Daily Archives: January 27, 2014

9 signs your church is growing in the right direction

A Twisted Crown of Thorns ®

church growthMark Dever in his book, What Is a Healthy Church? writes, “When you peer into the life of a church, the growth of its members can show up in all sorts of ways.”   Here are just a few good examples – though of course this is not an exhaustive list :

  1. Growing numbers being called to missions—“I’ve enjoyed sharing the gospel with my neighbors from South America. I wonder if God is calling me to …”
  2. Older members getting a fresh sense of their responsibility in evangelism and in discipling younger members—“Why don’t you come over for dinner?”
  3. Younger members attending the funerals of older members out of love—“As a single man in my twenties, it was so good to be taken in by Mr. and Mrs.…”
  4. Increased praying in the church and more prayers centered on evangelism and ministry opportunities—“I’m starting an evangelistic Bible study at work and I’m…

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Preach the Word: Because It Rightly Informs Our Worship and Our Walk – John MacArthur


The modern evangelical quest for relevance has created several rifts in the church, perhaps none more visible than the divide over worship. Deep, biblical understanding of God’s Word and His character is routinely pitted against the euphoria of a vibrant musical experience. But that false dichotomy is a great injustice to the church, as it obscures the massive impact the Bible has on the reality and genuineness of true worship.

I often tell young pastors at the outset of their ministries, “You have to go down if you’re going to lead your people up.” In other words, the degree to which your people will experience transcendent worship is directly related to the depth of their comprehension of divine truth. Those who understand the gospel the deepest are the ones who worship with the greatest exaltation and exhilaration.

Sadly, most churches are content to live in the flat land. The preacher never goes deep in His preaching so the people never go high in their worship. As a result, churches cannot express real worship that rises from a soul filled with the glory of the truth, so they replace it with emotional manipulation, smarmy tunes, and superstition. They call it worship, but it’s really more an expression of feelings than an expression of true adoration rising from the mind that has grasped the depth of profound doctrine.

For me personally, the most important element in worship music is the lyrical content. The appropriate musical accompaniment should be suitable and memorable, but the words carry the truth. When the words are teeming with rich theological life and biblical accuracy, they inform the mind, and that launches a legitimate experience of glorifying God. But your people will not appreciate that type of profundity without the biblical background needed to understand the depth of the great realities about which they are singing. They have to be taught if they are to enjoy and express the true worship which God seeks (John 4:24).

Teaching the Bible expositionally protects God’s people from the theological errors and the carnality so deadly to true worship, as well as guards the purity of their Christian walk. In some churches, pastors get up each week and do little “sermonettes for Christianettes,” which are essentially short God-talks about self-help and positive feeling. But they do nothing for their people to protect them from error, sin, or temptation.

The Bible speaks very pointedly about so-called shepherds who fail to protect their sheep from spiritual harm (cf. John 10:12–13). Those who leave their sheep vulnerable to wolves are unfaithful shepherds. They have failed to impart any true knowledge of God; no doctrinal foundations have been laid; no deep soul work has been accomplished. Their communication style may be enjoyable and their meetings may be full, but those pastors who do not faithfully proclaim the Word of God to their people are failing their sheep where it matters most. One day they will give an account to the Chief Shepherd for why they took such poor care of their flock (cf. 1 Peter 5:1–4).


(Adapted from The Master’s Plan for the Church.)

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Seven Reasons Very Active Church Members Drop Out

Perhaps the image many of us have of church dropouts is a person who was only marginally involved at the onset. He or she did not connect with people and ministries in the church, so that person became a dropout – a person who stopped attending church altogether.

But there are a number of persons who have been active in church life for years. They have had key leadership positions. They are considered some of the most faithful members. And then they are gone. Sometimes it’s sudden; on a few occasions it is more gradual.

During my 25 plus years of church consultations, I have interviewed a number of these active-to-inactive persons. Most of them shared freely and openly with me what took place in their lives, and how it impacted their ultimate decision to stop attending church.

Though there are certainly far more reasons, I am listing the top seven reasons I heard from these formerly active members. For now, I will not make qualitative or analytical comments about their decisions. These top seven reasons are listed in order by the frequency I heard them.

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Questions about Humanity: What Does It Mean to Be Spiritually Dead?


To be spiritually dead is to be separated from God. When Adam sinned in Genesis 3:6, he ushered in death for all humanity. God’s command to Adam and Eve was that they could not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It came with the warning that disobedience would result in death: “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’ ” The phrase “you shall surely die” could be literally translated “dying you shall die.” This signifies a continuous state of death that began with spiritual death, continues throughout life as a gradual degradation of the body, and culminates in physical death. The immediate spiritual death resulted in Adam’s separation from God. His act of hiding from God (Genesis 3:8) demonstrates this separation, as does his attempt to shift blame for the sin to the woman (Genesis 3:12).

