Monthly Archives: January 2012

Cell Phones, Beware: Pastor Loses His Temper Mid-Sermon

(HT:  Ed Stetzer)

Some thoughts:

  • He’s preaching on the love of God.
  • A phone ringing while you are trying to preach and while some are trying to listen is annoying, yes.
  • But she answered the phone and was talking (!) while he was trying to preach! 
  • He did what my old coach in high school used to do to many a stopwatch!

Thoughts?  Before you post any thoughts, just remember that pastors are called by God and the majority love Christ and His Word—but many still struggle with the flesh.  We do not know what this man was dealing with in the minutes, hours, days, weeks, and years prior to this encounter.  But with 1500 ministers leaving the ministry each month for various reasons, we need to recognize that this was not an isolated event.

So… thoughts?

[Update on Sunday, February 12, 2012:  Janice commented on this that this was staged, just a joke!  But we remembered it, didn’t we?]

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How Should Pastors Spend Their Sunday Afternoons?

Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande JatteRegardless of how well or how anointed the Sunday morning time of worship is, for ministers the time after can be a very draining time.  All of the prayer and preparation and excitement that took place during the week as he readies himself for the worship time builds up a lot of adrenaline.  Art Azurdia noted once that every time a preacher preaches the Word of God, he loses a little piece of himself every time.  So, like Elijah who had been used of God firsthand to defeat the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel found himself in a ‘valley’ soon after when he heard that Jezebel was furious and put a bounty on Elijah’s head.  Elijah’s response?  Worrying about his situation and aggravated at God for putting him there.  Many pastors struggle with the same issue. 

So what should pastors do?  I cannot give a blanket prescription for this, but I say this to the pastor:  Preacher, know thyself!   Here are some options:

  1. Rest/sleep.  For some, this is recommended, especially if you have an evening service or if you plan on being any good to your family for the rest of the day.  Your body has a way of letting you know if you need sleep or at least rest.  There are times when I would be sitting and watching my Bengals play football in the afternoon that I would inevitably miss the 2nd quarter, halftime, and half of the third quarter because I couldn’t stay awake.  My energy tank was empty. 
  2. Run/walk/move around:  This works for me.  I find if I nap in the afternoon, I never shake off that tired feeling, and it shows up during the Bible studies on Sunday nights.  This past Sunday, while everyone else crashed, I took my dog and went for a three mile walk on the trails the city puts down near my house (ah, Denver, and it’s encouragement to get outside).  It helped greatly!  My blood was moving, I had Keith and Kristen Getty on my iPod, and enjoyed the quiet time of prayerwalking. 
  3. Relax, don’t obsess:  When the adrenaline is gone and that ‘valley’ sets in, every bad thing that comes along is magnified.  You can have 99 positive comments, but you will obsess about the one negative one.  You may fret over how you put something during the sermon, hoping no one took what you innocently meant wrong.  The molehills become mountains!  While it’s good to evaluate what you said (and yes, I do recommend listening or even watching your sermons on Monday), don’t obsess. 
  4. Read:  This helps keep your mind alert—and for some, this is a great way to rest, get your mind on something else productive (meaning that if you’re going to read something, read something of substance—don’t try to escape). 
  5. Rejoice.  Rejoice that God used you to minister His Word to His people and His creation on that Sunday!  There is such a trust factor when preaching—for most preachers don’t really know how it ‘went’ when they preach, but we trust God that it will not return empty but will accomplish what it seeks to accomplish (Isaiah 55:11-12). 
  6. Ready yourself.  Your next preaching time is coming soon, be it a worship service, funeral, wedding, or special speaking engagement.  “Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). 
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BOOK REVIEW: Healing the Heart of Your Church by Kenneth Quick

I highly recommend this book by Kenneth Quick (ChurchSmart Resources, 2003, $15.00, 166 pages) who helps churches navigate through heartbreaks.  How so?  Written for pastors, Quick (Director of the Ministry Leadership Program and Chair of the Practical Theology Department at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD) aims to help these pastors compassionately confront, expose, and help heal past hearts from pastors and leaders in the church—as well as help church heal from and repent of the hurts they have inflicted on pastors. And make no mistake, just because a pastor or leader is gone and another one is in place, the hurt and scars have not left even though a new era of ministry has started.

