Three Christian Leadership Failures

September 22, 2014

Title: Three Christian Leadership Failures
Text: 1 Peter 3:15
Time: September 20th, 2014

 
We’ve seen an unprecedented decline in Christian values in our American culture over the last few years, and this is best illustrated in the rapid acceptance of the idea of “gay” marriage by the citizens of the U.S. In the midst of this moral freefall we might ask the question, “Where have the Christian leaders been during this unheard of moral drop?” Sadly, we must answer that they’ve been largely silent, sometimes purposefully so. For example, a few years ago after President Barack Obama – a leading advocate for cultural moral decline with his full support of so-called same-sex marriage – after he won re-election, he called upon an evangelical minister, one Louie Giglio, to pray the inaugural prayer; Giglio agreed to do it. But before the event, reporters learned that Giglio, being an evangelical preacher, had spoken against homosexuality in a sermon once that was recorded on audiotape. It became somewhat of a controversy, since Obama is in favor of gay rights and gay marriage and everything gay. It finally reached the point where Giglio decided to decline the invitation to pray at the President’s event after all, and therefore forfeited an opportunity to bear witness to the truth of God in the public square. Another example of Christian leadership failure over the last couple of years was World Vision president Richard Stearns, who led his Christian charitable organization to change its corporate policy to allow for employees in so-called same-sex relationships. This caused such an outcry within the evangelical Christian community that World Vision soon reversed the policy decision, reinstating its usual ban on immoral sexual relationships. And finally, there’s the example of evangelical Christian athlete Tim Tebow, who was scheduled to speak at a Baptist church in Texas, but who quickly declined and back out of the speaking engagement after news reports classified the church as “anti-gay” because the pastor had preached against the sin of homosexuality. All three of these men are leaders in the sense that other Christians look up to them, yet all three failed to bear witness to the truth of God as taught in the Bible as part of the Christian faith, because of pressure brought against them by the secular world. All three Christian leaders capitulated to the spirit of the age and cowardly backed away from fighting the good fight of faith. No wonder the Christian community is confused on how to deal with the rapidly declining general culture. No wonder that Christians everywhere are divided on basic moral issues such as abortion and homosexuality. If leaders can’t even find the courage to stand for the truth of God in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, how can the average Christian be expected to stand? No. We need godly Christian leaders who know the truth and are willing to stand for it no matter what. Then, other Christians will stand strong as well when they see the example of the leaders. Let’s look at how not to lead, how not to be a Christian leader, in the hope that by seeing examples of failures we might strive for success. Read the rest of this entry »

Is It Ok To Spank A Child?

September 22, 2014

Title: Is It Ok To Spank A Child?
Text: Proverbs 22:15, 13:24, 29:15
Time: September 19, 2014

 
The subject of disciplining a child through the use of corporal punishment has come up in the news recently due to a professional football players use of it in spanking his child. Adrian Peterson was suspended from football over an instance where he spanked his child that left marks on the boy. It’s not known what kind of marks where left on his son, if they were superficial or deeper, but no matter what, the topic of child disciplining has become a topic of conversation around the nation as a result of the news reports. When I first heard the news I was surprised that it even was news, but then I realized that we live in a time where more and more people, led by academics, professionals and so-called experts, are telling us that all forms of physical punishment are inappropriate. I’ve seen the trend against spanking growing over the years, but now it’s so strong that professional athletes are getting suspended from playing for spanking their child. That’s incredible. But it’s not just experts, professionals and academics that are leading the way against spanking as a form of child discipline, there are even today entire nations that have outlawed it entirely – for example, in Europe in Sweden, it’s against the law for parents to spank their kid. It’s moving in that direction here in the United States as well. I’ve even heard Christians say that it’s not good to spank your child. What I’m seeing is a lot of confusion on the subject, when really there need not be. The Bible is very clear on the subject of spanking, for example in the Proverbs, the wisdom literature of the Bible, that appropriate spanking of a child is not harmful, but in fact helpful in teaching them right from wrong. Proverb 23:13-14says, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” The reference to “the rod” is simply a phrase for “switch” or “paddle” or some other harmless instrument of punishment. It isn’t a reference to anything that would actually harm or injure the child. Yet people today seek to ban all use of physical force in disciplining a child. The may think of something akin to the adult punishment practiced in such countries as Singapore, where “caning” is used as a form of punishment to deter crime. An adult is strapped to a post and a bamboo can is used to swat them across the backside. But this is entirely different from loving parents disciplining their children through the use of corporal punishment – or spanking. There needs some intelligent teaching on the subject of spanking, so I intend to do so with this message. I don’t have time to cover all the verses in the Bible about spanking and disciplining children, but I’ll review a few. Hopefully, by the end, we’ll come to see that there is a legitimate place for spanking in raising children. Read the rest of this entry »

