Wednesday, October 11, 2006

An Open Letter to Jim Wallis, et. al.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines covetousness:
“Strong desire to have that which belongs to another. It is considered to be a very grievous offense in Scripture. The Tenth Commandment forbids coveting anything that belongs to a neighbor, including his house, his wife, his servants, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to him (Exod 20:17). Jesus listed covetousness or greed along with many of the sins from within, including adultery, theft, and murder, which make a person unclean (Mr 7:22).”

When a stranger recently knocked on our door at home and asked for gas money, I gave him $10.00, no questions asked and I shared the Gospel with him. That was Christian charity. (I share this not to glorify myself for I am a sinner saved by grace. Let God be glorified.) My wife and I have never made more than $40,000 combined in a year and we have two teenagers so $10.00 is a stretch for us. We also have a young friend who is single and pregnant and penniless. We are helping her with expenses, transportation, etc. etc. That is Christian charity. The command Jesus gives to believers to love our neighbors is not given to bureaucracies or even to Christian aid agencies. The Good Samaritan did not call Social Services. The command is given to individuals. Some high profile Christian leaders would have us believe otherwise.

Voting for a politician who promises to “soak the rich” is not Loving your neighbor. Neither is calling for a “moral budget” where moral means taking and spending more tax dollars on social programs. In fact, there are several problems, Biblically, with this line of thinking.

1. There is an assumption communicated by Liberals, Christian and otherwise, that those who have gained an above average wealth must have done something wrong to acquire whatever they have. This is both guilt manipulation and the kind of judgement Jesus warns against and it is an example of covetousness.

2. As we are commanded to be stewards of all God gives us, nothing could be more irresponsible than spending more money on government handouts, the administration of which are hugely expensive and rife with corruption, inefficiency, and waste. Church-based charity operates efficiently out of necessity. There is no bureaucracy seeking only to preserve its own existence. Moreover, there is nothing more efficient or more Biblical than one-on-one charity performed in the name of Jesus. No infrastructure or bureaucracy required.

3. The command to be charitable was not directed at the state but at individuals and the administration of the Church. The Christian priority is to meet the needs of family first (I Tim 5:8), then Brethren, then strangers.

4. Most importantly, it is one thing to struggle with covetousness within one’s own soul. It is something else to act with covetousness supposedly in the name of charity, and it is a far more serious sin to encourage covetousness in others. The existence of poverty in the world and even the existence of greedy people do not justify making government policy based on covetousness. God will deal with the greedy. He will also deal with those who lead others into sin supposedly in His name.

In recent years “The Church” has come under increasing criticism for not doing more to “give to the least of these.” First, this is a misinterpretation of Matthew 25: 31-46. This passage is about our response to the Gospel and God’s messengers; not how we treat the poor, etc. But assuming for a moment their interpretation, I have heard Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo and others use this accusation to encourage higher taxes so that government can spend more on social services. Speaking as one who is not far removed from being among “the least of these,” I have been on both the giving and receiving end of Christian charity often enough to know that the Body of Christ is performing its assigned tasks much better than some Liberals would like us to believe. The Church is not perfect. If it were, we wouldn’t bother with studying Paul’s Letters. But that does not justify demeaning the Bride of Christ. There is no charity being administered by the state that could not be done better by the Church.

It should be noted that in the entire Bible, the eradication of poverty is never mentioned either as a possibility or a goal. Jesus Christ, the Lord never talks about it. Neither is it mentioned in the epistles. What is spoken of in both the Old Testament and the New is Charity. In the Book of leviticus, it is recorded that God, the Father, giving Moses the Law for the administration of the Nation of Israel, gives specific instructions on how those who are able are to care for the poor. Farmers were instructed to leave the outside edges of their fields unharvested so that the poor could glean from them. In the book of Acts, we see the twelve setting up a structure within the church for taking care of the widows. In I Corinthians, we see Paul instructing the believers to take a collection for the believers in Jerusalem.

