THAT IS NOT A CHURCH Tuesday, Feb 14 2017 

 

They say that confession is good for the soul but bad for the reputation.  There comes a time in later life when we are no longer threatened by this.  After fifty-seven years in the ministry, I still have in front of me a Scofield Reference Bible.  Back in Bible college we learned that, while the scripture text is always right, the notes inserted by men are not.

I am reading from Matthew 18:20 – “For where two are three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”.  That is true because God is all-present, and that is the meaning of the text.  The note above this verse in the text before, however, says “the simplest form of a local church”.  Nothing in the text even hints at this being a church.  That is because two or three believers who are gathered together is NOT a church.  It is good way to have fellowship, but it is not a church.

THE CHURCH ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE

The Old Testament prophets made it clear that there would be salvation for the gentiles.  In John 10:14-16, Jesus makes it clear that the future church would be composed of Jews and gentiles.  The idea was repulsive to the Jews.  In Matthew 16:18, there is a clear prophecy about the future church.  In the gospels, the church is eschatological, and the disciples would not have had a clue as to what was being referred to.  The church was a mystery until after the gospels, and the apostle Paul clearly explains this mystery in his writing.  In reference to Matthew 18:15-19, Scofield wrongly inserted “Discipline in the future church”.  There is nothing in that text to indicate such a command.  In fact, the disciples would have thought of the synagogue when he used the word.  While the book of Matthew may have been written for the church’s benefit, it definitely was not written to the church.  The content of Matthew demands that it was written to the Jews who were still under the law.  “Behold your King”.  The church could not have existed prior to Pentecost despite what historical theology claims.

The Bible calls the heavenly church the Body of Christ.  That body includes everyone who is redeemed in the time from Pentecost to the catching away of the church prior to any part of the tribulation.  Some of the members of that body are in heaven, others are alive on earth, and some have not even been saved yet.  In this age, God has chosen to use the local church to function and minister through.  Some members of the local church are members of the Body of Christ; others are not.  The local church is definitely not equal to the Body of Christ.  The local church represents the Body of Christ on earth.  Every true believer is part of the Body of Christ and should also be part of a local church body.  The local church is made up of people, not buildings.  It is God’s agent for ministry to carry the gospel message.

God helps us understand the ministry of the heavenly church by painting a clear picture.  The Body of Christ is a flock with a Chief Shepherd.  It is a body of redeemed members with Christ as the head of that heavenly body.  It is also a household, or home, and it is a theocracy.

The Bible clearly assigns these functions to the local church.  The local church is a flock with a local resident “under-shepherd”.  Members of a local church are sheep.  Obviously, some of them are wolves’ in sheep clothing.  The New Testament local church is supposed to function like a flock, not a political organization.  The local church is a body with a local resident head assigned by Christ himself.  It has members with different spiritual gifts, roles, and functions.  In reality, it is a theocracy.  The Bible is the rule book, the Holy Spirit directs the church, and the church administrates that which God has commanded.  Sadly, many have pressed a humanistic model onto the church by inserting culture into the text.

SO, WHAT IS A CHURCH?

Using the word “church” for a building or group does not make it a church.  It may be a gathering, assembly, fellowship, or small or large group; but any one of these does not make it a New Testament local church.  In Acts 19 you have an assembly in the theater at Ephesus, but it was not a church.  A true local church will be a functioning flock with a shepherd.  It will be a local body with members who have gifts and ministry through the church.  A Bible study group, a family, or a prayer group is not a church in itself.  Without a local church, an individual believer is without a flock and a shepherd.  He would be a member alone without the benefit of other members or a local resident head appointed by Christ.  He would be a person who is an orphan without a church home.

AND WHAT IS NOT A CHURCH?

In our day, there are many groups who choose not to use the word “church” in their names.  That would be good, because many of them are not really churches.  There are those groups who one day were New Testament local churches, but their candlestick has been removed and God has written “Ichabod” over them.  They once were, but now they are not.

What about the churches who have the form, but not the content?  A true local church depends upon what a church believes and where its authority comes from.  The Word of God will be the final authority in all matters.  If a church denies the Word of God, it has denied the God of the Word.  So, if a church rejects the inspiration, inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of scripture, is it a church?  You cannot reject the deity and virgin birth of Christ and expect to go to heaven, so is a church that rejects the real Christ actually a church?  If a church pulpit disrespects the clear truth of scripture, and the “worship” person leads them in singing lies, is it a church?

So, if a “church” meets once a week, and there is no real shepherding or flock interaction, if all the sheep get is a “cute” story time to sustain them for a week, is that a church?  If a so-called church body doesn’t interact daily in ministry with members who have atrophy, is that a church? Is it a flock, body, and home?  What would you think of a home where members only interacted once or twice a week?

There is no end to the questions that need to be asked, but the real point is this: Are you part of a local church, and is it a church?  I personally know a lot of people who have no idea what their church believes.  It may be a cult, and they wouldn’t know it.  Before you waste your time debating the above, consider reading the following, which has been in print since 1985.

The Weeping Church, Confronting the Crisis of Church Polity. By Clay Nuttall, D.Min.  Faithful Life Publishers, North Fort Myers, FL 33903.  FaithfulLifePublisers.com

WHO GETS TO DEFINE SIN? Sunday, Jan 15 2017 

The answer to this question has to do with who your God is.  For the true believer, this has to be the Sovereign Creator God.  He is the spiritual Father of all who truly believe.  If you are not a true believer, your God is man and your father is the devil, the father of lies.

The first problem here is that, in the circle of professing Christians, you are likely to end up with a variety of definitions.  That is because, on the right, “externalists” have put things into the Bible text that were not there originally.  On the left, the “libertines” simply reject what the Bible does clearly define.  The first question is “Who is right?”  The answer is that only God is right, and His definitions are in the Bible text.  They were placed there by divine inspiration and are true.  They are clearly understood only when the reader approaches the text with the one biblical hermeneutic.

