Category Archives: Apologetics

Absolute Jesus

In our current societal range, those who hunt for truth usually come back to the lodge with an empty rack. Emoticons and experiential propositions rule the day. “I feel” and “I think” are the royal guideposts that overlook “I know” and “It is”.  When one dares to speak in absolute terms they are inevitably called opinionated and arrogant or just plain out of touch. They are branded as intolerance purveyors and relegated to the old school cage. The problem for believers, however, is that the gospel itself is an absolute and Christ is completely exclusive.

There is no negotiating with the Word of Reconciliation. There is no deal making at a back room conference table.  He is THE way, THE truth and THE life and no one comes to the Father but through Him. (John 14:6)  This is a non-negotiable fact straight from the mouth of God Himself; Christ is not a “life choice that works for me”.  By the prerogative of His unstoppable grace, God seeks His own (John 10:27-28). By faith alone, they believe and trust in the completed work of Christ for His sheep hear His voice and they follow him.  There is no alternative plan. There is no broad road. There is only a narrow gate. (Matt. 7:13-14)

Some would like to believe that perhaps zeal and passion can circumvent this singular faith and its object, but deep devotion and unwavering sincerity to the wrong cause only ensure error, destruction and condemnation. Fixate on truth, not fiction.  No matter how zealous you are, if your sincere commitment is to a lie, you will be responsible for your misplaced trust.  If your Jesus is not the Christ of Scripture, you are believing in and following the wrong One.

“He is so devout” means nothing if that devotion is to a different Jesus or to no-Jesus at all. Remember who it is that you claim to worship.  Seek Him and you shall be saved.

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Dearborn Debacle

Apologists from Acts 17, David Wood and Nabeel Qureshi were arrested in Dearborn, MI at an Arab Festival for allegedly inciting a riot and disturbing the peace. They were escorted off the grounds of the event and then summarily had their video cameras taken from them. Now, the video is here after being returned.

Does this look like a riot to you? Confusion? Swelling crowds?

While we certainly must reserve final judgment until having all the facts, one thing from this video of the arrest is clear – there will be much legal action against this clear violation of basic civil rights. Welcome to the new Amerika Comardes.  Pray for these men. Pray for justice. Pray for our land.

Experience and emotion do not real doctrine make

Experientialism is a mighty juggernaut plowing through contemporary religion. Its attractive helmet hits headlong into foundational truth where God’s revelation trumps perceived notions of His actions through and around the church.  These two candidates stand in great opposition to one another for those seeking a guidepost in determining their way, for not all things experienced are all things true.  We are warned about false teachers and false teachings (2Peter 2:1) and we are told to test the spirits (1John 4:1) and exercise discernment for false prophets and wolves live and breathe among us. Unfortunately, few actually heed this caution.

Felt-needs and personal preferences are main highways where experience travels at high speeds regardless of what the Word of God might have to say.  One can hear the cries of exasperation, “Surely what I feel can’t be wrong! What do you mean it doesn’t matter what I saw?!”  Sensory theology trumps real doctrine as “what I feel” has become “what I know”, never mind that it goes against Scripture. We would do well to remember the warnings found in the book of Colossians – “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” And “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen…” (Col.2:8,18) Many professed believers love to talk on and on about their spiritual experiences through dreams and visions but these claims must always pass the scrutiny of Scripture, not merely experience.

Those who have much invested in their experiential theology are usually not open to being challenged.  To question their experience is, in their minds, to question their spirituality.  If one were to dismantle an experience that they’ve put so much hope and joy into, it is tantamount to calling them an unbeliever. At least that’s mostly how they react.

However, Scripture alone should be our ultimate authority in determining truth and truth should help us organize our practice and become a filter through which we view what has happened.  To do otherwise is to lean into the mystic camp and build bonfires around Gnostic ceremonies.

May we flee what is of self and cling to what is truly of Him.

Hyper-charismatapagania

HinnThere is much controversy in the church today about the gifts of the Spirit.  Interestingly, those who advocate that the mode and operation of spiritual gifts has not changed since Pentecost primarily focus on the gift of tongues as their anointing litmus test. Yet, the apostle Paul says that tongues were low on the gifting totem pole (1 cor. 12:28-31; 14:5) and specifically that this supernatural ability was given temporarily to the church as a judgment sign to unbelievers (1 cor. 14;20-22) that the Lord had condemned and cut off Israel, just as He had promised in the days of Ephraim and Isaiah.

