Daily Archives: May 20, 2013

Better to Die a Young Sinner


oldmanConsider that man’s condemnation is grounded in original sin, and for the sin of Adam, we are already condemned under the wrath of God (Romans 5:12). To make our estate worse, we transgress God’s law, and further store up wrath for ourselves for the day of wrath when the sinner will face the terrible justice of a holy and righteous God (Romans 2:5). Original sin and a single transgression of God’s law award us an eternity of the oppressive, suffocating, and unbearable bottomless cup of God’s wrath. Yet, how much more oppressive, more suffocating, and more unbearable are the torments of God’s wrath for the sinner who transgresses God’s law not one time, but multiple times each and every day, for the duration of one’s life. Consider a sinner who dies at age 20, who sinned on average ten times per day for the duration of their life – that…

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Obama Administration to sign U.N. Arms Trade Treaty “In the very near future”

According to a May 16 Amnesty International article, a senior US diplomat–Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman–has confirmed the U.S. government will be quick to sign the new treaty. According to the article, Countryman said on Wednesday that the United States would sign the ATT “in the very near future.”


Obama’s “Dirty Tricks” Administration

It absolutely astounds me how tolerant people are about the government incursion into their daily lives. It has now been three years since the TSA was allowed to feel up strangers at the airport. And Obama has the power to arrest anyone for any reason in the name of terrorism.

When you add the latest breach of trust, I just wonder what would cause the America people to say, “Now, you’ve gone too far.” The Bible warns that the last days will be a time of global dictatorship. My fear is that they will wait too long to become outraged.

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Questions about Jesus Christ: What does it mean that Jesus is our High Priest?

High Priest is only one of the many titles applied to Jesus: Messiah, Savior, Son of God, Son of Man, Friend of Sinners, etc. Each one focuses on a particular aspect of who He is and what that means for us. In the book of Hebrews, Jesus is called a High Priest (Hebrews 2:17, 4:14). The word “priest” carries a couple of primary meanings. First, it means one who mediates in religious services. It also means one who is holy or set apart to perform those services.

The first place we find the word used in the Bible is in Genesis 14. Abraham, the friend of God, entered into battle to rescue his nephew Lot, who had been captured by the army of Elam. On his return, Abraham was met by Melchizedek, King of Salem and priest of the Most High God. This man, whose name means the “king of righteousness,” blessed Abraham and the Most High God who gave victory to Abraham. In return for this blessing, Abraham gave a tithe (10 percent) of all the spoils of war to Melchizedek. By this act, Abraham acknowledged Melchizedek’s high position as the priest of God.

Years later, Abraham’s great-grandson Levi was singled out by God to be the father of the priestly tribe. When the Law was given on Mount Sinai, the Levites were identified as the servants of the Tabernacle, with the family of Aaron becoming the priests. The priests were responsible for making intercession to God for the people by offering the many sacrifices that the law required. Among the priests, one was selected as the High Priest, and he entered into the Most Holy Place once a year on the Day of Atonement to place the blood of the sacrifice on the Ark of the Covenant (Hebrews 9:7). By these daily and yearly sacrifices, the sins of the people were temporarily covered until the Messiah came to take away their sins.

When Jesus is called our High Priest, it is with reference to both of these previous priesthoods. Like Melchizedek, He is ordained as a priest apart from the Law given on Mount Sinai (Hebrews 5:6). Like the Levitical priests, Jesus offered a sacrifice to satisfy the Law of God when He offered Himself for our sins (Hebrews 7:26–27). Unlike the Levitical priests, who had to continually offer sacrifices, Jesus only had to offer His sacrifice once, gaining eternal redemption for all who come to God through Him (Hebrews 9:12).

One other important point about Jesus’ priesthood—every priest is appointed from among men. Jesus, though God from eternity, became a man in order to suffer death and serve as our High Priest (Hebrews 2:9). As a man, He was subject to all the weaknesses and temptations that we are, so that He could personally relate to us in our struggles (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus is greater than any other priest, so He is called our “Great High Priest” in Hebrews 4:14, and that gives us the boldness to come “unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 KJV).[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Muslim Questions: Are there errors in the Qur’an (Koran)?