THE HAZING OF AMERICA

In our nation, the definition of sin and wrong has been forcibly changed.  The most egregious of sin and wickedness is now celebrated by those who control education, government, economy, entertainment, sports and, sadly, the professing church.  How did this happen?

In his book, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, the author, Erick Larson, records a terrible truth from the past.  It is a clear statement of where our own nation is today.Captain Reginald Hall is described and quoted on page 350 of the book.  He visited Germany and Austria in 1934.  Ever the intelligence man, he reported his observations about the National Socialist movement to the government.  He also described his experience to a friend in America.  “All the young are in the net,” he wrote; “anyone who tried to keep out of being a Nazi is hazed till they change their mind; a form of mass cruelty which exists only in such a country.” He added, “It will sometime soon be the duty of HUMAN BEINGS to deal with a mad dog.  When that time comes, your people will have to take their share.”

By using federal education (falsely called public education), the minds of generations have blindly accepted “liberal, progressive socialism”.  It has created a nation of intellectual pagans who support everything they believe with lies.  They are expert at turning truth into lies and lies into truth.

To ensure that everyone follows their “lie pact”, anyone who disagrees has been, is, and will be “hazed”.  They are made persona non-grata, ridiculed, punished, and dismissed from the public sector.  The socialism described by Hall is the very same destructive, liberal, progressive socialism being forced on this nation.  If you want an example, all you have to do is turn on the liberal media for one day.

This process of making sin acceptable may begin with redefining words, but it continues with derogatory name calling.  If you have any sense of godliness, you are called homophobic, Islamophobic, etc.  Political correctness only adds to the hazing.  Change your speech, fall in line, be silent about what you believe – or else.  This plan ultimately includes legal and physical force until you submit to the wicked ideas of liberal, progressive socialism.

TELL ME IT ISN’T SO

The church in America should be first in line to speak strongly to the definition of sin that God has given us in His Word.  The liberal church has long ago turned its back on the clear statements of God.  Sadly, this has given momentum to the paganizing of America.  With a low view of scripture, this group has become complicit in the removal of God’s moral standards.

Mainline evangelical church leaders have simply hid in the shadow of liberalism.  For whatever motive, they hold their silence; and their pronouncements find them guilty of teaching people to sin.  It seems that if a person is very good at communicating he gets a pass on what they are communicating.  Anyone who challenges one of these popular gurus is subject to “hazing”.

Without any shame, the Emergent, Emerging, and now Millennial churches are on a dead run to leave God’s standard for holiness in the dust.  It is no wonder that these churches ignore or offend basic doctrines.  The way one lives always rises from what he believes.  The more you degrade the Bible and its pure doctrine, the easier it is to throw off moral and righteous constraints.  If anyone dares challenge this moral runaway, they are “hazed” with words like “legalist”.  It is no wonder that cults have found a place to hide among these movements.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS?

In the end, the biblical church must bear some fault for this.  Almost everyone you talk to, it seems, has their head in the sand.  They want no part of truth when it brings conflict and rejection.  Silence is the watchword when it comes to what is happening in our own world. Remember that “silence is not always golden; sometimes it is just plain yellow”.  Leaders tend to hide behind things like “political” and deny that we have responsibility to speak the truth on every subject, even outside the pulpit.  It is true that much of the problem is ignorance; leaders often simply don’t know.  A careful reading of Acts 20 will help with that problem.

Paul’s words in his two letters to pastor Timothy make all this very clear.  He was not afraid to speak the truth, no matter what the consequences.  Timothy was instructed not to cut corners, run and hide, or be silent about what God has said.  Paul made it clear that people would not listen and would reject the truth, but that did not mean this young pastor should be silent.

It appears that the silence of those who have the truth in this country has cost us deeply. Religious and theological games are very expensive.  If we had preached the gospel fearlessly, taught sound doctrine with passion, and clearly defined the holiness of God and His instruction in the Word, things might have been different.

THAT’S NOT A CHURCH

You will have to wait for the February, 2017, Shepherd’s Staff for this, but we don’t expect much from those who aren’t really churches.  They really don’t disappoint us, but the real churches are those we look to for truth and sacrificial effort to do battle and define the wickedness of this hour.  These pastors will give an account in due time.  (Hebrews 13:17)

NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP Sunday, Oct 30 2016 

The book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ opens with a sobering description of our glorious Lord.  It is followed by messages to the pastors of each of the seven churches.  These were literal churches that existed in that day.  The meaning of each name reveals a good deal about what each church looked like.  In our day, there are churches that exhibit some of these characteristics.  While the text does not prophesy future historic periods, it takes only an elementary understanding of history to see that these names clearly identify each period from the early church to this very day.

The Laodicean church identifies with “the rights of the people”.  It is the “lukewarm” church.  It is also interesting that this is the church that is caught away from the earth.  That is evident from chapter four in that there is no mention of the church on earth during the following seven years.

This is the Laodicean age, the period of the lukewarm church when the church has fallen asleep at the wheel.  It possesses a lot of things and is very busy.  The essential things, however, appear to be missing.  There is snoring and plenty of noise, but it is snoozing spiritually.

WHERE IS THE BOOK?

The majority of professing Christians hardly ever pick up their Bibles, either electronic or printed.  For some, it’s only once a week when they go to what is called “church”.  In most churches, the book is never even needed.  Personal Bible study is an unusual activity for most Christians, and serious Bible study in most churches has become a thing of the past.  For the minority that still have more than one meeting a week that might include any study, the time is short – just a God token.  If it is serious Bible study, perhaps a total of little more than one hour a week would be a stretch for most of today’s churches.

Many of the current Laodicean churches provide only one service a week, and the amount of biblical truth provided in it could be put in a thimble.  If there are other meetings, they probably represent less than ten percent participation of the whole group.  This is exacerbated by the fact that, in most of these churches, more error is taught than truth.