Consider this, if you encounter someone claiming Christ who, relatively speaking, has more wealth than most, and is not charitable with it; …in other words, if, after having first examined yourself, you do not see fruit in a fellow believer, what makes you think that that person is really saved? No one changes from the outside, in. Charity is an evidence, a manifestation of the fruit borne out of a life redeemed. But charity does not save us. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Perhaps the Body of Christ is not nearly as populated as some would like to believe or assume. Barna Research indicates that a majority of Americans claim Christianity but less than 10% of self-described “Born-Agains” can correctly answer the most basic questions about the faith. (Barna Update-12/1/2003)

I suggest that we should be concentrating more on evangelizing and making disciples. (You know, The Great Commission) Do you doubt that the Holy Spirit will lead Christians to do what is right?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Way to go Kirk

Well, I'll be busy with college now (back in school at age 44) so I won't be so active blogging now. But it was good to see Kirk Cameron on TBN the other night. I'm no fan of TBN because they'll let any false teacher on the air. But once in a while they have someone on who really speaks the truth like Kirk Cameron. He and his guests really nailed it. No word-faith nonsense. No seeker sensitive compromise of God's Word. No purpose driven beating around the bush. Just the straight-up Gospel. Repent and believe. Jesus Christ is the only way.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Nothing New Under the Sun

The only differences between today's world and that of 500, or 2000 years ago involve the speed at which humans can communicate and travel. Human nature is the same. Sin, that thing some Christian leaders would like to avoid talking about at all costs is the same. God, for sure, is the same. His Word, for sure is still both sufficient and superior. His Grace is still available to everyone. There is nothing new under the sun. None of the pressures or temptations facing people today anywhere in the world are new or unique to this time. The whole discussion about cultural sensitivity is, at best, fruitless and a waste. God's Word asks us to examine ourselves first, not make broad accusations of the Church, which, by the way, has done much more, corporately speaking, to help the world meet physical needs than it is given credit for here.
So should we abandon orthodoxy?

Let me tell you, I work 63 hours a week at two ten dollar an hour jobs and I am broke but my kids LOVE JESUS and they believe in Him and call on His name for their salvation. So eternal security is more important to me than my next meal and it should be to you too.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Consumerism in the Church

The following is a response in Out of Ur to an essay about consumerism in the Church. The Link will take you there.

It is human nature to attempt to find or create tangible evidence for our intangible faith. We are more confident in our own faith when we have some kind of a “flag” to fly (bumper sticker, t-shirt, etc.). The result can be that we reduce Christianity to something on a par with being, say, a Yankees fan. And no one who loves the Yankees strives to convert his neighbor who loves the Red Sox over to his side.

The problem is not that we have choices. It is that we have made one choice in particular, the choice to rely on something other than God’s Word and the Holy Spirit for our direction. The Christian community seems to be ever waiting on the “next big thing,” which will follow in the footsteps of the Prayer of Jaybez, the Purpose Driven Life and Emergent.
So Skye’s post is right on. But let’s not conclude that the symptoms are the root problem. The solution begins with each Believer as an individual committing to personal holiness, evangelism, and discipleship. The rest will take care of itself one soul at a time.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Here are the first and last paragraphs of a recent news article.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Six conservative Episcopalian bishops opposed to the liberal drift in the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion are asking for a trial separation, a move hinting at an eventual divorce over irreconcilable differences, some analysts say……..
…….The U.S. church may again be "pruning" itself, said Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Church in Pasadena, California and president of Integrity, a group for gay Episcopalians. "Episcopalians like to think of themselves as being a broad, generous church," she said. "We may have reached the point where some can no longer live within the tent."

(c) Reuters 2006. All rights reserved

A "pruning", a realignment, a purification by fire. It may very well be that the "Church", at least in America, is and will be smaller in numbers than was once thought. That is not a bad thing. It will serve God's purpose. It will be a good thing for Christians to get away from denominational loyalty. Being a Christian should not be held as equivalent to being, say, a Yankees fan. There must be a line drawn.