Beware of Some Fundamentalist Churches 3

July 7, 2014

Title: Beware of Some Fundamentalist Churches 3
Text: Matthew 22:37-38, John 17:15-18, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
Time: July 7th, 2014

 
In the last two messages I shared my experiences with pasturing a small, protestant evangelical Baptist church near a large independent fundamentalist mega-church. I mentioned that my brush with fundamentalism was highly educational and opened my eyes to a different form of Christianity than I had been accustomed. I grew up in a protestant main-line denominational church, converted to evangelical Christianity in my late teens, and went on to attend a Christian college and seminary in preparation for pastoral ministry. In the denominational church of my childhood, I experienced an emphasis on friendly tolerance and diversity of belief and behavior (a bit too much latitude I’d say, especially for behaviors and beliefs outside of biblical boundaries). In my experience with independent fundamentalism I encountered the very opposite – strict intolerance of any beliefs and behaviors that didn’t conform to the leader’s narrow vision of Christianity. Now to be fair, the fundamentalist mega-church in my area, the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana was more or less biblically Christian, except that it felt especially called to define and determine every detail of Christian belief and behavior. And it separated itself from every other type of Christian that didn’t believe and behave the same thing. For example, First Baptist church leaders taught separation – not separation from the sinful world, but separation from other Christians who didn’t believe and behave like they taught. And not only that, they separated even from Christians who did believe and behave like they taught, except who didn’t separate from other Christians the way they thought they should separate. Does that make sense? If it doesn’t, don’t worry, because it doesn’t make sense anyway. I’ve already listed a number of things to beware of when dealing with some of these types of independent fundamentalist churches, so I won’t go back over that ground. But today I’d like to mention three more broad, general themes that I find in a number of independent fundamentalist churches that we need to be aware of and avoid. They is, one, anti-intellectualism, or in other words, opposition to the mind, to thinking deeply about things, and a mistrust of learning and education. Two, there is an anti-culture attitude that shows itself in the tendency to be excessively counter-cultural. And third, there is an anti-charismatic attitude towards Christians who believe in the continued gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in the church today. I believe all three of these general tendencies are wrong and I want to point out why in this message today. Hopefully, we can equip ourselves to think biblically in these areas, and believe and act as authentic Christians. Let me explain further. Read the rest of this entry »

Beware of Some Fundamentalist Churches 2

July 7, 2014

Title: Beware of Some Fundamentalist Churches 2
Text: Acts 15:28-29, 1 Samuel 14:24, Mark 7:13
Time: July 6th, 2014

