Is the Reformation Over?
The fundamental issue is this: is the basis by which I am justified a righteousness that is my own? Or is it a righteousness that is, as Luther said, “an alien righteousness,” a righteousness that is extra nos, apart from us—the righteousness of another, namely, the righteousness of Christ? From the sixteenth century to the present, Rome has always taught that justification is based upon faith, on Christ, and on grace. The difference, however, is that Rome continues to deny that justification is based on Christ alone, received by faith alone, and given by grace alone.
When Discontentment Steals Our Joy
God places us in circumstances and situations that we often don’t understand. Sometimes he doesn’t give us what we want because he knows what we really need is not a change in situation but more of him. The more we grow to depend and trust in him, the more we find our joy in knowing him, and the more we seek him above all else, the more we will appreciate the manna he provides. Our grumbles fade in his presence. Rather than complain about the challenges of life, we’ll look to Christ for contentment, security, and peace.
Casual, Cultural Christianity is Corroding the Church
Casual, cultural Christianity sounds authentic because it honors God with the lips. What makes it faux-faith, however, is that it proceeds from a heart filled with rebellion and ruled by self (the flesh). Casual Christians never surrender their heart, soul, and lives to God, never express genuine repentance, and never undergo a life transformation by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They simply go through the motions of the Christian faith, play church, and act religious.
A Mighty Fortress
Those who know the Lord, love Him, and belong to Him need not fear. Though the mountains tremble and collapse into the sea; though kingdoms rise and fall; though wicked men flourish; though our lives are but a breath; and though we are frail vessels; we need not fear for our hope is in God.
5 Reasons Your Pastor May Not Be Leading Well
“Many times the pastor simply doesn’t see what you see — or for that matter, value you what you value. I’ve learned I’m often the last to know of a problem within my church. If there’s an issue in preschool ministry, for example, if someone doesn’t tell me about it, I won’t know about it.”
A Legend In Your Own Mind
“Lucifer thinks so much of himself. He considers himself to be pretty grand. Yes, he is a legend in his own mind. However, in reality, he is not a hero but a zero. His pride is leading to his destruction; because of his arrogance, he is set to experience a massive fall. The Lord is in the process of destroying him.”
Beware of the Selfie-Preacher
“When he talks about himself the selfie preacher is always the hero of the story. Rarely—if ever—does the selfie preacher show himself to be a weak, desperate, depraved sinner who needs a strong, sufficient, righteous Savior. For the selfie-preacher, the pulpit is often a way for him to craft a story, and project his life in such a way that others begin to think that he has it all together.”
Catechizing: The Value of Catechizing
“It is true that knowledge will need to become understanding and understanding must grow into wisdom. True enough. But if we fail to provide our children with the Biblical and theological knowledge found in the catechism, well then, we might one day find them doing the spiritual equivalent of yanking pork fat from their throats!”
“Activating” the kids at Bethel Redding
Following is Isaiah’s account of what happened when he encountered the Lord and His elect holy angels: In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two […]
Houses taken over: Letting the government get its nose under the church tent
Andrée Seu Peterson of World Magazine warns about the government’s calculated intrusion in our churches. Some states require a criminal backround check for child care volunteers. Peterson laments, “If the local church cannot be trusted to know its people well enough to decide who is fit for nursery duty, there is nothing much to say.” Andrée writes: This year a […]
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Do You Believe in Ghosts?
This is a question for unbelievers, of course. Christians know that there is no such thing as a ghost. In fact “No evidence has produced a single fact that should sway a Christian into believing that the spirits of deceased people can loiter on earth,” wrote Rick Barry in 2010 for Answers in Genesis Magazine. According to […]
Do you like guessing games?
I love games. Raised on Clue, Monopoly and anything trivia-related, I can get pretty competitive. Yes, this newest game over at Church Watch Central is right up my ally, given the chance to use my knowledge of stuff I’ve researched the past several years. But guess what? I’m stumped at this Culprit in the Pulpit. […]
In Case You Were Wondering: Are Female Bloggers Violating Scripture by “Teaching” Men?
