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Monthly Archives: October 2018

So many Christians today, in their zeal to give love to others, unknowingly (or willingly) give their support to sin and sinful behavior. Instead of doing the sinner a favor by bringing them closer to God, the Christian does them harm - and displeases God - by encouraging them to sin.

I'm pretty sure many of us aren't aware that we are already doing it. To help all of us avoid supporting sin in the name of the Lord, here are a few ways Christians support sin "in the name of love."

1) By downplaying the dangers of sin

Christians encourage unbelievers and believers in sin alike to keep sinning by downplaying or ignoring the dangerous effects of sin in our lives.

Sin affects our relationship with God in a bad way. Sin destroys what testimony we have. Sin destroys our lives, not to mention steals our resources and robs us of our peace. People in sin need to be told and reminded of this.

We can't turn a blind eye to the dangers of sin and expect not to fall into a ditch. If we, however, see the dangers of sin but fail to warn others about it, we are to be blamed for their fall as well.

"Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." (James 4:17)

2) By focusing only on God's love for sinners

So many Christians today are so eager to share the love of God without even knowing it. They are quick to say "God loves you" to others, not realizing that their intention to spread God's love could backfire and give people a license to keep sinning. Let me explain.

When we approach people in sin but do not address the sin they are doing, and instead just keep telling them "God loves you," they might think, "if God loves me even if I'm in sin, what's the point of stopping it?"

The Gospel is a very offensive message. 1 Corinthians 1:18 tells us,

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

We cannot focus on just one aspect of God's person and preach it to be His totality. People need to know that He is holy, righteous, and just. We should keep that in mind, too.

3) By playing "nice Christian" to those who are caught in sin

Lastly, when we play "nice Christian" to people who are caught in sin, we actually give them the message that we don't care if they're sinning.

There are a variety of ways to play "nice Christian" to others:

  • There's the politically-correct Christian who avoids telling people what they don't like to hear about sin (see 2 Timothy 4:3)
  • There's the friendly Christian who will be in fellowship with those who are not following the Lord (see 2 Corinthians 6:14-15)
  • There's the timid Christian who won't ever dare to say what God says in His Word because he is afraid or not confident of himself before God (see 2 Timothy 1:7)

Such "nice" Christians give people the impression that sin is tolerable and allowable, even acceptable, before God. This is wrong and should be corrected.

Posted in Spiritual Growth |

The order of events of creation recorded in Genesis 1 contradicts (at very many points) the order of events according to the evolution story.

Many Christians think that if we just take each of the days of creation as being figurative of long ages (hundreds of millions of years or more), we can harmonize the Bible with the big bang and the geological evidence for a very old earth. But this only seems reasonable to those who pay insufficient attention to the order of events according to Genesis chapter 1 and the order of events according to evolution theory.

This old-earth view of the days is often called the “day-age” view and is an aspect of both progressive creationism and theistic evolution. There are many strong biblical objections to the day-age view. First, the Bible gives us abundant evidence that the days were intended by God (the divine author) and Moses (the human author) to be understood as literal 24-hour days (see Could God Really Have Created Everything in Six Days?).

Second, along with the gap theoryframework hypothesis (PDF) and other old-earth positions, the day-age view postulates millions of years of death, disease, violence and extinction in the animal world long before man was created. But this absolutely contradicts the Bible’s teaching about sin and death occurring after man was created (see Two histories of death).

Furthermore, like these other old-earth views, the day-age view is based on the false assumption that science has proven long ages through such things as (1) radiometric dating methods (see Thousands . . . Not Billions), (2) distant starlight (Light-Travel Time: A Problem for the Big Bang and Distant Starlight) and (3) how long it supposedly takes for rock layers to form (Rapid Rocks). These old-earth views developed about 200 years ago as Christians abandoned the orthodox young-earth view that dominated the first 1,800 years of church history (see Historical Setting and Millions of Years: Where Did the Idea Come From?).

Here in this article, I want to discuss another problem for the day-age view: the order of events of creation recorded in Genesis 1 contradicts (at very many points) the order of events according to the evolution story. That means that even if you don’t believe in Darwinian evolution as an explanation of the origin of living things, the only way you can harmonize Genesis with the idea of millions of years is by rearranging the order of events in Genesis.

Consider these examples of contradictions of order.

