Monday, October 29, 2018

Attack on a Jewish synagogue


The nation was stunned this past week after deadliest attack on the Jewish people in U.S. history. Eleven people were killed in a synagogue in Pittsburgh.The murderer was a vile anti-Semite. We might dismiss him as simply deranged—and he certainly was—but a CNN article cites a source saying that anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. surged almost 60% in 2017!

Although the church has a deplorable history of anti-Semitism, in my opinion, an attack on Jews is also an attack on Christians. Jesus was Jewish. All of the Apostles were Jewish. In fact, the very earliest church was almost entirely Jewish. In Galatians 3 Paul says that if we are in Christ, we are Abraham’s descendants and joint heirs of the promises God gave to Abraham. In Romans 11, Paul likens non-Jewish Christians to wild olive branches grafted into a Jewish olive tree through Christ. Christians are spiritual Jews!

Although some Protestants argue that when Israel rejected Jesus, God rejected Israel, that’s not what Paul says. In Romans 11 Paul asks, “Did God reject his people?” In the context “his people” is clearly referring to unbelieving Jews. Paul answers, “By no means!...God did not reject his people….” I’m not sure how much clearer he could be!  In fact, Paul’s love for his fellow Jews is so great that in Romans 9, he says that he would actually be willing to go to hell if that could somehow save his unbelieving Jewish contemporaries!

We stand with all decent people everywhere in condemning this slaughter and call for the strongest legal means possible to put an end to our nation’s anti-Semitic surge. We also join with Christians everywhere in praying for the survivors of this terrible tragedy.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Seeker Sensitive Churches and the preaching of the Gospel


Al Mohler is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—the largest seminary in the world. In his book, “He is not Silent,” Mohler says, “Though most evangelicals mention the preaching of the Word as a necessary or customary part of worship, the prevailing model of worship in evangelical churches is increasingly defined by music, along with innovations such as drama and video presentations. Preaching has in large part retreated, and a host of entertaining innovations have taken it place” (24).
In context, Mohler is certainly not criticizing the use of music in worship. He is criticizing churches that increasingly replace preaching with various forms of entertainment, often in an effort to increase attendance. Responding to such churches, Mohler goes on to quote from A.W. Tozer who pulls no punches:
“Any objection to the carryings-on of our present golden calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, ‘But we are winning them!’ And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course, the answer to all these question is ‘no’"(26).
A bit too judgmental? Perhaps. Food for thought? Absolutely.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The way we die



I mentioned in my sermon on Sunday that I just finished reading a book entitled, “The way we die now.”  The book was not written by a Christian, which made his conclusion even more striking:

“There is a perception—even a consensus—that death is something that medicine should somehow ‘sort out’. But our needs are spiritual, not medical. Medicine’s dominion should be limited and explicitly defined. Medicine, and our culture, would be healthier and happier if we stopped expecting medicine to solve our existential and spiritual problems, if we stopped thinking of our bodies as machines and if we gave up our fantasies of control and of immortality. Doctors can indeed help the dying, but dying needs to be de-medicalized” (271-272).

When the author, a medical doctor, writes about giving up “our fantasies of control and immortality” he is talking about doctors who will do everything necessary to keep someone alive even though those doctors know 1) this may result in much more pain and suffering for the patient and 2) that the disease is terminal regardless of what the doctors do.

The author says he wrote the book “because my limited, strictly medical, expertise was inadequate to meet the demands placed on it by society and by my dying patients and their families. I had no answers, no profound insights.”

I appreciate his honesty. Ultimately, the only one who has the final answers to life and death is the One who himself conquered death through His resurrection. We have His thoughts and the Spirit-inspired wisdom of his earliest followers, in the New Testament.