Bible study author, speaker and blogger Michelle Lesley asked several women bloggers this question. Their answers are in this post. Christine Pack of Sola Sisters states it this way: “My bottom line is that (1) I’m not expositing scripture, and (2) the book of Jude (about contending for truth and doctrinal purity) was written to all believers, not […]
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Massachusetts “United Church of Christ” Hosts Blasphemous “Drag Gospel Festival”
Most people won’t be the least bit shocked by a “church” hosting a drag show during the worship service. What’s important to keep in mind, though, is the lengths the LGBT community will go to to draw attention to themselves, even if it means blaspheming God. While strutting their stuff at the church event, one […]
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Calvary Chapel Pastor Posts Photo Standing With New Age Advocate Roma Downey
Many people are concerned with the direction evangelist Greg Laurie is taking the church, and rightly so, as you will see in Lighthouse Trails’ report: Lighthouse Trails reader sent this photo (see below) to us today. It is a picture of Calvary Chapel pastor Greg Laurie, standing with Roma Downey and Mark Burnett and was […]
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Sacked gay priest condemns “homophobic hate” of Catholic Church
A senior Vatican priest comes out of the closet, admits to having a long time boyfriend, and gets fired. He’s mad. Ho hum, no surprise these days. But the bigger story is how a major evangelical news outlet reports the story — never mentions the priest’s sin. Instead we learn how unfair the Vatican […]
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Dealing With the New Trans-Madness
In his follow up to Jenner, Transgender and Trans-Lunacy, Bill Muehlenberg brings a common sense perspective–and some sad statistics–to this hotly debated issue. He points out that “gender bending” has huge health risks, something most people are unaware of. In the Bible cross-dressing is called an “abomination” to God. (Deut 22:5). So how is the Church to deal […]
Americans becoming less religious, especially young adults
Americans are becoming less religious, judging by such markers as church attendance, prayer and belief in God, and the trend is more pronounced among young adults, according to a poll released on Tuesday.
The share of U.S. adults who say they believe in God, while still high compared with other advanced industrial countries, slipped to 89 percent in 2014 from 92 percent in 2007, according to the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study.
The American Dream: Financial prosperity; Land of the free; one nation under God; American “exceptionalism”. Nice sounding platitudes that seem more like whistling past the graveyard with each passing year. Let’s take a reality check for a moment: America is $80 trillion dollars in debt with all things considered. The financial markets are being artificially […]
There’s something strangely comforting about the messy stories of God’s saints in Scripture. We might expect the heroes of the Bible to go from one episode of obedience to the next—successive faith victories on the path to eternal glory.
But that’s not what we find in the Bible. Take Abraham, for instance. In Genesis 12, God calls him to leave everything and follow. And Abraham does it. Victory! But the next few chapters show us a decidedly mixed picture. Abraham scoffs at God’s promise. He puts his wife Sarah in danger to save his own skin—twice. He has a kid with a servant instead of with his wife. And to top it off, he then gives Sarah the green light to beat and abuse that servant.
Not doing so well, Abe.
So why is all this comforting to me? Because my life has hardly been an unbroken string of successes since becoming a Christian. In fact, it seems like each epoch of my life has been marked by wavering faith. Abraham’s up-and-down obedience tells me that God can—and does—work through broken people like you and me.
But through all of Abraham’s disappointments and failures, God was doing something behind the scenes. And in his failures, we learn something about our journey of faith.
About 10 years ago I was walking around the Duomo of Milan and these ladies captured my attention as they were staring at this stained glass picture of Mary. Being spotted by one of the ladies she quickly came to me to hand me a rosary. As she tried to convince me to take it, I said that I only needed to pray to God and that I would not pray to Mary, her shock quickly turned to anger and she said “may Mary whip you with the seven whips of Satan!” As I booked it out of there I was wondering to myself first of all, why is Mary working with Satan? But second of all and more importantly, how in the world do you get to that point where one talks to Mary more than God? How do you get to the point where you pray 10 prayers to Mary for every prayer to God? Well in honor of the lady who cursed me that fateful day, here are 7 problems with the Roman Catholic Mary.
Read the entire article here.
Is Christianity on its way to becoming extinct? Are Christians everywhere now an ‘endangered species’? This question may have seemed bizarre just a decade or two ago. Even today, in numerical terms, Christianity remains the largest faith in the world. Yet, the probability of a major decline in the numbers of Christians worldwide no longer seems so far-fetched, given the rate at which the persecution of Christians and anti-Christian sentiment worldwide is growing……….. Click here for full story
The 10 Worst-Ranked Companies for Christian Consumers Who Are Deeply Motivated by Their Faith
Just one day after releasing rankings for more than 300 brands, Faith Driven Consumer has unveiled the 10 lowest-rated companies when it comes to marketing efforts aimed at targeting and cultivating Christian consumers.