Though Muslims often argue for the divine origin of the Qur’an on grounds that “no error, alteration, or variation” has touched its copies since its inception, such a view does not accurately represent the facts. While it is indeed correct to say that the Qur’an of today is a nearly perfect copy of its seventh century counterpart, the notion that these copies reflect the exact words as handed down by Muhammad is becoming increasingly problematic.

Historical sources prove that there were several different texts circulating in Syria, Iraq and Armenia prior to the final revision produced by Uthman. Zaid, Muhammad’s long-time secretary, was called in by Uthman to oversee the final and definitive authorized version of the Qur’an. All other copies of the Qur’an were then burned so that there could be no challenge to the authorized text. It remains to be answered why Uthman would have had to produce an authorized version of the Qur’an, if indeed the Qur’an had been perfectly preserved from the beginning!

To quote Alfred Guillaume, one of the best known non-Muslim scholars on Islam:

“Only the men of Kufa refused the new edition, and their version was certainly extant as late as A.D. 1000. Uthman’s edition to this day remains the authoritative word of God to Muslims. Nevertheless, even now variant readings, involving not only different readings of the vowels but also occasionally a different consonantal text, are recognized as of equal authority one with another!”

When one compares the different transmitted versions of the Qur’an, it becomes evident that there are in fact variants between them. While these variants are usually involving differences in individual letters, vowels or diacritical marks, the Muslim claim of perfect unity in the copies of the Qur’an is incorrect.

Moreover, since part of the Islamic claim is that God has been giving revelations to mankind throughout history, including the Psalms of David and the four Gospels, one wonders why it is claimed that Allah miraculously preserved the Qur’an in infallible copies, whereas Allah was apparently singularly incapable of accomplishing the same feat with the previous revelations.

Let us weigh the validity of the claim at hand. Just how excellent is the literary quality? In his book, Jesus Among Other Gods, well-known Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, argues:

“Let us consider just one troublesome aspect, the grammatical flaws that have been demonstrated. Ali Dashti, an Iranian author and a committed Muslim, commented that the errors in the Qur’an were so many that the grammatical rules had to be altered in order to fit the claim that the Qur’an was flawless. He gives numerous examples of these in his book, “Twenty-three years: The life of the Prophet Mohammed. (The only precaution he took before publishing this book was to direct that it be published post-humously.)”

In the book which Zacharias cites above, Dashti writes:

“The Qur’an contains sentences which are incomplete and not fully intelligible without the aid of commentaries; foreign words, unfamiliar Arabic words, and words used with other than the normal meaning; adjectives and verbs inflected without observance of the concord of gender and number; illogical and ungrammatically applied pronouns which in rhymed passages are often remote from the subjects. These and other such aberrations in the language have given scope to critics who deny the Qur’an’s eloquence—To sum up, more than 100 Qur’anic aberrations from the normal rules and structure of Arabic have been noted.”

Are there errors in the Qur’an?—What about fulfilled prophecy?
Islamic apologists make the claim that the Qur’an predicts Muslims would be victorious at home and abroad (Surah 30:1–5). But this can hardly be utilized as an argument for a divine origin. The prediction that Muslims would be militarily victorious (especially when one considers Muhammad’s overwhelming military force) is not very impressive.

Not only is the time between these predictions and their subsequent fulfillment almost nil, but some argue the prediction of Islamic victory is better understood as a pre-battle victory speech from Muhammad to boost the morale of his troops.

Islamic prophecy does not even come close to the level of the prophecies in the Bible, many of which are written hundreds of years in advance, such as the prediction that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

Are there errors in the Qur’an?—What about scientific insights?
In A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam, Islamic apologist I.A. Ibrahim argues:

“The Qur’an, which was revealed fourteen centuries ago, mentioned facts only recently discovered or proven by scientists. This proves without doubt that the Qur’an must be the literal word of God, revealed by him to the Prophet Muhammad, and that the Qur’an was not authored by Muhammad or by any other human being.”

