SHOT IN THE FOOT Thursday, Apr 16 2015 

The purpose of these monthly articles is to create discussion and it is to that end that I continue. It is not sufficient to discuss a problem, there must indeed be a suggested proposal and that is all a proposal is, an idea.

In one of his short stories Edgar Allen Poe tells of a man who is shut in a room where the walls move slowly inward. His death is sure if some answer doesn’t arrive soon. This is actually a picture of what is happening in our society as the walls of offense and restriction move in on Biblical Christianity. One of these issues is about sodomy. In our life time this practice has moved from being criminal to permissible, to acceptable, to legal and now supported to the point that people faith are required to accept it and be silent.

In the market place legal action is being taken against a business that exercises freedom of religion. These believers are required to honor and give respect to something God has condemned. The penalty for exercising the freedom of speech and freedom of religion, guaranteed in our founding documents, is that the best citizens in our nation are fined and forced out of their livelihood.

Several states have passed laws to support religious beliefs of its citizens but in doing so they are maligned, attacked and marginalized. In these actions believers are blackmailed and discriminated against. Discrimination is the very thing that those on the left say they champion. The language used against moral citizens is filled with hate, threats and demonstrates the very essence of evil that the immoral practice typifies.

Who is responsible for this slide into the moral abyss and the vengeful attack on believers? This may surprise you but we are. We shot ourselves in the foot. Let me explain.

COMING TO YOUR CHURCH SOON

We began this slide by choosing to use terms that favor the enemy. Trying to be polite we began using terms that were not so offensive to those who mock God’s holiness. “Gay” doesn’t mean happy but we wanted to so nice. “Same as” didn’t carry the seriousness that God describes in Romans one and Deuteronomy but “sodomy” was such an unkind word. Then sweet talking evangelicals fell into the word trap and made something evil not so evil. Now those terms of accommodation are used, by the cowardly, out of fear of penalty.

Finally the term “same sex marriage” came to the surface. No thinking Biblicist should ever use such a phrase because there is no such thing. Only God gets to define marriage. Using such language only gives credibility to wickedness. Use whatever name you choose but don’t call it marriage. If you are afraid just be quiet but don’t criticize those who will stand for righteousness at any cost.

We are a short step from this issue reaching the door of our churches. The God of the intellectual heathen is man. Their God said “anything goes” and even churches must comply. When they demand that godly pastors perform heathen marriages, what are you going to do? If you refuse your doors will be closed just as businesses are being closed.

WHERE DID THIS COME FROM?

The problem is that we chose to be “agents of the state”. We agreed to put marriage under a humanistic authority. You can argue until you are blue in the face but you cannot find any biblical authority for the state being in charge of marriage. Your allegorical, philosophical hermeneutic will get you there but not the bible text. I explain all of this from the biblical text in my book “The Coming Conflict” on the separation of church and state.

You will argue “it is law” and this is one of the big problems. Many things are legal but that doesn’t make them right or moral. Making the murder of unborn children legal didn’t make it right or moral. The bible is clear, when man’s law is in direct opposition to God’s law no believer is obligated to participate in evil. If they did Moses never would have had a chance, Daniel and the three Hebrew children would have signed up and the apostles would have been silent about the gospel.

You will argue that the courts have ruled in favor of this evil. It is hard to help people who have little understanding of just how corrupt the judicial system is. This goes all the way to the top with a supreme court that has rewritten the founding documents of this land. Those documents were meant to protect good citizens as Paul and Peter explain they should. Now the court is punishing good and giving protection for evil. One can only wonder why this isn’t treason.

HERE IS A PROPOSAL

What is a godly pastor supposed to do? Remember we are right around the corner on this issue. In our city someone has been going from church to church asking if they would do “same as” marriages. I suggest you stop being an agent of the state. Let the couple go to the Justice of the Peace for a license. Then have a real wedding under God in the church. So when the “same as” question comes you say “sorry we don’t do state weddings, our wedding celebrations are for the believers in our church just like any other worship event”. If you don’t find an answer sit down and compute what taxes will cost you when they take that freedom away. You will be out of business in less than three years and that is what they want, your silence. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot twice.

THE AUTOPSY OF A DEAD CHURCH Saturday, Mar 21 2015 

Christ’s words to the local church at Sardis are painful: I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. (Rev. 3:1) That verse triggered something in my mind about the state of the local church today. In the past few years, thousands of pulpits that used to flame with the fire of righteousness have fallen to the “Ichabod syndrome”. They are left with about as much power as a wet firecracker. It is true that some of them have just gone out of existence. That is bad enough, but nothing compared to the tragedy of churches that are dead and don’t even know it.

Like marionettes, they dance, jiggle, and pretend to be real; but there is no real spiritual life in them. They are good at crowds and, just like the super bowl crowd, they make plenty of noise. They use a lot of good words and talk about God, even quote at times from the Bible, but truth was buried a long time ago. They flail about like a body that has just been beheaded, but from which real life is gone. The shell, buildings, and trappings are all there, but they echo with the sounds of those who are eternally lost.

WHAT CAUSED THEM TO DIE?