According to the Faith Equality Index — which measures which brands are the most and least likely to cultivate Bible-minded buyers by ranking each company on a scale from zero to 100 — the lowest-ranked businesses are as follows:
What are the marks of a spiritually healthy believer? In 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10 we find Paul’s thanksgiving to God for spiritually healthy Christians. He tells the Thessalonians–who were relatively new converts–a number of remarkable truths about themselves. I don’t think that there is anywhere else in the New Testament where such an explicitly positive report is made of a church and its members. So what are these spiritually healthy characteristics that Paul praises them for exhibiting? Consider the following:First, they became imitators of the apostles and of the Lord. He re-emphasizes that point in ch. 2:14. They became like their teachers, who themselves were imitating the Lord. In practice (not just through organic union with Christ) the Thessalonian Christians became Christ-like. That is to say, in thought, word and deed, their conduct was like their Saviour’s. Spiritually healthy Christians are those who look like their Lord (see Matt. 5:13-16).Second, they received the word with joy, even though they were afflicted for it. Many attend church each week, while having to force themselves to stay awake, alert, undistracted to remain interested. We’ve all been there, no doubt. That, (providences aside), is hardly a picture of the spiritually healthy Christian. Reception of the Word with joy–until it bears fruit–is the mark of one who is imitating Christ. The Thessalonians received the Word of God joyfully knowing that it was their very life. They did so, even though they were persecuted for it (see Acts 17). Healthy Christians take delight in receiving God’s Word throughout their Christian lives.Third, they became an example to other Christians. Paul says “so that you became examples to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” What a remarkable statement! The Apostle intimates that these new converts had become a regional example in piety, practice and zeal for the Kingdom. In other words, Christians throughout the world were looking up to them and following their lead, as they themselves had followed the Apostles’ lead. Spiritually healthy Christians, without drawing attention away from Christ to themselves, set a good example for other believers to follow.
Fourth, they witnessed to the Word. The “word of the Lord sounded forth” from them in the region. This is so very, very important. Their regional reputation was founded not on their church programs or the reputation of their well-known minister, but for the Word of the Lord “echoing” from them to all around them. It seems that the members of the church in Thessalonica could not contain their enthusiasm for evangelism. They had a sense that they had to share the word, and they did share the word. Healthy Christians do not just sit around debating the finer points of the Gospel, they actually tell others about the Gospel.
Fifth, their faith was evident. Paul emplains, “your faith in God has gone forth everywhere.” I think that the Apostle, by inserting this idea, is getting to the fact that their witness to the Word was not only in word, but also in deed. Their faith was also known. How? Presumably in that it was a real, vibrant and visible faith, which was manifested in action. Spiritually healthy Christians are seen and known for the sincerity of their faith.
Sixth, they had a good reputation for their faith and faithfulness. Paul states that the apostles did not need to speak of the members of the Thessalonian church, because the believers in Macedonia and Achaia already knew about them–how they had received the Apostle in their midst. In other words, their reputation as a Christ-like church was well-known. The church or the Christian can’t always control what people think of them, but what a powerful witness it is to be known for being Christ-like. Spiritually healthy Christians do not necessarily have good reputations with everyone, but amongst true believers they almost always certainly will.
Seventh, they truly and obviously repented of their previous life. One of the saddest realities of life in a fallen world is that we see evil called good and good evil–even in the church of Christ! The Thessalonians were idolaters, presumably engaged in all that idolatry involved in those days; yet, they “turned” (that is, they repented) from their sin, left it behind and sought after God. In fact, their conduct was a complete and drastic change. They previously served idols, they repented, and then they served the “living and true God.” Contrary to what some in the church are teaching today, we cannot remain in our old sin and claim Christ as our Savior. Yes, spiritually healthy Christians, having found the mercies of God in Christ, continually repent of their sins and endeavour after new obedience and service.
Finally, they lived in expectation. Paul says the Thessalonians “wait[ed] for God’s Son from heaven.” Part of their vibrancy as Christians (and we must assume that this is one ideas that drove their evangelistic zeal) was the second coming of Christ. They knew they had been delivered from the “wrath to come” (vs 10) and wanted the same for others. They awaited Christ’s coming with eagerness. Spiritually healthy Christians long for Jesus return, and conduct themselves in light of his coming.
This list is far from exhaustive; but, in this list, Paul appears to have a particular end in mind–to encourage what fruitfulness was already manifest in the lives of believers in order to further the spread of the gospel, in both word and deed. If this description does not match us–either individually or corporately–we ought to pray to God to make it so. He has promised, in Christ, to give us the grace–by His Word and Spirit powerfully–to produce these traits in His people for the advancement of His Kingdom in the world.
Caring about Small Things, Overlooking Big Things
J. Warner Wallace, author of God’s Crime Scene, discusses the importance of Christian Case Making, particularly for young Christians who are challenged about their beliefs when they enter the university or the work place.
To see more interview videos with J. Warner Wallace, visit the YouTube playlist.
Mountain lions detect vulnerabilities in their prey and attack the weakest — the young, the sick, the injured. Studies have confirmed this instinctive cruelty. It’s how the mountain lion lives, following the scent of suffering and feasting on whatever he finds.
The enemy of your hope and happiness hunts with that same instinct, with a cold-hearted and ruthless hunger for the weak or hurting. Satan prowls like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). And because he’s clever, he spends a lot of his time among the suffering. He lies in wait with lies, wanting to consume the fragile and vulnerable.
