Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Unbelief of Brian McLaren

For many years now I have observed and read Brian McLaren with great concern that he is just way off mark with even a basic understanding of the Gospel. He has I think been just like the liberal academics found in liberal German schools of the 19th Century and much of McLaren's teachings reminded me of just their teachings.

I'm not suggesting that Christian's should not be able to ask worthwhile and deep questions about the Christian faith, rather they need to understand that some questions are not only nonsense but have no proper framework on which to understand a correct answer when they get one or not. If you start with some autonomous human authority as your standard of Truth, ie yourself, or even a claim that Reason is the standard of truth, and not the Scriptures as the revelation of God Himself, then you will stray into the muck of liberalism and unbelief or even heresy very quickly. This is not to say that the Christian faith is unreasonable, far from it, rather it is when man takes Reason as his Standard of Truth instead of reason as a tool, with the Standard being God and his Revealed word that problems begin.

To see where the slippery slope leads, one just needs to consider McLaren's book 'Everything must change', but be careful, one must read with the same attitude the Berean's had towards the preaching of Paul.

See Don Veinot who writes very powerfully on this issue. Please take time to read it.
We ourselves need to ask: "Is it not loving to point out someone's error and call them to repentance"? And not merly that, but all Christians are called to defend the faith once for all given. Jude 3.

God Bless

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Who are the true Greenies?

Christians are the true “Greenies

What do you talk about as a Christian with a Greenie, someone whose passion is the environment, who spends their life campaigning for protection and preservation of the environment and wildlife and so on?

I would first ask them on what basis they justify their stance on the environment? Is it purely pragmatic? Is it for their personal benefit? In which case we’d point out that others disagree so it’s merely a matter of preference or “taste” on their part.
What I mean is that we need to ask why what matters to them should matter to anybody else and an answer like “I think that this effects everybody else” is not an adequate reply. Why does what they think mean they can impose on others their standards or views?

And that gets to the crux of the matter - it’s about standards, who determines what is right and wrong, what is of value or not.

We must check out their worldview, and get them to reflect upon their worldview. How does their worldview answer What is man? What is reality, What is true and right? Who if anything or anyone is God? We need to point out they have no basis upon which to ground their beliefs about the environment. That they are merely being selective and stating their own preference or taste.

Then after that has been done we can turn and say that the Christian worldview gives us a true basis for looking after our environment. The Christian worldview as laid out in the Bible tells us that God created this world. And then we can point out that it was good, declared good by it’s Creator, the Lord God before it was determined by man as useful for something, Genesis 1:12, 21, 25. Before man decided he could use a tree for shelter or for heating or as a bonfire for a romantic evening with his wife, the Lord God declared it good.

That’s the start, that at Creation God said it was good and then after the creation of man he declared that particular creation of man very good. Man is made from the dust of the earth, he is part of God’s creation, and yet he is also apart from it in that he has life breathed into him by God and he is made in the image of God. And he is given to care for the creation, Genesis 2:15. To not abuse it, whilst still using it for his benefit and others.
That is a true basis for our actions of caring for this world we live in.

In Christ,


Christmas reverberations

At the time of Christmas you will no doubt hear in one avenue or another the basic Christmas story. You might get a commercial version from television where they throw together the story from all four gospels and if we are fortunate there might be some truth given.
And no doubt in the paper or on the Internet you will see some pseudo intellectual agnostic claiming that the Christian faith is a lot of bunkum. That it's on par with the stork delivering babies or with fairies at the bottom of the garden.

However, even given the availability of the Biblical Christmas story it so easy to miss what each Gospel writer is trying to teach, and therefore what God is saying!

In Luke's Gospel the lead up to the birth of Jesus, had been prepared with fan fare that no Hollywood director could match, and that's not unsurprising is it? We tend to think that the arrival of the birth of the Lord Jesus in some insignificant town in Israel was a quiet affair, that the rest of Israel went on about their normal daily routine without too much awareness of whether God was about to do something big.
But Luke's preamble to the birth of Jesus, his talking about the birth of John the baptist isn't just preparing the historical scene for Jesus or telling us that the great john the baptist was actually related to Jesus, it's far more than that.
See how Luke tells us that Zechariah was a Priest chosen at that time to burn incense in the Temple. This isn't just some irrelevant bit of information telling you of the importance of Zechariah. What we need to understand is what David Guzik so aptly speaks of in his commentary on the passage.
The incense Priest had a special duty to perform once he appeared on the steps of the Temple. He would "raise his hands and bless the people with the blessing from Numbers 6:24-26." The people would respond by saying, "Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting." After this had been done the Levites would perform their duty, that of singing praises to God which would start with a blast from silver trumpets, then a priest would strike a cymbals and the choir of Levites would begin the Psalm of the day.