Another belief that is carried into this century regarding spiritual gifts is the idea that there exists special prophetic ministries touring the planet offering to heal people of various diseases and to deliver them from whatever demon is either assaulting or possessing them.  Now, let me be clear on this point. I do believe that God can and still does heal us of our sicknesses and diseases today. What I contend, however, is that He doesn’t do it in the same manner as some advocate. God, if He so wills, can and has cured folks of their diseases and ailments.  What I deny is that there are those living today who possess anything that resembles the power of the Spirit that we see in the New Testament to heal sickness.  That was a special gifting given to the primitive church as a sign of the inauguration of the Kingdom of Christ on earth.

Benny Hinn is an extremely well-known proponent of what I call “hyper-charismatapagania” – the imitation of the work of the Spirit in paganistic forms. Here is a quote from a recent interview that was posted at FoxNews.com.

“I’m not one that can discern every little problem with people.  So if someone comes up and says that I have cancer and the cancer is gone …often I’ve said, “Go back to your doctor and make sure that you are truly cured” (on healings in his ministry, transcribed from the video interview)

copelands“They question me on why I don’t verify (these miracles),” Hinn says. “I answer, ‘God never called me to verify. I’m not a doctor.’” None of his comments even come close to echoing biblical fidelity. Hinn never preaches the gospel nor does he speak as a man of God.  Instead, he preaches materialism wrapped in a slice of culture-Christ.

Below, you will find an interesting video that shows what is put forth as the anointing of the Holy Spirit and the power of God among His people – bodies shaking, uncontrollable laughter, people falling backwards to the floor and continuous ramblings in jib-jab speech patterns.

There are no examples in Scripture that match such spectacles as true manifestations of God in the Body of Christ.  Instead, these happenings have much more in common with ungodly spirits and trances.  Examine it for yourself.

Idolatry Fail – the crumbling down of statues

plastic saintsGod determines all things because He alone is God. This determining not only involves His complete sovereignty over all the events of history, but it also includes His attitude towards worship. The first commandment comes to mind as God gave the Israelites a very clear and simple rule – I am God and you shall not have any other gods besides Me.

This directive was immediately followed by the imperative prohibition to not make any carved or sculpted images or statues of anything either heavenly or on earth for the purpose of worship. Seems rather unambiguous and straightforward, doesn’t it ?  Well, Roman Catholicism and other professing Christians take license to dissect the second command and break it into variances. Apparently praying to dead people who have been enshrined in plaster models is not considered worship since ‘dulia’ is an inferior form of veneration and not truly ‘latria’ which is to only be offered to God.

The Scriptures, however, make no such distinctions.

So we are left to either follow the inventions of man in his religious quest or we can follow what God has laid before us in His Word.  Below, you’ll find an video which parallels this passage from the Old Testament that speaks of idol worship. Read and watch and may the LORD convict the hearts of the those who need to turn from false worship.

Now the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it to the house of Dagon and set it by Dagon. 3 When the Ashdodites arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and set him in his place again. 4 But when they arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off on the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. 5 Therefore neither the priests of Dagon nor all who enter Dagon’s house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.
1 Samuel 5:1-5

Deconstructing Christian Cliche – Part III

carrying a heavy load

Last time  we saw that God’s love of mankind found in the provision of the gospel of Christ stands in contrast to His hatred of sinners and sin alike. (Psalms 5, 11; Proverbs 6) The Lord rescues sinners from eternal condemnation, not miscellaneous sins.  God, as the righteous judge of all things, sentences the workers of iniquity to the fiery pit as their just reward. (Romans 2:1-6)  Over time, most evangelicals have lost any real understanding of exactly what they are supposed to be saved from. With the advent of self-help psychology and rampant feel-good theology finding its way into once biblically-based teaching, there has been an overemphasis of good news. The problem, however, is that without the wrath of God as the backdrop of Calvary, Christ becomes merely a murdered man instead of the Savior having suffered for all the sins of His people.  This truth relates to our final cliché in this series – “The Lord will not give you more than you can handle.”

There is no doubt that from a purely experiential vantage point this is a false claim. How many times have you been completely overwhelmed by life? How often have you had to seek counsel and aid and advice and resources from others just to get by?  Is it not true that while we may experience a certain degree of independence, we are still hopelessly interdependent; relying upon others in times of great need? Surely, Katrina taught us that.

So where did this saying come from? I’m fairly confident that its origin is another Scriptural misquote. This time, it is a butchering of 1 Corinthians 10:13-14 –“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”

The apostle Paul’s admonishment to flee idolatry is predicated on the promise that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle; instead, He will always provide us with a way of escape so as not to fall into sin. This passage says nothing about God not allowing us to endure a trial or suffering beyond what we can endure for if this were the case who would ever have suffered martyrdom? Also, we are well-covered in one-another verses in the New Testament as God has prepared that our new family in Christ would comfort us and help provide for our needs.(Romans 12:10-16)  If we were supposed to be somehow protected from being overburdened then why would we need each other at all?