A School for Suffering
Peter knew what it felt like for Satan to pounce on him in difficult circumstances, to find himself suddenly gasping and drowning in temptation, to lack the strength to fight and to be overcome. He abandoned and denied Jesus on the night he died — not once, but three times (Luke 22:60). Like a wounded or sick infant deer pitifully trying to escape a mountain lion, the once confident and strong Peter became the defenseless prey.
But before Jesus hung on the cross, he had prayed for Peter, that his faith would not fail, and that his ministry would rise again from the ashes of fear and defeat.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31–32)
And the same Peter that cowered in fear before the little servant girl, denying he ever knew Jesus (Luke 22:56), was later crucified for his Christian faith. And before he boldly died to tell his love for Jesus, he wrote a letter to suffering Christians everywhere and for all of time, even today.
Peter had learned that Satan loved to hunt among the hurting, but he also learned that God arms us to fight well, even in pain and weakness. God plants invincible truths in our vulnerable hearts, and then guards our faith with his infinite power (1 Peter 1:4–5). Here are five truths to believe in the valley against all of the lies Satan hides in the shadows.
1. All of your suffering will end one day.
Peter writes as one who has suffered, to brothers and sisters who will suffer for their faith in Jesus (1 Peter 4:12–13). The painful moments in life — however those pains come — are the ones in which we’re most likely to question God and go our own way. Satan says,
God doesn’t care about the pain you’re going through.
God isn’t able to do anything about it, anyway.
The distress, the misery, the adversity will never end.
But Peter says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6). Your present suffering will only be for a little while (1 Peter 1:6), even if it’s for the rest of your earthly life. And soon, God will lift (“exalt”) you out of these difficult circumstances and into his safe and satisfying presence forever, away from everything you feared and suffered in this age (see also Romans 8:16–18 and James 4:10). He will heal every wound, make up for every loss, and wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4).
Instead of responding to our suffering with proud indignation, we shock the world with patient, even joyful, humility. We follow Jesus, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2) — “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death” (Philippians 2:8). He suffered everything knowing the happiness of being held by and for heaven.
2. God is not only able to guard you, but he also cares for you.
What does humility look like in the midst of hardship and heartbreak? “Humble yourselves . . . casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6–7). Instead of defiantly hurling your affliction back at God, humility hands every anxiety back to him with affection and confidence. Humility refuses to treat God like an incompetent or unsympathetic boss, but comes to him, even in suffering, as a compassionate and invested Father.
Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26). If we truly believed that the God who created all things, having absolutely everything at his disposal, cared for us like a Father, then we would not resist him and his will like we do, even when life gets hard.
3. Our suffering in this life reminds us we’re at war.
Peter goes on to say, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). All the things that might tempt us to doubt God and his goodness are meant to lead us to him, and to prove that he’s engaged in a massive spiritual battle for our lives. A powerful, compelling, and creative enemy wants to kill you.
As a weathered veteran of the war of life, Peter wrote earlier, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). When we are disappointed or afflicted, God is shaking us out of our complacency and entitlement to awaken us to the realities of life deeper and more important than our circumstances.
4. However lonely your suffering feels, you are not alone.
You are at war, but you are not alone. God is with you, and he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7) — and Peter says more: “Resist [the devil], firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:9). Fight Satan’s onslaught of lies knowing that you are shoulder to shoulder with an army of other believers.
You may not know someone suffering the same thing as you in your immediate context, but you are not alone among Christians in the world and in history. God has cared for them, and he wants you to know he will care for you, too. And while the needs around you may not be identical, they are real, and often intense and overwhelming. The military strategy for a needy, hurting, and embattled Christian community reads, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
God’s infinite wealth and power will meet and provide for God’s weak and suffering people with God’s relentless compassion and care when they are gathered together around and clinging to God’s word, especially his promises.
5. God will not only take away your suffering, but he will heal every wound and restore everything good forever.
Suffering will not be the last note of your life. If you joyfully humble yourself in God’s hands and plan, he will exalt you soon enough. On that day, “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).
We will suffer for a moment (when compared with eternity), and then be restored from all our brokenness, confirmed against all our uncertainty, strengthened from all our weakness, and established in all our glory by our God. In the place of our broken and painful existence on earth will be a never-ending experience of the greatest Joy you’ve ever known or tasted (Psalm 16:11).
In 2005, same-sex marriage was illegal in all 50 of the United States. In ten short years all that changed. Two-thousand and fifteen might end up being known as the year of homosexual advancement. This past year witnessed the crashing of a moral wave that had been building for years when the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the 14th Amendment requires all 50 states to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples and recognize those marriages performed in other states.