Given this background, can you for a moment imagine the scene when Zechariah appears and is unable to speak, unable to declare the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6?

All the people could get out of Zechariah was that he had seen a vision whilst in the Temple and Zechariah remained unable to speak. Do you think that this dramatic event would have not have been the discussion over the dinner tables that night, or in the Temple courts and between friends and travellers alike? Of course this is front page news, the sort we reserve for tragedies such as Sept 11.

As Luke tells us in 1:66 "Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?" For the Lord's hand was with him.

After 400 years of silence from God, of no prophet from God for Israel, suddenly a Priest in the Temple has a vision and is struck speechless. And he remains speechless until the birth of his son, John the Baptist. John who appears like an Old Testament Prophet! Who calls Israel to repentance!

So don't let anybody tell you that the events around Jesus' birth were insignificant. They are anything but. God gave plenty of warnings about the significance of the coming of Jesus, of the Messiah long awaited, who as John the Baptist pointed to, is truly the lamb of God, whom we know dies as a sacrifice for sin.

God bless all my brothers and sisters in Christ, at this special time of rejoicing our Saviour's birth.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

What is Worship? Part 1

Today if you ask a group of Christian people what worship is, it won’t be long before you hear someone say that music and singing are worship. They don’t qualify that statement in anyway, they just say this is what worship is. Indeed some churches put aside a special period before the service called praise worship meaning a time of singing before the service begins. If you go into a Christian bookstore or look at a Christian book store catalogue what do you find under the section called worship but “Christian” CD’s and music. These are subtle influences in our lives that we sometimes ignore the impact of and yet they are the things that tend to mould our thoughts about certain subjects. Has this influenced you and me into what we understand as worship?
Think about it bit. Does your church have Praise and Worship "Teams" that are an integral part of the "services"?

Those who play musical instruments are sometimes tempted into thinking that music and singing is what worship is all about. What we need to realise is that it’s a means of worship. So that some don’t think I have a gripe against musicians let me say my wife teaches piano and keyboard and all my children play and my wife and daughter also play in the music team at church. It is just that there is an avenue of temptation for anyone being out the front of the congregation to think that what they alone are doing is what worship is. And that’s not even considering the problem that some are even tempted to become a performer or even an entertainer [ some preachers already act this way with their actions and words moulded to entertain their listeners instead of faithfully teach the Word of God ].

Of course it’s not hard to identify with the person who wrote into Christianpost.com and said
“I know I'm supposed to worship God when I go to church, but I can't say I always do. My thoughts wander, or I get to thinking about the people around me and I come away disappointed in myself for not really worshipping. How can I keep from being distracted? - D.H.”

That experience is not all that uncommon, and it can depend upon a lot of things, it can be that the person is that day weighed down with a lot of worldly cares, or their Church may itself not be showing the love for the brethren that works out in brotherly fellowship. It’s so common that even some pastors have at times not felt the urge on a Sunday morning to drag their feet out of bed and go to church. For them it could have been because satan is attacking them at that point in time or that there are so many “problems” happening in the church that they just don’t want to deal with, or even that bed is so warm and comfy on a cold winters day! [ which of course could be satan tempting them again :) ]

Still whilst at times there’s a temptation not to worship or of being distracted, we still need to be clear about what the Bible says Worship is.

I recently read a helpful article by Steven Shephard which referred to how the wise men came to Jesus at his birth and worshipped him. As we read about it in Matthew 2:1-2
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying ‘Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him’” (Matt. 2:1-2)

Then in Matthew 2:11 we read about having found Jesus they “fell down and worshiped Him.” The Greek word here translated "worship" means to prostrate oneself. But biblical worship implies more than the bowing down of our body. You don’t get very far in merely doing a word study of Hebrew and Greek words used in the Bible and translated as “worship” in our English translation. We need to do that, but a fruitful result requires us to do more.
Here in Matthew’s Gospel we see first that the wise men came to worship Jesus and they clearly prostrate themselves before him, Matt 2:11 but is that the end of the story in Matthew 2 about worship? Is worship merely a physical prostrating of oneself before Jesus?
That’s what we shall consider next time.