On the contrary, the power of Christ is seen clearly in our weakness.  Paul instructs us that it is good to be content with insults, distresses, persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for in our frailty God is mighty. (2 Corinthians 12:5:10)

May we all learn to live lowly and rejoice in our infirmities for it is in our darkest hour that God’s grace in Christ is the most lovely jewel in our lives.

Deconstructing Christian Cliche – Part II

saints sinners

In the previous post, we looked at the oft-used phrase “Judge not lest you be judged.” Most people utilize this verse as an escape from being judged themselves, without ever understanding its true biblical context and application. All throughout Scripture, we see both the need to discern correctly (judge) and the need to avoid hypocrisy when examining and criticizing others.  What God forbids is not judging itself, but, rather, doing so superficially, arrogantly and with a double-standard.

The next frequently used cliché involves God’s attitude towards sin and sinners – “God loves the sinner but hates the sin.”  This statement is used without reservation in most Christian circles as if it was a biblical truth, but is it?  The testimony of Scripture will show us differently.

A common error is to over-emphasize a particular attribute of God and in our current culture no one attribute is more talked about than God’s love. Love, however, is spoken of in variant degrees and types in Scripture and in the English language the word ‘love’ is extremely weak and multi-definitional.  We say that we love our car, we love ice cream, love the Saints, love God and love our children all with the same word; however, the meaning in each case is radically different. Surely no one wants to argue that they love God in the same manner, meaning and measure that they love their automobile. Hence, ‘love’ is too broad and too blanketed to be used precisely in describing God’s relationship to sinners for most certainly the love of God extended to the man who is condemned to eternal punishment in hell is most certainly not the recipient of unending grace and mercy.

The book of Psalms declares that, “The LORD tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. Upon the wicked He will rain coals; Fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup.” (Psalm 11:5-6)  God’s wrath and hatred towards those who practice evil is often underemphasized making passages such as these seem quite foreign and harsh; yet without the bad news of impending judgment and condemnation the good news of the Gospel is made unnecessary.  Proverbs says that the LORD hates those who are arrogant and spread discord among the brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19) and Psalm 5 clearly states that God takes no pleasure in wickedness, therefore the boastful shall not stand in His sight for He hates all workers of iniquity abhorring the bloodthirsty and deceitful.

So if we are to stay consistent in our understanding and true to the text of Scripture we must maintain that God is angry at sin and sinner alike.  Hell will not be full of miscellaneous sins it will be the eternal dwelling place of sinners who refuse to turn from sin and put their trust in the complete forgiveness of God found in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

God loved humanity by offering up His only begotten Son at Calvary so that convicted sinners may escape their just reward but the degree of that affection is tempered by the free will of Him who alone extends mercy.

Deconstructing Christian Cliche – Part I

judge not 1

Along our walk of faith we find and learn Christian clichés – those pesky little phrases that emerge from the colloquial pond as tried and true nuggets of wisdom supposedly drawn from timeless biblical truth, but in the end, turn out to be more rooted in human imagination than in divine understanding.

Three such impostors making the top of the chart are these – “We should not judge others”, “God loves the sinner but hates the sin”, and “the Lord will not give you more than you can handle.”  These sayings are repeated often in an attempt to spread wisdom and comfort in life through advice and conservation; however, are they really accurate? Do these comments have their root in God or man?

We will take a look at each statement over the next few weeks and examine it biblically to see if it stands or falls. First, let’s look at: We should not judge others.

“Judge not lest you be judged” is probably the most abused statement by both believers and unbelievers alike being thrown around in debates and arguments more frequently than a well-worked pizza crust. It is found in the gospel of Matthew – “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” Matthew 7:1 Certainly, on the surface this looks rather compelling.  However, context is the text in which God breathed out His Word and so we must capture the essence of the passage by expanding our view to the next verses. Here’s what happens when we do:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5

When the entire context is considered, the actual thrust of this warning passage turns out to be speaking directly to those who are hypocritical in their judgments.  Take the log out of your own eyes first and then you will be able to see clearly. The command here is a call to self-examination of sin, not a call to cease judging others.  Keep in mind also that judging here is about discernment not condemnation. God alone condemns.

Other passages help us to see our rightful role in judging, such as John 7:24, where Christ, in dealing with supposed Sabbath law violations said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Paul spoke about our need to judge small legal matters and disputes in 1 Corinthians 6:3 ” Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?”