Questions and confusion abound on the issue. How should biblically-thinking Christians respond? Can individuals change their sexual orientation? Should an individual change their sexual orientation? And for that matter, what is sexual orientation? Christ’s true church must take it upon themselves to become excellently equipped in the issue of homosexuality, homosexual orientation, and becoming instruments of change (Col. 4:5-6). In their recently-released book, Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change, Denny Burk and Heath Lambert provide needed equipping by tackling these questions and more.
Additionally, a plea is offered to those who embrace the homosexual lifestyle while professing the Christian faith: this book will be well-worth your time by providing a perspective grounded in the faith. To those who embrace a homosexual lifestyle, but do not profess faith in Christ, the book will be no less profitable, bringing biblical clarity that you may have yet to see, perhaps due to misled Christians or preconceived notions. I would encourage you to honestly consider the arguments. And wherever one may currently stand on the issue, there is a refreshing humility and love intertwined with an integrity of truth in the book.
The stated goal of the book is to analyze the idea of “homosexual orientation”, or homosexual desire, while demonstrating from God’s word that “desires for a sinful act are sinful precisely because the desired act is sinful” (13). Burk and Lambert write, “God gives us a bodily identity that indicates his purposes for us sexually, and those purposes are unambiguously ordered to the opposite sex within the covenant of marriage. To embrace and identity that goes against God’s revealed purpose is…sinful” (37).
To tackle the issue, the authors anchor themselves to the sufficiency and authority of God’s word on the issue. Doing so provides as much of an objective analysis as possible; something too rare when grappling with this topic.
Rethinking sexual orientation
Insightful clarity is given on same-sex attraction/homosexual orientation. Confusion abounds around a proper understanding of orientation. Typically, the definitions ignore God’s revealed purpose in creating humans as sexual beings while erroneously restricting human identity to our desires.
Four common approaches to orientation within professing Christianity are analyzed. The liberal approach rejects biblical authority, asserting one’s desire as authoritative in determining orientation. The revisionist approach is that propagated by Matthew Vines, who argues that the homosexuality condemned in Scripture relates to sexual excess, not orientation. While affirming the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, the neo-traditional holds that same-sex attraction is good; almost like a fruit of the Spirit. Finally, the traditional view, consistent with historic Christianity, understands same-sex attraction and behavior as sin.
The traditional view is supported by Scripture. Christ teaches that it is always sinful to desire something that God forbids, which the authors demonstrate from Matthew 5:27-28. Much of Christ’s point in that section of the Sermon on the Mount is to demonstrate the depravity of humanity; even at the level of desires.
Burk and Lambert elaborate: “The very experience of the desire becomes an occasion for repentance. And it is pastoral malpractice to tell someone who is feeling a…[same-sex attraction] that there is no need to repent” (29). For a sexual desire or act to consist of virtue, its end must be the glory of God. And we mustn’t make the common error which supposes that the existence of a desire sanctions it. The “enduring nature of same-sex desire is an indication not that God approves such desire but that we are intractably sinful apart from grace” (29). This goes for every desire for something prohibited by God.
A common thread running through flawed understandings of sexual orientation is that human identity is reduced to one’s sexual desires. But human beings were created more than merely sexual beings. We eat, drink, play, work, parent, sing, recreate, and worship. Further, human identity is determined not by humans, but the One who made humans. For that reason, God’s word, not our sexual inclinations, is the final say on the issue of human identity. A Christian struggling with same-sex attraction is not a gay Christian, but a child of God, in Christ, undergoing the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit on his way to glory. The unregenerate who are given to same-sex behavior, similarly, are not to be myopically identified as a homosexual, but a valuable human being, made in the image of God, dead in sin, who needs the saving, transforming work of Jesus Christ, like all of us.
Hope and help for true transformation
Many myths pertaining to real change are floating around even in professing Christian culture. Misunderstandings here shipwreck the real changed guaranteed to all who embrace Christ. Five common myths are presented in chapter three: an understanding of biblical ethics leads to change, change is impossible, change is harmful, change requires heterosexual desire, and change can happen without repentance.
Rather than Christian-based behavior modification and other erroneous solutions, Jesus Christ and his sufficient work on the cross are held necessarily high in the book. Since Christ came to die for, and transform us from, sin, there is immense hope through repentance and faith in him. Change happens not only when we repent of sinful behavior, but the heart worship and desires which lead to the behavior (79).
Heath and Lambert provide a good treatment of the path of biblical change in chapter four. The material will prove helpful for counselors and any seeking to better understand the true hope Scripture offers for change.
If our focus on change is merely sexual orientation, then we’ve adopted a myopic view of sanctification. Transformation that every Christian experiences is not limited to selective compartments of behavioral modification, but into the all-inclusive image of the standard for humanity; Jesus Christ. For that reason, when approaching sexual orientation, Christians must keep in mind that Scripture commands “is not heterosexuality, but holiness” (14).