 
Last time I talked about my experience as a young pastor in South Chicago, Illinois living and ministering near the large First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. For the two years I pastored the church in South Chicago I informally interacted with the Hammond church – I rubbed shoulders with its members, I attended a couple Pastor’s School conferences there, I attended a few Sunday night church services, I read a few of Pastor Jack Hyles’ books, and generally tried to learn as much as I could about anything that could help me in my church ministry. After I moved on from the small Chicago church after a couple of years I lost track of the First Baptist Church of Hammond as I focused on other things in my ministry. But during the two or three year period I was pastoring in Chicago I became somewhat familiar with this large fundamentalist mega-church, and even though I ultimately didn’t adopt its ministry style, I did appreciate a few things I saw there. I think the thing I liked most about First Baptist was its unashamed conviction for the fundamentals of the Christian faith. When Jack Hyles preached you knew he believed what he taught and it caused you to firm up your own convictions toward the faith. So the biggest thing I walked away from in connection with First Baptist Church was its strong conviction that stirred strong conviction in me towards Christian truth. The world constantly tears down Christianity, but it’s nice to go some place, or hear someone, with strong Christian convictions that isn’t afraid to say so! I appreciated that. Yes, this can lead to being overly dogmatic, but a lack of it can also lead to being wishy-washy also. Another thing I took away from my contact with First Baptist Church was the seriousness of church ministry. Hyles and the church leaders and volunteer workers were very dedicated and serious about evangelism and discipleship. This wasn’t fun and games; this was hard work, and they were willing to put in long hours and wear themselves out for the Lord’s work. That inspired me to do the same in my ministry. Yes, this can lead to excessive physical, mental and spiritual burnout, and that’s always a temptation. In fact, Jack Schaap, who followed Hyles as Pastor of First Baptist Church, who ran into legal trouble for having sexual contact with a minor, in his court case sited burnout as a contributing factor for his poor judgment in involving himself in sexual immorality. So for every positive characteristic I saw at First Baptist Church I could think of a negative opposite characteristic that could cause trouble. But I don’t want to give the impression that there aren’t positives to my experience with independent fundamentalist churches, there are. There are just negatives that people need to be warned about, to beware. Here are three more warnings. Read the rest of this entry »

Beware of Some Fundamdentalist Churches 1

July 7, 2014

Title: Beware of Some Fundamentalist Churches 1
Text: John 7:50-52, Acts 12:21-23, Romans 12:18
Time: July 5th, 2014

 
I happened to be surfing the Internet the other day and I stumbled upon an article about a fundamentalist Christian pastor who was tried, convicted and sentenced to twelve years in prison for sexual immorality. His name was Jack Schaap and he used to be a pastor at the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. How do I know about Jack Schaap? Because as a young pastor in South Chicago, Illinois during the late 80’s I became aware of First Baptist Church of Hammond through their evangelism outreach program in South Chicago. Every Saturday the area would be saturated with First Baptist Church buses recruiting kids for Sunday school in Hammond, Indiana. Eventually I thought I’d better check out this church that was covering so much territory, even reaching up to Chicago and beyond. So I attended what is called Pastor’s School for three days at the church in Hammond. It was there I saw and heard the main pastor Jack Hyles and his assistant pastor Jack Schaap. As I watched and listened as they explained their ministry methods I was impressed with some of the things they were doing, but also bothered by some other things they were doing. I walked away with mixed feelings about First Baptist Church of Hammond. On the one hand there’s no question they were reaching a lot of people, especially children, with the gospel of Jesus Christ. And not only that, they were discipling these converts every week in Sunday. So it wasn’t they just prayed a prayer, baptized them and then left the converts alone. They followed up and really tried to train them in Christian living. On the other hand, the church came across as overly dogmatic on doctrine, excessively authoritarian in leadership, and unnecessarily divisive towards other Christians and churches in attitude. I concluded that Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap and the other leaders at the church were definitely doing many good things – things that I’d like to incorporate into my Christian ministry. But the way they were going about doing many of these good things wasn’t good – and I concluded that I definitely didn’t want to follow them in their methods. So as a young minister I didn’t go in the direction of independent fundamentalism, but rather moved in the direction of biblical evangelicalism. Looking back, I believe I made the right decision because as it turns out, both the main pastor Jack Hyles (he’s since died) and his assistant Jack Schaap were found guilty of sexual immorality (Schaap became the main pastor after Hyles death, but was removed and sent to jail for his sins). But it wasn’t just these pastors problems that led to their downfall, it was the whole church culture they built that really caused the problems. That’s why I offer a few warnings to people about independent fundamentalist churches. Not all or even most fundamentalist churches are dangerous, but some are, so that is why I’m warning people based on my observations and experience with First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. Hopefully, my words can spare others the same problems some independent fundamentalist churches produce. Read the rest of this entry »

