Monday, December 22, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
I listened to KTRU & DJ Theory on Tuesday nights on a consistent basis. The hip hop had substance and a love for knowledge and righteousness…err…self-righteousness. There was an arrogant swagger behind it all but I saw it as positive because at the time, being a self-righteous individual, I desired lyrics that were puffed up in head knowledge and self-empowerment. And of course, they weren’t talking about sex, drugs, and violence…they were busy worshipping themselves.
Then you had the more mainstream artists like Tupac and Nas portraying themselves as a "Black Jesus" and elevating their status in the hip hop industry to that of a messiah or savior.Emcees even went so far to call each other "god" in their lyrics. Either way you look at it, hip hop and rap was, and still is, a culture and genre full of idolatrous, self-righteous and blasphemous depictions of rappers that think very highly of themselves.
It was after I got saved that I noticed this self-centered, proud and boastful message. I traded in my turntables for a Bible and I gave up my deejay profession and the music it supported.
It was then I discovered a whole genre of hip hop out there for the Christian. I discovered Holy Hip Hop. Unfortunately, I hardly found anything “holy”…in fact, what I found was eerily similar to what I heard as a dj…a lot of boasting, self-confidence, and lyrical competitiveness.
The more I heard Christian emcees boasting of themselves, the more I was reminded of Peter’s bravado on the night Jesus foretold of His forsaking by the disciples.
Peter then went on to suffer one of the greatest falls of his life. He had a chance to back-up his presumptuous boasting but instead, he denied Jesus not once…not twice…but three times (Matthew 26:69-74).
We also know that God used Peter’s fall to humble and teach him a hard-learned lesson. Later in Luke’s gospel account, Jesus reinstates Peter by asking him if he loves Him three times. After Peter responds with an affectionate affirmation, Jesus then commands him to feed His sheep. And Peter does just that as we find a different apostle behind the first letter he wrote to the early Church.
“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so at the proper time, he may exalt you.” (1 Peter 5:5-6)
Peter knew firsthand that misplaced self-confidence leads directly to a fall as he denied Christ three times. And as a leader of the apostles whom God would build His Church upon (Matthew 16:18), Peter had to be humbled by being stripped of all his pride.
With that said, Holy Hip Hop has a unique platform in the church as well as in the music industry. And if Christian rappers, djs, etc. are to attach the term “holy” to the genre, which means to be set apart, let them be just that…set apart from secular hip hop by glorifying God through their music.
And after popping in a new compilation cd, “Wages of Syntax vol. 2” from Syntax Records, I didn’t really hear a difference. Like Peter on the night before Christ was crucified, I hear a lot of proud and self-centered boasting. And sadly, I found this to be true of many Holy Hip Hop artists. Add to that Christian reviews that judge and critique the music merely based on sound and lyrical artistry, and not sound doctrine, then you have yourself a genre that competes for the number one spot on the Holy Hip Hop charts.
So if you’re an mc, dj, producer, etc. I encourage you to think about the platform and the talent God has blessed you with. And in the midst of a hip hop culture that exalts and worships the music and not the Maker, make sure your lyrics are Christ-centered...not man-centered...and rather than using your music to exalt your name, exalt the Name who is above all names…Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:9), who is the only one worthy of adoration and praise, and at the proper time, He may exalt you.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Here in Proverbs we see a progression of sinful behavior. We can learn quite a bit about our witnessing encounters from this verse.
We first have the simple ones who love their simple ways. In ignorance, they cling to the coziness of their simple life and simple way of thinking in regards to God's truth, eternal salvation, good and evil. I've encountered many simple people while witnessing...they hear the Gospel but shrug their shoulders and walk away…back to their simple life. As a result of their indifference to the truth, they turn away from God and consequently any hope of salvation (See Proverbs 1:32).
The scoffers who delight in their scoffing make a mockery of everything holy and religious. Just think about the new atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, etc. and movies such as Religulous by Bill Maher. They worship the god of naturalism and scoff at the thought of a Holy God who reigns supreme over all of creation. This group is particularly tough because even the mention of God, the Bible, and Jesus is immediately counted off as superstition and foolishness. However, 2 Peter 3:3 tells us that they mock the truth of God's word so that they may follow their own sinful desires (see John 3:20).
And the final group is those who hate knowledge. These are the worst of the three because they hate to be taught any truth whatsoever. Their pride deceives them into believing they are above reproof and as a result, they reject any truth that would lead them to knowledge of God which would ultimately lead them to salvation. This is especially true with false Christians. Now I know I'm not the judge of one's salvation but I encountered someone that may fit this description perfectly while I was witnessing in Atlanta. I handed a tract to a lady at the BET Awards and asked her if she were to die, would she go to Heaven but before I could even finish my sentence she replied , " I asked God for forgiveness and I know I'll make it in." I tried asking her if she considered herself to be good enough to go to heaven and she didn't want to hear it.
With God's help, I patiently took her through the law and told her that the Bible declares no one to be good but she continued to put her hand in my face and proudly exclaim, "Nah uh…stop…that's the end of this discussion!"
She then went on to say that she prays every night and asks God to forgive her so nothing anyone says to her will convince her otherwise...keep in mind she had her hand in my face the entire time. I tried getting a word in but she kept shaking her head and making loud and obnoxious high-pitched noises. It was extremely frustrating. I asked her if she had read her Bible recently and she claimed she read it earlier that day. I asked what passages and she said, "Isaiah 1, 2, and 3." I then asked her what she read and if she learned anything new and she said she forgot.
She then said, "Look...we will see who's right when we both die...maybe I'll see you in Heaven or maybe I won't!"
Her pride and contempt for any knowledge or reproof whatsoever was ultimately her own stumbling block. She hates the knowledge of God's word and as Hosea 4:6 says, "my people perish for a lack of knowledge." And unfortunately, a sinner full of pride will reject the truth of the gospel that can set them free and give them everlasting life…in other words, pride paves the way to eternal destruction (Proverbs 16:18). Furthermore, when our hearts are filled with pride, the Bible states that God is at war with us (1 Peter 5:5, James 4:6, Proverbs 3:34).