Monday, October 8, 2018

“An increasingly hostile environment”


In the October 7, 2018 edition of the Christian Post, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President, Albert Mohler was quoted as saying, "Among the many challenges the church will face in the present and coming generations, few will equal the challenge of maintaining a steadfast commitment to biblical Christianity in the midst of an increasingly hostile environment.”
I am convinced that a large percentage of America is rapidly moving from a post-Christian to an anti-Christian society, in which an increasing number of people are openly antagonistic and even hostile to Christianity. In this new anti-Christian atmosphere there seems to be a growing movement even by “Evangelical” churches to “fit in.” The Bible is increasingly being re-interpreted (twisted) to be more culture-friendly. Teaching on sin, repentance and faith is being replaced by the “gospel” of health, wealth and prosperity. Old sins like dishonesty and immorality are being replaced by new sins like not being environmentally friendly or being intolerant of society’s new norms.
This desire to fit in is especially dangerous since it is coming from those who profess to be Christians! We need to remember the warning in James 4:4 that “anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” But some Christians have argued that if we were just more loving and tolerant, we wouldn’t be so hated by the world. Jesus, on the other hand, taught, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you (John 15:18-19).
The “challenge of maintaining a steadfast commitment to biblical Christianity in the midst of an increasingly hostile environment” must be met with a continued commitment to the Bible as our final authority in faith and practice, an unwavering commitment to solid biblical teaching and preaching, and an absolute commitment to the Jesus, not some Jesus imagined in our own image, but the Jesus proclaimed by the Bible.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Forgiveness

On Sunday I preached about the amazing grace of God in which there is nothing we’ve ever done that is so bad God can’t forgive. All we need to do is confess our sin, turning to him in sincere repentance and faith.

There is another side to that blessing of forgiveness, however.  In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus tells a story a king who summons his debtors. One of the king’s servants owed about 20 years-worth of wages and couldn’t pay. The king then ordered him and his family to be sold to pay the debt. That man begged the king, however, and the king forgave the debt.

This man then went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him about three months wages. The servant begged the man saying he would pay it all back, but the man refused and threw his fellow servant into prison.

When word about this got back to the king, the king summoned the man and said, “You wicked servant…I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” The text continues saying that “his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed” (Matthew 18:32-34).

The moral of the story? Jesus says, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:35). Obstinate refusal to forgive is evidence of an unsaved heart. Forgiveness may be one of the most difficult things we are called to do.

In fact, sometimes it may seem to be impossible. If that is the case, you can at least begin to pray earnestly that the Holy Spirit would help you forgive. If you are unwilling to even ask for the Spirit’s help—read Matthew 18:34-35 again.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Navy Seals and "Hell Week"


Part of the Navy Seals training program involves something called “Hell Week.” It is a very intense week in which trainees endure a lot of yelling, stress, sleepless nights, and physical exhaustion!

There is another group of people that has to endure a lot of yelling, stress, sleepless nights and physical exhaustion—only unlike the Seals, this group has to endure not just a week, but years! They’re called “moms”—especially those who have screaming infants and toddlers. As you pray today, don’t forget the moms you know.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Make America Great Again?


Supporters of President Trump generally agree with his slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Some of the President’s detractors argue that America was never great to begin with.

Those who believe America was once (and/or still is) a great nation can point to our legacy of freedom, our history of technological invention, our overall standard of living, the fact that we have probably sent out more missionaries than any country in history, and how America saved the world from tyranny during World War II. Those who say America was never great can point to the way Native American’s were treated, to slavery, discrimination, widespread political and moral corruption, and even to abortion! The debate is unwinnable.

A better way to frame the debate would be to ask, “Has America ever been the kind of place where millions of people have risked everything to come here because they perceived America to be so much better than their country?” The answer is beyond dispute: Yes! Absolutely.

Whether you agree with the President or not, we should be grateful to God that we live in one of the most prosperous and free nations in the world—A country that people flee to and not from. And we should be especially careful not to take our freedom for granted. There are many today who are fighting to significantly limit these freedoms in the name of “political correctness” and “fairness.”