Unfortunately, this spiritual—and eventual physical—death was not confined to Adam and Eve. As the representative of the human race, Adam carried all of humanity into his sin. Paul makes this clear in Romans 5:12, telling us that sin and death entered the world and spread to all men through Adam’s sin. Additionally, Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death; sinners must die, because sin separates us from God. Any separation from the Source of Life is, naturally, death for us.

But it is not just inherited sin that causes spiritual death; our own sinfulness contributes. Ephesians 2 teaches that, before salvation, we are “dead” in trespasses and sins (verse 1). This must speak of spiritual death, because we were still “alive” physically before salvation. While we were in that spiritually “dead” condition, God saved us (verse 5; see also Romans 5:8). Colossians 2:13 reiterates this truth: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses … God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.”

Since we are dead in sin, we are completely unable to trust God or His Word. Jesus repeatedly claims that we are powerless without Him (John 15:5) and that we cannot come to Him without God’s enabling (John 6:44). Paul teaches in Romans 8 that our natural minds cannot submit to God, nor please Him (verses 7–8). In our fallen state, we are incapable of even understanding the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14).

The act of God whereby He makes us alive from spiritual death is called regeneration. Regeneration is accomplished only by the Holy Spirit, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we are regenerated, we are made alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5) and renewed by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). It is like being born a second time, as Jesus taught Nicodemus in John 3:3, 7. Having been made alive by God, we will never truly die—we have eternal life. Jesus said often that to believe in Him is to have eternal life (John 3:16, 36; 17:3).

Sin leads to death. The only way to escape that death is to come to Jesus through faith, drawn by the Holy Spirit. Faith in Christ leads to spiritual life, and ultimately to eternal life.[1]

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

Questions about Marriage: Does the Bible Say that Abandonment Is a Valid Reason for Divorce and Remarriage?


Scripture is clear that marriage is part of the creation mandate. The only thing in creation that God pronounced “not good” was man’s aloneness (Genesis 2:18), so woman was created, and the marriage relationship was founded. The woman was made to be in a complementary relationship with the man, as his helper (Genesis 2:21–22). God blessed them and established that the man is responsible for leaving home and setting up a new household with his wife. The two were to become “one flesh”—that is, they were no longer two autonomous, separate individuals, but one home (Genesis 2:24).

Throughout Scripture, we see the idea that marriage represents the relationship God has with His people. Marriage is described as a covenant relationship in Malachi 2:14 and Proverbs 2:17. In Hosea, God says He will betroth His people to Himself in marriage (2:19–20). In the New Testament, Paul describes marriage as a type of Christ’s relationship with His Church (Ephesians 5:22–32).

Because of the importance placed on the marriage relationship, and because of what it pictures, it is not surprising that God would put severe limits on divorce. Deuteronomy 24 outlines some guidelines for divorce (verses 1–4), but these are so general that they were open to significant variation in rabbinic interpretation. Some rabbis essentially taught that divorce could be for any reason whatsoever, while others advocated stricter limits. Jesus showed that the Mosaic Law does not justify divorce, but rather limits it (Matthew 19:3–9). Moses only allowed divorce out of a recognition that our sinful natures would demand it (“because of the hardness of your hearts”). Jesus’ view of the permanence of marriage is made clear in Matthew 5:31–32, where He says that the only possible justification is adultery.

The idea that abandonment is a possible justification for divorce comes from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:10–16). After establishing that Jesus’ express teaching on the subject is that divorce is not to happen, Paul addresses a situation about which the Lord had no specific words. Paul’s words here, prefaced by “to the rest I, not the Lord, say …,” should not be considered any less inspired by the Holy Spirit. In verse 15, Paul says that, in the case of a believer married to an unbeliever, if the unbeliever chooses to leave the relationship, the believer is not under any obligation to insist that the marriage continue. The final words of that verse explain why—“God has called us to peace.” A marriage that remains intact despite one partner’s desire to leave will certainly not be peaceful.

Traditionally, Reformed doctrine is that divorce should be reserved only for reasons of infidelity. However, the fact that something is lawful does not mean it is the best course of action (see 1 Corinthians 6:12). The marriage relationship is the most intimate of human relationships (hence the “one flesh” declaration of Genesis 2). Correspondingly, the words for “divorce” in both Hebrew and Greek are very strong, indicating a real rending of a relationship. The biblical pattern for marriage has been repeatedly shown to succeed in societies at large. Strong marriages build strong families, and strong families build strong churches and strong communities. Although divorce is permissible in some instances, the truly biblical course of action would be to rebuke, await repentance, offer forgiveness, and be reconciled (see Matthew 18:15–17).[1]


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

Questions about Prayer: What Is a Prayer Closet?