Leadership with no integrity has deliberately led them like the pied piper. Change is their mantra, and culture is their God. As II Timothy 3:5 says, …having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. Because man is at the center of things, they cannot tolerate established faithful believers. Old things are out, and old people are just in the way. With no shame for their dishonesty, they use craft to assume ownership of ministry and money and then replace it with a consumer mentality. All vestiges of the past have to be removed, with nothing left to remind people of those days of genuine revival and powerful conversions. It may not be deliberate, but this is also the plan of the communists – “kill, destroy, and remove” any reminders of the past, then replace them with things that make people of the world comfortable. It is all about what they like.

Peter warned the people that false teachers were coming. Jude told them that they were already here. Those apostates didn’t rush in with guns blazing. That wouldn’t have worked, because the church would then wake up from its dull sleep. Modern day false teachers are bullies and cowards; like the ISIS demon butchers, they cover their faces. They strike at the elderly with little compassion for broken hearts. The truth is that they couldn’t hold a spiritual candle to most of those seasoned believers, but they are cowards. They hide while they attack the simple and immature, and then finally it is too late.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS HORRIBLE DEATH?

This part is really the most tragic. The majority of the congregation could have prevented the death, but they did little or nothing. In fact, like Lot in Sodom, they fit right in. There are times when they might think back to a ministry of truth and righteousness, but then they are drawn back to the den of death. It is so much fun, and it feels so good, and the communicators are so effective. No real thought is given, though, as to what those leaders are not saying. It never crossed their minds that worship leaders didn’t have enough Bible truth in them to fill a thimble.

It never dawned on them, in the beginning, to recoil with righteous indignation when they began “singing lies”. They never thought to ask why the majority of great doctrines were never addressed. Their spiritual axe was so dull that they failed to realize that when nonsense – and sometimes heresy – were being taught, they should be asking questions. By then, those who originally were able to recognize error had either been run off or had left with the pain of a grieved soul.

In the end, thousands of so-called churches had “Ichabod” written over their doors, and they never even saw it coming. Like zombies or “the living dead,” they go through the motions with no feeling at all of the “burning” that Jude talks about. It is true that many of the deceived had never known the grace of God personally, but woe unto those disobedient believers who were not prepared, who remained silent and then joined the thundering herd.

FOR THOSE WHO CARE

Ministry always rises from what one believes. The idea that someone can change methods without it relating to their belief is part of the death lie. Disobedient people hate this, but it is possible to walk into an empty church building and know exactly what questions to ask. When you attend a so-called worship service, many of your questions will be answered. Worship is in the Spirit, and it is about God. It has to be in truth; thus, when people are singing lies, that is not worship. That is not truth. Worship is about God, not man. When a worship service mimics the Israelites dancing around the golden calf, it is not hard to tell that God is not the focus there.

I am for good change. I am for enthusiasm. I have no criticism of those who are moved emotionally by a song, message, or testimony. It is not that hard to tell, though, when someone is exuding hypocrisy. Don’t demonstrate your ignorance by talking about judging. We don’t condemn people; that’s God’s task. Ours is to be loyal to true grace and to a holy God. That relationship of obedience requires us to recoil at false teaching and fake worship that is not backed up by the daily life.

Let me be pointed – the Emerging Church movement is filled with this death cult, and yet blind people run rapidly toward disaster just because it is all new. It feels good to be saying, “I like it!” Oh, for the days when it was about what God loves and hates! You do have a choice, you know. Why in the world would you choose to stay trapped in something that grieves a holy God?

THE AUTOPSY OF A DEAD SERMON Monday, Feb 23 2015 

Many sermons have little any affect on the listeners when it comes to decision making. As my friend Jim said “They are D.O.A, dead on arrival”. This discussion is not about truth that was last month. This is about effectiveness. Even a dead body has some truth associated with it, but it doesn’t have life.

If you get offended by this discussion you are not reading carefully. Sermons aren’t for and about the preacher. They should be about God, not the human instrument and it should be for the listener. I have no idea how many sermons I have heard in my almost 80 years. I have no idea how many I have preached over 55 years of ministry but a number of them were DOA. I looked over some of messages from those first years in the pastorate and I wondered how anyone ever listened to them. It isn’t that I was not sincere; I just wish someone would have shared the following with me. It wasn’t until my post graduate work that I had a professor who was willing to rip my disjointed thoughts into pieces. I thank God for that man.

GETTING STARTED

Sermons aren’t supposed to be entertainment and the preacher is not an entertainer. That doesn’t mean humor and illustrations are out of the question. But those are only tools and they shouldn’t be the main thing a listener remembers about the sermon. Every message ought to begin with a clear statement of where one is headed and what if any decision or action would be expected. The sermon needs to focus on that subject and lead the person to the stated action. It should close with a clear statement of the idea and clearly lead to any action the speaker intended the listener to have. This is simply the outline of the old black preacher. “I tells them what I going to tells them, then I tells them and then tells them what I told them.” At any point in the message the listener should be able to know what the idea, goal and action is.

AN APPROACH

There are many forms that a message could take. None of them are necessarily bad. Some however are better than others. Many effective preachers have done well with a verse by verse exegetical approach. It may be the best approach but doctrinal, topical or devotional messages have their place. It is not difficult to make an exegetical approach as dry as dust however. A discourse should not be a technical seminary lecture but the local church is in serious need of teaching, no matter what the makeup of the congregation is. At the same time all messages always should teach. One way to test this is to write in the margin of one’s outline the doctrines being taught by the sermon. Working through a bible book as a series is safe in that sooner or later you come to every doctrine and serious issue that needs to be shared.