This is the age of the goat church.  It would have been difficult to find any unsaved person in any of the early local churches.  On the other hand, in this lukewarm age it might be difficult to find any true believers in the entertainment church.  This is due in part to the fact that so few of these churches have leaders who actually know the Bible although they, of course, know about the Bible.  Note that when one of these leaders tells us that authoritative truth about God isn’t limited to the Bible, the crowds cheer.  Anything to make the Bible say what they want it to say.  You may not like them being described as goats, but if they look, smell, act, eat, and socialize like goats, what else might you call them?

The millennial age is the quintessential Laodicean church – forget a sovereign God and the authority of the Scriptures.  It despises the very message they need.  The “rights of the people” demand that we stop quoting God about sin.  They are asleep in the pseudo-love church.  God’s love demands holiness, and that is the most hated doctrine of the current church of Laodicea.

WHERE IS THE CHURCH?

Many of these groups will not use the word “church”, particularly as part of their name.  In most cases, that is good since they really aren’t churches anyway!

A biblical church is a “family” with a local resident headship.  How can you have a core family when its members are in the same home only once a week?  How can you be a family when most of the members never function to the benefit of the family unit?  They are brothers and sisters only if God is their Heavenly Father.  God intended that every true believer should be part of a local church.  There are a hundred reasons why this is necessary. The local church is definitely Christ’s clear plan for this church age.

A biblical local church is a flock for sheep, with a local resident shepherd to lead the flock with all the implications of the illustration.  The loose affiliation of the Laodicean church certainly does not represent this picture, and that is why the individuals in these gatherings are so easily gobbled up by wolves who teach error.  False teachers in this lukewarm age can draw great crowds and have massive organizations because the people of this age know so little of what the Bible teaches about a holy God.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears.  (II Timothy 4:3)

The biblical local church is a body.  The present Laodicean church hardly represents a body, but is more like a pile of bones.  A healthy body would expect its members to function well and to do the things that are expected of each specific member.

Take an honest look around you.  There are many groups who call themselves a church, but where is the evidence?  There once were many churches that demonstrated the power of the gospel, but now many of them are gone.  Others have little spiritual power – not enough power to blow the nose of a flea!  What happened?  It is the age of lukewarm, and they are asleep.

THE GOOD NEWS

Take heart, however.  There are a few churches that look and sound like Ephesus (desired).  Some churches I know are going through suffering (Smyrna), and there are actually some Philadelphia churches (brotherly love).  There are churches where biblical preaching is the center of the ministry.  The idea that true believers are not interested in preaching that represents true doctrine is absolutely false.  Goats hate it, but true believers love feasting on the green grass every Lord’s Day.  They even have spiritual stomach upset when the “food” is ill- prepared and (God forbid) boring.

There are fellowships that act like a family, where the members long to be together. They care for one another and bear each other’s burdens.  They share in the sorrow of the home-going of the elderly and join in the joy of new babes born to the young.  These churches love to worship “in spirit and in truth” where God, and not man, is honored.  They feel safe in a congregation where sin is not welcome, but where the repentant sinner is comforted.

Do you know churches like that?

THE OMNIPRESENT ETERNAL GOD Thursday, Sep 22 2016 

We should have little patience with those who deliberately abuse the scriptures, particularly in central doctrines.  At the same time, innocent statements can also be dangerous, even if they were not intended to be harmful.  The Bible is about God, and His purpose in giving us the scriptures was to reveal Himself to us.  His character is displayed in marvelous detail, and we are obligated to avoid statements that might mislead our listeners.

Here is an example of a careless comment, even though it might be intended to express the danger of rejecting the grace of God in eternal salvation.  How often have you heard someone say that “to be lost is to be separated from God eternally”?  It is true that the unsaved person will be separated from God’s love and mercy, but separated from God eternally?  Really?  How could that be?  David observed, “If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there”.  (Psalm 139:8b)  I remember, as a child, hearing an evangelist shout “The worst thing about hell is that God is not there!”  The truth is that the worst thing about hell is that God is there.  The careless student might say that the issue is not important.  The “cute” theologian may say that the place for the lost to dwell eternally is not hell, but is the Lake of Fire.  That is true, but it is not the point of this discussion.  After all, we are told “…and death and hell were cast into the lake of fire”.  (Rev. 20:14a)  To say that God is not in hell or eternity is an attack on the omnipresence of God.

CHRISTIANITY LITE

Much of the doctrinal error suggested by people who only know “about” the Bible comes from an erroneous view of the doctrine of God.  Whole denominations have invented ideas about the Holy Spirit that fail to recognize that He is God the Spirit.  That includes, without exception, all the attributes of God that belong to Him.   The Holy Spirit is eternally all-present in the first, second, and third heavens.  Eternity is hard for us to conceive, but He is, has always been, and always will be totally God.

An example of the general misunderstanding of the Spirit surrounds the event of Pentecost.  All that the Bible says on the subject is true.  He did come at Pentecost in special presence and ministry.  To hear some people tell the story, you would think that the Spirit had never been there before and was surprised at Jerusalem the first time He saw it.  While that is farfetched, it is no more misguided than some of allegorical ideas that historical theology offers, or that experiential religious views press on the Bible.

The Spirit has always been omnipresent, so that is not the issue of Pentecost.  The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost has to do with the inception of His special ministry; and that ministry is clearly related to the Church, the Body of Christ, that came into existence on that day.  Some aspects of His ministry had never been exercised before, and the Scripture makes it plain that they will be used from Pentecost until that moment when the Church of Jesus Christ is caught away.  When the Church is removed, so will be that special ministry of the Spirit.  (I Thess. 4:13-18; II Thess. 2:1-12)  The Holy Spirit will still be all-present, but those special ministries He began at Pentecost will cease to function with men on earth.

COME, HOLY SPIRIT

What do people mean when they sing “Come, Holy Spirit”?  He is already here, omnipresent. Why would we ask for something He already has given us, His marvelous presence?He came once in special ministry for the age of the church, and He is not going to come like that again.  If we mean that we want Him to move in our midst with power and purity, bringing obedience to the saints, then that makes sense.  It isn’t healthy to confuse people, so we should say and sing only what we mean because the average Christian, who only knows “about” the Bible, may well think we mean something else.