But we also know that God gives grace to the humble. As Christians, we must preach the Gospel and not quarrel with anyone but with great patience and kindness, gently oppose the simple ones, the mockers and the haters of knowledge and believe that through upon hearing the outward call of the Gospel, God is doing an inward work by pouring out His Spirit upon their hearts and granting them repentance(2 Timothy 2:25, Romans 5:5).
Monday, November 17, 2008
"If you know these things--you are blessed if you do them." John 13:17
To obey the truth, and not to know it--is impossible.
To know the truth, and not obey it--is unprofitable.
For, "Not everyone who says unto me, 'Lord, Lord' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven--but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven." Saving knowledge is not as the light of the moon--to sleep by; but as the light of the sun--to work by. It is not a loiterer in the market-place--but a laborer in the vineyard.
A man may be a great scholar--and yet be a great sinner. Judas the traitor--was Judas the preacher! The snake which has a pearl in its head--has poison in its body! The tree of knowledge has often been planted, and flourished--where the tree of life never grew! All abilities and gifts--without grace and holiness--are but like Uriah's letters, which were the death warrants of those who carried them!
Mere head knowledge will be as unhelpful to the soul, in the judgment day--as a painted fire is unhelpful to the frozen body, in a cold day. Theoretical knowledge may make the head giddy--but it will never make the heart holy. How many professors are there, who have light enough to know what should be done--but have not love enough to do what they know! Give me the Christian who perfectly sees the way he should go--and readily goes the way he sees!
That is barren ground--which brings forth no fruit. "To him who knows to do good, and does it not--to him it is sin." The sins of ignorance are most numerous--but the sins of knowledge are most dangerous! That sinner's darkness will be the greatest in hell--whose light was the clearest on earth!
There are many who set a crown of glory upon the head of Christ by a good profession, and yet put a crown of thorns upon his head by an evil conversation. By the words of our mouth--we may affect to adore religion; but it is by the works of our lives--that we adorn religion.
As trees without fruits are unprofitable--so knowledge without good works is abominable! Leah and Rachel are fit emblems of knowledge and obedience. Knowledge, like Rachel--is beautiful. But obedience, like Leah--is fruitful.
Monday, November 10, 2008
The host went on to explain that if the cat would come home to his rightful owner, then he would receive all the cat food he wants…why would a feline settle for the scraps of food in trash cans or furry mice running around in the dangers of a dark alley? As if the lame analogy was not enough, the host went on to say that, like the prodigal son, we all have a "God-hole" in our hearts that we try to fill with things other than God...all we have to do is come home to God to receive His blessings but God is powerless in this situation...we have to make the decision to come home.
There are a few crucial points that get overlooked by seeker-sensitive presentations of this parable:
- Through divine providence, it was the dire circumstances and afflictions thereof that humbled the son and opened up his eyes to realize that his rebellion would consequently lead to death (Luke 15:17-18).
- The son recognized that his sins were against God (Luke 15:21).
- His desire to go back to the Father as a hired servant. He wasn’t going back home hoping to get material blessings or a better lifestyle. He headed back to the Father’s house in hopes of serving him (Luke 15:19-20).
- The prodigal son’s demeanor shifts from greed and selfishness (Luke 15:12-13) to humility, brokenness, and repentance (Luke: 15-19).
- The older son's contrasting representation of the Pharisee; a hypocritical, self-centered, and self- righteous person who does not recognize their own sinful heart and therefore sees no need to repent (Luke 15:29).
It is in these circumstances that that the lovingkindness and riches of God’s grace are set before us. His mercy extends to the worst of all religious and pious people to the lowest and rebellious of all sinners...we are all of one nature and in need of God's forgiveness. (Ephesians 2:3) We see how much it pleases the Father to convert and receive such a great sinner and his eagerness to forgive anyone who comes to him in true repentance (Luke 15:21-22).
So now I ask you...when you came to Christ did you have a genuine Godly sorrow that led you to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10)? Did you come broken and humble, realizing you sinned against a holy and righteous God (Psalm 51:4)? Or were proud and self-righteous...completely ignorant of your sinful condition? And because He is worthy, was your desire to serve Him? Or did you come to the Father with selfish motives, thinking that God was obligated to serve you?
Hopefully, when you look back to that day when God saved you, you can relate to the prodigal son when he said:
"Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son."
To which the Father replies:
"...let us eat and celebrate. 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found."
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
For all those fretting over the election of Obama, I ask you one question. Could God be working something out above and beyond our comprehension? If you believe Romans 8:28, then the answer is yes. Although I will not speculate on what those plans may be, Christians must continue to fight the good fight of faith. Don’t get out of the ring and simply stop fighting...trust in His will and continue to read your Bible, pray, and proclaim the Gospel.
And remember, even though we may not like the results of the election, we must ALWAYS trust in God’s purpose and not in politics or presidents. All the promises of God are still true and we must always abide and rest in these promises.
Another thing...before we react like the liberals and begin attacking the President Elect (and I say this with a big gasp), remember that those who are in authority ARE GOD’S SERVANTS (Romans 13:6) so let’s debate, reason, and discuss things with respect...keeping in mind that he is a minister of God. We must submit to that authority (Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1) and if we are going to hold any president accountable, let’s always remember Ephesians 6:12…our fight is not against those in office but against the rulers, authorities and spiritual forces of evil IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES.
So take heart Christian...despite who the people of America elected, always remember your election that took place before the foundation of the world (Romans 1:4) by a gracious and merciful God because when all that we see in this world passes away, this is the only election that will prove of most eternal importance (Romans 8:29-39).
Friday, October 31, 2008
Romans 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
On October 31, 1517, Dr. Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. This was the spark that ignited the The Reformation which had historical impacts on music, arts, politics but most importantly, religion and faith. The sum of Luther's protest was in regards to indulgences, which was a practice instituted by the Roman Catholic Church.