 

By Dr. Terry Mortenson of Answers in Genesis

 

EvolutionGenesis
Sun before EarthEarth before Sun
Dry land before seaSea before dry land
Atmosphere before seasSea before atmosphere
Sun before light on EarthLight on Earth before Sun
Stars before EarthEarth before stars
Earth at the same time as planetsEarth before other planets
Sea creatures before land plantsLand plants before Sea Creatures
Earthworms before starfishStarfish before earthworms
Land animals before treesTrees before land animals
Death before manMan before death
Thorns and Thistles before manMan before thorns and thistles
TB pathogens & cancer before man (Dinosaurs had TB and cancer)Man before TB pathogens and cancer
Reptiles before birdsBirds before reptiles
Land mammals before whalesWhales before land animals
Simple plants before fruit treesFruit trees before other plants*
Insects before mammalsMammals (Cattle or domestic animals) before “creeping things”*
Land mammals before batsBats before land animals
Dinosaurs before birdsBirds before dinosaurs
Insects before flowering plantsFlowering plants before insects
Sun before plantsPlants before sun
Dinosaurs before dolphinsDolphins before dinosaurs
Land reptiles before pterosaursPterosaurs before land reptiles
Land insects before flying insectsFlying insects before land insects

To put it pictorially, you can see the contradictions here:

order

We need to be aware of one more important point of contradiction. The Bible says that the earth was completely covered with water twice in its history—the first two days of creation (before dry land first appeared) and then about 1,600 years later during Noah’s Flood.

But evolution says that there has never been a global ocean on this planet. Evolution says that the earth was originally a hot, molten lava ball which over millions of years cooled to develop a hard crust and an atmosphere. Eventually the earth developed an irregular topography (hills and valleys) and rainfall gradually filled in some of the low spots to form localized seas.

Just so there is no confusion about this, look at this series of pictures from a geology book produced by the Institute of Geological Sciences in London, England (an evolutionist institution).

order_geology

Next to these pictures on the same page the author writes:

Condensation of part of the vast cloud of cold dust and gas that gave rise to the Solar System initially formed a molten Earth surrounded by a thick and dense atmosphere of cosmic gases . . . made up largely of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide . . . As the globe slowly cooled, crystallisation of minerals . . . began to make a crust . . . to build a new atmosphere . . . water vapour condensed and fell as rain . . . the first oceans collected in low-lying areas . . . 1

Dr. Hugh Ross, a progressive creationist, was badly uninformed when he told viewers of TV program seven of The Great Debate on the John Ankerberg Show (aired in March 2006) that in the standard big bang cosmology: “the earth begins with water over the whole surface.” Dr. Ross is simply wrong.

For all these reasons and more, you cannot harmonize the Bible with millions of years, no matter where you try to wedge in the time into Genesis—unless you rearrange the text by moving verses and phrases around to radically change the order of events in Genesis 1. But that is not the way to treat the Bible. That is not Bible interpretation—rather it is Bible mutilation, to make it say what “evolutionized” Christians want it to say.

The Bible clearly teaches a literal six-day creation a few thousand years ago and a global catastrophic Flood at the time of Noah. The Bible firmly resists any attempts to marry it with evolution and millions of years. Rather than playing fast and loose with the sacred text, we ought to heed the words of Isaiah 66:2, where God says:

For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.

Footnotes:

Footnotes

  1. John Thackray, The Age of the Earth (London: Institute of Geological Sciences, 1980), 21.
  2. Article by: Dr. Terry Mortenson of Answers in Genesis. Original article HERE

The Bible is your daily life playbook, not an outdated relic to be kept on a shelf.

According to LifeWay Research, more than half of Americans have read little to none of the Bible. About 30 percent look up things in the Bible only when they need to. And less than a quarter have any kind of systematic plan for reading the Bible on a daily basis. Some, about 17 percent, simply flip it open to read a passage at random. 

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There is perhaps no more hotly debated issue in the church today than the issue of women serving as pastors/preachers. As a result, it is very important to not see this issue as men versus women. There are women who believe women should not serve as pastors and that the Bible places restrictions on the ministry of women, and there are men who believe women can serve as preachers and that there are no restrictions on women in ministry. This is not an issue of chauvinism or discrimination. It is an issue of biblical interpretation.

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Posted in Preaching | Tagged , , , |

I have been following Steven for about a year now, just to see what sort of stuff the man really preaches about, if you look deep enough you will find that its a self-centered gospel that is more about focusing on what the people want to hear, rather than the complete Word of God.

Below is a collection of material we have found that may be helpful to fully understand what is going on here.

Unqualified, Not Worthy

“Unqualified.”

That was John MacArthur’s one-word assessment of Steven Furtick during a Q&A session at the 2012 Shepherds’ Conference.