Every true believer has the Holy Spirit indwelling his/her body.  He is already there. God meant for us to utilize His indwelling, teaching, guiding, convicting, empowering, etc.; and the fullness of the Spirit is simply yielding to the indwelling Spirit.  Since we have the power dwelling in us, what are you praying for?  God has already given us the answer, and we are not using it.  Why are people looking for something new or additional?

Our world is at the edge of disaster, on the verge of a world war, and our nation is more divided than it was even at the time of the Civil War.  One international or national spark could set off a war or cause fighting to erupt in our streets.  Some folks have their heads in the sand in denial; others are frightened half of their wits.  Some Christians believe that revival is the answer.

If you are praying for revival, what are you praying for?  Praying for others isn’t wrong, but if you don’t have revival and repentance of sin in your own heart, then don’t waste your time.  The greatest hindrance to revival is the need in each individual heart, and that is what each person should be paying attention to.  Many believers pray in vain for revival because they embrace doctrinal error and expect God to honor their prayer while they abuse the Scriptures and are openly disobedient to Him.  To take lightly the omnipresence of God, for instance, is a serious offence to Him.

IT IS NO CHRISTMAS PRESENT

Christmas time is one of those periods when people are habitually careless with Scripture.  You have already heard my diatribe on this issue, but it illustrates the problem with misleading people about the omnipresence of Christ.  We are told that Jesus came down to earth at Bethlehem.  While that is true, much of the description is misleading.  Where did we get the stuff saying that the angels wept at His departure because they would miss Him?  On the day of His birth He was still present everywhere.  While He as a babe, clothed by God in flesh, lay in a manger, He was still the Creator and present everywhere in the universe.  We see Him as a helpless babe, a man of little wealth, or a despised servant; He was still the all-present God.

It is no Christmas present to mislead people about the God/man even if ours are innocent comments.  We don’t need “cute” explanations when we come to questions about Christ in the flesh.  We don’t need to feel that we have to explain things that are not explained in the Bible. Those who are plagued by the “Lucifer Syndrome” want people to think that they know the answers to everything.  Dr. Bowman repeatedly said, “We always begin with what we most assuredly know”.  Then we accept the clear, plain statements of the text.  The mysteries of the Scripture remain embraced in the omniscience of God.  Our task is to remain confident in what we know, such as the attributes of our Eternal God.

THE OMNIPRESENT ETERNAL GOD Friday, Aug 12 2016 

We should have little patience with those who deliberately abuse the scriptures, particularly in central doctrines.  At the same time, innocent statements can also be dangerous, even if they were not intended to be harmful.  The Bible is about God, and His purpose in giving us the scriptures was to reveal Himself to us.  His character is displayed in marvelous detail, and we are obligated to avoid statements that might mislead our listeners.

Here is an example of a careless comment, even though it might be intended to express the danger of rejecting the grace of God in eternal salvation.  How often have you heard someone say that “to be lost is to be separated from God eternally”?  It is true that the unsaved person will be separated from God’s love and mercy, but separated from God eternally?  Really?  How could that be?  David observed, “If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there”.  (Psalm 139:8b)  I remember, as a child, hearing an evangelist shout “The worst thing about hell is that God is not there!”  The truth is that the worst thing about hell is that God is there.  The careless student might say that the issue is not important.  The “cute” theologian may say that the place for the lost to dwell eternally is not hell, but is the Lake of Fire.  That is true, but it is not the point of this discussion.  After all, we are told “…and death and hell were cast into the lake of fire”.  (Rev. 20:14a)  To say that God is not in hell or eternity is an attack on the omnipresence of God.

CHRISTIANITY LITE

Much of the doctrinal error suggested by people who only know “about” the Bible comes from an erroneous view of the doctrine of God.  Whole denominations have invented ideas about the Holy Spirit that fail to recognize that He is God the Spirit.  That includes, without exception, all the attributes of God that belong to Him.   The Holy Spirit is eternally all-present in the first, second, and third heavens.  Eternity is hard for us to conceive, but He is, has always been, and always will be totally God.

An example of the general misunderstanding of the Spirit surrounds the event of Pentecost.  All that the Bible says on the subject is true.  He did come at Pentecost in special presence and ministry.  To hear some people tell the story, you would think that the Spirit had never been there before and was surprised at Jerusalem the first time He saw it.  While that is farfetched, it is no more misguided than some of allegorical ideas that historical theology offers, or that experiential religious views press on the Bible.

The Spirit has always been omnipresent, so that is not the issue of Pentecost.  The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost has to do with the inception of His special ministry; and that ministry is clearly related to the Church, the Body of Christ, that came into existence on that day.  Some aspects of His ministry had never been exercised before, and the Scripture makes it plain that they will be used from Pentecost until that moment when the Church of Jesus Christ is caught away.  When the Church is removed, so will be that special ministry of the Spirit.  (I Thess. 4:13-18; II Thess. 2:1-12)  The Holy Spirit will still be all-present, but those special ministries He began at Pentecost will cease to function with men on earth.

COME, HOLY SPIRIT

What do people mean when they sing “Come, Holy Spirit”?  He is already here, omnipresent. Why would we ask for something He already has given us, His marvelous presence?

He came once in special ministry for the age of the church, and He is not going to come like that again.  If we mean that we want Him to move in our midst with power and purity, bringing obedience to the saints, then that makes sense.  It isn’t healthy to confuse people, so we should say and sing only what we mean because the average Christian, who only knows “about” the Bible, may well think we mean something else.

Every true believer has the Holy Spirit indwelling his/her body.  He is already there. God meant for us to utilize His indwelling, teaching, guiding, convicting, empowering, etc.; and the fullness of the Spirit is simply yielding to the indwelling Spirit.  Since we have the power dwelling in us, what are you praying for?  God has already given us the answer, and we are not using it.  Why are people looking for something new or additional?