As the pulpit master carefully reviews his sermons for the year there are some things he should find. Central doctrines should have been clearly dealt with. A central doctrine is not limited to the things you have to believe to go to heaven. There are subjects that open the door understanding important doctrinal areas. I often ask how long it has been since you preached or heard some speak on the Blessed Hope, the any moment return of Christ for the Church. What someone believes is really not as important as how they got there. That is the real test.

THINGS THAT KILL SERMONS

In a former article I discussed the issue of “time” as it relates to a message. One of my students asked “how long does it take for you to prepare a message”? My answer was “it takes fifty four years”. It takes time to prepare an effective message, one that will deliver the intended response. This may sound strange but it takes more time to prepare for a well ordered thirty minutes message than it does for a rambling hour. That is no recommendation for sermonettes that produce christianettes. An effective message has no time for unrelated word slurs.

There are very few preachers who have the ability to hold the attention of an audience for an hour and a half. Many times long winded sermons are there only because the speaker likes the sound of his own voice. The real issue, however, is not the length of a sermon. In a previous article I outline the problem of referring to time. At any place in the message we mention time it will distract the listener. References such as “time is my enemy”, “I don’t have enough time”, “I am almost done”, “this is my last point”, or even “finally” are fatal. They don’t believe us anyway having heard those disclaimers to many times before. If you give the listener any hint that you are almost done, you are done. They are zipping up bible covers, putting on a coat or ordering lunch, but you are done. Don’t bother to give an invitation you lost them and your sermon is incomplete. How to hold their attention is another matter for another article.

GIVING LIFE TO A MESSAGE

In diligent preparation every word should be weighed. Preachers who wing it are in for a fall. While there must be solid truth taught there is need for application. One should note that application is not part of interpretation. These can only be added once the interpretation is finished. If we begin with the application before the text we are on dangerous ground. An illustration may be used to introduce a message but even that should rise from the theme of the text that has been settled by exegesis. If the listener goes away with a desire to come listen again the message was alive. Dead messages send people away empty and cold.

SHOT IN THE FOOT Tuesday, Feb 3 2015 

The purpose of these monthly articles is to create discussion and it is to that end that I continue. It is not sufficient to discuss a problem, there must indeed be a suggested proposal and that is all a proposal is, an idea.

In one of his short stories Edgar Allen Poe tells of a man who is shut in a room where the walls move slowly inward. His death is sure if some answer doesn’t arrive soon.  This is actually a picture of what is happening in our society as the walls of offense and restriction move in on Biblical Christianity.  One of these issues is about sodomy.  In our life time this practice has moved from being criminal to permissible, to acceptable, to legal and now supported to the point that people faith are required to accept it and be silent.

In the market place legal action is being taken against a business that exercises freedom of religion.  These believers are required to honor and give respect to something God has condemned. The penalty for exercising the freedom of speech and freedom of religion, guaranteed in our founding documents, is that the best citizens in our nation are fined and forced out of their livelihood.

Several states have passed laws to support religious beliefs of its citizens but in doing so they are maligned, attacked and marginalized. In these actions believers are blackmailed and discriminated against. Discrimination is the very thing that those on the left say they champion. The language used against moral citizens is filled with hate, threats and demonstrates the very essence of evil that the immoral practice typifies.

Who is responsible for this slide into the moral abyss and the vengeful attack on believers? This may surprise you but we are. We shot ourselves in the foot. Let me explain.

COMING TO YOUR CHURCH SOON

We began this slide by choosing to use terms that favor the enemy. Trying to be polite we began using terms that were not so offensive to those who mock God’s holiness.  “Gay” doesn’t mean happy but we wanted to so nice. “Same as” didn’t carry the seriousness that God describes in Romans one and Deuteronomy but “sodomy” was such an unkind word. Then sweet talking evangelicals fell into the word trap and made something evil not so evil. Now those terms of accommodation are used, by the cowardly, out of fear of penalty.

Finally the term “same sex marriage” came to the surface.  No thinking Biblicist should ever use such a phrase because there is no such thing. Only God gets to define marriage. Using such language only gives credibility to wickedness. Use whatever name you choose but don’t call it marriage. If you are afraid just be quiet but don’t criticize those who will stand for righteousness at any cost.

We are a short step from this issue reaching the door of our churches. The God of the intellectual heathen is man. Their God said “anything goes” and even churches must comply. When they demand that godly pastors perform heathen marriages, what are you going to do? If you refuse your doors will be closed just as businesses are being closed.

WHERE DID THIS COME FROM?

The problem is that we chose to be “agents of the state”. We agreed to put marriage under a humanistic authority. You can argue until you are blue in the face but you cannot find any biblical authority for the state being in charge of marriage. Your allegorical, philosophical hermeneutic will get you there but not the bible text. I explain all of this from the biblical text in my book “The Coming Conflict” on the separation of church and state.

You will argue “it is law” and this is one of the big problems. Many things are legal but that doesn’t make them right or moral. Making the murder of unborn children legal didn’t make it right or moral. The bible is clear, when man’s law is in direct opposition to God’s law no believer is obligated to participate in evil. If they did Moses never would have had a chance, Daniel and the three Hebrew children would have signed up and the apostles would have been silent about the gospel.

