have already decided that the Lord’s Day is also their day to do whatever!  While they protest about the moral decline of our culture, they have been and continue to be part of the problem, not the solution!  

#8 – “What does it matter!” — There are people, who know not Christ, who would be and are willing to celebrate Christmas — for good or for bad, for the right reasons or the wrong reasons — if the church would provide some opportunities.  With many churches, it used to be a cantata, “The Living Christmas Tree, a Christmas instrumental concert, a Christmas drama, etc.  Those people are more and more left to the seasonal secular events and shows available across American culture.

#9 – “It was not my decision.” — I truly doubt that the decision regarding Sunday services is made by the deacons, trustees, elder board, or God’s people.  Yes, that decision comes from the lead pastor!  He decided it!  He is the one who should be held responsible — and will be!  Unfortunately, the other church leaders and the flock lack the will, position, or strength to say — “Not in our church.  That is not who we are!”

#10 – “Other pastors around us are doing it also.” — Too many”Shepherds” are no different than the sheep (and maybe worse)! They want the time off, just like many of the leaders and/or God’s people.  That is the reality!  They have their plans and/or don’t want to minister to the smaller group that may attend!  It reflects the declining love of ministry, commitment, and work ethic of many pastors in our present-day pulpits.

^

The arguments being made about canceling Sunday services are just another reagent, a revealer of where the shepherds of the flock are in their ministries! Most of the “explanations” (at best) and pastoral hypocrisy (at worse) communicate the shallow and superficial love of their calling and of the Lord’s ministry.  While many of God’s people may well remain quiet, they understand what their pastor is saying – verbally and non-verbally — about our Lord, the local church, corporate worship, commitment, and about himself!

 

 

Is Matt Chandler A Believer?

[1]

One of the dynamics that seemingly operates among those in the New Calvinist (and many Calvinists) ideological camp is a questioning of one’s salvation experience —  Are you actually a Christian, a believer in the person and work of Jesus for your forgiveness of sin, if you are not living that out consistently in your life?

Much more could be said about that dynamic.  Nevertheless, it is interesting that this dynamic is not in play when it comes to the pastors and teachers of the Scripture who experience significant moral failures in the ministry! I only need to cite one of the most immediate examples, Matt Chandler. [2] There are others who illustrate this dynamic and about whom could be asked the same question. 

Why is no one asking (and no one is!), including Chandler himself, whether he was a Christian, a genuine believer, all the years of his pulpit ministry?  Shouldn’t that question be asked?  Should he publicly confess his new faith in Christ through the waters of baptism now that he has “repented” from such sinful practices — a sinful pattern that lasted for an extended period of time? 

While preaching to others the truths found in the Scriptures, he himself was sinfully hypocritical and found to be so by those closest to the situation within his local church. That ought to be sufficient reason alone for those who hold to this theological-ideology to call on Chandler to declare that he was not a believer and has since come to Christ as Saviour!

Yes, it is an interesting dynamic within the New Calvinists camp! Calling into question one’s salvation and/or shaking one’s faith in Christ doesn’t seem to operate when it comes to some of the most primary fallen preachers within the movement!  They themselves neither claim lostness, nor do other leaders within the ideological movement call out those who, like Chandler, occupy the pulpits while living a duplicitous sinful life

In contrast, there seems to be little hesitation when it comes to those sitting in the pew, struggling with real-life issues of Christlikeness as they navigate their lives outside of the local church employment.

Is Matt Chandler A Believer In The Person & Work Of Christ? 

I have no doubt that he is, but not based on what some pastors are teaching from the pulpits of their local churches! [1]

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  1. “Humble Calvinism” — A Good Read!

    “We Calvinist leave behind a trail of destruction in our churches and families and friendships . . . .
    . . . We Calvinist might be the ones who don’t ‘get it’ yet.”