Those who trust in Christ and experience same-sex attraction, however, may not experience complete eradication of the desires this side of heaven. The same goes for Christians battling with any other sin. Sanctification is finished at glorification. Even so, God’s people make it their goal, more than not experiencing a certain desire, to become more like Christ in all things.
Overall, I appreciated how Burk and Lambert make the case that biblical Christianity seeks not to adjust individuals’ sexual orientation. Sexual preferences are not the problem, but merely symptomatic. Rather, biblical Christianity brings a far more comprehensive message: reconciliation to God and a new nature by faith in the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ. That message alone delivers the power to cleanse and transform all sin.
Shepherding the church
Finally, the authors make a needed plea to evangelicalism to no less embrace growth and change when it comes to this issue.
“Same-sex attracted people are not the only ones who need to change. Evangelical Christians have certainly had a spotted record when it comes to addressing the issue of homosexuality. Our churches have not always been the welcoming places that they should have been for sinners—especially for those struggling with the same-sex attraction” (101).
The good news of Christ crucified must stay central in the content. And our lives must no less demonstrate personal need for and change from the cross of Christ (105-9).
Transforming Homosexuality is a needed work in this hour of history. Counselors will find it helpful for counselees, pastors and teachers will benefit from the clarity and insight given for preaching and teaching, Christians will be better equipped to interact intelligently, biblically, and lovingly with the world around us, and those of differing spiritual persuasions will be lovingly and truthfully guided to the true hope of Christ.
The conversation surprised me.
I was recently meeting with about a dozen members of a church that was on the precipice of closing. During their perceived “good old days,” the average worship attendance was in the 40s and 50s. Now the church attendance was in the teens. The church was on metaphorical life support.
I shared with them some items of urgency that might give them some glimmer of hope. So I was surprised when one of the members asked me a question that seemed to come from nowhere: “Will we have to sing from screens instead of hymnals?” she asked with a tinge of anger.
I never responded directly to the question. It was too late. The few members were of one mind about an issue so peripheral I had never anticipated it. I left saddened.
The church had chosen to die.
The Need and the Passion
It is my life and ministry passion to help churches, particularly struggling churches, to revitalize. One of the greatest needs of churches today is to choose to live and to thrive.
Unfortunately, many congregations are choosing to die. For certain, they are not calling a business meeting and making a motion to die. Their choices are more subtle and, often, more incremental. But the end result is the same.
Churches are choosing to die.
Five Deadly Choices
So what are churches doing specifically that leads to their demise? Here are five of the more common choices.
- They refuse to face reality. I was in a dying church recently. The congregational average attendance was 425 seven years ago. Today it is 185. I could find no one in the church who thought the trends were bad. They were in a state of delusion and denial.
- They are more concerned about greater comfort than the Great Commission. Church membership has become self-serving. The church is more like a country club than the body of Christ. People are “paying dues” to get what they want in the church. It’s all about their preferences and desires.
- They are unwilling to accept responsibility. It’s the fault of culture. All the new churches in town are to blame. If someone wants to come to our church, they know where we are. People just don’t want to come to church anymore. Excuses and more excuses. I have never been in a community that is nearly fully churched. There are many people to reach. Excuses preclude obedience.
- They are too busy fighting and criticizing. If we could take the energy of church critics and antagonists into reaching people with the gospel, our churches would become evangelistic forces. Unfortunately in many churches, members expend most of their energies criticizing leadership and others, and fighting over trivial issues.
- They are confusing non-negotiables with negotiables. Almost ten years ago, a couple of men who live near me asked to visit with me in my home. They wanted me to consider visiting their church. One of the men told me their church was one of the few in the area defending the faith. I asked him what he meant by that. He explained that the faith was one particular Bible translation and traditional hymns. I wasn’t sure what happened to the bodily resurrection and substitutionary atonement. The church died within seven years.
Choosing to Live Rather Than Die
Most churches have choices to live or die. We use the word “revitalize” because it means to live again. I hope you will join me in this passion to see unhealthy churches become healthy, to see churches choose to live.
As one way of being a part of this movement of revitalization, I have teamed up with Revitalized Churches in Florida to offer the best resources we can to help in this cause. They are once again offering the resource that has helped hundreds of churches move toward revitalization.
Those churches have chosen to live.
Such is my prayer for your church.
Today’s Kindle deals include Grounded in the Faith* by Ken Erisman ($3.99); What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?* by Kevin DeYoung ($4.74); The Forgotten Trinity* by James White ($1.99); Cross by John Piper ($0.99); Grounded in the Gospel by J.I. Packer ($2.99); Doxology and Theology by Matt Boswell ($2.99); Preaching the Farewell Discourse by Scott Kellum ($2.99); Each for the Other by Bryan & Kathy Chapell ($1.99). (* = especially highly recommended)
I’m not sure that I agree with all that Mark Jones says here, but I do appreciate the basic point that perhaps your spouse should not be your best friend. Read it and see if you agree.