After a short discourse on the follies of trying to appear religious in front of people, Jesus talks about prayer. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:5–8). The Greek used here for “room” is tameion which means an inner storage chamber or a secret room. The point being, a public prayer, announced on a street corner, gives the pray-er all the attention he can expect to receive. A quiet prayer, directed at God and not passers-by, will reap spiritual blessings.

Some have taken the admonition literally. They set aside a room or a quiet corner in their homes, furnish it with a comfortable chair, table, Bible, and maybe a notebook, and use that corner for a regular prayer time. That’s certainly appropriate, but the fact that the room Jesus referred to most likely meant a pantry gives us a little more flexibility. A “prayer closet” might be a daily commute, a bench in the back yard, or the kitchen table. John Wesley’s mother is said to have sat in a chair and thrown her apron over her head as a sign to her kids to leave her alone. Jesus usually went to a secluded hillside. The point is that the “closet” is free from interruption, distraction, and listening ears.

Although there are good reasons to have a dedicated space for regular prayer—such as training the family to respect the quiet, and keeping prayer-related materials in one place—that was not what Jesus was referring to. The passage in Matthew 6 talks about performing religious acts for the purpose of allowing others to see. Any act, be it praying, giving, or serving, should not be done for the purpose of gaining approval from others. Praying, giving, and serving should be responses to our relationship with God and the mercies He has given us. If a specific, dedicated location encourages prayer, it should by all means be used. If the cab of a pickup or a quiet stretch of beach suffices, that’s perfectly acceptable.[1]

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

What Does the Bible Teach about Sex? The Final Episode of Bible Secrets Revealed

This is the sixth and final installment of a series of posts reviewing the new History Channel series entitled Bible Secrets Revealed (for others installments, see here, here, here, here, and here).

It looks like the History Channel saved the best (or most controversial) for last.  This last episode is provocatively entitled, “Sex and the Scriptures.”  The episode description really sets the tone:

Millions of people around the world look to the Bible for moral guidance about marriage, faith and family. But could the Bible contain contradictions, or hidden meanings, that challenge our beliefs about what is right–and what is wrong–when it comes to human sexuality?

Gee, I wonder what the answer to this question will be.  As we will see below, despite the veneer of neutrality here, the History Channel has no intention of presenting both sides of the issue. It has a clear agenda to push the boundaries about what the Bible really teaches about sex.

So, here are some issues the video raises, and my responses:

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Are We On The Verge Of A Massive Emerging Markets Currency Collapse?

This time, the Federal Reserve has created a truly global problem. A big chunk of the trillions of dollars that it pumped into the financial system over the past several years has flowed into emerging markets. But now that the Fed has decided to begin “the taper”, investors see it as a sign to pull the “hot money” out of emerging markets as rapidly as possible. This is causing currencies to collapse and interest rates to soar all over the planet. Argentina, Turkey, South Africa, Ukraine, Chile, Indonesia, Venezuela, India, Brazil, Taiwan and Malaysia are just some of the emerging markets that have been hit hard so far. In fact, last week emerging market currencies experienced the biggest decline that we have seen since the financial crisis of 2008. And all of this chaos in emerging markets is seriously spooking Wall Street as well. The Dow has fallen nearly 500 points over the last two trading sessions alone. If the Federal Reserve opts to taper even more in the coming days, this currency crisis could rapidly turn into a complete and total currency collapse. (Read More….)

National Religious Freedom Day and Obama’s War on Christians

The Obama administration raised red flags with religious-liberty supporters when Obama took office in 2009, as it started discussing religious freedom as the “freedom of worship,” carrying the implication that you are free to believe whatever you want so long as you confine it to your church building on Sunday morning. This would deny your fundamental right to live out your faith in every aspect of your life the other six days of the week.

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Legal Group Reports ‘Dramatic Increase’ in Hostility Toward Christian Students in Public Schools

(CN) — A California-based legal organization is reporting a marked increase in hostility toward Christian students in public schools.

“We have seen a dramatic increase of phone calls nationwide as it pertains to kids in public schools who are facing hostility because of their faith,” General Counsel Bob Tyler of Advocates for Faith and Freedom told Christian News Network.

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The Prosperity Gospel Refuted

Reformedontheweb's Blog

Download the 9Marks Journal for Jan-Feb and read some articles that refute the prosperity gospel which is being preached in churches around the world.

To show you what you will find in this journal, I will list an article under the category in which it is found inside the journal:


Discovering the Prosperity Gospel

The Rise of a Parallel, Post-Biblical Christianity By Grant Retief

The fact that South Africa is a churched nation doesn’t mean it’s a gospeled nation. Read more >


Analyzing the Prosperity Gospel

The Soil of the Prosperity Gospel By Jonathan Baer

The prosperity gospel is the bitter harvest of an ancient seed planted in modern soil. Read more >


Responding to the Prosperity Gospel

Do You Know What Your Missionaries Actually Teach? By Sean DeMars

Love the gospel, protect it, and guard it. And for the love of all things good and holy…

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