     

  2. https://julieroys.com/matt-chandler-steps-down-after-admitting-inappropriate-online-relationship/
  3. The same question could be asked of Robert Louis Dabney, an undeniably ardent racist yet a theological luminary.*  His writings may be some of the most cited works by men like John Piper, John Mac Arthur, et al.  Should we be citing the works of “lost men” like Dabney? 

*
Visionary???
Really!! 
He never repented in the slightest of his ardent racism!

Are Angels Friends With Other Angels?

God gave us things to use and people to love, and we use people and love things! 

I am not sure where I first heard that or perhaps something like that.  Nevertheless, I was reminded of it when I was reading C. S. Lewis’ book — “The Four Loves.” 

Lewis was speaking about “Friendship.”

Friendship . . . . love, free from instinct, free from all duties but those which love has freely assumed, almost wholly free from jealousy, and free without qualification from the need to be needed, is eminently spiritual. It is the sort of love one can imagine between angels.

A friendship between angels is a unique thought that I have never considered.  If they bear the image of their maker, do they have personal, relational, and/or social interactions like mankind?  And as Lewis states, free from all the sinful aspects that may mark our friendships.

If the truth were known, earthly friendships are, more often than not, as Lewis suggests, un-spiritual.  They are marked by instinct, duty, jealousy, and subject to qualification.  When Lewis uses the word “instinct,” he is making a comparison with the animal world, where it is just part of natural-born impulse.  It is not willful, but natural human instinct. 

Why does the friendship between Jonathan and David stand out in such spiritually BOLD TYPE?  The friendship was not instinctive, not born of jealousy, and subject to no qualifications.

May I suggest that one of the reasons that the local church has fallen on hard days was initially due to Covid.  It was a REAGENT!  

A reagent is a substance that is added to another substance that is being tested.  The reagent is looking to trigger a reaction.  That reaction reveals something about the substance being tested.  A reagent is aimed at producing a reaction, usually visualized by a change in color on a test strip.  Reagents are used to determine blood glucose, ketones, pregnancy, chlorine, and now the well-known COVID-19.

COVID-19 was a crisis that produced a reaction
suddenly visible by a wide swath of God’s people 
in the local church setting.

Most other times, the lack of sincere concern for God’s people happens periodically and intermittently.  It is seen and realized by a family here and an individual there —  a teenager today and a young adult tomorrow — a new member now and a longtime servant years later. 

It is typically seen in dribbles and drabs over time.

It is seen when . . . . 

  • a pastor never even calls to check on how one is doing after a serious situation
  • no deacon, or only one or two, call to say that they are concerned and praying
  • a text replaces a call or visit
  • a pastor talks about the importance of prayer but never even calls to personally pray with someone in need
  • a pastor or staff member evades the trip to the hospital that is rather far away
  • a family member dies, and no-one-to-few from the church even makes a personal call or visit
  • past years of service mean little to nothing to those who once claimed that they cared and appreciated all that you do
  • “our prayers and thoughts are with you” fails to translate into some personal concern and care
  • those who called us brothers and sisters in Christ, or “friends,” now no longer care because we no longer have anything to bring to the table.
  • a senior pastor time and time again passes off the responsibility of personally visiting a member or friend of the church to other members of the staff [1]
  • few-to-none make it to the funeral home and/or stay for the memorial service

While selfishness is seen in small dribs and drabs — over time — unlike Covid — that self-serving spirit pervades the atmosphere, and the smell is recognized. 

The church is in for some hard days ahead, as well as some hard-to-face realities because there is a new and stark sensitivity to how un-spiritual friendships can become within the body of Christ. 

Lewis goes on to say . . . .

And it is no doubt easy enough to love the fellow-creature less and to imagine that this is happening because we are learning to love God more, when the real reason may be quite different. . . . Those like myself whose imagination far exceeds their obedience are subject to a just penalty; we easily imagine conditions far higher than any we have really reached. If we describe what we have imagined we may make others, and make ourselves, believe that we have really been there.