How valid is this claim? First, conformity to science is not proof of divine inspiration. As modern scientists will tell you, scientific models are constantly changing, so they are not an absolute gauge for what is true or false. Second, there are some highly suspect scientific statements in the Qur’an which are ignored by modern Islamic apologists. For example, Surah 23:14 makes the claim that human beings are formed from a clot of blood. Surah 18:86 claims that the sun sets in a spring of murky water. Clearly, even if the claims with respect to scientific insights were valid, the above statements would immediately falsify any such notion of divine inspiration.

Are there errors in the Qur’an?—Are there historical inaccuracies?
While the list of historical inaccuracies and anachronisms is vast, one has been selected for discussion here. Surah 20 relays the incident of the golden calf. In Surah 20:85–88, 95 we read:

“He [Allah] said, ‘We have tempted thy people since thou didist leave them. The Samaratin has led them into error.’ Then Moses returned—and we cast them [(gold) ornaments], as the Samaritan also threw them, into the fire.’ (Then he brought out for them a Calf, a mere body that lowed; and they said, ‘This is your god, and the god of Moses, whom he has forgotten.’) … Moses said, ‘And thou, Samaritan, what was thy business?’ ”

Now, let us consider this for just a moment. How can a Samaritan have led the Israelites astray at the time of Moses (approx 1400 BC) when the city of Samaria was founded by King Omri in about 870 B.C? The Samaritans did not exist until after the exile of the Northern kingdom of Israel and the resettlement of the area under king Sargon II in 722 B.C. with non-Israelites who then adopt a syncretism [mixture] between the religion of the Jews and their own polytheistic background. The Samaritans did not exist until 530 years after Moses. By this mistake alone, the Qur’an can be rendered unreliable and certainly not an inerrant work of God.

Are there errors in the Qur’an?—Conclusion
Having outlined just a handful of many problems and difficulties pertaining to the Qur’an as a divinely inspired work, one is all but forced to reject the Islamic claim that the Qur’an represents an error-free word of God to humanity. When a similar standard is applied to the Bible, the result is self-vindicating, for the Bible arrives high and dry as compared to the Qur’an.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Humanity: What does the Bible say about racism, prejudice, and discrimination?

The first thing to understand in this discussion is that there is only one race—the human race. Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnicities of the human race. All human beings have the same physical characteristics (with minor variations, of course). More importantly, all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26–27). God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to lay down His life for us (John 3:16). The “world” obviously includes all ethnic groups.

God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8). In the Old Testament, God divided humanity into two “racial” groups: Jews and Gentiles. God’s intent was for the Jews to be a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentile nations. Instead, for the most part, the Jews became proud of their status and despised the Gentiles. Jesus Christ put an end to this, destroying the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14). All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross.

Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). If God is impartial and loves us with impartiality, then we need to love others with that same high standard. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him. If we treat a person with contempt, we are mistreating a person created in God’s image; we are hurting somebody whom God loves and for whom Jesus died.

Racism, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years. Brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, this should not be. Victims of racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Racists may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God’s forgiveness far less. Those who practice racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to repent. “Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13). May Galatians 3:28 be completely realized, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: How is prayer communicating with God?

To understand the nature of God’s communication to us, and ours to Him, we need to start with a few key precepts. The first is that God only speaks truth. He never lies, and He is never deceitful. Job 34:12 declares, “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.” The second precept is that the Bible is God’s very words. The Greek word for “Scripture,” graphe, is used 51 times in the New Testament to describe the Old Testament writings. Paul affirms in 2 Timothy 3:16 that these words are literally “breathed out by God.” The word graphe also applies to the New Testament, specifically when Peter calls Paul’s epistles “scripture” in 2 Peter 3:16, and also when Paul (in 1 Timothy 5:18) quotes Jesus’ words as found in Luke 10:7 and calls them “scripture.” Thus, once we establish that a New Testament writing belongs in the special category “scripture,” then we are correct in applying 2 Timothy 3:16 to that writing as well, and saying that that writing also has the characteristics Paul attributes to “all scripture.” It is “God-breathed,” and all its words are the very words of God.