In rememberance of this heroic and historical act, Reformation Day is celebrated on October 31 or the last weekend in October by many Christians around the world...a day in which we remember that it is by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ that we are saved.
For more information on Reformation Day visit http://www.monergism.com/.
And finally, here is a great hymn that captures the theme of The Reformation:
"By grace God's Son, our only Savior,
Came down to earth to bear our sin.
Was it because of your own merit
That Jesus died your soul to win?
No, it was grace, and grace alone,
That brought Him from His heav'nly throne."
Monday, October 27, 2008
AND according to the doctrinal statement on their website, they "embrace the mystery of faith"...sounds suspiciously postmodern and emergent to me.
Despite their belief that faith is a mystery, Chris Seay felt compelled that it was time for yet another loose Bible translation. According to David Capes, who was one of the scholars involved, a recent comment made by Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards compelled the new translation, which reads like a movie script. Richards claimed he read the Bible sometimes but found it "deadly boring" and Capes responds with a sympathetic (or pathetic) "we understand." That's right...here we have a secular artist calling God's word boring, and then we have a "Bible scholar" agreeing with him. In fact, they even have an entire website shamelessly titled "dontgiveupkeith" dedicated to their cause.
Capes goes on to say that we must present Scripture in a brand new way if we are ever to bring people like Richards to the Bible. In other words, we change the presentation of God's word so it appeals to the carnal mind of a human being.
Capes and Seay also suggest that the "literary beauty" of the Bible is missed in today's translations. Rather than reading the Bible as "principles and prescriptions" they would rather have people view the Bible as "a story, a grand drama of redemption."
Capes then says, "Traditional Bibles with their black covers, abstruse notes, and page after page of dense type can be off-putting to them." He is referring to a younger generation that wants to approach worshipping God differently.
To make it even worse, the "translators" add words and phrases not found in the original translation. And they do this all in the name of being relevant.
"It's a way to get people reading the Bible", says Capes.
And what do they hope to accomplish?
"Our take is, if it's written beautifully and calls you into the narrative, that when you finish a chapter you really want to read the next chapter to see what's going to happen, then more people in their 20s and 30s will end up reading the Bible."
Did you get that-if it's written beautifully? Apparently God got it wrong the first time and needs a team of translators to come in and make His word more attractive to a younger generation.
According to Capes, they hoped to come up with something similar to what the King James Version captured, which was translated by scholars largely dependent upon translations by William Tyndale. But Tyndale had a far more noble cause,
"I had perceived by experience, how that it was impossible to establish the lay people in any truth, except the scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue, that they might see the process, order, and meaning of the text."
"I defie the Pope and all his lawes. If God spare my life, ere many yeares I wyl cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture, than he doust. "
His laboring to translate God's word was driven by a passion to have the most common of all people to read and understand the meaning of the text...he had no interest in dressing it up so it would be more pleasing to the eyes of a sinful man.
The word of God is not merely a story to be read like a playwright or movie script! Have we such a low view of the Scriptures that we think we can make it look prettier or more attractive by changing and adding to the words? We should esteem the words of His mouth more than our necessary food and delight and desire it as a newborn baby desires the sincere milk of the word (Job 23:12, Psalm 119:35, 1 Peter 2:2). Why? Because we have a passion to know God more and grow daily in our salvation. Not simply to find out "what happens next".
And if Seay is so concerned with bringing people to know God's word, then do as the Scriptures say and teach and preach the word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). Rather than changing the Bible to appear more attractive to the world, Seay should proclaim the word of the Lord, that is sharper than any two-edged sword that penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). And with this preaching, God promises that his Word will not return void. Let God's word change the hearts and minds of men rather than changing God's word for the minds of men. Only then will people like Keith Richards have a sincere desire for the truth of God and His word.
*all quotes taken from The Houston Chronicle's article Scripture gets a new Voice
Friday, October 24, 2008
Now I’m not sure if the Bible refers to God as a “hero” but that’s not what troubles me about the article. It’s his explanation of why so many characters in the Bible have serious flaws. Here it is:
“During a radio interview I was asked why so many Bible characters had serious flaws. My answer was simple. That’s all God has to work with. All the perfect people are in heaven. The only ones on earth are the folks with serious weaknesses. The talent pool has always been pretty thin when it comes to moral perfection. God works with sinners because that’s all he has to work with. In heaven we will all be vastly improved–perfected by God’s grace. But until then, he uses some pretty ornery people who fall short in many ways, and he does some amazing things through them.”
While on the surface, it is true that God worked with what he had, but the author treads down a dangerous path by suggesting that God had to use us rather than choosing to use us. First, it presumes that God merely worked through these people because he was dealt a bad hand and, despite His divine sovereignty, He had to deal with each situation as it was presented to Him. Secondly, it presupposes that God created a fallen creation and had no choice but to work with the flaws of human beings.
Nothing could be further from the truth. We know that God created a perfect creation and Adam and Eve rebelled and sinned against their Creator (Genesis 3). As a result, humanity was cursed and God pronounced the death sentence over all of creation. God then intervenes and demonstrates his power by redeeming a sinful human being that, in the world’s eyes, seems, weak, unwise, and foolish. This is why Paul said in (1 Corinthians 1:26-31):
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
God CHOOSES to work out his good, acceptable, and perfect will through the humble, lowly, and weak. It’s not as if God looks down and finds a certain person who is qualified for His service…no…in fact, God looks down and finds no one that seeks after him (Psalm 14:2,3). And despite the fact that we have all become corrupt and sinful to the core, God saves, sanctifies, and transforms a sinner and makes him fit for His service. Why does he choose to do things in this way? So that He may get all the glory...and when the world sees this, there will be no question that it is the power of God in the man, and not the man himself, that deserves all glory and honor and praise.