One Reason You May Be Speaking Past Your Audience — Maybe It’s Near The Top?

Taking into account to whom you are speaking is basic to all communication. You do not speak or preach to children, teens, young people, adults, women, men, and/or seasoned saints the same way. In several ways, they are different audiences — intellectually, emotionally, in life experiences, and in their spiritual growth.

There is a brand of preaching that disregards that broad span of Christian spiritual growth. Most every speaker-preacher-teacher would quickly acknowledge that his audience includes those who may not even profess Christ, or who are new believers in Christ, or who have walked with Christ for a number of years, as well as those who are mature believers.

However, their preaching falls far short of that reality, not in content but in prospects or expectations. It is not that what is being said cannot be understood by most all the listeners. Rather, it is that their spiritual maturity — or lack of it as new believers — gives them different ears. Being told that they need to be where others are, or where the preacher believes mature believers ought to be, (or where the preacher “humbly states or implies” that he is), can easily lead to great discouragement!

One could preach about the faith of Abraham in the offering of Issac, Daniel in the lion’s den, Shadrack, Meshach, & Abednego in the fiery furnace, Samson in the final day of his life, Peter’s boldness to speak the Gospel in the book of Acts, Joseph’s response to his brother’s presence, et al. However, all of them had many chapters of life that preceded any one of those great events.

They give the impression that “this” is where one who names the name of Christ needs to be NOW. The implication is that there is no real-life progression. In fact, even more extreme tendencies imply that one may not even be truly saved if they are not there in their Christian walk.

There is little difficulty in calling up a response of struggle, difficulty, and/or failure. Any preacher knows that he can preach a message on prayer and easily challenge everyone in attendance (and if honest, it includes himself).

  • There are areas of Christian life and living that all believers generally struggle with. 
  • There are areas of Christian life and living that some do, and some do not struggle with — some find sharing the Gospel with others easy, and others fail and fail at it!
  • There are areas of the Christian life that some struggle with early in their Christian lives, and others later in their lives.
  • There are areas that come with age, circumstances, finances, marriage, child-rearing, old age, etc. . . . . .

Often, I would say this . . . . 

“The question is not — “Are we where we should be?” or “Are we where this passage presents?” Rather, can we be “more” or “better” in this? It is not “we are” or “we are not,” but can we be more than we are?

Do we fail, over and over, when it comes to temptation? The truth is that most of us cannot even resist that brownie; how will we ever claim consistent victory on this side of glory? But we can continually confess and repent and go at it again — and again — and again!

You preach differently when you genuinely take into account the spiritual span of those listening, the wide variety of people who are seeking to live for Christ in real life and living. God’s people are encouraged to continue the battle. There is hope (and there is – ask Peter) for those who stay in that battle. 

When God’s people are told (over and over and over) that they are not where they should be, they are dispirited! The preacher-teacher confuses and stifles them because he fails to take into account that they are babes, or still children in Christ, or young men — but are not old men in the faith (I John 2).

Let me also say that there are some preachers-teachers, not all, but far more than we would like to admit, who need to get out of their ivory tower and/or lay aside their own disingenuous self-confidence. Such ministries are marked by dispirited and disheartened people who may have concluded that they never will reach this-or-that measure! They are not done a disservice at best, and great damage at worse. When God’s people could be striving and pursuing, they have lost all heart. They are not even sure they are saved.

Some will find a different ministry that again speaks to their heart’s desires. They may not be able to pinpoint the difference, but they know their hope of living for Christ in this world has been renewed.  They will re-enlist and get back on the road with newfound excitement.

Sadly, some will just drop out of church, never to return. Not only because of them but also because of a pastor who made it hard to live for Christ! They put burdens on mens’ spiritual shoulders. They could never reach the standard held out as a here-and-now absolute rather than our aspiration. Like some fathers who have provoked their children and discouraged them! They do it with God’s children, over who they claim to be shepherds.