Our world is at the edge of disaster, on the verge of a world war, and our nation is more divided than it was even at the time of the Civil War.  One international or national spark could set off a war or cause fighting to erupt in our streets.  Some folks have their heads in the sand in denial; others are frightened half of their wits.  Some Christians believe that revival is the answer.

If you are praying for revival, what are you praying for?  Praying for others isn’t wrong, but if you don’t have revival and repentance of sin in your own heart, then don’t waste your time.  The greatest hindrance to revival is the need in each individual heart, and that is what each person should be paying attention to.  Many believers pray in vain for revival because they embrace doctrinal error and expect God to honor their prayer while they abuse the Scriptures and are openly disobedient to Him.  To take lightly the omnipresence of God, for instance, is a serious offence to Him.

IT IS NO CHRISTMAS PRESENT

Christmas time is one of those periods when people are habitually careless with Scripture.  You have already heard my diatribe on this issue, but it illustrates the problem with misleading people about the omnipresence of Christ.  We are told that Jesus came down to earth at Bethlehem.  While that is true, much of the description is misleading.  Where did we get the stuff saying that the angels wept at His departure because they would miss Him?  On the day of His birth He was still present everywhere.  While He as a babe, clothed by God in flesh, lay in a manger, He was still the Creator and present everywhere in the universe.  We see Him as a helpless babe, a man of little wealth, or a despised servant; He was still the all-present God.

It is no Christmas present to mislead people about the God/man even if ours are innocent comments.  We don’t need “cute” explanations when we come to questions about Christ in the flesh.  We don’t need to feel that we have to explain things that are not explained in the Bible. Those who are plagued by the “Lucifer Syndrome” want people to think that they know the answers to everything.  Dr. Bowman repeatedly said, “We always begin with what we most assuredly know”.  Then we accept the clear, plain statements of the text.  The mysteries of the Scripture remain embraced in the omniscience of God.  Our task is to remain confident in what we know, such as the attributes of our Eternal God.

SOMEONE TELL ME Tuesday, Aug 2 2016 

These long days of illness have given me a good opportunity to triple my reading time. It has been very profitable, and I am reading more widely than ever. While it assists me in my research, I keep coming back to questions that are not found in any written text. Having spent a lifetime in ministry, education, and missions, my mind is full of questions.Some answers are clear; others are not. As you read my questions, you may have some wisdom to share. If so, I ask you to pass it on to me.

Some weeks ago, I had lunch with a dear friend who is the president of a well-known seminary in another country. We were considering the impact, or lack thereof,of theological education on every level. I could easily spend a month recording the positive effects of training on the lives of so many who have served the Lord so well. Many of these folks have gone on to their reward, and we are grateful for having known them. On the negative side, though, it has been painful to see men and women who appeared to have been well-trained but who have slid, or jumped, into theological systems and questionable moral practices of which they now seem to be proud. This type of errant direction was unusual in the past, but it has now become a rush with men and women who ought to know better. So my question to you is this: “Why has this departure from truth become so popular?”

ONE THING I AM SURE OF

There is no question in my mind that the American model of education is responsible for adding fuel to this fire.  The liberal mind-set has always been a part of that system. It is flawed and tends to hide behind intellectualism, philosophy, and so-called “science“. It is intellectually cruel with the capacity to turn truth into a lie, deluding people into thinking that it is indeed the truth. As time has passed, this “liberal mind-set” has become the majority and has now created a mental dictatorship.

The admission that something is a lie comes when you have to force others to think like you do. Ultimately, you are punished if you don’t think (or believe) like they do. If truth doesn’t stand on its own two feet, then it is a lie. This is exactly where our world is at this moment.

The liberal mind-set makes much to-do about “critical and analytical thinking”, the truth is that their approach forbids such serious consideration. The American educational model is really just indoctrination and brainwashing. If you don’t support the fairy tales of evolution, global warming (even they know that was dumb), and moral degradation such as sodomy or transgenderism, you are a danger – an enemy. You are not allowed to either think or speak on the subject.

THE RESULT OF THIS PLAGUE

Almost everyone we know today has been raised to think with a liberal mind-set. It might be understandable that this could happen in an academic world run by intellectual pagans. It is understandable that the present plight of this nation came about because the liberal mind-set is now the only one that is tolerated.

What troubles me is that this mind-set has become the standard for most so-called Christian institutions. Our crowd “longed for the leeks and garlic of Egypt”. They wanted to be like the “big boys” in education. Like all departures from error, some of that error was carried along.  Such is the sad story of Luther and Calvin.

That is not to say that some institutions are not battling to pass on a biblical mind-set. Of course most of them would say that they do “think biblically”, but where is the proof? They have bought into the world of “form” rather than the imperative of “content and meaning”. A good education will cover a lot of ground and disciplines, but it will never bow to human reason as the final authority. Everything ought to begin and end with the authority of the Word of God.

OBSERVING THE FAITHFUL

So how can it be that some who were trained with a high biblical standard, with professors or pastors who were loved and respected, could then move to flawed theology?  At this point, I am thinking of men who were educated beside me or in front of me. Some of this has to do with our own circle of education, where indoctrination or brain-washing was used. They were not taught critical and analytical thinking, and the truth as it was presented never became their own.

Pick up the catalog of an institution, any institution, and start asking questions about individual courses or sections. Where is that clear effort to lead the student in owning the theological truth? Course after course is full of good information, our truth. We even give them exams so that we can know they remembered our truth. Where is the emphasis of God’s truth as it is displayed in the text, in that the student knows how to own what he gleaned from that text?

Those who have moved on to theological error and the liberal mind-set didn’t get it. They have joined the great movement of “adding to the Bible” whatever they want it to say. Intellectual pride makes that so easy. Young men in particular are lured by theologians with twisted minds who a have made rewriting the Bible into an art form.

So here we are back at the beginning.The fact is that not all students will get it, but I would be satisfied if most of them did. I have a short list in front of me; how did these men get drawn into a historical theology that reads like “Alice in Wonderland”???