So rather than simply working with the hand that was dealt to Him, God had a divine purpose in choosing the lowly...whom the world may not comsider wise, mighty, and noble. By despising worldly wisdom and revealing His eternal wisdom to the foolish, weak, and common amongst men whom trust in Jesus Christ as Savior, no saved sinner may glory in His presence...so if we may boast, let us only boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
"On this fundamental issue (choice), I will not yield..."
Does this sound like middle ground to you?
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I'm dizzy after watching the debate and hearing Obama spin and spew his political rhetoric on the issue of abortion...which he claims there is "middle ground" on the issue. The truth is Obama voted THREE times against a bill that would have provided protection for babies who survive an abortion. In regards to the "similar bill" that Obama claimed he would have supported, Annenberg Political Fact Check states, "Obama voted in committee against the 2003 state bill that was nearly identical to the federal bill he says he would have supported."
And while Obama claims he wants to reduce abortions through adoptions and other alternatives, why does he oppose continued federal funding for crisis pregnancy centers? Wouldn't these centers provide alternatives that could reduce abortions?
With Obama elected, there is no "middle ground" when it comes to abortion...Obama is as far-left as it gets. Want your taxes and government money to fund abortion? Vote Obama. Want your kid to be able to get an abortion WITHOUT your consent? Vote Obama. Want to deny pro-life doctors the right to not perform abortions? Vote Obama. Want ALL state and federal regulations of abortion demolished? Vote Obama
Here's the truth when it comes down to what Obama considers "middle ground".
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Here’s a quote from a recent article featured in the Religion section of The Houston Chronicle. Victoria was talking about her new book and her role as the wife of Joel Osteen, who pastors one of the largest congregations in America.
"What women tell me all the time is my example up there helps them realize that it's OK to be a strong woman. It's OK to love your family. It's OK to have a place of influence," she said. "That's what Joel loves about it. That we're a team."
My response…so what? Can’t you turn on Oprah on the television and find the same thing? This sounds eerily similar to humanism. Should a Christian woman in a place of influence, like Victoria Osteen, be simply an example of a woman who is strong and loves her family or should Godly women glorify something much greater…like God? Sure, women in the world can do many noble and honorable things such as being strong and loving her family but it is a woman who fears the Lord that is to be praised. Isn't this what makes women of faith unique?
Before you run out and pick up Victoria's new book, I highly suggest you read John MacArthur's Twelve Extraordinary Women.
Friday, October 10, 2008
This picture signifies the importance of using discernment while you're out shopping at your local bookstore or online. I snapped this photo a few months back at a popular Christian bookstore in Houston. These two books were being featured on the “bestseller’s" display in front of the store.
While I haven’t read Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should be), it’s interesting to note the synopsis of the book as quoted on their website:
“You can be young, passionate about Jesus Christ, surrounded by diversity, engaged in a postmodern world, reared in evangelicalism and not be an emergent Christian. In fact, I want to argue that it would be better if you weren’t.”
The authors, Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, basically run through the emergent movement using theological and Biblical support as to why they believe this new church movement needs to be examined and exposed.
On the opposite side, you have Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. If you’re a hip, mid-twenties, young adult/college-going Christian, then you know all about this book. Much of the story stems from Miller’s personal experiences at Reed College, an extremely liberal and anti-Christian college campus. A lot of his theology, or lack thereof, is popular within the emergent movement. While I did read this book and enjoy some of his stories, the beliefs expressed Miller can be dangerous to a new and growing Christian that lacks Biblical discernment.
So don't leave your discernment at the door just because you walk into a Christian bookstore...expecting to be in a “safe-zone”…here you have one of the most popular Christian retail chains featuring two books that polar opposites in terms of important doctrinal beliefs.
Furthermore, Christian retail stores, such as the one in discussion, do function just as any other consumer-driven business functions…supply is driven by demand. With that said, take a look at the aisle and you’ll see shelves filled to the top with man-centered, self-help, motivational books. And if you’re looking for the evangelism section you better look hard…in fact, a friend of mine once asked an employee where he could find the evangelism section and she had no idea what he was talking about. Evanga-what?
Bottom-line, use wisdom when shopping at your local Christian bookstore. The Bible is clear on this matter. Paul said that Satan’s servants masquerade as servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:15) so it’s vital that we test the spirits (1 John 4:1) and guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23) with self-control and alert minds (1 Thessalonians 5:6, 1 Peter 5:8). Many false prophets and deceivers have gone out and into our churches (or bookstores for that matter) and are like wolves amongst the sheep. And while many may confess with their mouths that Christ did come in the flesh, their hearts are far from him and we see this by the multitudes of authors writing man-centered, humanistic books all in name of God and bringing error concerning the person and doctrine of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 7:15, 1 John 4:1, 2 John 1:7).
So before you buy that book because it has cool packaging or it’s on the bestseller list, consider the following:
- Research the author and check his doctrinal beliefs and closely examine the essentials; there are a few popular authors and worship leaders who don’t believe in the Trinity yet they get a lot of exposure on Christian television and radio and are consistently featured at your local bookstore.
- Read the back cover and inserts and make note of pastors, authors, etc. whom endorse the book. Bad company corrupts good character so who he associates himself with will say a lot about his beliefs.
- Check out book reviews from credible Christian websites such Tim Challies' blog.
- If you do decide to buy the book, hold every word of the author up to the Word of God and read with a sound mind with your Bible right next to you.
Finally, the next time you're shopping at your local Christian bookstore, you may want to pick up a copy of some of these old and new classics.
The Way of the Master By Ray Comfort
The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul
Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur
Twelve Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
The Soul Winner by C.H. Spurgeon
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
In an effort to “take back the Bible for Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI will be reciting verses of the Bible on Italian national television. In the past, the church had discouraged nonclergy from familiarizing themselves with Scripture but with the recent rise and popularity of “fundamentalism”, as the Vatican calls it, or the literal interpretation of the Bible, Benedict is concerned that Catholics are actually reading their Bible and using this same interpretation method. Is he concerned that they will find that purgatory is a tradition made up by the Catholic Church and no where to be found in the Bible? Or maybe he’s worried that they will read Ephesians 2:8,9 and Romans 3:21-26 and realize that upon the free gift of God’s grace through Christ Jesus, free meaning not through our good works, we are justified in the sight of a Holy God.