No, like in families, there is a shared responsibility between both children and fathers, between pastors and people, when we dishearten! 

 

Two Trends – Left Unchallenged

Two preaching-teaching trends seem to be repeatedly showing up in our day. They are found in local church ministries and subtly appear in online Bible studies, magazine articles, books, or podcasts.

Two reasons they are so subtle are congregational discernment and pastoral duplicity! [1].

√  The theological nuances and subtleties within a sermon are often lost on the average layman-laywoman. Fellow pastors easily pick up on the subtleties and nuances. What is artfully promoted or subtly being preached and taught is readily recognized by those who live full-time in ministry.

√  Secondly, pastor-teachers can be duplicitous. They can be teaching something that is not generally accepted by the congregation. What he is preaching-teaching is cloaked in a way that precludes it from being clear, transparent, challengeable, and/or even creating ministry problems — such as unemployment.

I believe that this is what is happening when it comes to these two new theological trends.

Theological Trend #1: A “One Size Fits All” theological axiom.

After decades of repetition, one of the most damaging theological aphorisms has been left unchallenged, accepted, and/or reiterated by many pastors-teachers . . .

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” — John Piper —

Anytime you make a single theology axiom the focus around which all other truths revolve, you are bound to end up in a theological ditch. The obvious damage that this theological ditch creates continues to emerge. [1]

God is not only “most glorified” when we are satisfied in Him.

God is most equally glorified when we . . . .

  • obey His commandments,
  • share the Gospel,
  • read His Word,
  • meditate on His precepts,
  • love our spouse, neighbors, enemies, the lost,
  • suffer for His name,
  • come to Him in prayer,
  • worship Him on His day,
  • sacrifice for others,
  • train up our children in the fear of the Lord,
  • in all our ways acknowledge Him,
  • separate from ungodliness,
  • serve Him in ministry,
  • tithe,
  • go beyond our tithe,
  • behave selflessly,
  • reflect the fruit of the Spirit,
  • obey His call on our lives,
  • resist temptation,
  • are humble,
  • walk in the Spirit
  • confess our sins,
  • repent daily,
  • sing hymns of praise,
  • intercede and pray for others,
  • are compassionate
  • work hard without eyeservice
  • pray for the “king”
  • forgive others
  • trust Him through the toughest trials of life
  •  . . . . . .

Piper, and others, would like to stuff these (and any others) under being “satisfied in Him.” He would like to link all these to being “satisfied in Him.”

That is how “one size fits all” theology works, whether it is Piper or another theological fad of our day. A single truth becomes the sole focus, and a “new religious crowd” is born and identified by that singularity — Seventh-day Adventists / Ruckmanites / Holiness church / Free-will Baptist / etc.

However, one could do that kind of cosmetic linking with many a theological concept such as “loving” (Him & others), “sacrificial” (no greater love than a man lay his life down for another), “spiritual” (walk in the spirit), pride (the original sin of Lucifer),or “obedient” (if you love me, keep my commandments).

Let’s make “obedience” the “most glorified” link!
— “God is most glorified when we are most obedient.” —

First of all, Piper’s overstated principle dilutes the biblical instructions for each and every one of those specific areas of Christian living.

For instance, while “acknowledging Him in all thy ways” CAN spring from being satisfied Him, and does glorify Him, there is far more specific biblical instruction about following God’s will than only being satisfied in Him — i.e. reading His Word, seeking the wisdom of others, waiting on Him, praying for wisdom, observing (I went by the field of a sluggard), be not hasty, staying humble (for He resists the proud), etc.

Second, it is overly simplistic. Not every area of Christian life and living is addressed by extolling — “be satisfied in Him.” If it was, there would no need for much of Scripture.  It may be one answer, but it is not the full biblical response.

For instance, when facing temptation, being satisfied in Him is not the whole of God’s instruction. There is far more than the application of one axiom.