ARE YOU “HEPIN” THE DEVIL? Tuesday, Jun 28 2016 

After twenty-six years of living in North Carolina, I have learned some of the lingo. Down here, “hepin” is a quick way to say “helping”. So let’s get “rat” to it – and no, I don’t mean that mousy kind of rat! We expect unregenerate crowds to be on the devil’s side. Let’s face it – they are a majority. In our culture, the devil’s children (John 8:44) are bent on worshiping the enemy of our souls. We do not expect Christians, particularly true believers, to help Satan, yet we often do just that.

Paul explains this basic tenet in Romans 6:12,13: Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

We don’t have to help the devil, but we do so when we do advance his agenda. The member that we use to speed the work of the evil one is most often the tongue. (James 3:1-10) The tongue utters words, and words have meaning. Even names can serve the devil’s purposes: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

When we use words that are misleading or patently untrue,we serve the enemy. Unfortunately, Christians today have bowed to “political correctness”. Our pagan society, along with the emerging and emergent church, persists in softening words that describe sin.The most heinous of sins is dressed up with fancy words that make wicked people feel

TRANSGENDER

Let me begin with the most recent lie. There is no such thing as a “transgender”. God settled this issue at creation. The genders are man and woman, and that is all there is; there is nothing more. Sinners may try to cover up their wicked world, but believers are plainly disobedient if we join that stampede. “Transgender” is a lie from the pit of hell, and we should refuse to even use the word. If you do, you are “hepin” the devil. Wicked minds have invented this lie with “psycho-heresy” and humanistic psychology. The Bible is the final authority on anything it speaks to: …let God be true, but every man a liar…(Romans 3:4) A person’s response to this charge will tell you just how far that individual has moved from Scriptures that are authoritative and sufficient.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

While I have dealt with this topic before, here it is again: there is no such thing as “same-sex marriage”. God settled this when He created marriage. It is one man, one woman, for one lifetime. Stop using the devil’s vocabulary. Stop using that term. To do so is “hepin” the devil. If you think God is dead, or that the Bible is not clear, then this discussion is not for you. “Same-sex marriage” is a lie, and even the denigrators know it is a lie. Don’t let them drag you down into their pit of lies.

GAY, HOMOSEXUAL, SODOMY

There is nothing at all gay about this horrible wickedness. God has spoken clearly regarding this sin. I understand how those who use allegoricalinterpretation tend to treat Romans 1, but the clear, plain statement of the text is pointed. Those who practice sodomy (1:26-27) are condemned: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. Hang on to your hat; the plain, clear statement is that this is a capital crime.To support this evil in any way is to support a lie and is “hepin” the devil.

The term “homosexual” may be a true description, but it should never be used as an approval or recommendation. That kind of activity is better described by God as sodomy. That is why evil people hate that word so much and have bullied Christians into avoiding it. Those Christians are often so very fearful that they even bully those who use plain speech.

FORNICATION AND ADULTERY

Pulpits used to be very clear about such activity; now some have willingly followed the “dumbing down” of sin. They went from that terminology to “shacking up” to “living together” to “relationship”. By using these terms, they are “hepin” the devil and promoting a lie. Stop using words that are clearly lies and give support to the “god of this world”. And then there is the topic of abortion where, sadly, silence reigns among most Christians.

LAME EXCUSES FOR SUPPORTING WICKEDNESS

So why do (professing) Christians today so often support sin and the devil with their vocabulary? Some appeal to love, but you neither love someone that you help with a lienor should you feel comfortable about sin. Love doesn’t blind sinners to righteousness, knowing they are headed for hell. Some persist in believing that all sin is bad, and that is true; but God is clear about the fact that some sins are worthy of death. Using sin to protect sin is “hepin” the devil. Others insist that plain talk (truth) will turn people away, and that is why hell and judgment have disappeared from their message. If that ploy doesn’t work, they then attack the messengers, the truth-tellers’ character.

Remember this: Holiness is God’s primary characteristic; truth rises from holiness, and love rises from truth. Telling lies is not true, righteous, or holy. Telling lies is “hepin” the devil, and it grieves the heart of God.

THE INVITATION Wednesday, May 11 2016 

Let me begin with a warning: this monthly article is meant to incite discussion.  If you read it only until you are offended, you have missed the point.  This issue takes aim at the extremes surrounding the “invitation”.  We use this term almost every day in some way or other.  In the end, I want us to consider what has been termed the “altar call”.  Invitations are not bad.  Jesus often gave invitations, beginning with one to His disciples.  (Matthew 4:18-22)  Andrew followed that example.  (John 1:41-43)

An open invitation at the end of a meeting is a relatively new thing in church circles. During the great periods of revival, it was used in evangelism.  It then became a popular tool in conservative churches.  Even if some did not like the idea, at its heart it was, and is, effective.

WHERE IT IS TODAY

Among churches headed toward the flawed “emerging church” trend, there is a growing disdain of the practice, some of which is encouraged by certain historical theological elements.  There are also churches that have become discouraged with this tool because of its excesses and misguided use.  There are even some churches that ought to forget about giving an invitation, since they have nothing to invite people to, anyway!

The danger in excluding it completely is that its rejection derives from cultural arguments rather than from scripture.  The mob mentality dictates that as soon as they are able, everyone has to follow the “change culture” that scraps all old things.  We are told that the “millennials” can’t be reached with anything other than what they demand.  It is sad that people have forgotten that all generations, including this one, have the same need.  We are all sinners and need the God of the Word and the Word of God.

A good number of conservative churches continue the practice.  The problem is that we so seldom evaluate ministry.  If we do, it offends some folks who think they are more important than the work of God.  Rather than searching for the value of this practice, they go on tripping over all kinds of obstacles.  That may be one of the reasons why there so few churches anymore who are seeing real conversions over the period of a year, rather than seeing people saved “daily” as God intended.  (Acts 2:47)  Now that I have made everyone mad, let me add some constructive advice.

USE AND MISUSE

One of the major traps of “culture authority” is that you are obligated to follow the methods that everyone else is using.  To be considered relevant, you have to use all the “stuff” that others are using.  What the devil could not accomplish outside the church he has now done inside the church.  This is not a new problem; among conservative churches, the same mentality has existed for a long time.  The idea is that if I want to have the largest church in the area, I will have to use the same tools others use, whether good or bad.