This book was very helpful for me coming into a new ministry situation.  After serving for eight years in a church in Kentucky, I am now at a church in Colorado that, to be kind, suffered some struggles over the past two years specifically, along with another hurtful chapter approximately 10 years prior.  Even though the church has moved on and is excited about another chapter, some of the scars are still there—evident when some of these events come up even now.  Time will tell how deep these issues are, it goes to the point of Dr. Quick’s book that churches as a community have ‘hearts’ and those hearts can be broken—and those hearts need healing with the right biblical and spiritual touch.  This book is a helpful tonic for heartbroken churches.

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A Faith That Works: What Does That Look Like?

(This sermon was preached at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Centennial, CO, on Sunday, January 29, 2012.  To listen to the sermon, click here.)

As you know, I spent the weekend in Trinidad. I’m understanding that I need to clarify that I was in Trinidad & Tobago in the Caribbean, not Trinidad, Colorado. I went there to preach for my friend who was being honored for his years of ministry as a preacher, church planter, and mentor of young pastors. The place was packed—so good to see so many coming that God has touched through this man. The service lasted just over three hours which a lively time of singing, testimonies from other pastors, plus I had the opportunity to preach.

What I didn’t realize was that this service would be televised! Yet as I was sitting there through much of the festivities, my attention kept being drawn to the cameraman, someone who was sent on assignment to be at this worship service. I remember thinking, rather cynically, “I bet this guy is hating life, being at a worship service of this nature for three hours!” I was quickly taught a lesson about how God works.

After the service, he asked some of us to do an interview about Roddie Taylor (how we met, what was his heart/passion, etc.). As he was setting up the camera, he looked at me and said, “What you said it there . . . I’ve never heard anything like that!” I told him, “Well, glory to God—thank you for the encouraging word!” He said, “I knew all that from when I was young, but never heard it put like that!” When I asked him his spiritual background and upbringing, he said that his mom is a Christian and his dad is a Muslim—so in elementary school he went with his mom to church, but in his teenage years he went to mosque. So I asked him a question that I ask a lot of folks who present things to me that just do not seem to go together: what does that look like? He went on to explain it—and I’m thankful for the opening to share the gospel with him. Please pray for him—his name, if I understood him correctly, is Trevor.

“What does it look like?” I personally and all of our members at ARBC believe in the perfection of the Scriptures and its full authority in every sense. It is God’s inspired word. It is with this understanding that we approach matters that seem to us contradictory. As we started this look into James’ letter, we noted that James and the apostle Paul seemed to, on the surface, contradict each other. We saw that with Paul, he repeatedly says that one is justified by faith alone. “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). What does James say?

Let’s take a look at the questions that propel his theological and doctrinal argument:

  • James 2:14: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?”
  • James 2:20: “Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?”
  • James 2:22: “You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works.”
  • James 2:26: “”For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

So this is the idea that James is seeking to communicate—and like a good communicator, he puts the same thought in different ways to drive this all-important concept home: Jesus lives so He empowers us to live and work for Him! Remember, the apostle Paul who wrote that we are saved by grace through faith, not of our selves but by God also said in Ephesians 2:10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” So Paul and James are not apart at all. James, like Paul in Ephesians 2:10, is telling Christians what Christianity looks like after you are saved.

But here, James doesn’t stop at merely stating something correctly! It’s helpful to know—but it’s even more helpful to see and to visualize what this looks like. Let’s take a look.

1. A practical example of a faith that works (James 2:14-17).

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:14-17).

By practical, I mean that that this is a day-to-day example, one that can be put into practice (thus, practical). He takes something that is theological (faith/works) and puts those groceries on the bottom shelf for us. It’s practical and relational—for our faith must splash over into how we deal with people.

James knew this from Jesus Himself—when Jesus began His ministry in the Sermon on the Mount, after speaking of how we are to be salt and light, and that he came to fulfill the law and not abolish it, he goes into numerous different areas dealing with what? How Christians are to, in their relationship with God, also deal with people in regards to anger, marriage, divorce, lust, vows we make to people, retaliation, dealing with our enemies, and giving to the needy.

We must notice something interesting here is that James is talking about a ‘brother or sister’ in need. Who is he talking about? In verse 14, James talks to “my brothers,” meaning those who are Christ followers! So in verse 15, are these ‘brothers and sisters’ to whom he is referring Christians?