The Scriptures includes . . .

  • putting on the armor,
  • putting on and putting off,
  • turn from that path,
  • abstain from fleshly lust,
  • make no provision to fulfill the lust of the flesh,
  • take heed,
  • walk circumspectly,
  • pray without ceasing,
  • He will provide a way of escape,
  • “Resist the Devil, and he will flee,”
  • “Listen my son,”
  • “add to your faith,”
  • die to self
  • etc.    

Piper offers one solution to all of life and living — find your satisfaction and pleasure in Him.

Third, obedience is expected whether or not it comes from a heart of satisfaction or pleasure. As stated, let’s make “obedience” the “most glorified” link! “Obedience” might be the more foundational issue — from the beginning — in the Garden.

Fourth, it misstates temporal and/or secondary avenues of satisfaction and pleasure that the Lord has provided. There are many avenues of satisfaction and pleasure that the Lord has provided and included as part of life and living. All of them are legitimate pleasures and satisfactions of life! They all come from His hand and plan. And even the lost world share in these God-ordained pleasures and satisfactions of life, even though they may have no interest in glorifying Him — the rain falls on the just and the unjust!

^

Piper’s singular solution produces aberrated answers for life and living!

For instance, John Piper teaches that even when your husband abuses you verbally and physically, a wife is to accept it, and loving pray and tolerate such abuse, to be satisfied in Him, to find her satisfaction in Jesus and for what He has sovereignly allowed to be part of her life (I can assure you I am not overstating his position.). [1]

♦ As if the Lord did not provide marriage to be just the opposite, a place of security, peace, fulfillment, and warmth — which are all part of the pleasure that He has planned for us through godliness.

♦ As if stoically tolerating and/or willingly declining those avenues of satisfaction and pleasure is being Christlike — while desiring the satisfaction that ought to flow out of a godly marriage is not being satisfied in Him.

♦ As if refusing to accept such spousal abuse, and demanding some level of decency and godlines, is deemed not being satisfied in Him — or worse yet, is a rejection of a husband’s leadership!

♦ As if renouncing the ungodly abuse, and desiring the satisfaction and pleasure that the Lord has essentially designed for marriage, is an unspiritual response.

There is satisfaction and/or pleasure that God has ordained in the temporal, the here and now. Such pleasure and satisfaction would have been part of our daily living were it not for the Fall and will be part of life and living in the new heavens and the new earth.

There is, and we find, satisfaction and pleasure in knowing that your spouse loves us.

There is, and we find, satisfaction and pleasure in seeing your children follow the Lord.

There is, and we find, satisfaction and pleasure in watching the sunset, the mountains, the trees in Fall, and the snow blanketing the ground.

There is, and we find, satisfaction and pleasure that comes out of living in a safe and secure environment — as will be the case in that eternal and holy city.

There is far more in the Scriptures than one axiom that seemingly and dangerously frames all other truths.

Theological Trend #2: (TBC)



^

1. Check out John Piper’s most recent absurd position, which is ideologically driven — fresh off the press!

It is Piper’s position on spousal abuse.

“If it’s not requiring her to sin, but simply hurting her, then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season, she endures perhaps being smacked one night…” (John Piper)

Link: https://baremarriage.com/2022/06/john-piper-tells-women-with-harsh-husbands-to-basically-do-nothing/

“If we keep reading the same books,
we will keep thinking and saying the same things”

Alistair Begg Probably Has It Right . . . . But

With my love in the Lord Jesus,
Alistair Begg

^

A great short read by Alistair Begg, and he probably has it right.  Notwithstanding, his sermons on the Sabbath and this post probably aren’t changing the practices of most believers, pastors, or churches.

Why?

Perhaps because we are not as spiritually malleable as we think and say we are!

As a matter of fact, many churches have canceled the evening service,  with the “shepherd’s approval,”  if not instigation!   The Lord’s Day now becomes “Our Day” around noon!   And then some pastors decry what is happening in our culture and society — shamelessly!