With that in place, all of us need to take a good look at the use of an open invitation in order to see what and why adjustments may be helpful.  We are not, and should not feel obligated to do what others do in their churches.  Any adjustments, however, need to make sense in order to be effective.

If you dare, take a look at the extremes.  We should indeed present the gospel clearly, and we should offer a way for further explanation and reception of the message.  A carefully crafted invitation can do that.  Our task is to sow the seed, but it is God who gives the increase.  High-pressure invitations are highly questionable.  Giving an opportunity to come forward is not the question, but extending an invitation until everyone is “down front” is questionable.  The invitation is often confusing rather than being pointed and clear.  By the time an invitation is given, things should have been made so clear that long explanations are not necessary.  The Holy Spirit can and will work when God’s message has been presented clearly.

SOME PRACTICAL IDEAS

There are some excellent illustrations of how to use an effective invitation.  I will refrain from recommending certain names because that gets in the way, but there are some speakers who do get it right.  A well-ordered message will tell the listeners what is going to be said, and it can be summarized quickly afterward.  This comes from the old country preacher who said, “I tells them what I is going to tell them, then I tells them, then I tells them what I told them”.  So from the very beginning the listener should know what to expect and what is expected of her/him.  At the end, all that remains is to quickly open the door and invite them to respond down a clear path.

A well-ordered message flows swiftly into the conclusion and the opportunity to respond.  It should not become an obstacle, but should remain an opportunity.  One of the keys is to never refer to time.  The listener ought not to be able to anticipate the transition; this way the attention of the lost person is never broken.  His mind is on his need and the answer the preacher has given, and one question remains: What will I do with Jesus?  Distractions spell disaster when it comes to closing a message.  There is no law saying that we have to sing, even if it is helpful at times.  Singing a dozen verses of a hymn is most often a distraction.  If you haven’t made the message clear at this point, a last-minute explanation can be a distraction.

When you get over being mad about this, take some time to think it over.  Most people aren’t opposed to an invitation; actually, they are opposed to distractions.

WHO IS A CONSERVATIVE? Tuesday, Mar 1 2016 

These days, designations and tags are flying around like bumblebees. The problem is that these categories only represent the user’s point of view. “A conservative is someone who agrees with me!” There is no static view in any of them. Conservatives come in many colors. Because of this, all of these groups change meaning over the years. Designations alone are like trying to pick up mercury.

The only way to get to the root of this problem is to ask, “How did they come to that conclusion?” rather than “What is their conclusion?” Your mindset, your system of thinking is really the issue, because that is where your conclusions, points of view, and beliefs come from. We face this every day in theology. It is why people contentiously debate doctrinal positions. One needs to ask, “How did you come to that belief; what system did you use?” The reason there are so many differing doctrines is that people use different systems of thinking. If they all faithfully used the same system with its rules, they could readily come to the same conclusions.

In the early days of American education, there was a strong emphasis on “critical and analytical thinking”. This can be demonstrated in the founding documents of our nation, and it is the reason why certain people are trying to destroy them. What we have in state education today is not “critical and analytical thinking”, even though they claim that it is. What is going on in this rapidly deteriorating system is “brain washing and indoctrination”. Sadly, this same approach has sunk its teeth deep into what is called Christian education. That is why we look, think, act, and smell like the American education failure.

AN OBSERVATION

To illustrate this problem, I am forced to use some current designations; but hang on – I will explain later. We seem to be dealing with “liberals, moderates, and conservatives”. I know there are other fringe tags, but I will let you have that discussion among yourselves. Liberalism has a hundred threads, and they are not necessarily similar. What is common about all those tangents is that they use the same system of thinking. Human reason is their authority, and they have a disdain for truth. In fact, many of them do not even believe there is such a thing as truth. Their final authority is man, culture, intellect, etc. No matter how illogical their conclusions may be, they will defend them to “your” death. Liberalism is not wrong about everything; but as I often say, “It doesn’t have answers, but only creates problems and then blames them on someone else”. So liberalism (as an illustration) is about how they think and not so much what they think.

Conservatism (bear with me here) at its heart is interested in truth that can be demonstrated, unlike the so-called science of liberalism that is based on faith or what one believes based on man’s authority. Early conservatism leaned heavily on “analytical and critical thinking”. Sad to say, most people we know in this category love to argue but are not able to answer the “why” of their position. In these days, I fear that thinkers are in the minority. We must remember, however, that even in this group the views are not unanimous.

When people declare a position, or the importance of that position, they create questions that allow us to discover their systems of thinking. That is why you have conservatives championing liberal positions. The left might hold views that the right holds, and vise-versa. That is where moderates come in. They are neither one nor the other, but the problem is that moderates always move left and not right.

BACK TO THE FUTURE

So in this present atmosphere, we ask “How can you tell who is what?” It is not about what they say, but how they arrived at what they say. If one thinks like a liberal, he divides things up; he is a moral conservative, a liberal in economics, and so on. That is the problem. This is not about the leaves; it is about the root. It is how they think, and so many people who claim to be conservative simply tend to think like liberals. How you think determines what you believe and what you are.

Perhaps you can explain why I have never met a person who is liberal in politics who is not also liberal in religion. This is not about whether they got something right; it is a system of thinking as to how they view everything in life. So, if you are thinking about who is a conservative, you should be asking how that person thinks.

There are some positions that quickly identify with liberal thinking. Abortion and sodomy are two of them, and you have to think like a liberal to support such heinous acts. These, though, only allow you to ask the right questions. Any person who is soft on any major issue of any kind is giving you a message. As believers, we should be reminded that for us there is no such thing as a separation of the religious and the secular. The Bible is clear; every thought, deed, and position is subject to the will of God.