This can be asked of Jesus as well in Matthew 10:42: “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

The question is, are Christians simply supposed to take care of themselves? Not exclusively, but the idea here is if you aren’t taking care of even your brother or sister in Christ and helping them in their time of need, it’s no good to anyone. It’s a bad reflection of your relationship with Christ, it’s a bad sign of your view of your fellow Christians, and leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the watching world.

But keep in mind that we are to help those in need, even if they aren’t in Christ! As we saw with the Good Samaritan from Luke 10 this past Sunday night, the story was not simply about helping those in need, but the Good Samaritan represented Christ who helps us who are dead and dying spiritually on the side of the road. Did not Christ come and rescue us when we were against Him?

Imagine if Christ treated us the way we Christians often treat others. See the object lesson here: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body what good is that?” (James 2:15-16). This “go in peace” is a Jewish way of saying, “Goodbye” and served as an ending of the conversation.

Do you see the dichotomy here? Doesn’t it exist today? We say, “Well, we are all about the spiritual! This world is passing away, so let’s just take care of spiritual needs.” And in the process, those churches that spend a great deal of time trying to improve the community and help with justice among those among us as a conduit to the gospel that people are seen as ‘liberal.’ But if this is us, not working among those in our midst as Jesus did to minister to physical needs as a way to point to those spiritual needs, we are having a faith that, as James said, is “no good” and likely “dead.” He has placed us at 780 E. Arapahoe Road here in Centennial to make a gospel difference and a gospel witness.

2. The spiritual example of a faith that works.

Join me in reading James 2:18-19:

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

I recently heard an interview by Michael Horton on the White Horse Inn of a man who produced a documentary entitled, “A Mormon President”—interestingly not about Gov. Mitt Romney who is running for president, but about Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church who also has the distinction of being the first Mormon to run for president, running in 1844.

In the midst of the discussion, he began telling of the historical inaccuracies and contradictions found in the Book of Mormon. When he would begin presenting these inaccuracies and contradictions to his Mormon friends, often they would listen and start tracking with what he is saying—yet quickly they would break it off and appeal to their experience. They would come back and tell them that while all of those things may be true, my experience tells me otherwise. What you need to do is to read the Book of Mormon, and feel the ‘burning within your heart.’ This is their test for the authority of this book.

We say, “How foolish!” But isn’t this what many Bible-believing Christians do as well? We appeal to how it “makes me feel” in regards to preaching, church music, or any other experience there is. Even in times of singing/worship, I hear worship leaders tell people to disengage their minds and just have a “spirit of worship”—yet not qualifying what that means! Even some of our hymns say this. Consider this popular one:

He lives, he lives, salvation to impart,

You ask me how I know He lives—he lives within my heart.

Now, I love that hymn and find it to be mostly true. This hymn was written in the 1930s in reaction to liberal preachers and scholars who questioned the veracity of the Bible. Many church members did not have the education these men had, so their response was, “Well, I know He lives—He changed my life!” But we do know that He is alive not just by our experience of the quickening of our hearts by the Spirit, but by the written Word of God, given by the eyewitnesses of His resurrection! Our experience must be fueled by the truth of the Word, not vice versa.

So we must be careful. The faith we hold, dear Christian, must not be seen as sufficient if it simply remains internal. It must be tangible to be believable. Otherwise, we are no better than the devil.

Why does James do this—why bring up the devil? Because the devil has a type of belief. Do you believe that he is a believer? You see there are three types of belief that are mentioned in Scripture. Some of you may have come across those Latin names of notitia, assensus and fiducia! This first time is simply believing he exists. The second type believes that He not only exists, but is true in his nature and by what he says. Fiducia is a form of word where we get fidelity—it means you not only believe he is true, but you are committed to Him with all you have.

You see, Satan is a fallen angel who ranked high in the angelic ranks (Isaiah 11:12-14). Think he believed in God? Yes, he knew he existed first hand. And he even knew he was true! But consider what one commentator said: “If the demons might hold to such a faith and remain in perdition, men might hold it and go to perdition.”