Here’s a neat little documentary about J.I. Packer. (The documentary goes along with this new biography that I am reading and thoroughly enjoying.)
Joe Carter has a helpful FAQ on China’s one-child policy and the recent change to make it a two-child policy.
I am so glad to see Christians thinking and writing about this difficult topic. Here Luke Gilkerson tells how his opinion on the matter has changed over the past couple of years (which coincided with his master’s thesis on the topic).
Yesterday Matt Bevin was elected Governor of Kentucky. Denny Burk says, “As that news ripples across the country, what may not be as well known is Bevin’s fervent Christian faith and connection to Southern Seminary where I teach.”
This Day in 1884. C.T. Studd, one of the Cambridge Seven, meets Hudson Taylor 131 years ago today, and is accepted for service in the China Inland Mission. *
I enjoyed Lisa’s article titled simply “Thoughts.” “ ‘I don’t think stuff anymore,’ I told my husband awhile back. He assured me that I did, in fact, think, and think loads of stuff, just maybe it’s the stuff and the kind of thinking that’s changed. Not necessarily less than, just different.”
Prescription drugs, that is. This video explains why one drug may have many different names, and also explains how it gets those names.
Here’s one for parents to read and consider. “Teenagers spend nearly nine hours a day absorbing media and despite all the new options, music and television remain the favorites.”
God has spoken and God speaks. God has spoken and continues to speak through the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. How well do you know the doctrine of the Scripture? How well do you know what the Bible tells us about the Bible? This short thirty-three question quiz is designed to help you find out.
Sources & Recommended Resources
- 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible by Robert L. Plummer
- Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung
- Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
- The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy
- Westminster Confession of Faith
Other Doctrine Quizzes
ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
(Click title to go to full article)
Feds Rule to Force High School Girls to Undress Next to Naked Boys Who Think They’re Girls – “On Monday, the federal government declared itself fit for the madhouse by mandating that a Chicago high school allow a full biological male into the girls’ locker room for all purposes, including nudity. This biological male, the feds determined, was different because he thinks he is a female.”
The Blind Eyes of Abortion – “The human eyeball is an amazing creation. More than 120 million photoreceptor cells help us see. Some of those photoreceptor cells even help us sleep. An evolutionary scientist, writing in the journal Neuroscience, describes it as ‘an exquisitely complicated organ.’ Volumes of poetry have been written about eyes and the sublime experience of looking into the eyes of a lover. The bridegroom in the Song of Solomon refers to his bride’s eyes several times: ‘Behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves’ (Song of Solomon 1:15).”
Pray For Your Children’s Salvation – “The salvation of our children is priceless; their spiritual needs far outweigh their physical needs. They need our prayers—our earnest prayers with hearts aflame, both for their initial repentance and coming to Christ by faith, and for their life of ongoing growth in faith. Matthew Henry rightly declared that it is of far more value for parents who die to leave behind a treasury of prayers for their children than it is to leave behind a treasury of silver and gold.”
Are You A Faker? – “My family recently had a birthday party for my oldest daughter Claire. We invited mostly family and a few of her friends from school. We’ve tried to make reasonable rules for our home. There’s one particular show she’s asked to watch several times this year; we’ve explained we don’t necessarily think it’s wrong for her to watch it, but we do feel it’s not best. We’ve explained some of the reasons for our thinking. After her party, one of her friends requested to watch the show as we were choosing a movie. Before we had the chance to respond, I noticed Claire lean over and whisper, ‘I’ve watched that one before, but we’re gonna watch a movie.’ Apparently the new interest in this show had came from this friend, and my daughter was being a faker.
The Rise of Fundamentalism – “The god of religious tolerance is not the God of the Bible. It is Satan who doesn’t care what we believe—or how sincerely we believe it—as long as we don’t believe God’s Word. To portray God as tolerant of all forms of worship is to deny the God of Scripture. After all, this was His first commandment: ‘I am the Lord your God. . . . You shall have no other gods before Me’ (Exodus 20:2–3). If we believe the Bible, we cannot concede that other religions might be true as well. Christianity, if true at all, is exclusively true. Inherent in the claims of Christ is the assertion that He alone offers truth—and all religious systems that deviate from His truth are false (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).”
Matt Chandler – The Apostle’s Creed (Part 7): He Ascended to Heaven, and Sits on the Right Hand of the Father
Churches are Using Carnal Means to Attract Visitors
Be a Man… Biblically.