You will argue that the courts have ruled in favor of this evil. It is hard to help people who have little understanding of just how corrupt the judicial system is. This goes all the way to the top with a supreme court that has rewritten the founding documents of this land. Those documents were meant to protect good citizens as Paul and Peter explain they should. Now the court is punishing good and giving protection for evil. One can only wonder why this isn’t treason.

HERE IS A PROPOSAL

What is a godly pastor supposed to do? Remember we are right around the corner on this issue. In our city someone has been going from church to church asking if they would do “same as” marriages. I suggest you stop being an agent of the state. Let the couple go to the Justice of the Peace for a license. Then have a real wedding under God in the church. So when the “same as” question comes you say “sorry we don’t do state weddings, our wedding celebrations are for the believers in our church just like any other worship event”. If you don’t find an answer sit down and compute what taxes will cost you when they take that freedom away. You will be out of business in less than three years and that is what they want, your silence. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot twice.

WHAT’S A BELIEVER TO DO AT THIS POINT? Tuesday, Dec 30 2014 

WHAT’S A BELIEVER TO DO AT THIS POINT?

Some time ago we had an active discussion about what is happening in our world. It centered on God’s involvement in weather and the freefall of society in general. God does use weather events to accomplish His purposes and to judge humans for their evil actions. Bible prophets were not popular in most cases because they told the truth. Their message was not popular or welcome. Even believers did not want to hear truth if they deemed it negative.

Like it or not, God has begun to judge this world. He is doing this by using serious weather events, as He did in the past. His purpose is to bring judgment on those who violate His person and holiness. God is using government leaders to punish nations who turn their backs on Israel. Wickedness of the most serious nature, such as the murder of the unborn and the acceptance of sodomy, is something God cannot ignore. Worldwide economic disaster waits in the wings, and the planet “groans” under horrible military conflicts like we have never seen. The growth of Islam with all of its atrocities is just part of what happens when a world forgets the sovereign creator God.

HERE AT HOME

All of the above events are real threats to our own nation. I have said repeatedly that we are just one major event away from civil war in our own land. Now rioting in the streets has become a national pastime, with the approval of those who are supposed to be protecting everyone’s freedoms. All these things are in the hand of God, and He uses them to judge those who have trampled His truth underfoot. Any serious student of Nazi Germany would recognize what is happening in our country. Instead of a free people, able to speak and practice what they believe, a new era of slavery is underway. We are not free to condemn the evil of sodomy; we must be silent or pay the price. It is one thing for people to practice evil; it is another thing to force other people to recognize it, to accept it, to be silent about it, or to be punished for opposing it.

So here we are, and you don’t want to talk about these subjects. You don’t want to hear about them because they are negative. We are just supposed to play our silly little church games. Let me sound a warning: you will not escape the fallout of all of this. Let me add that the problem is made much worse by evangelical leaders who have taught us to hide our heads in the sand of activity and self-centered theology. We do have a responsibility in this world, and it is about light and truth.
WHERE DO WE STAND?

The sounds and images of conflict are on the horizon. Please consider some ways that God would have us respond. Deal with ignorance. There is no safety in not knowing. Those who told you not to waste your time on current events have simply given you a sleeping pill, but the truth will be there when you wake up, as you most certainly will do. Deal with denial. To say that something isn’t happening when it actually is serves only to rob us of the very attitude of power that we need for the coming conflict.

Study the scripture. I and II Peter, along with other books of the Bible, give us direction for dealing with situations similar to the ones we face today. They provide a proper perspective that will help us to stand tall. Let me remind you of a great truth: in the end, WE WIN! We are not losers; we are overcomers, so stop talking and acting like a loser!

We are strangers and pilgrims in a foreign land, and we need to look at this challenge from heaven’s point of view. I don’t like pain any more than you do, but it is part of the believer’s challenge in this world. I don’t like rejection, either, but remember that if they hated our Lord, we should expect the same treatment. You can’t compromise with pagans. To the worldlings, you are a bit less than human with almost no thinking ability. We might be able to fly under the radar for a while, but the day will come when what you believe and practice will be considered criminal. We already know the results of the final judgment, so their condemnation of us is but a small thing.

Pay no attention to cowardly professing Christians. They will criticize you. They should be holding your arms up, but they will condemn you. You will be accused of being political, or of lacking love. You will be accused of ignoring or hindering evangelism. When you speak the truth as it is revealed in scripture, they will allegorize the text in order to cover their disobedience. You don’t have to have the approval of those who live with superstitious fear; fear God alone.

STAND STRAIGHT AND STAND TALL

Stop whining and start winning. The present and future persecution is small compared to that of saints of the past. This is not a time to feel sorry for ourselves; rather, hateful opposition should cause us to REJOICE! We should be thankful for the privilege of suffering for our Lord. This is biblical Christianity. See the enemy for what he is and the compromisers for what they are, but stand straight and stand tall. Some of my readers may live long enough to win a martyr’s crown, but we do not fear those who can kill the body; we only fear Him who can condemn the soul.