God’s Not Dead (Or Else We Wouldn’t Be Here Talking About Him)

April 30, 2014

Title: God’s Not Dead (Or Else We Wouldn’t Be Here Talking About Him)
Text: Genesis 1:1, Psalm 14:1, Proverbs 1:7
Time: March 28th, 2014

A movie was recently released called “God’s Not Dead,” which is based on the story of a young college student who was challenged by his atheist professor to prove God’s existence. The movie (I haven’t seen it yet) is about how this student responded to the atheist’s challenge. Now the statement “God is not dead” might also be a response to the famous Time magazine cover in the 60s that proclaimed the death of God. An article written inside covered the so-called “Death of God” theologians like William Hamilton, Thomas Altizer and other, who wrote that in the new secular world God has been put to death through modern science and the modern worldview. Nietzsche, the famous German atheist philosopher, wrote extensively on how the western world had put God to death through its rationalism. Obviously, what these philosophers and theologians are talking about isn’t that God has literally been put to death, but rather that the idea of God has been gradually dying in the consciousness of men and women for a long time. While belief in God remains fairly high, the reality of God’s actual presence in the lives of men and women today is indeed low. It seems that more and more people today are willing to live their lives as if God were dead, as if God were unnecessary, as if atheism were true. Now few people would actually profess atheism – that takes a certain type of person with a lot of fight in them, and also, I might add, a pretty big ego, seeing that an atheist must believe that while the vast majority of people in the world, 90 plus percent, is wrong about the question of God, he alone is right. However, most people, it seems today, are perfectly willing to live almost as if God didn’t exist. And that is becoming more common with every passing year. Now in tackling the question of whether God exists or not there are different ways to come at the question. Some people approach the question of God from the standpoint of assumptions and presuppositions. In other words, whether for theism (the belief in one God) or atheism (the disbelieve in God), we must all either assume that God is or that God isn’t just to even begin a conversation on the subject. Yes, there are those called agnostics who claim they can’t tell whether there is a God or not, so they supposedly sit on the philosophical and theological fence waiting for more evidence either way. But I’ve found that agnostics are usually atheists who don’t know they are atheists, or don’t want to admit it. Now atheists usually assert that believers in God must assume that God exists, but they, atheists, come to their position by reason and reflection. Therefore, they claim, it’s more reasonable to not believe in God than to believe in him. What I’d like to do today is show that we all have to assume that God exists, either consciously or subconsciously, in order to simply function in life. In other words, we’re all believers in God in one way or another, and that’s a pretty strong clue that God’s not dead. Read the rest of this entry »

Easter’s Not Over Yet – Some More Observations

April 30, 2014

Title: Easter’s Not Over Yet – Some More Observations
Text: Luke 22:59-60, 23:3-7, 12
Time: April 28, 2014

It always bothers me that culture turns the corner on holidays like Christmas and Easter so quickly. The day after these most famous Christian holidays and already people have moved on, moved past the special day. It’s too quick for me. Why? Because I’m still thinking Easter because of all that I’ve heard or seen during the holiday season. I can understand from a secular, commercial standpoint that stores would quickly take down their holiday signs and sales, and begin to look forward to the next upcoming advertising push; but for Christians and Christian churches it makes no sense. I’ve been known to give Christmas messages after Christmas, and Easter messages after Easter. I don’t always do it, but I feel again this year that things have just gone too fast, too soon after the holidays. So I’d like to deal once again with some Easter season issues. As I do every year I’m always on the look out for anything new that I can learn every holiday about something in the Bible concerning – if it’s Christmas, the birth of Jesus; if it’s Easter, something new about the death, burial or resurrection of Christ. Well, I wasn’t disappointed this year because I did in fact find a few things from the biblical text that I hadn’t noticed before. I was reading in my daily readings of the One Year Bible – which I encourage everyone to read from if you don’t have a daily Bible reading plan – and I stumbled upon a couple of new observations from the Gospel of Luke. One of the bad things about reading the One Year Bible readings is that they aren’t on schedule with the major holidays in the Christian calendar. There aren’t Christmas readings on Christmas day, and there isn’t a Easter reading on Easter Sunday. That’s one of the weaknesses of the One Year Bible, but it’s also one of its strengths on the other hand, because it schedules Christmas and Easter readings at other times of the year, reminding us of these great holidays all year round. Well, I’m reading along after Easter and I’m reading an Easter passage in the Gospel of Luke and I find three things new I hadn’t seen before. I’d like to talk about them this morning. First, there’s the possibility that Pontius Pilate is using sarcasm towards the Jews when he says, “I find no basis for a charge against this man (Jesus).” I’ll explain. Second, there’s a possible reference to territorial prejudice when people refer to Jesus and his disciples as from Galilee. And third, there’s the strange description of Pilate and Herod becoming friends after their dealings with Jesus. It’s not at all obvious why they would become friends, nor is there any further explanation why they became friends, only that they did so become friends afterwards. Let’s try to makes sense of these observations as we think some final thoughts about Easter 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