If you are here this morning, and your faith is “in God,” on one side of the coin I want to tell you that that’s not enough. The devil and his minions are in a much better position to know who he is and what he’s all about that we do. They know His power, they know His majesty, and they know His holiness—He doesn’t put up with sin in His presence forever. Yet, if we say we believe in God—do we understand who this God is? Do we tremble as even the demons do? It’s not enough to know he simply exists, to have warm feelings or even respect for him—or even to believe he is true. Have you surrendered to Him? Have you come to God through Christ?

3. The biblical example of a faith that works.

20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Here James gives his readers two examples from the OT: one expected, one unexpected. First the expected example: Father Abraham. Again and again, the apostles come back to Genesis 15:6 which is quoted in James 2:23: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness,” then James adds “—and he was called a friend of God. From Genesis 15 to Genesis 22 when God called his boy Isaac to be offered up, Abraham may have stumbled at points, but in his heart of hearts—at the core of his very being—he trusted God.

No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:20-25)

So this is one way we can reconcile faith alone and a faith that works. When God works his saving, justifying work in us—that will work in and through us. We become His instruments of righteousness. We becomes ones who are so changed that we realize that God will keep His promises that are recorded in His Word always—even in the 24 years between the promise and the fulfillment. And the only person through whom that promise could be fulfilled (Isaac), Abraham was ready to offer up because God told Him to—that’s a faith that works.

You say, “Yes, but Abraham blew it on a number of occasions!” And so will we—but how will we react? Will we just say, “Oh well, God’s a forgiving God—once saved, always saved” and use that doctrine to excuse our behavior? Or when we do sin, will we repent because the promises of God mean more to us ultimately than the present pleasures of sin?

What about Rahab? Rahab? The prostitute? One thing about this line of work is that faithfulness is not one of their attributes. But she is not only mentioned as faithful here but also in Hebrews 11 in the Hall of Fame of Faith: “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” Spies?

Yes, back in Joshua 2. Moses had led the people of Israel for 40 years to head into the Promised Land. But Joshua took over and had sent spies into the land to the city of Jericho. Rahab’s place could have also served as an inn—a place of lodging—at the wall of the city. She hid these men of God and redirected those from the city on a wild goose chase so these spies could go free. Listen to what she said to the men:

Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heart it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man, because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death (Joshua 2:8-14).

What happened here? She heard about the testimony of the Lord—His previous actions were a witness to her and all of Jericho. She knew of the power of God in such a way that her heart melted. She saw who she was before God—someone destined and doomed for an eternal punishment. She confessed that the “LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” She did not want to be identified with her countrymen, but wanted to be identified with God and His people.

And her faith was put into action—for she “let them down by a rope through the window” and gave them a way of escape. Her inner faith translated to outward action!

Conclusion

This morning, you see the Lord’s Supper table before us. You see how Christ and His faith in what God had sent Him to do was put into action! He did not simply say what needed to be done from afar, but he put that into action! If he hadn’t, how would we really known His nature? And since now one can come to the Father except by Him, how could we have gotten to the Father if He hadn’t come? The Lord’s Supper is an example of faith in action! Jerry Bridges said, “"Faith and holiness are inextricably linked. Obeying the commands of God usually involves believing the promises of God." Have you surrendered to Christ? Do you today believe in the promises of God that the one who made you born physically can rescue and make you born again, this time spiritually? Do you want to be identified with Christ and to have Him first in your life by turning from your self and sin and trusting in Him?

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HYMN: Before the Throne of God Above

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!

— Charitie L. Bancroft, 1863

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Carl Sagan Was So Close

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Today we took our family to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, thanks to a friend from church who provided us year-long passes there.

As we were entering the planetarium, upon this wall was a quote from the late renowned scientist Carl Sagan. As one who studied creation diligently and provided numerous insights and discoveries about that creation, he was one who was so close because he so marveled at the creation, but rejected and neglected the Creator of all things.

We can be so close, and yet so far away.

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HUMOR: Offical Worship Signals from the Tim Hawkins Handbook

Worship Signals

This was floating around Facebook yesterday that originated from comedian Tim Hawkins.

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Atheists, Billboards, and Tolerance: The Dilemma for Denver Drivers

As some of you in the Denver area may have seen, the Colorado Coalition of Reason, an atheist group based in Boulder, have been putting up billboards expressing their beliefs about the supernatural–such as:

“God is an imaginary friend.”

“Choose reality–it will be better for all of us.”

KDVR TV noted that in the land of faith-filled Tim Tebow comes a crew looking to express their own beliefs. Why?

