Friday, October 31, 2008

Reformation Day

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

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

The Voice of (Un)Reason

I'm not even sure where to begin with this one.

Chris Seay, pastor of Ecclesia Church in Houston, TX has teamed up with 11 "Bible scholars" and more then a dozen writers, including Greg Garrett, a secular fiction writer and emerging church leader Brian MaClaren to collaborate on a new translation called The Voice, which presents the Bible in a screenplay format.

If you are unfamiliar with Eccelsia Church, they are locally known for their Taft St. Coffee Shop. A coffee shop dedicated to the arts (i.e. music, art, books, coffee, etc.). According to their website, Ecclesia Church "oversees all aspects of Taft". I've visited Taft St. Coffee frequently in the past. This is the same coffee shop that wanted to create a "safe environment" by discouraging other Christians from holding Bible studies in their shop for fear of scaring off unbelieving customers; this is the same coffee shop that promotes and carries Skeptic Magazine, a publication that has often opposed and ridiculed any and everything Christian; and this is the same coffee shop that constantly features books from emerging leaders such as Brian MacLaren and Rob Bell.

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 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

Fit for His Service

I came across an article on Crosswalk about Genesis 16 in which the author claims is a chapter that shows God as “the real hero of the Bible” by revealing the foolish actions of Sarah, Abraham, And Hagar.

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 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

From Middle Ground to Far Left

This speech was given by Obama before the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Inc. Now keep in mind this is the same Obama who, before millions of voters during last week's national televised debate, claimed we can reach "middle gound" on the issue of abotion.

"On this fundamental issue (choice), I will not yield..."

Does this sound like middle ground to you?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Obama's "Middle Ground" Abortion Rhetoric

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

Love it or Lose it?

Is it just me or does the title alone of Victoria Osteen’s new book, Love Your Life: Living Happy, Healthy and Whole, automatically make me think of John 12:25?

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

Blue Like Jazz Why You Shouldn't Be Emergent & Biblical Discernment

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Check out book reviews from credible Christian websites such Tim Challies' blog.
  4. 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.
And if you’ve ready Blue Like Jazz, I encourage you to read this critique by Richard and Linda Nathan.

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.

Reading List
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 the News

Vatican to discuss role of Scripture for Catholics
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.

Green Bible
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…

Homosexual Christian?
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:


"When I interview a missionary in our mission the only thing I want to know is will you walk into the middle of the square, open up a Bible and preach because that is how the gospel travels throughout this world...through preaching!"

-Paul Washer

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

To Preach or not to Preach

I recently joined Vertical 713, an outreach ministry based here in Houston, for a night of street witnessing at Herman Park and downtown.

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.