The tough call will be for the true Christian who serves a drifting church body regardless of affiliation. Does one stay, essentially as a missionary to the self-deceived lost? Or does one gravitate toward like minded believers. For me, I think it comes down to the family situation. If there are young children, find the most grounded-in-the-Word-Church you can. If you are mature and strong in the Lord and an empty nester, the missionary way may be what God's calling is for you.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

This is an essay I wrote back before The Purpose Driven Life was driven off the best seller list by The Da Vinci Code.......

....So I was watching Rick Warren on CNN. Larry King described him as a Christian superstar, which is a warning to my ears to begin with. But aside from that, watching Warren being interviewed was just frustrating from an Evangelical point of view.

Larry King was not hostile at all (I taped the interview). He gave Rick Warren all the time he needed to answer questions and every opportunity to preach the gospel. But getting him to do so would have been like trying to nail Jello to a wall. I watched the interview thinking to myself, "Say it; just say it. Jesus is the only way." Warren kept referring to God as God, making God sound generic, rarely uttering the name Jesus Christ.

I don't know anything about Rick Warren other than what I have read in his book and heard him say on television. I can't judge his heart and he gave good answers to many of King's questions such as the one about euthanasia. But I fear that in trying to make the Gospel oriented toward the 21st century listener, the Gospel itself is being compromised.

The purpose-driven message seems designed to avoid the things about the Gospel that make people feel uncomfortable, such as sin and Hell. Warren is absolutely right about many of the things he says. The world is full of selfish pleasure seekers. People are wondering about their purpose and significance in the world. Individual self-sacrifice is personally fulfilling and pleasing to God. But that is where Warren puts the cart before the horse.

The Bible says that without faith, it is impossible to please God. Rick Warren does not seem to be going so far as to suggest a works-based salvation but neither does he lead the reader of his book (yes, I have read it) to a personal awareness of one's sinful condition. He spent the entire interview with Larry King beating around that very important bush. It almost seems as if he's trying to sneak Jesus in through the back door.

The bottom line is this: If people decide, in their quest for self-fulfillment, significance, etc., to be self-sacrificing servants to others, and that makes them feel better about themselves and God, has Rick Warren done them any favors if they leave this life without the knowledge of their need for the redemption available only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and His resurrection? Even servanthood is merely a good work and in the Christian life, good works are the product of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Beyond Da Vinci

OK, everybody calm down. If China, Stalin, the French Revolution and the Roman Empire could not destroy the Church, The Da Vinci Code won't either. The statements people might make after seeing the movie are pretty much the same urban legends used by skeptics for centuries.

The good thing is that there has been an explosion in the Church in the study of Church history and the origins of the Scriptures. Things we should have been studying anyway.

But know this. The Da Vinci Code is the tip of the iceburg. There are other books out there written by college professors and some by people who have held positions in church pulpits. The History Channel regularly presents "evidence" why different parts of the Bible couuld not be accurate. We are entering a period that will seperate the real believers from the pretenders. Study hard. Pray hard.

I Peter 3:15 "but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;" (NASB)

Fear not. This is nothing new. For all of the fanfare, all of these water cooler talking points are old news, recycled. The Gospel of Judas, the Gnostics, etc. They've all been examined before and come up short. The difference now is that we live in the age of information saturation. Every minute, someone is finding something about the Gospel of Judas on the internet and thinking that they've discovered a recent revelation. Here's my advice. Turn off everything, the TV, the computer. Open your Bible. Read. Pray.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Humble Confidence

It is amazing to me how offensive it is to some people for other people to be completely confident in their beliefs. Apparently, some people thrive on the idea that the only thing that CAN be known for sure is that nothing can be known for sure.

Life is too complex and our individual experiences too unique, they say. Certainly, my truth is not yours, and there can never be a definitive explanation for life and earth and man and God, etc.

This idea only serves the purpose of allowing people to avoid confronting the things in God's Word, which make them uncomfortable. Things like sin, death, judgment, and Hell and especially their own depravity.