Harper One is releasing a “green Bible” that promotes the growing trend of environmentalism and answers questions such as, “Is God green?” Did Jesus have anything to say about the environment? What role should faith play in caring for the earth? It also highlights more than 1,000 verses that supposedly speak on environmental issues. Here’s one for you; “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Amen.” (Romans 1:25) Maybe they forgot to recycle that verse…
In another effort to push the homosexual agenda into the Christian church, The Houston Chronicle highlighted a New York Times article featuring a church that accepts homosexuality as a appropriate lifestyle. Randy Keel, who was married to Jill Keel, confessed his homosexual desires to his now ex-wife. So not only did he give in to his sinful desires but his selfish gain consequently broke up the marriage and led to a divorce. And accoring to the Rev. Jack McKinney, who leads the congregation, this is reason to celebrate and even deems “these gay people” as “spiritual heroes” because “they held to their faith”. Well…at least the parts of their faith that suits themselves.
Pastors protest limits on pulpits and politics
Andy Cherry, a Houston pastor, was one of 33 pastors who participated in a national protest of limits on mixing politics and preaching. “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” was part of an effort by pastors to exercise their First Amendment Right.
“If we see a candidate and we believe that candidate is not in line with our biblical standards, we are told that we can’t preach about it, “Cherry said. “we say: ‘Yes, you can.’ We believe it’s unconstitutional to tell pastors that and to have threats coming from the IRS that you can lose your tax-exempt status.”
Hotels offering up “spiritual menu”
Nashville’s Hotel Preston, along with four other boutique hotels, will be offering a wide variety of religious texts to customers to satisfy requests other than the Bible. This seems to be the trend across America, especially in San Francisco, where hotel managers believe that they must offer up a spiritual menu that is keeping with the culture of their company. In other words, you can have a spiritual buffet of sorts right in your hotel room…you can pick and choose what parts of each text you like…sounds a lot like American Christianity.
Google to advertise pro-life groups
After a recent lawsuit by The Christian Institute, religious and pro-life organizations will be allowed to advertise on Google. You can watch the news video here:
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
I had the opportunity to speak with a merry-go-round operator (I can’t remember his name) at The Aquarium in downtown Houston. There weren’t many people in line so when I handed him a million dollar bill, he asked me what it was about. I told him there was a million dollar question on the back…would you go to Heaven if you die? He laughed it off a little and had a smile on his face as he thought about it. He said he wasn’t sure because he “did some bad things in his life”. He didn’t really want to elaborate so I asked him if some of those bad things included breaking some of the 10 Commandments. He casually agreed and then I began asking him if he’s ever lied, stolen, blasphemed, etc. As he admitted to breaking each of those laws, he quickly grew somber in his countenance. He admitted his guilt if he stood before a Holy God and said he would only deserve Hell. I then presented the Good News to him and let him know that God provided a way through Jesus Christ for him to be forgiven. I ended the discussion by telling him to read the Gospels and think about our conversation. He thanked me and said he would put much thought into it. As I walked away, I glanced back and noticed he was reading the tract I handed to him. I pray that God opens his heart and waters the seed of the Gospel that was planted in him.
This is just one of many witnessing encounters that many Christians, who use the law and grace, can attest to. I only share this story because of recent comments made by other Christians, including Joel Houston of Hillsong United at the recent Hillsong Conference in Houston, TX. Comments such as, “All we’re here to do is love people and be the hands and feet of Jesus.” Now I’m not even sure what that means but according to Joel Houston, we “don’t need to preach” Jesus but just love on people. In fact, in one of his workshop sessions, his response to questions about outreach was that, “we don’t need to get on a soapbox and preach”. He also told a story of how he had been going to a local coffee shop for seven years and never preached but just talked to people. Wow…talk about extreme relationship evangelism…if you can even call this evangelism.
So here was a crowd hungry to go out into the world to reach lost sinners and Joel, a very influential figure with young Christians, discourages them from preaching the gospel…what a shame.
That same night after we finished a night of sharing the gospel, a friend of mine received a phone call from another Christian. She told him that she doesn’t agree with our “methods” and we simply need to tell people that “Jesus loves them” instead of preaching Law and Grace.
So on one hand, we have a famous worship leader discouraging eager Christians from preaching the gospel at all, and on the other hand, we have Christians who suggest that if we must preach, we only need to be talking about the love of Jesus.
In The Great Commission, Jesus commands us to “go into the world and preach the gospel to all creation”. The word preach here literally means to herald or proclaim (particularly divine truth) and in order to proclaim anything, we must open our mouths and use words. This is not a command to be “the hands and feet of Jesus” but to be the mouthpiece of Christ by preaching his good news. If the Great Commission was only meant for the disciples, then the gospel would have died off with their martyrdoms. Furthermore, in Romans 10:14-15, Paul systematically explains that in order for someone to be saved, they must hear the gospel, and in order for them to hear the gospel, someone must preach it to them. In other words, open your mouth Christian so that the sinner may hear the gospel. It’s as simple as that. So rather than hiding behind our fears and cowardice by suggesting we should minimize the gospel to our actions, let us boldly and without hindrance preach the Kingdom of God (Acts 28:31).
Also, I don’t argue against telling people that Christ loves them; however, just as a good doctor must first tell his sick patient that he is indeed ill and needs a cure, we as Christians must show the sinner that they are indeed sinners and need God’s forgiveness. Otherwise, the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to those who believe it is the power of God unto salvation (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).
And while I can reference many more verses and point out that the Church of Jesus Christ was built on the preaching of the gospel by the apostles, firsthand experience will always trump any theological arguments or differences in the matter of if and how we are to to do so. With that said, I challenge Christians to get involved with a Biblically sound outreach ministry or go to Way of the Master’s website and equip yourselves to share your faith. Also, as I pointed out earlier, there is a wonderful outreach ministry, Vertical 713, that consistently hits the streets on Friday nights and preaches the gospel throughout Houston. Feel free to contact them or send me a message if you're interested in doing the same.