Why is this information pertinent to the subject of prayer? Now that we have established that God only speaks truth and that the Bible is God’s very words, we can come logically to the following two conclusions about communication with God. First, since the Bible says that God hears man (Psalm 17:6, 77:1; Isaiah 38:5), man can trust that when he is in a right relationship with God and he speaks to God, God will hear him. Second, since the Bible is God’s words, man can trust that when he is in a right relationship with God and he reads the Bible, he is literally hearing God’s spoken word. The right relationship with God that is necessary for healthy communication between God and man is evidenced in three ways. The first is a turning from sin, or repentance. Psalm 27:9, for example, is the plea of David for God to hear him and not turn away from him in anger. From this, we know that God does turn His face away from man’s sin and that sin hinders the communication between God and man. Another example of this is found in Isaiah 59:2, where Isaiah tells the people, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” So, when there is unconfessed sin in our lives, it will hinder communication with God.

Also necessary for communication is a humble heart. God speaks these words in Isaiah 66:2, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” The third thing is a righteous life. This is the positive side of turning from sin and is marked specifically by effectiveness in prayer. James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

Our speech to God may be vocal, in our minds, or written. We can be confident that He will hear us and that the Holy Spirit will help us to pray what we ought to pray. Romans 8:26 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

As far as God’s method of communicating back to us, we should be looking for God to speak to us primarily through Scripture, rather than trusting that God will always put thoughts directly into our minds in order to guide us to specific actions or decisions. Because of our capacity for self-deception, it is not wise to accept the idea that any and every thought that enters our minds is from God. Sometimes, regarding specific issues in our lives, God does not speak to us directly through Scripture, and it can be understandably tempting to look for extra-biblical revelation in those instances. However, at such times, it is wisest—in order to avoid putting words in God’s mouth and/or opening ourselves to deception—to find answers by referring to biblical principles that He has already given us.

It is also advisable to pray earnestly for the wisdom to come to the right conclusions, for He has promised to give wisdom to those who ask for it. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). How is prayer communicating with God? Prayer is our speaking from our hearts to our heavenly Father, and, in return, God’s speaking to us through His Word and guiding us by the leading of His Spirit.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Message #1: What Is Discipleship? (notes from the “Living The Invested Life” conference)

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog


What Is Discipleship?

Message #1

>> On Saturday, May 18th, I spoke at a men’s conference at McLean Bible Church in northern Virginia on discipleship. The theme of the conference was based on a book that I wrote with the pastor who discipled my wife and me in college, The Invested Life: Making Disciples of all Nations One Person at a Time. Here are the notes I used for my three talks as prepared for the delivery. Soon, I’ll post links to the videos of the messages and you can see precisely what a said.


The year was 1929.

On Wall Street, the stock market had crashed – and with it, investor confidence had collapsed. A Great Depression was beginning to spread across the U.S. and Canada, across Europe and the entire globe.

Yet in Winnipeg, Canada, a young…

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Message #2: How Do I Make Disciples (notes from the “Living The Invested Life” conference)

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog


How Do I Make Disciples?

Joel C. Rosenberg

Message #2

>> On Saturday, May 18th, I spoke at a men’s conference at McLean Bible Church in northern Virginia on discipleship. The theme of the conference was based on a book that I wrote with the pastor who discipled my wife and me in college, The Invested Life: Making Disciples of all Nations One Person at a Time. Here are the notes I used for my three talks as prepared for the delivery. Soon, I’ll post links to the videos of the messages and you can see precisely what a said.


In the first session, we began examining, “What is discipleship?”

In this session, we will consider, “How do I make disciples?”


As we begin, we need to clarify what discipleship is not

  • Discipleship is not a program.
  • It’s…

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Message #3: What Is The Cost of Discipleship? (Notes from the “Living The Invested Life Conference)

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog


What Is The Cost of Discipleship?