Eventually, those who are offended by another's confidence accuse the other of being less than humble. "Oh your so sure of everything, aren't you?" I have heard it said more than once. "Why should I believe something just because you believe it?"

They miss the point entirely.

Never confuse confidence with arrogance. I wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and see a middle aged fat guy who deserves none of the good things (a lasting marriage, great kids who love the Lord) with which the Lord has blessed me. There are no delusions of grandeur here.

But my confidence is not in me. It is in the Lord, His promises, His Word, His sacrifice for me on the cross, His resurrection, and the fact that there is no other way. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that I cannot, must not rely on myself. The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Read II Corinthians 11 to see what someone far greater and more confident than I says about his confidence (foolishness?). Paul was concerned that the believers, to whom he was writing would be led astray by false teachers. That is what this blog is about, though it is directed to no one in particular.

So, if you have happened upon this blog, make no mistake. You need Jesus real bad. How do I know? Because I need him worse than you.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Worst Thing that Could Happen

January, 2009-A conservative Republican who is also an outspoken Christian is inaugurated President. Congress stands ready to lower taxes, cut government spending, make abortion illegal, declare marriage to be between one man and one woman, and shut down the hard core porn industry. the Supreme Court, now a solid 6-3 conservative majority, is sure to declare all of this constitutional. The good guys have won.

Not so fast.

Declaring victory in such a situation might be alot of fun and it might feel very satisfying but what exactly would we have won? Speaking from a Christian perspective, not much.

Keep in mind that I consider the scenario highly unlikely.

Its not that we are not supposed to fight the political fight. Our system of government is unique in the history of the world. The opportunity for Christians to have influence in the choice of our leaders and in their decision making is something about which Christians in other countries only dream. It is every Christian's duty to extend his or her influence into the political process. The Bible says God ordains government to be "a minister of God to you for good" (Romans 13:4) Christians can and should play a part in directing government to fulfill that mandate from the Lord.

That said, political victories can not possibly replace evangelism, discipleship, and charity. We may be able to use the law to change people's behavior but, in doing so, we will not have been an agent of the Holy Spirit in saving people's souls.

In previous posts, I have written about the misguided, wrongheaded Liberals who equate higher taxes and more state administered social services with Christian charity. On the other side of the coin are conservatives who think the Kingdom will be ushered in on earth by means of the ballot box.

Here's the bottom line. No one changes from the outside, in. What if abortion were still legal and, because more and more people were committing their lives to Christ, no one showed up at the clinics anymore? What if welfare case workers were left idle because the body of Christ was growing and doing the charitable work that our society has currently delegated to the bureaucracy? What if the porn industry went out of business because people, changed by the Holy Spirt stopped buying their filth?

That would be a victory worth celebrating.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Note to the Emergent

I would like everyone in the Emergent Conversation to ask yourselves when was the last time you shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with someone in your sphere of influence. Or have you ever or is this something you do?

I have shared Christ several times recently, not because I am holier than you or more righteous or because I am conservative but because I am not holy or righteous or worthy of God's grace at all. God has made me acutely aware of my hopelessness and helplessness but more than that. Having saved me, He has given me a desperate awareness and compassion for the eternal destiny of people who are lost. I seek no glory here. Let only God be glorified.

Your conversation is like two people standing on the shore talking about the best way to save the guy drowning in the river. You can't even decide if the guy is really drowning.

I'm diving in.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Jesus Christ-the Lifeboat

All I am is a survivor of a sinking ship called the human race. I am sitting in a lifeboat soaking wet because I was just pulled into the boat by someone else. I have my hand outstretched trying to help anyone into the boat who wants on. The boat is big enough for everyone. Amazingly, many refuse the help. They like the water. They're drowning and they refuse to believe it. There is nothing more relevant or urgent than that.
I have heard it said (by those who have trouble reconciling their Liberal ideology and their personal brand of "Christianity" with the Bible) that God is not a Republican. This is true. But I'm pretty sure Satan is a Democrat.