Friday, September 26, 2008
With our jobs we expect exceptional training, management and organization. We demand that our employer provide the necessary tools to increase and utilize our skills and expertise so that we may gradually progress in our workplace.
With our universities and schools, we anticipate that our professors teach and instruct us with proper and well-thought out curriculums to prepare us for the workplace. So much time is devoted to studying, learning and applying the principles taught to us by these instructors.
Yet, when it comes to the church, we settle for silly and asinine sermons and teachings that, at best, give us wisdom and guidance that are no different than what we find on Oprah or Dr. Phil Today. And at worst, lack any substance or Biblical truths and consequently create thousands of false converts that comfortably sit in church pews today.
In contrast to the standards of the modern church, Paul’s letter to Titus gives us a detailed outline of God’s standards for church leaders and what they should be teaching
Firstly, a leader is not qualified on the basis of aptitude, education, oratory skills, physical appearance or natural ability but rather on moral and spiritual character. He must lead a blameless life, free from scandal and corruption and be devoted to encouraging the church through sound Biblical doctrine. And I’m not talking about a “be a better you” type of encouragement but a solid exhortation to live a holy life. And in addition to shepherding and caring for the flock, a church leader must equip the saints to evangelize and defend the truth (See Titus 1).
So…Paul puts an emphasis on inward character of church leaders and encourages them to teach and live sound doctrine. The modern church seems to put an emphasis on the outward appearance; get a cool haircut (spiky or messy with lots of gel), wear the latest and trendiest clothes (torn jeans, striped collared shirts from Express and absolutely no ties) and listen to cool music (U2, Radiohead, etc.). Sound doctrine? Expositional teaching? Good character? That stuff doesn’t appeal to the public…we need relevant teaching! Oh…and let’s not forget about the booming sound system.
Speaking of teaching, Houston has its mega dose of megachurches known for shallow and superficial sermons that hide behind a mask of relevance and self improvement. We teach people how to become a better you and live life to the fullest. Wanna find a date? Go to your local church and they’ll be sure to hook you up by the weekend. I’m not kidding…how else will we get people to come and listen to our shallow sermons? Have we forgotten that we are called to preach Christ crucified which is the power of God unto salvation (1 Corinthians 1:22-24)? Walk into most modern churches and you will not hear the Gospel and if you do, it certainly isn't the Biblical, God-centered Gospel but a man-centered, self improvement message which is really no gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-7).
Back to Paul’s letter to Titus…you can read through chapter 2 and from the outset, God commands Titus to teach sound doctrine. And this is essential and imperative whether you’re young or old, male or female. It doesn’t matter if you’re leading a youth group or teaching a Bible study for senior citizens; sound doctrine is indispensable and absolutely necessary. And rather than doing sermon series based on CSI or Dr. Seuss, Paul tells Titus to teach the church on topics such as self-control, purity, and Godly speech so that they may obtain a sound and good faith that leads by example. And as leaders in our church, these are the things we should teach and pass down to the younger generation.
If you’re a believer, what is your church teaching? Are you under a pastor who is encouraging you with Biblical truths and equipping you to live a holy life that is an example to those who oppose it? And if you’re a church leader, are you teaching what is in accordance with sound doctrine and feeding your sheep by rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)? Or, just as Charles Spurgeon recognized over a hundred years ago , are you merely amusing goats?
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Here are some statistics on abortion:
- Since 1973 there have been over 40 million abortions. Texas has the third highest legal induced abortions at 74,801 (CDC).
- Texas does currently enforce parental consent or notification laws for minors seeking an abortion (AGI).
- World Magazine rated Texas the #2 Pro-Life state in the U.S. (Source).
- There has been a continuing increase of legal induced abortions in the U.S. since 1973, peaking in 1990, and then generally declining (CDC).
- Unmarried women account for 82% of abortions with a ratio of 572 abortions for every 1,000 live births
- Women between the ages of 20-24 obtained 33% of all abortions (CDC).
- 50% of U.S. women obtaining abortions are younger than 25; women aged 20-24 obtain 33% of all U.S. abortions and teenagers obtain 17% (AGI).
- Adolescents under 15 years obtained less than 1% of all abortions, but have the highest abortion ratio, 744 abortions for every 1,000 live births (CDC).
- 47% of women who have abortions had at least one previous abortion (AGI).
- Black women are more than 4.8 times more likely than non-Hispanic white women to have an abortion, and Hispanic women are 2.7 times as likely (AGI).
- 43% of women obtaining abortions identify themselves as Protestant, and 27% identify themselves as Catholic (AGI).
- On average, women give at least 3 reasons for choosing abortion: 3/4 say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or other responsibilities; about 3/4 say they cannot afford a child; and 1/2 say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner (AGI).
Overall, the abortion count is 4,000 per day, 25,000 per week, 109,000 per month, and 1.3 million per year. And let's not forget the countless women who are left with the regret and shame they experience after having an abortion.
And since we’re in the middle of a presidential election, you can find out where the candidates stand on this issue by clicking here.
And click here for if you need general information on abortion such as abortion alternatives, pro-life organizations, etc.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Margaret was a belligerent socialist that denounced marriage as “a degenerate institution” and sexual modesty as “obscene prudery”. Her publication, The Women Rebel, was published under the masthead, “No God and No Masters”.
While Margaret was exiled in England, as a result of her extreme views, she was indoctrinated with the Malthusian philosophy that believed in population control by any means necessary (sounds like abortion). She even condemned charity and philanthropy because they enabled the weak and the poor to survive and flourish.