“One of the reasons we put the billboard up is that we are concerned when religious people feel they have not only the right, but the obligation, to force their religious views on others,” the group says on its Web site. “Examples are proselytizing in the military, educational systems, and government. Another example is the attacks by religious people on gays, lesbians, and abortion providers.”

It seems clear that by “forcing,” they mean expressing our beliefs with conviction–not unlike they are doing here. And I say, express away!

Atheists would disagree, but the burden of proof is on them to explain away an intelligent Creator. Everything that is in our day-to-day realm has a maker of some sort on a smaller scale–we don’t even question that. But a supernatural Maker is so out of the question? And even if it was for some, why be so offended? That goes for both sides, mind you.

We as followers of Christ know that there are those who will cast us aside. Consider the name of the Colorado Coalition for Reason. They are reasonable while we are not. The straw man that is presented here is that if you trust in something that cannot be seen or examined in a petri dish and isn’t explainable to them, it’s not so.

These billboards for the most part only serve to bolster those in their own camp. Christians should not be surprised by this. People, even those who claim to once have believed, will come against us saying they have been more enlightened by their finite view of the latest thing to come down the secular humanist pike. So be it! We speak what we know to be the Truth and let the Spirit of God do His work.

In the meantime, dear Christians, plant those seeds (1 Cor. 3:7-8) and sleep well.

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RELIGION: New York Times Article (Tries to) Make the Case for Mormonism as Protestant

The New York Times posted an article by David S. Reynolds titled Why Evangelicals Don’t Like Mormons.  This topic only arose on the pages of the New York Times due to Gov. Mitt Romney’s prominence in the GOP race for president.  Reynolds opens with the fact that Romney has lost a primary in an evangelical-heavy state twice due to “his brand of Protestantism: Mormonism.”  Yet, as his argument progresses, he doesn’t work to make the case that Mormonism is Protestant, but goes on to show how others who had doctrines that differ from evangelicals were in the White House as well.

Many evangelicals assert that Mormonism denies the divinity of Christ and is therefore not a branch of Christianity. But the Mormon belief is that Jesus was the first-born child of God and a woman, and that humans can aspire to share his spiritual essence in the afterlife.

What’s more, if a belief in Christ’s divinity were used as a test of our politicians, many past American leaders would fail abysmally. Most of the founding fathers — including Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine — endorsed deism, which sees Jesus as a very good human being, not part of the godhead.

Here, Reynolds takes on two different streams of thought and tries to make them one argument. 

In regards to the first paragraph above, Mormonism is very much considered a cult because of this very doctrine.  Consider what is said from a Mormon publication back in 2005:

"Many religions teach that human beings are children of God, but often their conception of Him precludes any kind of bond resembling a parent-child relationship. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught of a much simpler and more sensible relationship: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit … was to make himself visible … , you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another." – Strengthening the Family: Created in the Image of God, Male and Female, The Ensign, Jan. 2005, pg. 48

And with the notion that Jesus had a beginning, when the Scriptures teach numerous times that He had no beginning (John 1:1-3; John 12:37-42; Colossians 1:15-17, cf: Psalm 89:27) makes this a gigantic rift between evangelicalism and Mormonism.  According to the Scriptures, God the Father was never a man who simply ‘grew up’ to become God. 

But here Reynolds goes into another strand of the argument, taking us into the political realm.  No, Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, nor Paine were evangelicals.  Jefferson wrote his own New Testament that took out all of the miracles, leaving us only the teachings of Christ—which he respected greatly.  Paine, writer of the classic Common Sense, was an avowed atheist.  Washington and Franklin never stuck to any religion at all, but did see value in the Bible as a way to craft a society.  However, having a respect for the Bible and surrendering to the Christ to whom that Bible points are two widely different viewpoints.

Reynolds goes on to speak of the 19th century spiritual awakenings that led to a strengthening of faith and a sense that some were appointed for a mission fueled by a vision of God’s will:  Ellen G. White (Seventh Day Adventists), Joseph Smith (LDS/Mormonism), Charles Taze Russell (Watchtower Society/Jehovah’s Witnesses), and Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science) among others.

But Reynolds believes he understands why evangelicals have an issue with Mormons:  competition.