Joel C. Rosenberg

Message #3

>> On Saturday, May 18th, I spoke at a men’s conference at McLean Bible Church in northern Virginia on discipleship. The theme of the conference was based on a book that I wrote with the pastor who discipled my wife and me in college, The Invested Life: Making Disciples of all Nations One Person at a Time. Here are the notes I used for my three talks as prepared for the delivery. Soon, I’ll post links to the videos of the messages and you can see precisely what a said.


In the first session, we examined, “What is discipleship?”

In the second session, we considered, “How do I make disciples?”

In this last session, let us consider, “What is the cost of discipleship?”

Then, as we come to a…

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Why Going to Church on Sunday is An Act of War

Okay, so maybe that title is a bit melodramatic. But I wanted to get your attention, because I think faithful, weekly attendance at your local gospel-preaching church is important. It’s important for all the reasons we know, right? To hear the Word preached. To develop community in the body of Christ. To exercise your spiritual gifts. To support the gospel proclamation both local and international. To obey the Scriptures.

Yes to all of these reasons for going to church. And also yes to the well-worn clique, “You can go to church every week for your whole life and still be far from the Kingdom of God.” Yes, I’m still preaching that because it’s still true. Going to church won’t get you one yard closer to the pearly gates.

And yet, the simple act of going to church–I’m assuming here a church who preaches the gospel and declares that Jesus Christ is King–is in and of itself a declaration of war. When your weary legs rise for another verse of the chorus and you offer praise to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, you are saying, in effect, that the reigning prince of the power of the air, Satan (Ephesians 2:2) is really not the King He thinks he is. There is another King, another Kingdom and it’s coming one day in it’s fullness and power. When you gather with your fellow believers and worship Christ, you are saying to the rest of the world that man is not ultimate. You are saying that the great movements of this world may have some power, but ultimately they are part of God’s gathering of history to Himself and for His kingdom. When you worship the risen Christ every Sunday at your church, you are telling the world that in your life, for this moment, Christ is ultimate. He is to be worshipped above all else. You’re making a statement that there is Someone deserving of more adulation and worship than the lesser things to which we pledge allegiance. You’re inviting them to ask you, “Why do you think the Kingdom of God is better than the Kingdom of man? What is it about Christ that gets you to roll out of bed, get dressed, get your family dressed, hop in the car, and go to church every single Sunday?

Now I know you don’t feel like this on most Sundays. I don’t even feel like this and I’m a pastor. But that doesn’t make it less true. So go to church for all the reasons you should go to church, the ones we mentioned above. But also go to church so you can tell the world, by your actions, by your praise, by your not being somewhere else, that there is another King. And he’s worthy of your worship together with other citizens of His kingdom.

Going to a bible-believing church, in a largely Christian culture, may not seem so courageous. It still may even seem to be the good and right thing to do (though it has less cultural cache than it once had). But that doesn’t make it less significant.

So this Sunday, think about that as you scrape yourself up and make the decision to go to church.


Seminary graduates not always ministering from the pulpit

About 41 percent of master’s of divinity graduates expect to pursue full-time church ministry, down from 52 percent in 2001 and from 90-something percent a few decades ago, according to the Association of Theological Schools, the country’s largest such group.

Americans, particularly young ones, are becoming less religiously affiliated, and many see churches as too focused on internal politics and dogma and not enough on bettering the outside world. Institutional religion doesn’t have the stature it once did, and pastor jobs are fewer and less stable.


John MacArthur’s Encouragement to Faithful Pentecostals

The Strange Fire conference will boldly and thoroughly deal with prosperity preachers, faith healers, and many of the other familiar charismatic aberrations and blasphemies of the Holy Spirit.

At the same time, John MacArthur knows there are those in charismatic and Pentecostal churches who love Christ, serve His people, and—like John—are disturbed by the sinful excesses they see dominating the charismatic movement. In the following video, John has a heartfelt message for those folks.