 
 

1. From Begg’s Sermon . . . 

Now, we can highlight this in a number of ways. Let me do so by quoting from the Civil War. I think it’s the Civil War, isn’t it? Stonewall Jackson? General Jackson is a legend in American history. Any of you who have read of Jackson will know that he was a man of extreme principle and character. At the very heart of this was his conviction of faith in Jesus Christ. And his extreme rigorous character attached itself also to the observance of the Sabbath. And writing in his biography, his widow says,

And writing in his  biography, his widow says,

Certainly he was not less scrupulous in obeying the divine command to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” than he was in any other rule of his life. Since the Creator had set apart this day for his own, and commanded it to be kept holy, he believed that it was … wrong for him to desecrate it by worldly pleasure, idleness, or secular employment, as to break any other commandment of the decalogue. Sunday was his busiest day of the week, as he always attended church twice a day and taught in two Sabbath schools! He refrained as much as possible from all worldly conversation, and in his family, if secular topics were introduced, he would say, with a kindly smile, “We will talk about that to-morrow.”

He never travelled on Sunday, never took his mail from the post-office, nor permitted a letter of his own to travel on that day, always before posting it calculating the time it required to reach its destination ….

One so strict in his own Sabbath observance naturally believed that it was wrong for the government to carry the [mail] on Sunday. Any organization which exacted secular labor of its employees on the Lord’s day was, in his opinion, a violator of God’s law.[2]

And so his life was marked by a rigorous obedience to the law of God.

Now, loved ones, here’s the question: Is this quote from Jackson an anachronism? In other words, if Jackson was right, where does that leave us? ’Cause if we’re right, most of us, he was wrong. But one thing is for sure: we’re not both right. So we need to go to our Bibles, then, and determine who approximates to the instruction of God’s Word closely. Is it us, in our libertine rejection of the Lord’s Day, or is it Jackson, in his rigorous obedience of it?

“Desiring God” — It Is Getting Bizarre!

Here is the link to the article, put out by “Desiring God,”  one of the ministries of John Piper. Read it yourself if you have doubts about how bizarre this is becoming!

LINK: O Beard, Where Art Thou — August 22, 2022

 #1 – Saying it, but not saying it: That is the way these kinds of articles protect themselves from legitimate criticism.  They are really saying it, but they make sure they include caveats that they can then point to in order to argue that they are not saying it — “Look, I said in the article that . . . . ”

Make no mistake; the article is making a point and saying it while denying that they are saying it.  No, growing a beard is not God’s will for all men, but it is the way God created men, in contrast to being a child, or a woman . . . .

“Why did God make men with the capacity to grow beards? Why grow beards at all, or why not give them to children and women. . . .”

I’m not saying that beards are God’s plan for all men, some men have difficulty growing a beard, but God did put it into your created DNA . . . .

“He shaded the man’s face with his pencil from the very beginning.”

“What ecstasy of Adam observing the beautiful and smooth face of Eve.”

I’m not saying you have to don a beard — but look at all these Bible verses (for whatever reason?) I have cited! [1]

^

#2 – Lost Credibility: Regardless of the fact that the Scriptures nowhere (nada — zippo — zilch — zero)  makes any argument for or against facial hair, such “theological scholars” will find verses in the Bible that address that issue for an application today.

There is no doubt that there were ways to shame men by shaving their beards, stripping them naked, mocking them publicly, or pointing out one’s inconsistencies. [1].

Nevertheless, to call up various biblical references about facial hair and then seek to apply it to God’s people today is ludicrous — at best!  At worse, it reveals one’s ability to make the Bible stay whatever you want it to say.  Such articles only bear witness to how easily they can contort the Scriptures!

^

#3 – Shameless Motivation:  The motivation of such an article is clearly stated by the author . . . . .