It’s also the title of Furtick’s latest book. Furtick credits that brief appraisal of his ministry as the inspiration for writing this:

“Unqualified.” . . . Unqualified?

That word started the wheels spinning in my head. . . . Yes, I struggle with my temper, with my focus, with my motives, with my eating habits, with my prayer life, with my state of mind. And that list doesn’t even scratch the surface.

I know my weaknesses and faults better than anyone. I don’t need to listen to an online interview to feel disqualified. Hardly a day goes by that I’m not seized by the sensation that I have no business doing what I’m doing. That I’m in over my head. That I don’t deserve any of my blessings or opportunities.

Am I unqualified? This book is the answer to that question. [1]

Furtick’s certainly asking the right question. But the answer doesn’t lie in chronicling one’s own journey of self-discovery and self-evaluation. Pastoral qualifications aren’t a mystery—they’ve been clearly and definitively spelled out in Scripture.

I was in the room during the aforementioned Q&A session. For me and the thousands of pastors, church leaders, and seminary students in attendance, John MacArthur’s answer was an obvious reference to the qualifications for “overseers” detailed in 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:5–9.

In those passages Paul describes the clear line of distinction between those who are qualified to be Bible teachers, and those who aren’t:

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity . . . and not a new convert. . . . And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church. (1 Timothy 3:2–7)

A more detailed discussion of those requirements can be found here.

But such detailed analysis isn’t necessary when it comes to Unqualifed. Furtick proves MacArthur’s point by not addressing or even referring to those biblical requirements. It is frankly astounding that in a book ostensibly defending Furtick’s qualifications that Timothy and Titus are nowhere to be found!

This oversight is glaring—either Furtick doesn’t know or doesn’t care what it means to be biblically qualified.

Instead he chooses to go down the road of subjectivity: “When I started the journey that lies behind this book, I wanted to finally figure out how to respond to that question within myself” (emphasis added). [2] And true to that assertion, Furtick almost exclusively relies on his own opinions and experience to argue his case in Unqualified.

He describes a church leader as primarily “a decision maker, a risktaker [sic].” [3] But that baseless definition is as far as Furtick goes in discussing qualifications specific to church leaders. The rest of the book has a much broader application:

At one point or another, you’ve probably felt unqualified. . . . I think we all secretly fight feelings of inadequacy, insufficiency, and incompetence. We wonder whether we really measure up. We fear we are not “enough”—whatever that means in our particular situations. [4]

That quote captures Unqualified’s utter failure to answer the questions regarding Furtick’s qualification—in that sense, he sidesteps his own purpose statement.

Moreover, in that one paragraph, Furtick encapsulates the three major problems that permeate his entire book. First, subjective feelings replace Scripture as the true test of qualification (“felt,” “feelings,” “wonder,” “fear”). Second, biblical qualifications are narrowly applied to pastors and elders. But Furtick dilutes that critical point by broadening the target audience to everyone (“you’ve,” “we all,” “we”). And third, Furtick confuses the state of being unqualified with the feeling of unworthiness (“feelings of inadequacy, insufficiency, and incompetence”).

The fact is, all of us are unworthy. No true Christian is going to argue against that point. Our unworthiness isn’t revealed by our feelings—it’s spelled out in the pages of Scripture. The Bible concludes that all men are sinners (Romans 3:23) and worthy of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:3). Our unworthiness actually magnifies God’s love (Romans 5:8) and makes His grace amazing. After all, grace is unmerited favor—if we were worthy of God’s favor then grace wouldn’t be grace at all.

Instead, Furtick seems intent on eradicating those feelings of unworthiness. He also departs from the biblical remedy of repentance and faith in favor of self-esteem therapy. When discussing God’s revelation of Himself to Moses as “I Am,” Furtick somehow finds a way to make it about us:

Perhaps God was sending Moses—and each of us—a message: don’t skip over the I am. Don’t flippantly fill in the blank of who you are. . . .

How would you complete the sentence “I am ____”? How would you fill in that blank? How would you describe yourself? It’s not as easy as it sounds.

When you go to church, usually you’re given a lot of handles on who God is. You’ll hear about his love, holiness, justice, and goodness. . . . Of course, this is of supreme importance.

But often we don’t know who we are. . . . See, it’s one thing to know who God is to you, but who are you to you? Maybe you can describe and define God, but does that sync up with how you describe and define yourself? [5]

I won’t even try to exegete that psychobabble. But it is worth noting that rather than focusing on the character and nature of God, Furtick makes those glorious truths merely the backdrop for his man-centered emphasis.