In Christ

Saturday, December 20, 2008

God's Sovereignty and our action

A While ago, before the Presidential election in the U.S.A Brannon Howse made the following comment about John MacArthur. "John MacArthur says he does not spend 5 seconds thinking about the fall 2008 election. John is not concerned at all about Obama winning. MacArthur has a view of the world that only involves the Church. I think John has forgotten that God created family government, civil government and church government and Christians are to care about all three and all three are to be in harmony."
Now I think that's not exactly true, listening to John's sermons and reading his books reveal John has a view of the world that does involve more than the Church. His view on end times and Israel show this as does his Biblical exposition on the end times.
While there are some in the world, and specifically in America who think this world will get better and better - namely post-millennialist's, that doesn't seem to be the clear teaching of the Bible, and John himself takes a firm stand against that teaching. Now we can be gracious a little and say that MacArthur may be saying his calling is to serve the Church, to teach and pastor and protect the church, and that is indeed true, yet Christians are to be salt on the earth whilst still able to be.
The issue that sprang to my mind is the balance between acknowledging the Sovereignty of God on the one hand, and our involvement in the world on the other. We are to trust the Lord God no matter what the circumstances around us, whether we have a good government or a bad one. We need to balance that - no matter what government we have. In a sense what government we do have is irrelevant in that we are to be faithful witnesses and salt in our culture, and if that means our persecution, or even death so be it. After all that's one of the beautiful lessons of the book of Daniel isn't it? Have we Christians forgotten that Christianity is truly radical, truly counter culture in that it is counter the world's culture? Our values and standards are God's standards, not those made up by rebellious mankind.
Yet balanced with that is to impact our society with the truth of the gospel, as Wilberforce did in England against slavery. Where we are with the influence we have we are to be God's faithful people, standing against injustice and caring for the abused and poor and so on.
That for some will mean being an "activist" against abortion, which may take the form of caring for those who have had an abortion, for others it may mean writing to government representatives against homosexuality, or supporting a group that ministers to those that have turned from homosexual behaviour and on it goes.
Does this mean I am proposing a social gospel? No way, doing "good works" in society does not convict people of sin or righteousness or judgment, rather it is our declaring the gospel message and the Holy Spirit taking that and His working that transforms people.

The Bible declares God as Sovereign, and we are to take heart in that, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, and it also calls us to pray, not to cop out and do nothing just because God is Sovereign. It's that balance we need in our world when declaring the Gospel and doing things that are clearly needing to be done in our tragically fallen world, all along being motivated by compassion for those who are made in the image of God.
In short the balance seems to me that Christians are so transformed by God and by His Love and Mercy that they reflect his character more and more in all that they do and say.
And this is what our team going to Kenya is doing, and we uphold them in prayer as they do that.
May God bless your endeavours.

In Christ,

Friday, December 12, 2008

Getting the Bible right

Isn't that a real gotcha. It's so easy to misread the Bible, to forget to consider the context before putting forward some great pearl of wisdom :)
I was so pleased a while back when a young man who was attending to the sound system at church, remarked on a persons treatment of Matthew 18:20. They had made the common mistake of thinking of Matthew 18:20 as a definition of church. It had really irked him that they took made such a basic error.
Lest you think I am a little harsh about someone being mistaken about a passage of Scripture, let me just say I myself had made that very same mistake about Matt 18:20, and held it until corrected some 3 years later. I am thankful indeed to the person who pointed it out. It maybe of course that I am therefore particularly sensitive when this passage is interpreted incorrectly and that may be so, but it can still stand as a helpful warning to deal carefully with God's Word as read it.

What the passage is speaking about is that of a brother sinning against you and refusing to repent, first in the personal one on one intervention, and then if he refuses to listen to you and two others, or even the "church" as the NIV puts it. Mt 18:17.
First of all, this word church is 'ekklesia' for which we later on derived the word church but it's basic meaning here is 'called out ones', used by the Greeks for an assembly or body of citizens gathered to discuss the affairs of state. At this point in the New Testament the Church in our common sense of Ephesians 3 which was a mystery in past ages, is not explicit, rather in the Gospels it is a gathered assembly around our Lord Jesus as his disciples. We must refrain from reading back into the Gospels what is later found in the epistles unless we have good warrant to do so.
This is why as Christians now, we take the epistles as our guide for what Church is and how it is to be ordered. What is the failure here is to take the Gospels seriously on their own account, failing to see what the Lord is teaching us through the Gospels. But more on that another time.

The second thing here is that Jesus is saying that he "Jesus will be with them" 18:20. Apart from the worthwhile inquiry as to Jesus association of himself and the reference about the Father in verse 19, what is primary here is that Jesus is saying that in context of judgment of a sinning brother he is involved! As Carson points out the "about anything" in verse 19 is better taken as "about any judicial matter" which fits with the argument of Matt 18. Then the point being made is that Jesus will be with the Judges who are here acting in the community of believers to deal properly with those that sin and refuse to repent.

God Bless