Sorry to disturb your fairy-tale, sugarplum mindset, but if you think all this will go away because you don’t know (ignorance) or don’t care (denial), you are in for a rude awakening. Wake up, stand straight, and stand tall – be an overcomer!

CHURCH TRAMPS Thursday, Nov 20 2014 

Our readers probably thought I had run out of subjects to fire people up. Actually, there is still a long list of these waiting to be tackled. This subject is not new, and I found a statement by J.C. Ryle that makes the point for this article. “There is an amazing ignorance of scripture among many and a consequent want of established, solid religion (theology). In no other way can I account for the ease with which people are, like children, ‘tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine’. (Ephesians 4:14) Because of this plague of biblical ignorance, people are drawn quickly into all kinds of error.” Bishop Ryle goes on to speak to the impact of this ignorance: “There is an Athenian love of novelty abroad and a morbid distaste for anything old and regular and in the beaten path of our forefathers. Thousands will crowd to hear a new voice and a new doctrine without considering for a moment whether what they hear is true.” (Holiness: Its Nature and Hindrances)

Ryle never intended his words to be prophetic, but they do aptly describe that situation in which we find ourselves mired. In years gone by, there were large groups of people who traveled from church to church in search of something different. They usually did not last long at any one place; their heads were soon turned to something new. They were often referred to as “church tramps”. Not everyone had a need for that kind of novelty, and many families remained a part of their local church as their generations passed on. These people were strengthened by strong pulpits and regular meaningful Bible studies. They put down their roots and “rolled with the punches”.

THE WAY IT IS TODAY

The “tramp syndrome” has a new face today. The people moving from church to church are more like a parade. The word spreads like wildfire that there is a new show in town, a better form of entertainment. The problem is fed by the mega-church mentality. After all, it is so easy to move on; who knows, and who even cares when you are gone? This syndrome demonstrates a terrible lack of integrity, because so many churches today have camouflaged their names so as to hide doctrinal error. That is patently dishonest. Folks who are ignorant of a theology that is biblical slide in and out of those churches, carrying more and more error with them.

The strange thing is that anyone who knows the scriptures and wants to participate in God’s holiness are in big trouble if they attempt to point these things out. They are tagged as “unloving troublemakers”, while the real villains are those who profit from their ignorance. Many young, unlearned men have been caught in this flood. They are sure that if they follow the religious gurus, the churches they lead will grow and become well-known. Most of the time, however, these men end up being tools of their own destruction. They have an ungodly disdain for the history of a church, its heritage, and its doctrinal standard and instead become immersed in their own trickery and smitten with the god of change. Many of these wayward ministries end up closing, and others wither on a long road to a certain death.

GET TO THE POINT

Over the past year, I have observed this tragedy from a personal point of view. Looking back over fifty-four years of ministry and thirty-seven as a senior pastor, we tried to maximize learning that would help people to know the scripture. Everyone knows something about the Bible, but that is not the same thing as actually knowing the Bible. Knowing Bible stories or narrative is good, but one needs to know the God of the Bible and the meaning of the revelation that God has given us. To accomplish this we used, in the main, an expository pulpit to study books of the Bible verse by verse. In addition to the Sunday school with some excellent teachers, there were all kinds of Bible studies for every level. We opened a Bible institute and created a strong Christian school with six years of intensive Bible study. Then there were Bible-reading projects, several radio programs, and Bible conferences – all to study the scriptures. But it seems that I failed.

How could it be that so many people who had the opportunity to feed on the Word through all those years could have missed the point or walked away from the basic truths they had received? Many of them have moved on to churches where doctrinal error is at the heart of what they believe. Some have even gone where cultic teaching is dispensed (on the sly), but those people don’t appear to have a clue.

I know all the pat answers. Of course they are responsible for their own choices, but if they had the information and if they chose to believe it, how could they tolerate blatant abuse of the scriptures? Perhaps it is no longer important, or the entertainment atmosphere has dulled their senses. It could be that many individuals were not saved to begin with, since that is a widespread problem in all churches.

While I grieve at the embracing of doctrinal error by those who have fallen, I must admit that my heart has been encouraged by those who did recognize a theology that is biblical. These folks practiced holiness and walked away from nonsense and the open teaching of error. They were wise enough to catch the undertone of heretical teaching, but then found it extremely difficult to find a place where the Bible is not taught as a sort of “fill-in-the-blanks” book.

THE ANSWER

While the questions may be many, the one answer is still the same: there is no substitute for immersing oneself in the Holy Book. Pastors must find more ways to get people into the Book. True believers cannot be satisfied with a few minutes of real Bible content in their Sunday activities. There must be a constant hunger for truth, because this alone will sound the alarm when error is taught.

SINGING LIES Tuesday, Oct 21 2014 

The underlying purpose of Shepherd’s Staff is to create discussion. By choosing controversial subjects, we often manage to “tick off” some segment of our readers. That is done on purpose, since it is at the heart of what we do and also because it gets people’s attention. This issue is bound to get just about everyone thinking, because it has to do with the lyrics of music used in churches today.

Our concern for truth in music is not confined to what is often called “contemporary” music. One only has to pick up a well-worn old hymnal to find endless illustrations of non-truth in some of the lyrics. An error, no matter how old, is still an error. While some statements might be borderline, there are those that are downright offensive to scripture. Some of this has to do with ignorance on the part of the writer, while others are a deliberate repetition of doctrinal error held by religious groups or movements.