LOOKING DOWN THE BARREL

Since we are on the subject, consider pulling out the rifle and looking down the barrel. Let me talk about “us” – those who claim to be conservative and profess salvation. In theology, you have all three of these categories. Call them what you wish; it is right, middle, and left. There are those who are completely committed to the Word and will of God. We may not always practice it right, but we trust a Holy God and believe the Book is God’s Word.

Then how did we get to the “theological error of the month”? It is because we have been taught to think like liberals. Look at how quickly our “professed” fundamental friends run to defend and buddy up to the moderates. By their very nature, moderates think with a liberal mind-set; so the truth is that our own brothers have been duped by that humanistic way of thinking.

I want you to remember this: “Moderates, those in the middle, are far more dangerous than the worst heretic among liberals”.

That is where we are today. In the present atmosphere, our own brothers and sisters are running to cast their lots with a system of thinking that opposes God at every step. That system of thinking is not conservative, and neither are they. Just saying!

PROTECTING THE PASTORATE Friday, Feb 26 2016 

The scriptures are clear concerning the man who is pastor, shepherd, elder, bishop, and overseer.  His qualifications, role, responsibility, and limitation are plainly stated.  In my book, “The Weeping Church; Confronting the Crisis of Church Polity”, all of this is carefully outlined.  The book has been in constant publication since 1985.

I am amazed at how often people take the liberty of ignoring or rewriting the Bible text, particularly on this subject.  Almost every local church problem goes back to this issue.  Of course, the roots of those problems are sin and pride; but God blesses only what He orders.  If a church is organized in such a way as to create and feed conflict, one should not be surprised when it breaks out.  Everything man touches is flawed, but the closer we can stay to the plain, clear statements of the Word, the more likely we are to have peace.

Right now in our country we are living out the tragedy of this kind of ignorance.  Creditable historians know that this country is a republic, not a democracy.  Democracies always end in tragedy, and there are clear historical reasons as to why that is true.  A republic has the rule of law, and people are meant to be treated in that way.  So I have often asked, “Where did the concept of democracy in a local church come from?”  If you found it in the text, it is only because you inserted it there.

BEGININNG AT THE BEGINNING

God always makes things simple for us; we are the ones who make them complicated.  We often do that on purpose in order to confuse people so that we can get away with making the Bible agree with us.  This is the problem with the average concept of the pastor in our churches.  Pastors are often installed in local churches as errand boys or merely someone to fill the pulpit.  A local church is a flock, and it needs a qualified under-shepherd.  Christ is the Chief Shepherd, and He is the one who appoints these under-shepherds.  The prayerful task of the local church is to find out who Christ has appointed for them.  The church should be seeking the will of God rather than the will of the people or a flawed majority.  Churches languish because, in the flesh, they think they have a better idea.

The selection process of a congregation often follows the pattern of the nation of Israel in its choice of King Saul.  They thought they needed a man who was tall, dark, and handsome.  Who cares about the heart of the man, let alone what is in his mind?  That is why people are so easily fooled – you don’t always get exactly what you see.  Sad to say, candidates are not always truthful.  More than one prospect has hidden his questionable theology; then, when his error comes to the surface, he is so firmly settled in that the people are not willing to stand up and be counted.  On the other hand, they would fight over the color of the carpet at the drop of a hat!  What percentage of local churches has leaders with enough knowledge of the scripture to ask the kinds of questions that would smoke out a theological “wolf in sheep’s clothing”?  That’s the problem: they only think they do.

We would have to add to this mix the intention of a candidate to change the flavor and format of church function.  All these changes may not actually be a biblical question, but hiding the intent to do so is.  If the prospect had been honest and had outlined his prospective changes that would scatter the sheep, the door would have closed – and he knows that.  Christ is fully aware of, and has not forgotten, these questionable and sinful assaults on the local church.

NON-ANSWERS TO THE PROBLEM

On the other hand, the local church often practices bad habits in order to control conflict and protect itself.  The clear answers to unrest in church polity are clearly stated in God’s Word, and they are the only way a church can solve difficulty in its fellowship.  Some have chosen simply to do away with the real shepherd of the sheep.  If you don’t have a pastor, then fifty percent of your problem is gone – right?  They forget this: But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.  (Matthew 9:36)

A flock without a true shepherd will falter and eventually be destroyed.  The function of a shepherd cannot be fulfilled by a false shepherd or a hireling. (John 10:12)  Only the qualified (I Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-10), a Christ-appointed shepherd (I Peter 5:1-4), can fully carry out that ministry of the pastor, elder, and bishop.  The Chief Shepherd appoints, qualifies, empowers, and approves true shepherds.

Be careful with your human response to this, but if a man does some shepherding, it does not mean he is a shepherd.  This is a simple concept.  When my wife was in the hospital, I had to do some mothering; but that didn’t make me a mother.  Humans can put any title they wish on a man, but only Christ can designate one of His under-shepherds.  Then there is the “Hagar Syndrome”.  They think they can solve the problem by multiplying the number of men they choose as pastor, elder.  The text clearly states that churches had, and have, multiple pastors; and that is true if they are appointed by the Chief Shepherd. Often this is used as a smoke screen to build an oligarchy.  This concept is in direct conflict with nature and the Bible standard.  Leadership and headship are always singular.

GOD’S PLAN OF ORDER

So why are churches so quick to join theological bandwagons when they know that the wheels are coming off?  Basically, it has to do with the humanly devised hermeneutic that is raging in the new church culture.  Intellectuals have provided a plan whereby churches can “have it their way”.  Churches follow unbiblical polity because there is so little knowledge of the Bible.  They know about the Bible, but have found a way to “fill in the blanks” in order to get their own way.  This is often done by means of the abuse of language, the ignoring of context, or the twisting of historical information.

Theological smart-alecks may have lot of information, but they are short on wisdom.  Intellectualism draws young novices because it is important for them to “run with the big boys”.  They fall into error willingly, but seldom find their way out of the theological slime pit.

The wise man will let the text speak for itself.  The strong man will be willing to stand up for truth even where error has been practiced for generations.  A holy God will bless what He orders, and that is how we protect the biblical pastorate

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