The Essence of Easter

April 23, 2014

Title: The Essence of Easter
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Time: April 21, 2014

If we were to boil the holiday of Easter down to its essential parts, what would they be? Or in other words, if we were to summarize the essence of Easter, how would we? It’s popular today for people to say to someone else, “Give me the short version,” or “Put it in simple terms for me,” or “Break it down for me.” What they mean is, “I don’t have a lot of time, so give it to me in a nutshell.” In our busy and fast paced world, we get used to commercials and salesmen and advertisements getting quickly to the point. We’re used to bite-sized presentations that take about thirty-seconds to one minute to get to the point. Well, today I’ve got a little more to say than thirty-seconds, but I’ll try to keep it under thirty minutes in length in getting to the point. After all, it is Easter today and we are celebrating the day, so let’s understand what the essence of Easter is in the process. What is the essence of Easter? Well, Easter is a little different than other holidays, for example, like Christmas, because Easter is really a combination of a number of things – it’s not all just one event. Think about it. With Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. But with Easter we are remembering three different things. First, we remember Christ’s death on the cross on Good Friday. That’s part of Easter. Then, we remember his entombment or burial for three days. Then, finally, on Easter proper, we remember his glorious resurrection on Sunday. So it’s not just one thing, like Christmas is mostly one thing, the birth of Jesus. Easter really encompasses three things, which I’d like to talk about this morning. Now it’s curious because sometimes people get the three things confused or get themselves out of sequence. Even churches sometimes get things mixed up at Easter time. For example, I’ve noticed lately that large mega-churches sometimes have Easter service on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to accompany the large crowds they anticipate during the Easter season. This approach makes it nice if you’re traveling to and fro visiting friends and family out of state. However, it does confuse things a little bit. For instance, some churches are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on Good Friday, which is normally the remembrance of Christ’s death on the cross and burial in the tomb. So if you skip his death and burial, or just right to his resurrection, you’ve got things out of sequences, and you’ve missed remembering the total holiday properly. Also, sometimes people wish each other “Happy Easter” on Good Friday, which again is technically rushing things and out of sequence. The mood of Good Friday is supposed to be markedly different than Easter Sunday. And so forth. This all happens because Easter is actually three different things we are remembering. Let’s talk about these three essential things using 1 Corinthians15:3-4 so we can remember the holiday in a richer way. Read the rest of this entry »

The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 3

April 23, 2014

Title: The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 3
Text: Psalm 22
Time: April 20, 2014