That makes literal beards, in my opinion, worth having. Beards protest against a world gone mad. In other words, beards beard. They testify, in their own bristly way, that sex distinctions matter, that manhood will not be so easily shaven, shorn, or chopped by the Hanuns of this world. Its itchy and cheeky voice bears witness, “Male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). [3]

This is an attempt to use the Bible . . . .

  • to provide a “biblical” and useful line of argument [4]
  • to encourage the use of facial hair as a means of protest in our world [5]
  • to be scripturally, AND politically and culturally relevant [6]
  • to counter the political and cultural trends of today [7]

^



^

1. Per the citing of the movie “Braveheart,” he had no beard, but he did have very long hair!  Even though the author states that “Rome’s men were clean-shaven in biblical times,” in the movie “Gladiator,” as cited, he has a very short and sleek, styled shadow beard.

Also, I have never seen a picture of a bearded John Piper.

Also, in the ’60s, a beard was considered “nada” for God’s people.

Yes, this is how twisted it gets in reformed circles!

2. Paul even publicly shamed some of God’s people for their biblical ignorance, hypocrisy, or inconsistency — I Corinthians 6:5; 15:34; II Thessalonians 3:14-15

3. Again, I’m not saying you should don a beard, but hey, if you want to stand and protest in support of God’s design, you should think about this, but don’t misunderstand me since I did say that you don’t have to be bearded to be biblical.

4. This “biblical” reasoning will be repeated and repeated “to say, but not say.”  Whatever the issue, this handling of the Scriptures, and this duplicitious approach is being taught by example to ministry leaders and pastors across the reformed spectrum!

5. Rather sad, isn’t it?  That is how we counter our culture — “by this shall all men now that you are my disciples?”

6. It is all part of the distorted view about the “sufficiency of Scripture.”  You see, the Bible even addresses facial hair and cultural protest.

7.  As stated, these kinds of articles are part of today’s evangelical church life, which desires to weigh in on just about any and all political, cultural, economic (i.e. student debt forgiveness), or sociological issues on the front pages.

^

P.S.   This “I’m not saying, while saying it”  is how the argument is made on other issues that are just as questionable, such as eternal security.  Caveats are included to protect, not to clarify.  In fact, they fog the issues by saying what they really believe and then adding that they are not saying what they just said.

3 Indicators Of “Church Stall”

In the field of aerodynamics, an airplane “stalls” when it can no longer produce lift. It has nothing to do with the engines but with the wings. The engine or jets can exert full power, but the wings are no longer properly cutting the air and producing lift. In fact, in commercial airlines, an alarm goes off when a stall takes place or is about to take place. [1]

You see a stall take place at an air show when a small aircraft begins to pull up in a sharp climb, and at a point, it begins wobbling in that upright position. The air is no longer breaking across the wings properly. It begins to fall out of the sky like a rock. No aerodynamic lift is exerted on its wings. Now, the pilot’s job is to regain lift by navigating the airplane into a position, so the wings cut through the air at a forward “angle of attack” and again produce lift on the wings.

When I took flight lessons, one of the most important parts of the training was understanding “lift.” Flight instructors would purposefully put the plane into a stall, and your job was to regain lift. Actually, most all flight instructors put the airplane into a moderate stall because of the dangers that a serious stall poses, especially when you lack the altitude needed to recover from a serious stall. Instructors have died at the hands of student pilots who made the test stall worse because the flight instructor lacked the time and altitude needed to recover.

Churches stall as well. They lose lift and begin wobbling. The leader’s job is to regain lift by navigating the ministry in such a way that it doesn’t crash. 

Many do crash and have crashed in the last two years. The crashes do look very different at times. Sometimes the “passengers” survive the crash and seek a new pastor. Other times, the church closes or merges under another “pilot.” Sometimes the pastor learns quickly and is able to do an emergency landing, all to fly another “day.” Far too often, the “pilot ” walks away from a crash unharmed and begins piloting yet another aircraft. It wasn’t his fault. It was the “craft,” the “crew,” or the “passengers.”