“All death can do to the believer is deliver him to Jesus. It brings us into the eternal presence of our Savior.” – John MacArthur
READING: Matthew 22, Mark 12
TEXTS AND APPLICATION: The Sadducees denied the possibility of resurrection, but they nevertheless tried to set Jesus up by their question about marriage in the afterlife. “If a woman’s been married to seven different brothers after each one dies successively, whose wife would she be in resurrection?” they asked. Jesus’ response was clear:
Matt. 22:24 Jesus told them, “Are you not deceived because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God?”
They didn’t know the Scriptures well enough to know the Bible teaches the reality of resurrection, and they didn’t understand the power of God enough to know that He could give eternal life quite different from our earthly existence. Nor did they know the power of God in their own lives. They were religious leaders who knew neither God’s Word nor His power.
I can only wonder if we ever live the same way. We say we believe the Word, but we don’t know it well enough to answer the questions of critics. We talk about the power of God, but we struggle with believing that God really is capable of doing all things.
Sometimes, we, too, are religious leaders who don’t know God’s Word or His power. God forgive us.
ACTION STEPS: Honestly evaluate how well you know the Bible. Then prayerfully consider how evident the power of God is in your life. Take sufficient time to respond to your conclusions by being honest with God.
PRAYER: “Father, give me a longing for Your Word and a desire to know Your power. Remind us powerfully that You remain the present-tense God of resurrection.”
Our Time is Short
What is The Gospel?
God made everything out of nothing, including you and me. His main purpose in creation was to bring him pleasure.
The chief way in which we as humanity do this is through loving, obeying, and enjoying him perfectly.
Instead of this, we have sinned against our loving Creator and acted in high-handed rebellion.
God has vowed that he will righteously and lovingly judge sinners with eternal death.
But God, being merciful, loving, gracious, and just, sent his own son, Jesus Christ, in the likeness of man to live as a man; fulfilling his perfect requirements in the place of sinners; loving, obeying, and enjoying him perfectly.
And further, his son bore the eternal judgment of God upon the cross of Calvary, as he satisfied the eternal anger of God, standing in the place of sinners. God treated Jesus as a sinner, though he was perfectly sinless, that he might declare sinners as perfect.
This glorious transaction occurs as the sinner puts their faith (dependence, trust) in the Lord Jesus Christ as their substitute. God then charges Christ’s perfection to the sinner, and no longer views him as an enemy but instead an adopted son covered in the perfect righteousness of his son.
God furnished proof that this sacrifice was accepted by raising Jesus from the dead.
God will judge the world in righteousness and all of those who are not covered in the righteousness of Christ, depending on him for forgiveness, will be forced to stand on their own to bear the eternal anger of God.
Therefore, all must turn from sin and receive Christ Jesus as Lord.
There is no greater message to be heard than that which we call the gospel. But as important as that is, it is often given to massive distortions or over simplifications. People think they’re preaching the gospel to you when they tell you, ‘you can have a purpose to your life’, or that ‘you can have meaning to your life’, or that ‘you can have a personal relationship with Jesus.’ All of those things are true, and they’re all important, but they don’t get to the heart of the gospel.
The gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness–or lack of it –or the righteousness of another. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.
The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn’t concerned to protect His own integrity. He’s a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son. So valuable was that sacrifice that God pronounced it valuable by raising Him from the dead – so that Christ died for us, He was raised for our justification. So the gospel is something objective. It is the message of who Jesus is and what He did. And it also has a subjective dimension. How are the benefits of Jesus subjectively appropriated to us? How do I get it? The Bible makes it clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith–and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him–and in Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.
Ready to start your new life with God?
Who do you think that I am?
With that brief question Jesus Christ confronted His followers with the most important issue they would ever face. He had spent much time with them and made some bold claims about His identity and authority. Now the time had come for them either to believe or deny His teachings.
Who do you say Jesus is? Your response to Him will determine not only your values and lifestyle, but your eternal destiny as well.
Consider what the Bible says about Him: Read more
CanIKnowGod.com is a website inspired by LifesGreatestQuestion.com, with new content, images, audio and video that will help you understand more about who God is and how to know Him. The site is mobile responsive and has an infinite scroll which makes for a very user-friendly experience. After you indicate a decision on CanIKnowGod.com, you are directed to a page that details what it means to have a new and transformed life through Jesus Christ. There’s even a Facebook page for daily updates, encouragement and scripture sharing.
Look to Jesus
Have you ever felt a little lost and wished there was a quick-start guide to your relationship with God? This is it!
30 Day Next Steps
John Beckett, a leading Christian businessman, has written a series to read over 30 days for new believers.
New Believers Guide
The New Believer’s Guide is a series of articles designed to show you how to walk in the new life Christ has given you— a life of faith and freedom.
Jesus is the Savior of the world. Discover who Jesus is today in this series.
Know Jesus Christ and your life will be transformed
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