Old standard hymns have often reflected a brand of universalism. Many current items of music sound like a gathering of proof texts thrown into a blender, in that they do not represent the clear statements of scripture. Some of the old, as well as the new, are so egregious in theological error that they approach heresy. Music is often chosen just because we like it, when it’s “foot stompin’ fun” or rises from a current rock style. In pleasing ourselves, however, we may fail to please God. Frankly, God is not pleased when we are singing lies and then daring to call it worship.

SPLITTING HAIRS

The serious Bible student will pick up on doctrinal error, even in music. People who are bent on having their own way and accommodating the flesh argue “What’s the big deal, anyway?” The big deal is that God has condemned false witness, lies, and the doctrines of man and devils.

Does it really matter why people write and sing lies? Many song writers don’t have the slightest idea about what God has clearly said on certain subjects. If it sounds good and feels good, it has got to be good. Ignorance is a terrible thing, but ignorance of God’s Word could be eternally fatal. The majority of worship leaders – past and present – do not have enough theological understanding to know the difference. They often plead that they carefully go over lyrics to make sure they agree with the Bible. The question is, how can you candle music by the Bible when you know so little of the Bible?

The underlying problem here is that church members in this day and age seem to know less and less about what God has said. The translation issue is one of the reasons. Another is dependence on elite scholars for theological answers. Those who tout excellence in grammatical interpretation can’t agree, and they leave us wondering if anyone could possibly know what God has said. Thankfully, every believer can know what is the clear teaching of God’s Word, but many are too lazy to expend the energy necessary to do so.

EXAMPLES OF SINGING LIES

You are keenly aware that I avoid using names in this publication, because the minute I do, those who worship that person will stop reading. In this situation, however, a few theological subjects may be able to put us to shame in our lust for entertainment when we offend God’s Word. The sloppy use of the word “kingdom” is high on the list. It is sung with boring repetition and constantly thrown into conversations. What kingdom are you talking or singing about? Even an elementary student would know that there is more than one. A Bible student might know that there is the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of Darkness, the Old Testament Theocratic Kingdom, and even The Millennial, Messianic, Davidic Kingdom, just to begin with. So, which kingdom are you talking about? You say it doesn’t matter? It may not to you, but it does matter to God when we sing lies. You say that many good people disagree. The Bible isn’t about good people; it is about a good God. The liberal crowd used to talk about “growing” or “building” the kingdom or “enhancing” the kingdom. What kind of arrogance is that? God is building His own Kingdom, and He neither needs nor wants your help. I’m sure you get the point.

The things that are missing from “misunderstood” worship are just as dangerous. When was the last time you heard a song, hymn, or chorus that clearly taught the any-moment return of Christ for His church, the Blessed Hope? Erroneous prophecy provides a boatload of lyrics, and so much of it is error. If it isn’t what the text clearly states, then it is error and a lie.

WHY WOULD YOU ARGUE FOR LIES?

You don’t have to listen to me; I know that lies are popular and are well hidden in the skin of a truth. The Bible is not a dart board, and you don’t get to create your own truth. The Bible has nothing but truth in it; we don’t have the luxury of private interpretation. Yes, I read the article last week, even if you didn’t. If we are not careful about the plain, clear statements of the Bible, how could anyone believe what we have to say about any part of it?

It seems to me that each of us needs to back up and ask, “Am I actually singing a lie?” “Does it matter to me?” “Does it matter to God?” My wife and I just returned from several months on the road. I could not count the times when, in various churches, I simply stopped singing and thought, “Am I the only one in this room who realizes that we are singing lies?” All I ask is that you think, and don’t run from the obvious.

WHAT IS CONGREGATIONALISM? Friday, Sep 12 2014 

God blesses only what He orders. For a local church that desires peace, tranquility, love, and effectiveness, this is no light matter. For several years I served as moderator for a statewide fellowship, and it seemed as if at any one time there were only a handful of churches that experienced the kind of peace that God planned for them. For much of the time, these churches were on a pendulum between anarchy and tyranny. I outline this issue in my book The Weeping Church, now published by Faithful Life Publishers in North Fort Myers, Florida. The book has been in constant publication for over 35 years and sets the bar for dealing with the crisis in church polity.

The purpose of Shepherd’s Staff is to create discussion in key areas. Most of these areas appear to be too sensitive for others to handle. I have dear friends who do us a wonderful service by providing devotional material and subjects for application. My concern is for a theology that is biblical, one that will let the Bible speak for itself. We get that truth by asking questions of the text. The center of this particular effort has to rest on the one biblical hermeneutic. When people ignore this system for the use of language, it is impossible to come up with a right answer. This is the problem with human definitions of congregationalism. Human systems are the result of ignoring the one biblical hermeneutic or misusing the rules that God has provided for us.

DEALNG WITH HUMAN INVENTIONS

What some people have done is to use a partial hermeneutic to invent their definition, which in turn allows them to insert personal or collective ideas into the text. The major problem with these additions to the text includes the insertion of their view of the culture or the current government under which they have lived. It would be one thing to just admit that they added it to the text; it is another and more serious matter to force the text to support a specific cultural view.