Many churches experience an “aerodynamic stall” over time! It is part of learning and the immense time “in the air.” It is just part of reality, and pastors ought to be taught what to look for when it is about to happen or happens.

^

 There are “alarms” that will go off.^

#1 – Interest Wains: There are ways, legitimate and creative ways, to build and grow a church ministry ( no less a school in today’s culture, but that’s another issue). The proof is found in the local churches around an area that are doing it. 

The handful of mega-churches across America is not the issue or concern. But the many area churches that are experiencing growth are! When interest in visiting, attending, faithfully attending or joining a local church ministry wains, an alarm ought to go off. 

Sporadic attendance is also part of the lack of interest. If members and friends of the church are not consistent, why? Why have those who are “connected” lost interest, commitment, or appreciation?

Attendance and giving are legitimate independent indicators of where a church is in flight. Both are legitimate indicators of care and concern of a ministry! Pointing to one over the other is a way to ignore the alarm that is sounding.  

Unfortunately, most also realize that a meaningful drop in “giving” will be the loudest alarm alert given due attention. 

^

#2 – Reality Is Ignored Or ^Denied: “How did they not see what was happening?” Probably, you have heard that said or said it yourself. It was obvious what was happening, and no steps were taken to address it. 

  • Attendance dropping, or 
  • Finances getting tighter, or
  • People leaving, or
  • Weak Gospel outreach, or
  • Few visitors, or
  • Fewer new members, or
  • Long-time supporters left, or
  • More difficult to find lay help, or
  • Sporadic attendance, or
  • Lost “excitement” about our church, or
  • Any number of the above . . . . 

I understand the language that accompanies the disregard of the alarm — “We are growing deeper, not greater.” One might argue that deeper and greater work hand in hand. Depth should also result in breadth.

The language of failure is invoked and used to explain or divert what is actually taking place. This may be the first alarm that goes off when what is happening is avoided or denied. “We are not interested in numbers but faithful followers!” “We want to see disciples made, not just people who attend church on Sunday” — as if it is “either-or.”

The wording changes to divert attention away from what is actually happening.

^

#3 – The Cost Of Staffing Overrides The Budget: You may have heard it said this way . . . . “We are too heavy on administrative costs.” The organization is top-heavy. A high percentage of the income covers salary, benefits, and supporting staff. What is a “high percentage” or “top-heavy?” 

You may find out the answer to that question when the “overhead” costs begin to weaken ministry, when money gets tight, and the ministry struggles to do what it was called to do. 

An alarm ought to go off when you total the cost of salaries, support staff, and various elements of compensation far exceed the total of all other monies used to minister to and through God’s people and the programs in which they serve. 

^

Churches do stall, and some crash because they lack the altitude needed to recover.

There is a reason that long-term Sr. Pastors are able to avoid a fatal crash. It is not that they don’t find themselves in any “stalls.” Rather, they don’t ignore the alarms.  They adjust and are able to navigate back into forward flight. 

Those who have been in the position of Lead Pastor for only several years, and ignore the alarms that accompany a “stall,” are likely to walk away from a crash, leaving the passengers to deal with the wreckage — an unfinished building program, financial troubles, hurt and damaged believers, a failing school, a bloated staff, struggling ministry programs, fewer members, low morale, poorly supported missionaries, dwindling bank accounts, etc. 

Yet others will continue to stay seated in the cockpit while the alarms sound, offering a very bumpy ride and maneuvering to stay aloft.

There is a “reality stall wall” that a church will hit when the alarms are ignored. When the alarm can’t be ignored or denied any longer, then, suddenly, everyone sees what has been happening and may even profess having had prophetic ability — “I saw what was happening and I should have said something.”

C.S. Lewis

^



1. https://simpleflying.com/aircraft-stalls/