All throughout Scripture we see both the need to discern correctly and to the need to avoid hypocrisy.  Learn to judge through having the same mind of Christ and exercise humility through patience and peace.

Techno-Evangel

techno airportI’ve done quite a lot of traveling over the past few weeks – over 2,500 miles of driving through nine states followed by a week in the Texas sun learning new building and construction techniques.  On the way to San Antonio, we flew through Houston and as always, I had that awkward experience associated with plane flights.

As I made my way through x-rays and security arches and long tile corridors with echoing loudspeakers, I noticed that most individuals carry gadgets and gizmos that preclude social interaction.  Ipods, cell phones, laptops and books occupy the majority of available arms as everyone shuffles off to wherever they are going; yet, they rarely seem interested in conversation. Earbuds say “I’m listening to something else other than you right now.” Faces buried in intense reading broadcast a “Do not disturb” door hanger to all within ten feet and hurried tapping on computer keys tells everyone that you are busy.  It is interesting how the very same technologies that aid us and help create new social venues also facilitate a new type of virtual cocooning.

This techno-inwardness has peculiar implications in evangelism for even though we seem to be more connected it is harder to meet naturally.  Electronic webs seem to be strewn over once interactive spaces and despite being inches away; we don’t talk to each other anymore. The nuances of body language and inflective speech have been overtaken by ‘crackBerries’ and a new texting code has emerged as standard communique.  This same phenomenon exists inside elevator cubes as well, where small crowds stand together as tall pines and yet most hardly ever mumble a word.

Finding a way to enter the silence becomes evermore difficult when chitchat seems to be dying a quick wifi-death.  On the plane, I did manage to speak to a man who was reading a book by Hitchens entitled God is not Good. As he bowed his head into the pages, I curiously asked questions about the title and engaged him in an irenic conversation about life, the true nature of God and social justice.  It is possible to naturally penetrate the ever-growing social techno-cubists and the interesting part is that we do so in the same fashion that Christ, Paul and the other early evangelists and believers did – we exercise humble boldness, true compassion, and listen while we speak the truth of the Gospel in love. Communications and societal paths may change, but the Truth never waivers.

God’s Word is True

manuscript-textFrom Eden, the strategy of the Enemy has been to discredit what God has said.  At our current point in history we see no relenting of that course as skeptics and textual critics dissect and mutilate what is simple.  The declaration that the Bible is not knowable and irreversibly altered screams through best-seller books and talk shows; even sadly, from within some church bodies.  Hyper-critics juxtapose and conflate biblical text against biblical text in an attempt to play ‘battle Bible’ but their arguments expose a gaping fallacy.  For example, what was written as narrative was written as a continuum; a story to be heard in its context just like any other historical work.  Yet, the skeptics pick apart the Scriptures breaking them into ‘sound bytes’ as if a retelling can be chopped into mixed-up pieces and still maintain its coherency.  It is not as if God hasn’t spoken clearly, man just, at times does not want to listen.

Piecemeal critics hide their agendas under academic blankets and calls for open-mindedness. The perspicuity of Scripture maddens the unregenerate knights who gallop through agnostic pastures for they hand out opaque windows to the gullible and uninformed and ask them to see clearly. Apostates line the streets cheering them on while multi-million dollar book tables feed willing crowds. But for those who by the grace of God through faith can now see; Scripture is simply beautiful.

Written to us through His prophets and apostles over centuries, God has breathed out His eternal decrees, commands, guidance, and wisdom to mankind by the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  His Word remains pure and uncomplicated despite there being some difficult-to-understand pieces of the whole.  These difficulties and variances do not render us without understanding anymore than any other discipline that requires patience and study.

Divine truth cannot be silenced. When God speaks; we should listen. Do we really think that the Almighty is at a loss to effectively communicate with His creation in both clarity and purpose? Faith comes by hearing the Word of God and it is not mumbled through broken glass. It is spoken plainly and precisely and it is able to cut right down to the joints and marrow of our hearts. Scripture is the encapsulation of what God has said to mankind and part of its beauty is its unending depth.

Scripture is like an endless mine shaft that extends deeper than deep itself. Each time we take our mining cart down the tracks we find new gems and more rails to explore. It is as if God has rewritten certain passages for us as, over time, we reread portions of the text and see new illuminated insight and intention. God’s Word is alive in our newborn hearts as the continuing work of the Spirit matures and fine tunes our understandings in parallel to our learning, wisdom and application. Consequently, studying Scripture is not an option for if we are to grow in our walk with Christ we must rightly divide the Word.

Stand fast and hold firm saints for not only can nothing separate us from the love of Christ; nothing can gag God when He speaks.