We look forward to joining with you in our common love for the Lord and His truth, as we both expose those who would abuse and blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and set forth a right understanding of the Spirit. For more information on Strange Fire, visit our conference website.

Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B130520     COPYRIGHT ©2013 Grace to You

Secondary Separation: Should Christian Brethren Ever Separate?

The concept and practice of so-called “secondary separation” is a divisive issue within fundamentalism. It is appropriate now, more than ever, to examine the matter in light of Scripture. What follows is an all-too brief survey of several respected fundamentalist leaders of the past 50 years on this very matter. Their views are briefly presented and analyzed, and some conclusions will be drawn at the end. Hopefully, this modest study will edify the body and exhort fundamentalists to be captive to the Scriptures, wherever it may lead.


The Place for Help and Healing

Silent Pain

The sad truth is, not everyone has such friends in their church body. There are many hearts crying out in silent pain within the church. As we sit in our pews each Sunday, surrounded by painted-on smiles and neatly pressed clothes, inside many are weeping. The issues may vary—grief, worry, shame, depression, fear, even severe mental illness—but each one needs the love and encouragement of others in the body of Christ. God uses us in the body to build up, spur on, encourage, and bless one another (Romans 12, Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25, 13:1). In fact, the church body ought to be a place where people find help and healing, not where we simply voice our social media status face to face, providing updates on where we had lunch that week and the funny thing our child did the other day.

It is important that we recognize the fact that there are hurting people sitting next to us in our pews. We need to look beneath the masks and casual statements to see the hearts of each other. Because we are related to one another through the blood of Christ, each of us has the Spirit living within us. When we go beneath the surface and speak life-affirming words to the heart of another, it stirs the Spirit within them. It triggers hope within their soul. The love and encouragement from one believer to another is not the same as the world gives, for it is empowered by the Spirit himself.

May our churches be a place where the definition of friendship means something more than what it does online. May God open our eyes and hearts to see those among us who are hurting. And perhaps you already know of someone who needs help. Maybe you’ve wanted to reach out and help but don’t know how. While by no means complete, this list provides a few ways you can love and encourage them.

Read More Here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/05/20/the-place-for-help-and-healing/

The Best Piece of Christian Evidence: Unity – J. Warner Wallace

As we talked about this reality, an irony became evident. While we often struggle to come together in a unified way to talk about the evidence for God’s existence and the truth of the Christian worldview, we seem to miss the fact that the most important evidence for God’s existence (and the Deity of Christ) is our unity in the first place! As a speaker in conferences such as these (and as an attendee) I seldom deliver (or hear delivered) the important evidence related to unity. Jesus was, however, very clear about this: Our unity as Christians is the most important evidence we can offer to an unbelieving world:


The Cult of Personality – James Emery White

A growing phenomenon within the ranks of churches, large and small (but mostly large), is the cult of personality.

What is a cult of personality?

It’s when a person becomes the center of attention rather than Christ; an individual looms larger than a mission; a figure is given more status than the organization itself.

Sometimes this “cult” is so egregious it’s hard to believe, such as reports from some churches that staff must rise when the pastor enters the room, aren’t allowed to look him in the eye, can never talk to him or engage him unless he takes the initiative, or must refer to him by title and never simply by his first name…

…all in the name of giving appropriate “honor.”


Beyond such ridiculous antics, the greater dilemma is how many attenders of such churches would adamantly deny that a cult of personality is being intentionally fostered. Too many allow being fans, and having enthusiasm about ministry, to cloud their judgment.

So consider the following ten signs, in no particular order, of a cult of personality at work in a local church:

1. The demand for special treatment, special honor, special recognition. In other words, there is an active cultivation of being treated differently than others.

2. The website is focused on an individual. A person’s quotes, their picture, their books, their activities, their blog, their…well, you get the picture. It’s pretty clear who, not what, the “church” is about.

3. No one is allowed to question the leader without retribution. There is a “thin skin” evident toward any and all critics, who are often written off as “haters” or simply those who are envious. There is a bubble that prevents constructive criticism.