Even worse, she adopted the policies of Eugenics, which is defined as “the study of hereditary improvement of the human race by controlled selective breeding.” While this may sound like a genuine scientific theory, this was the same ideology that motivated the Nazis to abuse and kill millions of disabled children and woman. And today, this policy is universally condemned as a mere political and social prejudice rather than scientific fact. The prejudice can be recognized in one of Margaret Sanger’s letter to a friend. Here is what she said:
"We do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten that idea out if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members."
Is it a surprise that black women are more than 3 times as likely as white women to have an abortion, and Hispanic woman 2 ½ times as likely ?
And Planned Parenthood’s president, Alan Guttmacher, who succeeded Sanger state that Planned Parenthood is “merely walking down the path that Mrs. Sanger carved out for us”…and it’s a path Faye Wattleton, Planned Parenthood’s president during the ‘80’s, claims they are proud to walk.
A quick glance at Planned Parenthood’s website will reveal not only their financial interest but also their ideological agenda to remove any restraints (i.e. God, marriage, etc.) from sexuality and encourage self-indulgence. In fact, they have an entire entire website dedicated to teens and youth full of cartoons, games and movies…all used to indoctrinate teens with a hedonistic ideology that usurps any and all authority.
Just look at the advice one “expert” gives to teens.
“The only person who can tell if you’re ready to have sex is YOU!”
Here’s another exchange between a student and expert.
Student: “I'm ready for sex. I've got these condoms but I don't want to use them, I need some birth control pills. I would like to know [of a] place where I could get some without my parents finding out, or any other adult. Thanks for your time.”
Expert: “In general, parental permission is not needed for birth control. However, there may be certain locations where, for one reason or another, the provider will require parental permission. Confidentiality is up to the provider. Planned Parenthood health centers are committed to providing services that are confidential and affordable, especially for teens, who may face special family and financial circumstances. To find a Planned Parenthood health center near you, call 1-800-230-PLAN.”
And on and on it goes. More advice from Planned Parenthood tells teens that having sex everyday is normal and can actually have “positive health benefits that you might not expect”. As far as any moral constraints, PP proclaims that we should “celebrate our sexuality” by recognizing that it “can be fun and fulfill many emotional needs”.
To top if off, PP suggests that homosexuality is normal and developed before birth and claims that “religious authorities often encourage negative feelings about sexual orientation and gender identity”.
So Planned Parenthood’s agenda is clearly laid out. While promoting a hedonistic lifestyle with no restraints, the natural effects are unwanted pregnancies that consequently end in abortion. And if abortions are increased, so is the financial bottom line of Planned Parenthood. Unfortunately, while their pockets are getting fat, millions of babies are aborted and millions of women are left to deal with the “choice” they made.
*All statistics and resources from http://www.abort73.com/
A law passed in 2003 requires that abortions carried out between the 16th and 24th and one-half week of pregnancy be performed only at a licensed ambulatory surgery center and this expansion will qualify the clinic to perform late term abortions.
Planned Parenthood’s spokeswoman, Rochelle Tafolla, suggests that abortion protesters “thrive on hyperbole. It’s all about emotion and very little about fact. They make outrageous claims and show grotesque photos.”
Rather than posting more “hyperbole” on the issue of abortion and Planned Parenthood, I thought I’d simply lay out the facts in my next two posts.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
The featured article this week covered Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church’s ordination of an openly gay pastor, Lura Groen. The church had been without a pastor for five years until Groen, despite her “sexual preference”, was able to “win their hearts”.
In regards to her sexual orientation, Groen confesses, “It’s just my personality not to want to lie about who I am.”
Groen boldly asserts that the church "does not have the right to set a different standard for her and her straight colleagues". However, she insists that the church she loved and grew up in taught that God loves everybody. So as long as the church sets a convenient standard that fits her worldview, then she is willing to embrace and adhere to it.
Unfortunately Groen’s childhood church preached a different gospel that conformed and shaped a god to fit the lifestyle of a homosexual; a god completely lacking any reference to sin, judgment, righteousness and holiness. What’s even more alarming is we are now seeing the fruits of their labor. According to the article, there are now 15 to 20 openly gay clergy in the city of Houston. And if you take a trip down to Montrose and Westheimer, you’ll see more and more churches preaching the same message that “God loves everybody”...it's a watered-down message that loudly proclaims, “I will not worship the God of the Bible but a god that I am comfortable with”. And according to Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church’s website , it’s all about making it as comfortable as possible for YOU.
Rather than preaching a false gospel that creates a false image of god and consequently encourages us to remain in our sinful nature, the Bible commands us to put off our old selves…our old selves being our sinful desires and lusts of the flesh…just as we put off old and filthy garments. While Groen may seem humble in her profession to “not lie about who she is”, God commands all men everywhere to repent of their sins and place their trust in Christ (Acts 17:30). And in doing so He promises to set us free from our sinful nature (Romans 7:23,8:2), create in us new desires (Ephesians 4:22, 24) and give us the strength to resist and overcome our temptations (
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Recently, Hillsong United held its annual conference here in Houston, TX at Grace Community Church (not to be confused with John MacArthur’s church. The weekend was packed with workshops, breakout sessions and concerts, all led by members and pastors associated with United.
My girlfriend and I had the opportunity to attend, thanks to my brother who works at The Houston Chronicle. Our first stop was in a workshop titled “Agents of Change”. According to the program guide, Hillsong youth pastor Chrishan Jeyaratnam would be exploring “some of the fundamentals of what it takes to create a great culture within our youth ministry”.
Speaking before a large audience, Jeyaratnam urged everyone to encourage our youth to believe in themselves and follow their dreams by speaking positive words of faith into their lives. This was the basic principal laid out in his message. He briefly stressed the importance of evangelism but never really explained exactly what he meant by it. In today’s wide wacky world of evangelicalism, this could mean anything.
What caught my attention were his comments on how to deal with young people who are falling into temptation and sexual sin. According to Jeyaratnam, there are two ways to prevent sinful behavior.
“It's really easy see a problem and jump on it by telling young people, 'you know what, you shouldn’t be sleeping around, you‘re sending yourself to hell, you‘re going to catch an STD'.”