The answer to our lack of qualification, according to Unqualified, is to fill in that blank with the right “third word”—I am ____. In fact Furtick’s third words form the central theme of his book.

He even devotes several pages to an "I am" self-evaluation, complete with twelve categories of who we are. The confessional options he suggests for describing sexuality are particularly disturbing: “I am straight. I am gay. I am lesbian. I am bisexual. I am unsure . . .” [6] Furtick just leaves the possibilities of sexual identity hanging without any explanation or evaluation.

But what he does make clear is that negative perceptions of ourselves are dangerous. They can hinder our discovery of the self-esteem God desires for us. And that’s where Furtick’s journey of self-discovery also doubles as a message of gospel inversion.

“An intolerance of your weakness will make it hard to be content with the real you.” [7] Third words like “sinful” and “unworthy” are equated with “[giving] up on yourself.” [8] Readers are encouraged “to figure out who you really are and to value the real you as much as God does.” [9] And if Furtick is to be believed, God values us a lot: “God believes in you” and desires to say “I love everything there is to know about you.” [10]

Big problem. All of those quotes should be red flags for anyone with a basic understanding of the gospel. And because Furtick continually fails to distinguish between believers and unbelievers (the terms he uses to identify one's spirituality don’t clarify anything: “I am Catholic. I am an atheist. I am agnostic. I am Christian . . .” [11]), he offers dangerous comfort to people who are bound for hell. Moreover, by never advocating confession and repentance of sin, he points those who are under conviction of sin away from the only path to forgiveness (Luke 13:1–5; Acts 17:30; 1 John 1:9).

Throughout Unqualified there is no sense of sin’s eternal penalty, man’s depravity, or the true source of man’s value in God’s eyes. We’re not all special snowflakes, inherently precious and valuable. Instead, our true value as God’s people lies only in the immense price Christ paid to purchase redemption for unworthy sinners: “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life . . . but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18–19; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:23).

So not only does Furtick completely miss the point of John MacArthur’s critique, he is also tone deaf to the clear instruction of Scripture. In fact, his handling of Scripture in Unqualified only serves to further prove John’s point.

A pastor must be “able to teach” God’s Word (1 Timothy 3:2), laboring “in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17), and “a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

On that point alone, Steven Furtick supplies us with ample proof that he is unqualified to stand in a pulpit and has no business shepherding the flock of God.

“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).

Posted in Theological Dangers |

Courtesy of Frank Powell at ChurchLeaders.com.

This was fairly lengthy, so I thought it best to compile it a little easier for our readers...

What if certain Christian values we equate with following Jesus aren’t actually Christian?

Like it or not, culture shapes our picture of Jesus.

If we don’t identify false stigmas and misconceptions, we will devote time and energy cultivating a virtue that isn’t Christian.

I hate disclaimers, but what follows deserves one. The virtues below aren’t evil. I’m not asking you to avoid them. I am asking you to think seriously about what it means to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Here are eight Christian virtues that aren’t really Christian.

1.) Niceness

I can’t help but wonder what we would think about Jesus in modern-day America.

We’re talking about a guy who called one of his closest friends Satan. He talked disrespectfully to religious leaders. Nice wouldn’t be the first word I would use.

Was Jesus kind? Absolutely. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. Here’s the problem, though. Niceness and kindness aren’t interchangeable.

Nice is cheap. It costs you nothing. Nice avoids tension and always strokes your ego, even if Ray Charles could see you’re wrong.

Niceness is NOT next to godliness.

Kindness, however, tells you what you need to hear. It won’t stroke your ego because you’re awesome. Kindness loves you too much for that. The seeds of kindness are planted in the soil of love. From this rich earth comes real tension. But the end result is a fruitful life.

I wonder how many friends Jesus would have in an overly sensitive culture where ego stroking is a national pastime?

I know Jesus would infuriate me. For much of my life, I equated niceness with godliness. Good friends would never call me out, I thought. Good Christians wouldn’t either.

But I struggle to equate niceness with godliness when I read the Gospels. Maybe we need more Christian like Jesus. Maybe we need more friends like Jesus. I know I do.

2.) Always say 'Yes'

When Tiffani and I graduated college, we immediately plugged into a local church. For the first two years, we said yes to everything.

“Will you lead a prayer in worship Sunday?”

Yes.

“We’re short a few volunteers. Will you help out at the food pantry?”

Yes.

“Will you housesit our cats?”

No. I don’t do cats. Neither does Jesus.

Good Christians were servants, I thought. They never say no. They’re “yes men (and women)”…for Jesus.