4. If the leader were to leave, die, or fall into scandal, there is little doubt in anyone’s mind that the entire enterprise would collapse. Those who flooded in via transfer growth to be part of the “next, next thing” would flood right back out, because the “next, next thing” was a personality, not a true mission or movement.

5. The line between “look at what God is doing” and “look at what our leader is doing” is almost non-existent. In other words, God isn’t getting the glory, an individual is.

6. The name of the leader and the name of the church are inseparable. The leader is as much of a brand – or even the brand – as the ministry.

7. Image is paramount. Clothes, camera angles, prepared one-liners, manipulation of media; the leader is presented, handled and then “performs” as a carefully handled celebrity.

8. There is no sense of team leadership, team teaching or team mentality. There is a single person or leader, and then there are implementers. No one is to question the leader’s vision. It is seen as God-given, sacrosanct, and thus anything the leader says or does in pursuit of that vision is never to be questioned.

9. The person travels in an entourage, often with personal security, and is seldom accessible.

10. Their speaking/teaching often revolves around themselves (there is even a name for it – “narcisgesis” instead of “exegesis”), and guest speakers feel compelled (and sometimes are compelled) to laud the leader as part of their presentation.

Some of you are scratching your head, saying “Really? This exists? People are actually engaged in ministry leadership like this?”

More than you might imagine, and yes, it’s repugnant.

Let’s state the obvious. Christian pastors are servants, not rock stars. They equip people for ministry as opposed to basking in the adulation of others watching them perform.

But even more pressing is that all glory and attention should be on making God famous, not a person. Fame should not be cultivated in the name of “influence;” if anything, it should be feared in view of pride coming before a fall.

Finally, cults of personality can lead to heresy creep. With a leader firmly entrenched in people’s minds as God’s superstar, there is little practice along the lines of the highly-commended Bereans.

Remember them?

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11, NIV)

Here people were commended for checking out what an apostle, no less, had to say in view of the Old Testament scriptures.

Few cults of personality end well, and when they don’t, the wider church and Christianity itself suffers a black eye. So let’s abandon any and all cults. Not just the ones you’ve associated with Jim Jones, the Moonies or the Branch Davidians.

But the one you might be part of yourself, and unknowingly, even propagating.

James Emery White

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to http://www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.


Christians Rule the Nations During Millennial Kingdom


A couple of weeks ago I embarked on an expositional journey through Revelation with John MacArthur. I discovered his sermon volumes by book of Scripture on the Grace to You Android app and was excited to dig in to this most glorious book of the Bible revealing the exalted and glorified Christ Jesus. Last week I listened through the second part of Thyatira: The Church That Tolerates Sin, and was greatly encouraged in MacArthur’s teaching of Revelation 2:26-27 on the faithful overcomers of this church and how they, we, will rule the nations with Christ during the Millennium Kingdom.

I understand some of the readers of this blog may not hold to a pre-Millennial view of the Kingdom, but I hope  a careful study of this verse will give you something to consider.  The text reads:

He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to…

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‘Duck Dynasty’ Stars Phil, Miss Kay: How Jesus Christ Saved Their Marriage, Restored Their Family

Phil and Kay Robertson, the patriarch and matriarch of A&E’s  highest-rated reality show, “Duck Dynasty,” were guests on CBN’s “700 Club” on  Wednesday to talk about their family’s success and to share how their faith in  Jesus Christ saved their marriage, which is about to hit the 50-year  milestone.

Duck Dynasty(Photo: Screengrab/CBN)Phil and Kay  Robertson talk to Terry Meeuwsen of CBN’s “700 Club” about Duck Commander, their  50-year marriage, and how Phil came to know Jesus and raise his family in a  Christ-centered home. May 15, 2013.

The motto of “faith, family and ducks,” is a running theme for the Robertson  family, whose Duck Commander business in Monroe, La., is the backdrop for the  reality television show that beat out American Idol with 9.6  million viewers during their hour-long season finale last month.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/duck-dynasty-stars-phil-miss-kay-how-jesus-christ-saved-their-marriage-restored-their-family-96101/