The real issue for many evangelicals is Mormonism’s remarkable success and rapid expansion. It is estimated to have missionaries in 162 countries and a global membership of some 14 million; it is also, from its base in the American West, making inroads into Hispanic communities. Put simply, the Baptists and Methodists, while still ahead of the Mormons numerically, are feeling the heat of competition from Joseph Smith’s tireless progeny.

Some evangelical leaders take this a step further to accuse Mr. Romney of vaguely conspiratorial motives. The Baptist minister R. Philip Roberts, author of “Mormonism Unmasked,” recently said that evangelicals are concerned not about Mr. Romney promoting his faith as president, but about the great boost a Mormon presidency would give to the church’s proselytizing efforts.

There is particular worry that Mr. Romney, a wealthy, prominent figure in the church, is too close to his faith. How else to explain the concern among evangelicals when it became public that Mr. Romney had tithed some $4 million to the church over the last two years?

Interdenominational competition may also explain why the faith of Mr. Romney’s father, George Romney, went unchallenged when he ran for president in 1968. Back then Mormonism was a much smaller, and therefore less controversial, part of the religious landscape.

“Baptist and Methodists . . .  are feeling the heat of competition from Joseph Smith’s tireless progeny”?  This is a sad commentary on the religious landscape when so many hear what we as church leaders speak of when we talk about our ministries—the issue of numbers. 

The time has come for those of us who are leaders of evangelical churches and institutions to make it very plain: we are not concerned just about physical numbers, but spiritual waywardness.  Reynolds appeals to religious tolerance—and on a democratic, republic level, this is a good thing.  We do not believe it is the job of the state to dictate what religion we should or shouldn’t hold to—this is why the Revolutionaries wanted freedom from England in colonial times. 

But on the religious/spiritual level, every religion cannot be true.  The argument that as long as you believe in something, that should be respected.  We can respect it, but we can also disagree with it. 

  • If an evangelical says that Scripture is the sole authority, while a Mormon says it’s Scripture, but also the Book of Mormon, Doctrines and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price—both of these cannot be true.
  • If an evangelical says that Christ was divine in order to be able as God to fulfill God’s law, but also live as a man to actively identify and pay for our sins as a sacrifice on the cross; while Mormons believe that Christ had a beginning from a sexual union between God (who was once a man) and a woman, and that it’s by our good works that bring us into heaven—both of these cannot be true.

I could go on.  It’s not about competition.  It’s about truth.  It’s about “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).  For some, it may be about numbers and competition—but not for most.  For most evangelicals worth their salt, it’s about showing how it’s not up to us to work our way to heaven, but about trumpeting a Christ who came down from heaven to rescue us from our sin and self by His sacrifice on the cross and breaking the bonds of death Himself by His resurrection. 

It’s not about competition—it’s about a competence in speaking the truth!  And even in our day, there is still such a thing as absolute truth. 

The question remains: how does this issue play into the election of a Chief Executive in 2012?  Tune in later this week.

Categories: 2012 Presidential Election, Cults, politics | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Advice for a Young Preacher Preaching His First Sermon

The greatest fear for the majority of people is that of public speaking—and that counts for young ministers as well. While the heart may be on fire to preach God’s Word, once it’s settled that there will be a time and place to actually preach that Word, a lot of different emotions come to the fore.  I want to share with you some brief thoughts on how to approach this momentous preaching event!

  1. Pray!  (Colossians 4:2-4)
  2. Prepare! (Ezra 7:10)
  3. Process!  Give the sermon that God gave you time to process in your mind (Mark 6:30-34)
  4. Don’t apologize about this being your first time (Romans 1:16-17). 
  5. Remember your ultimate audience is Christ, and that the congregation is ultimately secondary (Colossians 1:24-29). 
  6. Don’t work to impress your listeners (see #5).
  7. Seek wise counsel about your sermon.  There is nothing unspiritual about getting advice on how something sounds and if that something is doctrinally true and makes sense (Proverbs 15:22).
  8. Be who God made you to be.  We already have a John MacArthur and every other preacher on the scene.  God called you with the personality and the gifts he bestowed on you (1 Corinthians 15:10). 
  9. Know that not everyone will respond well, even to the most faithful of sermons (Acts 19:21-41).
  10. Sleep well when it’s done (Isaiah 55:10-11).
Categories: preaching | 3 Comments