Rather than "preaching against something", and this something being sin, his advice is that we “speak life” into their situation and use positive words.
“You can come into the situation and preach life into something…and encourage them to be who they are called to be.”
However, Ezekiel makes it clear that we are to “warn a wicked man to turn from his way” and if he continues in his sin, he “shall die in his iniquity” (Ezekiel 33:9). If we see someone blindly walking towards the edge of a cliff, the loving thing to do would be to warn them that the path they are on leads to a 1,000 foot fall and ultimately to their death.
Addressing the issue of sexual sin in the body of Christ, Paul orders the Corinthians to expel a brother who is willfully sinning. This sobering demand of excommunication only emphasizes the dreadful effects of sin and the urgency to discipline someone who is living a lifestyle that leads to death and corrupts the fellowship of believers. This principle was used to teach the offender a lesson and differs vastly from the Jeyaratnam’s idea to “speak life” into someone who is caught in sin. By disobeying the scriptures in this matter, he may actually be “speaking death” into a person.
He spent the final 12 minutes stressing the importance of “just having fun” in the youth ministry by telling stories of stunts and pranks pulled by fellow believers back in his church. Using John 10:10 to support his claim, he blames the enemy for stealing our fun and says Jesus came to give us an abundant life! Paul had a different approach for the youth of his day. He realized the trials, temptations and tribulations that lied ahead for young Timothy so he exhorted him to train himself in godliness (1 Timothy 4:7) and to preach the Word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). A far cry from simply “having fun”, Paul’s standard for Timothy were not bound by his age. In fact, Timothy was called to be an example in his speech, life, love, faith, and purity for all believers (1 Timothy 4:12).
While what may have seemed like an innocent and heartfelt message from Jeyaratnam, pastors and teachers who simply pamper the youth will only bring them grief in the end (Proverbs 29:21). Instead, let us promote young people to absorb themselves daily in the reading, preaching and teaching of scripture (1 Timothy 4:9). And in due season, may they grow up to be like a tree planted by the streams, flourishing and growing in the Word of God and yielding fruit for His kingdom (Psalm 144:12, Psalm 1:3).
Monday, August 25, 2008
While it’s easy to suggest that this is a victory for Joel and Victoria, I think it’s safe to say that, victory or not, the aftermath of the negative publicity could have long lasting effects on Lakewood, and more importantly, Christianity as a whole. An argument could be made that this should not have even made it to trial in the first place. Jesus said in Matthew 5:39 not to resist an evil person. He even goes so far to say if someone sues you for your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. As Christians, we must avoid disputing and striving but this is beside the point. I want to focus more on the comments that were made after the verdict was announced.
Whose Reputation is at Stake
In a recent article, the two, specifically Victoria, commented her faith and the battles she faced.
“Victoria Osteen, who was sued by a Continental Airlines flight attendant for allegedly assaulting her during the boarding process of a flight to Colorado in December 2005, said her spiritual strength enabled her to get past what she described as initial shame and humiliation.”
If you continue reading, you’ll notice a reoccurring theme; Victoria was not concerned about the shame and humiliation that the whole ordeal could possibly bring to the Christian faith. She was more troubled about her spotless image so perfectly portrayed on the television.
"When I came here that first Sunday after that happened, I was embarrassed. I was ashamed.”
In fact, she was so worried about her reputation in Houston, she hesitated to go out in public because she felt that people would stare and look at her in a shameful way.
"I'd go out in public," she went on. "I'd go into a restaurant, and I felt like people would turn around and look at me and they would be thinking all this stuff."
Keep Your Day Job
But then she tells the Lakewood congregation that she prayed for her accuser and “gave it to God” but goes on to say that when we pray for somebody, we “shouldn’t talk about it”. Keep in mind she was behind the pulpit and preaching to thousands of people.To take it even further she was quite sure that the case was a distraction trying to pull her down and, as a result, this distraction must not be “sent from God”. So was this Satan trying to distract her from preaching a man-centered gospel and deceiving thousands of people every Sunday? Even so, was God not on the throne when this “distraction” was sent to her? To suggest God had nothing to do with this is to deny His sovereignty.
New Beginnings/Old Message
And to put the icing on the cake, Mr. Osteen himself makes the following declaration,
"We got in the car that night (after testifying) I just felt like I heard new beginnings," he said. "It's a new beginning. It felt so good. I believe God is saying it's time for new beginnings, it's time to step into a new season of God's favors, it's time to be set free from things that have been holding you back."
So whose victory was this in the end? Was this simply a distraction that worked itself out to be a “new beginning” and a “new season of God’s favors”? No matter what the outcome. Joel and Victoria managed to turn this into a self-centered message of receiving God’s favor and in the end, its Victoria Osteen, not God, who got the glory. And this is the same message heard every Sunday morning from the pulpit of Lakewood Church.
Silence is Golden
But perhaps Victoria would have done herself good had she listened to God in the first place.
"The truth is, I didn't want to come back (to preaching)," she said. "The truth is, I wanted to stay home. I wanted to forget it. I thought: `You know what, God, maybe you are trying to tell me this isn't what I'm supposed to do. Maybe you're trying to tell me I need to sit home."
Maybe she was right.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Well to begin, all three make their Houston homes in arenas where thousands flock to be…entertained. While we expect the two major sports teams in Houston to entertain the masses (although one can argue that the past few years have been anything but entertaining), a church would be the last place to expect such a spectacle. Yet, attend Lakewood Church on any given Sunday and that’s just what you’ll get…entertainment.
Throughout the spiritual landscape of Houston , more trouble looms on the horizon. From the Gospel light message heard every week at Lakewood Church, to the postmodern message endorsed at “Christian” coffee shops like Taft St. Coffee, does Houston indeed have a problem?
As a result of my frustration with the lack of spiritual substance in my beloved hometown of Houston, I offer this blog as a meeting place for other Christians whom share in my grievances and feel the need to “write and urge” other Houstonians to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints”.