While you should serve your local church, the weight of “yes” can (and will) cripple you. For those who say “yes” too often, you feel this weight.

Here’s why. Oftentimes, we say yes because we want to feel needed. It’s about approval, not servanthood.

Saying no to a volunteer opportunity is hard. Saying no to a toxic friendship is painful. Saying no to peer pressure, negativity, temptation and abuse, all of these are hard.

But let’s not bow down to the god of yes. This god takes everything and gives nothing.

3.) Perfect church attendance

I’m still healing from years of unhealthy exposure to this false Christian virtue. Faithful Christians didn’t miss worship. Ever. They never missed small group. They didn’t miss any church function. Period.

Gathering with Christians matters, of course. But it’s very possible to have perfect church attendance and know very little about God. Much like perfect school attendance doesn’t guarantee good grades.

God is much more concerned with the condition of your heart than the location of your butt.

4.) Following the rules

I grew up equating rule following with Christ following. Good Christians didn’t break rules. They didn’t miss curfew, cheat on tests or drink alcohol. Oh, and they didn’t curse or have tattoos.

A perfect driving record doesn’t qualify you as a Christian any more than an alcohol addiction disqualifies you.

Besides, some rules need to be broken. They’re faulty and oppressive. Rather than equating righteousness with rule-following, let’s equate righteousness with Jesus.

5.) Never doubting or questioning God

Growing up, doubting God or questioning the Bible was disrespectful at best, and blasphemous at worst.

Because of this, my faith journey was framed by an unhealthy picture of God. In my mind, God was this divine being with an enormous limb (probably one he picked from The Tree of Life). Positioned like a power hitter in baseball, He waited for someone to question him so he could smash you over the left-field wall.

Then, in college, doubt chiseled away at my faith. I wasn’t sure how to process the hard questions. I couldn’t talk to God. He was mad. I couldn’t talk to other Christians. They would tell me to pray harder.

Then I found a life-saving book. Psalms.

Psalms painted a different picture of God. Faithful men doubted and spoke “matter-of-factly” to God. He didn’t destroy them. He walked with them. He was patience and understanding.

I still question and doubt. The God of love allows space for this. He stays with me through it, and celebrates when I reach the other side.

If your God doesn’t allow room for doubt, He’s not worth serving.

Christians with doubts and questions aren’t lacking faith. In fact, I would say doubt is an unavoidable by-product of growing closer to an infinitely powerful and knowledgeable God.

6.) Knowledgeable about the Bible

When I worked in youth ministry, I traveled a lot. Before loading the bus, everyone had an opportunity to pull the trigger on shotgun. But, to be honest, I only wanted one person to call it. Why? I had a Bible trivia app and no one else competed with me.

I could name every judge and pair people with weird, random facts. I knew the Bible.

But this isn’t surprising, right? Faithful Christians know their Bible.

Well…that depends.

The apostle Paul says knowledge puffs up but loves builds up. My Christian journey proves this verse true.

Knowledge alone is quite dangerous, actually.

I look back on my Bible trivia days. While I rarely lost, my reward for winning was a crown of pride.

Jesus flipped the model of righteousness and holy living. Faithful Christians might know their Bible. But if your Bible knowledge doesn’t compel you to serve your neighbor, you’re missing something. Great students are great servants.

7.) Promptness

While we’re here, let’s include other members of the squad. Organized. Efficient. Go-getter. #squad

Granted, being on time can show concern and respect for the person you’re meeting.

But promptness isn’t a Christian virtue. If Jesus lived in modern-day America, I’m not sure he would appreciate our infatuation with “to-do lists” and punctuality. We’re talking about a guy who arrived late to scheduled appointments, and on one occasion, his “lateness” resulted in a man’s death, Lazarus. Beggars and tax collectors distracted Jesus. He changed plans without warning.

Promptness might be good practice in America, but it isn’t a Christian virtue.

I’ve heard passive-aggressive comments about being late for worship all my life. I’ve made them myself. While punctuality is good practice in America, it’s not a barometer for godliness or devotion to God.

8.) Expressive and Emotional

I’m an emotional guy. I cry often. Don’t judge me. I also lift my hands and move around when I worship.

Real Christians are expressive, I used to think. But spending time with Christians who aren’t expressive revealed something different, a deep love for Jesus. On the flip side, I’ve spent time with expressive, emotional Christians and found them to be bored and dry. Expressive, emotional behavior can reveal passion, but not necessarily.

Let’s be careful not to make our perspective the perspective. God is infinitely creative. So are His people.

How about you? Can you think of something going on today that Jesus would not agree with to add to this list?