Admittedly, the Bible is used in their conclusions, and that is the problem. The Bible is used rather than allowing the Bible to use us in the pursuit of truth. The original languages are used as well, but it ends up being a grammatical pretzel rather than biblical principle. As in many doctrinal inventions, the process is meant to “complicate to confuse”. Our task is to simplify to clarify, which is why God has given us some effective tools to test theological inventions. I would remind you that the Bible was not written for scholars; it was written for the common man and woman.

THE TOOLS THAT GOD HAS GIVEN US

The Weeping Church details the many errors I have referred to, and you can read it for that information. In this article, I want to focus on some of those simple things God has given us to shine a light on error. You can compare your personal view of polity and congregationalism with those tools. Let me warn you that this is where an individual will discover his/her own system of interpretation. Is your polity system a monarchy, a dictatorship, a republic, a democracy, or a form of socialism? Is it papal, Episcopal, Presbyterian, congregational, or a theocracy? You just might be surprised!

The Body of Christ is the heavenly church, and it includes all those who have been redeemed, from Pentecost to the Rapture. Entry to this heavenly congregation is through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (I Cor. 12:13) This heavenly truth is pictured on earth through the local church. The local church is a congregation, a body. God illustrates the heavenly truth through an earthly body. Since baptism is a local church ordinance, entrance to the local church is by water baptism. The earthly body is not perfect, and there may be unsaved people in the local congregation. The desire of Christ is that we emulate the heavenly body as well as we are able. A disjointed body is painful, and this often happens when a particular body does not pay heed to the things that provide good health.

God is good and has given us a way to understand how the local church should function. Good health, joy, peace, and comfort rest in understanding how God intended for the body to function. The body has a local resident head; we all should easily understand how that works, how it makes decisions and implements them. This collection of body members, or congregation, illustrates for us how the local church should function, make decisions, and stay healthy.

So how does your church government stand up to God’s clear illustration of the body? I know we are tempted to insert our own system into this, so be very careful.

Jesus Christ is clearly identified as the Shepherd of the heavenly congregation, the flock. This heavenly truth is best displayed on earth with the local church. It is a flock with a local under-shepherd, a pastor who is appointed by Christ. The function, decision making, good health, and safe setting are simply displayed in this humble illustration. God knew we could understand this. He also knew we wouldn’t like it and would insert anything we could, including our cultural context, so we could have it our way.

There is more – for instance, the church as a family. That one is so simple that it is embarrassing that anyone would even try to corrupt it! So how does your church government compare to the simple illustrations that God has given us? It is by this simplicity that we can discover if the elite has been pulling our leg about congregationalism. We both really know why they don’t like it, and that is because it reveals the human system of hermeneutics that they use.

THROW DOWN YOUR ARMS Monday, Aug 11 2014 

On the morning of April 19, 1775, British troops marched into Lexington, Massachusetts. They were met by a small group of patriots on the village green. The minutemen were armed and ready to protect their homes and families. While it is true that their guns were used for hunting food and for protection, they also kept weapons handy in case they had to stop tyranny in its tracks. That is why they could not, and would not obey the command to throw down their arms.

It is not up to me to do your research for you. I have done a more than adequate amount to be able to tell you that the following is reliable and has a common thread among those who possess spiritual insight. After the British had sent a volley or more of shot into those good men, eight of them lay dead, with others wounded. Some of them were shot in the back, since their own leader had ordered them to disperse.

THE REST OF THE STORY

Almost all the dead and wounded were members of the church, and their pastor, Jonas Clark, had stood with them in the midst of the brief conflict. Caleb Harrington was shot dead on the steps of the church. He was going back into the meeting house to get more powder, since that is where it was stored. The primary edifice on the green was the church building, so the fight had taken place in front of the church. Clark had repeatedly warned his flock about the coming danger to their freedom and liberty from the tyranny they faced. His own diary is a record of what took place in the pulpits and other small communities as well as his own.

In 1864, J. T. Headley wrote of the broad involvement of clergy and believers in the events that lead to the Revolution. His book was entitled The Chaplains and Clergy of the Revolution. The book was first published by Charles Scribner of New York. Headley identified a long list of pastors who personally and publicly opposed the tyranny of the king. They fully understood the responsibility of the believer to obey constituted authority as God’s rule, but they also understood that life, liberty, and freedom were gifts from God.

The involvement of the clergy in energizing the coming conflict did not include the loyalists of the Church of England who were, by duty of the church, bound to the king. The Quakers were pacifists and therefore opposed any fighting. There were others who opposed the coming conflict, but the record indicates that the number of these dissenters was smaller. The Colonial army was made up of local militias; and since the pastor was often the only professional in town, in many cases he led the men of his parish into battle. Like it or not, these are the general facts behind that great event known as the American Revolution.

DID THESE MEN SIN?

I will let you do your own study on the above. There are hundreds of books on the subject. There are some who feel that their action had been wrong and that the patriots sinned in what they did. Often these individuals fail to fully study the wrongful actions of the king which brought this separation. There are others who have gone to the scriptures to demonstrate that the separatists were wrong. What I have found, however, is that in almost every case these writers have limited their view to a few proof texts without reflecting on the whole of this teaching.