I said last time that I’d try to finish up the prophecies of Psalm 22 by going through any of the prophecies I might have missed in my first two messages. I’d like to go ahead and do that today by mentioning three more prophecies. But before I get into these I’d like to take a minute to point out what might indeed be a prophecy, although it’s a little hard to tell. It’s Psalm 22:9-10, “Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” Now the reason I say this section “might” be a prophecy of Christ is that the New Testament doesn’t say it’s a reference to Jesus – which doesn’t necessarily rule against it – but also, it isn’t specific enough to say with certainty that it could exclusively apply to Jesus Christ. It also isn’t dealing specifically with the crucifixion, as the other prophecies in this Psalm. But it could very well be a reference to Jesus because it talks a lot about birth, womb and his mother. Any Christian knows that these are familiar themes, not around Easter time but during the Christmas holiday – although they certainly apply to any time of the year, including Easter. Now why could this verse be talking about Jesus? Because as Messiah, he didn’t just appear out of nowhere; he was born of a virgin, as Isaiah 7:14 prophesied, so he had a mother, who we know as Mary. The Messiah was born of a woman, grew up and became an adult. That’s the uniqueness of the Incarnation. Again, something we celebrate more at Christmas than at Easter, but is perfectly appropriate to mention anytime. Is this a reference or veiled prophecy of Christ? Possibly, although it’s not nearly as clear as the other prophecies in the chapter. I mention it here in passing because I need to do some more exploring, reading and studying on it before I put it definitely in the category of prophecy. Yes, much of it applies to Christ, but then again, it could apply to others as well. We’ll leave it an open question for now. But the other three passages I’ll be looking at today I’m very confident are prophetic passages. First, there’s the verse in Psalm 22:6 that says, “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.” There’s a lot of prophetic messianic material here. Second, there’s the sentence in Psalm 22:14 that states, “My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.” Now at first this might not seem significant, but as I’ll explain later, it has great importance in connection with Christ’s death. Finally, three, there’s the verse in Psalm 22:17 that goes, “People stare and gloat at me.” Again, this is pretty obvious in relation to the whole crucifixion scene. But I’ll talk more about it shortly. Having gone over the main prophetic verses found in Psalm 22 in the last two messages, today I’ll just finish up on lesser know but still power prophetic verses from the same chapter. I hope this builds our faith, as did the last two messages. Read the rest of this entry »

The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 2

April 23, 2014

Title: The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 2
Text: Psalm 22
Time: April 19, 2014

Like I said last time, the most famous prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the atoning death and crucifixion of Jesus Christ are found in Isaiah 53. I’ve given many messages showing the detailed prophecies concerning Christ in this Old Testament source, but believe it or not the famous Isaiah prophecy is not the most quoted source in the New Testament. What is the most quoted Old Testament prophecy in the New Testament and Gospel accounts? Psalm 22. I bet you didn’t know that. I bet you are surprised by that. It’s the most under reported prophecy in the Old Testament, although the New Testament writers knew it well. So let’s get to know it well also. Now last time I tackled three of the verses in the Psalm 22 prophecy concerning Christ’s crucifixion. Today, I’d like to cover three more verses. There are actually more than six verses of prophecy in Psalm 22, but I’ll just deal with the main prophecies as they pertain to the Lord’s death on the cross. I’ll also deal with the more obvious prophecies, although we shouldn’t think that these are the only ones in the chapter. I plan to do another message and catch any of the other, smaller prophecies that I might have missed. But in order to do justice to the most obvious prophecies in Psalm 22 I’ll only deal with three more verses today. First, I’ll talk about the reference in Psalm 22 that says, “My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth,” as an indication of Christ’s thirst on the cross. Of course, the Gospels report that Jesus said, “I thirst.” Second, I’ll cover the verse that says, “They have pierced my hands and feet,” which is an obvious reference to the method of his execution – crucifixion. And finally, third, I’ll deal with the verse that explains, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” Again, clearly a reference to the Roman soldiers dividing up the purple robe of Jesus. Now what’s amazing for us Christians is that while we are familiar with these New Testament references, such as the fact that Jesus was thirsty on the cross, that his hand and feet were pierced, and that his robe was divided between the soldiers, what we usually don’t think about is that these things were all prophesied in the Old Testament one thousand years before in the Book of Psalms. We can see how important it is to know the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. In the early church there was a debate as to whether the Old Testament should even be included in the Christian Bible. I’m glad wisdom prevailed and it was included, because it’s really important and essential for understanding the New Testament. Let’s turn to it now to get a fuller understanding of our Lord’s death on the cross, how these events were all spoken of one thousand years beforehand. Read the rest of this entry »


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