Any serious student of this issue will want to read Headley’s book. It is now published as the Forgotten Heroes of Liberty by Solid Ground Christian Books of Birmingham, AL.

The current issue of the World Magazine, published in Ashville, North Carolina, has an article worth your reading. Rod D. Martin writes “Was the American Revolution sinful”? Not only does he cite the Bible texts where the legitimate authority must be obeyed, but he is careful to look at the scriptures that deal with exceptions. No thinking person could believe that all laws made by temporal authority are to be obeyed. For instance, you would not obey a law that said your wife must abort a baby if she already had two children. Martin also deals with the issue of constituted authority and what happens when authority breaks its covenant with the people.

Finally, there is the continuing debate over the doctrine of the “right of revolution” when constituted authority is replaced by tyranny. I leave you on your own with this one.

THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

My own doctoral dissertation was abridged and printed some years ago. It has recently been republished by Faithful Life Publishers of North Fort Myers, FL, under the title The Coming Conflict. This is the heart of the issue. What does the entire Bible teach about this subject? While all the records of history may only provide some of the facts, the Bible is crystal clear on the relationship between the church and state. This is not a political issue; it is a theological issue, so secular views have to take a back seat.

Now our nation stands on the verge of an internal conflict. Tyranny rules the administration, the courts, and public opinion. The unlearned on the right tend to be too quick to respond. The academic community has rewritten the rules. The left has given credence and support to those who want biblical Christianity removed from the fabric of our country. Where does that leave you? I suggest you read, study, pray, and get ready to obey God.

WHERE DOES ERROR COME FROM? Tuesday, Jul 8 2014 

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; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (II Timothy 4:3,4)

One does not have to struggle to discover that doctrinal error often rises from the unread and unlearned. It always comes from the hearts of men and women who simply make up doctrine as they go. The cults serve up an unhealthy diet consisting of the doctrine of devils, and they are persistent in their task of blinding the eyes of men. It really doesn’t matter what this crowd of false teachers dreams up; it is all the same, and their evil teaching is condemned by God.

Thus, when moderate evangelicals give credence to these cults, making them acceptable evangelicals, we are left wondering why. It is often the intellectual scholars who laud these strange pronouncements that turn a blind eye to doctrinal error. This observation, then, leads us to a serious consideration: how is it that these scholars are comfortable with error that often damns men’s souls?

TIRED OLD ACCUSATIONS

When error, however, is clearly assigned to the intellectual crowd, people who know better are often quick to call others “anti-intellectual”. This is an old liberal trick, and it doesn’t work with thinking people. Anyone who knows anything about my fifty-four years in ministry can tell you that for most of my life I’ve been involved in education. Learning is very important, and people who are able should go as far as they can on the education ladder. We should never stop learning; study should be a way of life.

I am not against intellect or serious study. It is also wise for a person to pursue a single discipline and to follow it as far as possible. No one can be an expert in every discipline, but we need to be as broad in our understanding as is possible. You will no doubt read materials that leave you with the impression that the writer has a full grasp of everything; that is a serious mistake.

ERROR THAT FLOWS FROM THE ELITE

Like it or not, much of the theological error being spread abroad does not come from the simple-minded, unread, and unlearned. You would think that the more knowledge one has, the more likely that person would be to maintain a theology that is biblical. That, however, is not the case. It appears that the higher a student climbs on the academic ladder, the greater the danger. Not all of this is deliberate, but intellectual pride can be a terrible thing. It seems to provide a license for error on the part of the scholar.

Recently I jotted down a list of ten theological errors that are currently floating around, many of which are being disseminated by some popular theological gurus. I honestly didn’t fix the list, but every one of them has been sourced or popularized by well-known men who we would recognize as being scholars. It is clearly evident that scholars can be, and are, wrong occasionally – and sometimes frequently. That is not to say that everything they teach is wrong, because “diamonds come from dirt”.

A TRAGIC FALLOUT

I travel a lot and read as much as I can, and my email box is full most mornings. My soul is grieved at the creation and dissemination of theological error, but that is only the beginning; the real tragedy is in seeing how blind people so often have become. You can almost tell who and what people read by the error they spout.

We all need to read broadly, and should even include authors who have proven they can popularize erroneous doctrine. The question is, why are not the readers asking the right questions? It is imperative that the reader be able tell when his theological leg is being pulled. Young men are most often caught in the web of intellectualism simply because they think they know more than they actually do. It is a heady thing to be able to discuss some of the technical positions being spread abroad. It is a terrible thing not to be able to recognize when a teaching has departed from the authority of scripture.

I confess that, when I was a young student and preacher, pride took the lead in my following error. At the same time, I will be forever grateful for godly men who sounded the warning that allowed me to focus on the Book of God rather than the books of men. Just because someone is well-known or has churned out many publications does not mean that what he says is correct. We need to be like the Bereans of old who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so”. (Acts 17:11)

Read the writings of men. They offer great questions, but not always the right answers. Read with one eye to the works of men and both eyes solidly on the Word of God. The elite in theology are not necessarily the authority. If they are offering you “false teaching”, they may well be false teachers – wolves in shepherds’ garb, as it were. Error can come from any source, and scholars and intellectuals are no exception. Don’t let people make this a personality issue; stay with ideas so you will not be hindered by the cloak of the elite.

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